HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR SRAM BRAKES – BEAT YOUR BRAKING BLUES

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HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR SRAM BRAKES – BEAT YOUR BRAKING BLUES

SRAM brakes can take up a lot of a mechanic’s time. That’s because, in our experience, they must be bled more often than other brakes to feel consistently solid. We’re not exactly sure why this is the case, but we often find that changes in temperature, elevation and just riding conditions in general can affect the lever feel after only a few rides. On our test bikes that come equipped with SRAM brakes, we often check the fluid levels to ensure there are no air bubbles hiding in the line or reservoir to make the lever feel soft. Even on brand-new bikes with a factory bleed, we find this procedure can be helpful. If you’re using SRAM brakes and suffering a case of “SRAMitis” in your fingers from having to pull the lever to the bar too often, this “Garage Files” can help.

NECESSARY TOOLS

• Department of Transportation Brake Fluid
Note: SRAM brakes are compatible with glycol-based DOT 4 or DOT 5.1 fluid. This is the same stuff as what’s used in cars and motorcycles. The higher the number, the better the heat resistance. We typically have fine luck with basic DOT 4 for most applications, which can be found easily anywhere that sells automotive supplies. The SRAM brand stuff is higher-grade 5.1 and can also be sourced easily from motorcycle shops. DOT 5.0 fluid is silicone-based and should not be used.
• T10 Torx wrench
• T25 or 4mm wrench (for caliper bolts)
• Bleed kit with SRAM fittings and DOT compatible syringes

 

This SRAM Level TL brake has been ridden for several weeks and now pulls much closer to the bar than it used to. This is mostly due to pad wear, but could also indicate there are small air bubbles in the reservoir.

 

These pads have worn a little farther from the rotor than they should be allowed to. We’re going to purge the top half of this brake of air and reset the fluid levels so that the pads are the proper distance from the rotor.

 

Start by filling your syringe about halfway with DOT fluid. If you have a SRAM bleed kit, the proper adapter will already be on the hose. Since this Park kit is universal, it comes with a few adapters for different brakes. The red-tipped adapters are for SRAM fittings.

 

Tip the syringe upright and purge all the air bubbles you can from the hose. Use a rag to catch any fluid that drips out. Gloves are a great idea when working on brakes. Our hand model wishes he’d thought of that.

 

The small clip on the hose can be used to keep the hoses from dripping. They can also be used to create a vacuum inside the syringe. Even if your fluid looks clear, it may still have teeny-tiny air bubbles in it.

 

With the clip closed, pull back gently on the plunger a couple of times to create a vacuum inside the syringe. This will expand all the tiny bubbles and consolidate them into one big one.

 

Push out the remaining air bubble into the rag. You can repeat this process a couple of times, but be gentle. The aim here is for the fluid to be as unagitated and bubble-free as possible.

 

Remove the lever reservoir cap screw with your T10 Torx wrench.

 

Set this bolt aside in a safe and easy-to-grab place. Note that the O-ring is in place below the head of the bolt.

 

Attach the syringe to the lever using the fitting. This can be screwed just tight enough to create an airtight seal.

 

Unclip the hose clip if you haven’t yet done so. There will likely be an air bubble right at the lever where you connected the hose. Start by pulling back on the plunger to coax that air bubble into the syringe. Don’t pull back so much that you drain all the fluid from the reservoir.

 

Allow fluid to refill the reservoir in place of the air you just sucked out. You should now be able to gently push on the plunger and feel the lever’s bite point extend out. The fluid level will be set automatically once all the air bubbles are removed. You should be able to pull the brake lever and feel an improvement in feel now.

 

With the fluid level set, it’s time to disconnect the syringe. There will be a few drops of fluid loss as you do, so use the rag to catch it as you remove the fitting.

 

The reservoir port should look full to the brim when you disconnect the syringe. Use the T10 wrench to replace the reservoir cap bolt. This should displace a drop or two of fluid in the process.

 

To recenter the caliper and pads, loosen both mounting bolts so the caliper can float freely over the rotor.

 

With the lever firmly applied, the caliper should automatically center itself. Now, you can tighten the bolts. It’s helpful to alternate between the two bolts to keep the caliper from shifting as you tighten them. Double-check your work by giving the wheel a spin and listening for contact.

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