How to Replace a Leverposted Jan 1, 2008
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During a bike's lifetime, it is almost a foregone conclusion that you will have to replace one or two levers. If you ride an off road motorcycle, it may be a lot more than that! But even a carefully handled street motorcycle can break a lever in a tip over or minor accident. Lever pivots just also plain wear out after time and get loose and wobbly.
Luckily, replacing a lever is really quite easy on most motorcycles, and Motion Pro makes levers to fit many different bikes.
So, you have your new lever in hand, so what do you do now? First off, it is important to note that both of the levers on your handlebars perform very important functions, not only from the view of controlling your bike, but they are a major safety component as well.
Even though replacing a lever may seem simple, the consequences of doing the job incorrectly are severe and potentially fatal. This is a job for someone who has at least some prior mechanical experience working on motorcycles. If this is your first maintenance project on your bike, at the very least find one of your more experienced friends to lend a helpful hand. Also, unless you are an experienced mechanic and intimately familiar with every component of the lever assembly, it is critical to refer to your motorcycle's service manual and make sure all work is done as specified in the factory service manual. Luckily, many manufacturers are now posting manuals and service information on their web sites.
There are two basic types of levers, and we will address each of the separately. There is the cable pull lever, common on a clutch assembly, but which also includes the brake on some older models or smaller size bikes. Then there is the hydraulic lever, common for almost all front brakes these days, although some motorcycles have hydraulic clutches as well.
Cable Pull Levers
The first thing to do is to collapse any adjusters that the clutch assembly may have. Most clutch lever assemblies have an adjuster on the perch itself, and in many cases simply turning this adjuster in all the way may be enough. Some cables will have an inline adjuster on the housing at some point, or an adjuster down on the clutch arm as well. If you are not able to get enough cable slack to remove the lever in the following steps, these adjusters might have to be closed down too.
With the lever adjuster turned all the way in, now is the time to remove the lever pivot bolt. Most levers will have a main shoulder bolt that goes through the lever, and then a locking nut on the underside of the lever. The first thing to do is to remove the locking nut on the bottom of the perch. Once that nut is removed, then you can loosen and remove the main shoulder bolt from the perch. Keep one hand on the lever to hold it in place though, because some levers have a separate bushing that it pivots on, and you don't want it to fall out and get lost. Once the pivot bolt is out, rotate the lever forward and out of the perch. It will pivot around the cable barrel, and the cable cutout will line up with the cable, and you can remove the lever from the cable, which remains in its installed location. Make a careful note of any bushings or shoulder washers that came out of the perch with the lever. All of these extra parts must be reinstalled and reused with the lever, unless new parts are provided with the lever. Refer to your parts diagram to verify all the parts are there, and note their proper assembly order. Also, make sure to inspect the pivot bolt and replace it if it is pitted or worn.
Next, clean the recess in the perch when the lever is out. All sorts of junk can accumulate in there, and it is important to have a clean perch to install the lever into. Also clean the barrel of the cable, and any of the exposed wire. This is a good time to relubricate the inner wire of the cable also, as it is a simple extra task to remove the cable from the adjuster at this time and use some cable lube and a luber to make sure the cable will slide as smoothly as possible. There are detailed instructions elsewhere on the tech page that address this process. Before installing the new lever, there are two more important places to lubricate. First, the pivot, and any bushings or bearings need to have a high quality grease applied to them. Its okay to use a little more grease than may be necessary, as any excess will be removed at the end of the job. Next, place a dab of grease inside the recess where the cable barrel goes, so that the barrel is well lubricated and will not bind. This is one area that is very important, because the barrel binding in the lever is the leading cause for premature cable failure.
Once all of these parts have been lubricated, it's time to install the new lever. Insert the barrel back into the lever (and the adjuster if you removed the cable from it earlier), and then pivot the lever back into the perch. Make sure all the bushings and spacers are in their right place! Insert the pivot bolt back into the perch, and carefully thread it back into place. Most levers have a shoulder type pivot bolt, so all is needed is to snug it into place with a very light torque (usually about 8 ft-lbs or less, but refer to the shop manual for you vehicle to get the exact factory torque specification). However, some pivots don't have a shoulder, and it is possible to tighten it too far and cause the lever to bind in the perch. Make sure after you have tightened the pivot bolt that the lever moves smoothly without binding. If it does, loosen the pivot slightly, and check again. Once the pivot bolt is set, install the lock nut, and while holding the pivot bolt from turning with one wrench, use another wrench to tighten the locking nut (tighten the lock nut to the torque specified in your factory shop manual). Remember, that the lock nut is critically important to keep the pivot bolt from loosening or falling out. Never operate a motorcycle that doesn't have some sort of pivot bolt locking device on BOTH levers!
Double check that the lever operates smoothly without binding, and then readjust the adjuster bolt and locknut so that the cable has the proper slack as specified in your manual. Now double check that the barrel is properly inserted into the lever and that the wire pulls straight and doesn't bind when you pull the lever. It should pull nice and smoothly without and tight spots or binding. Wipe off any excess grease and you are done.
Hydraulic levers are very similar to a cable lever, but with a couple of important distinctions.
First, there is no cable! But you probably knew that... Seriously, the operation is simplified because there is no cable, and no adjustments to make before or after. On the other hand, it is a bit more complicated, because many hydraulic levers have more loose parts to keep track of. The first thing to do is to remove the locking nut and the pivot bolt, but again, make sure to keep a hold of the lever when you remove the pivot bolt because most hydraulic levers have a return spring, which can pop the lever out and scatter parts all over the place. Once the pivot bolt is all the way out, slowly remove the lever from the perch, watching for any springs or loose parts. Some levers use a small ball bearing as well as the spring, so always refer to that all-important parts diagram before disassembling. Some levers will have the hydraulic plunger as part of the lever, and some do not. Again, refer to your service manual. It is not possible to go into all the variations here. This is a good time to inspect the pivot bolt and any other parts for pitting and wear. Replace the pivot bolt and any other parts if they show signs of pitting or wear.
Assembly is the reverse of disassembly, but make sure to clean and then grease all the pivot points and make sure everything is assembled in the correct order. Make sure to get that lock nut back on the bottom of the pivot bolt, you never want a brake lever to fall off! The pivot bolt and lock nut must be tightened to the torque specified in the factory shop manual. Next, make sure the lever pivots freely, and extends all the way back out when released. It is a good idea to pick the front wheel up off the ground and make sure the wheel spins freely when the brake is off, and stops when you pull the lever, then spins freely again when the lever is released. If this is not the case, check your work, because something in the lever assembly is causing the brake to bind or drag, and this is a very unsafe situation. If everything works fine, double check your bolts and go for a ride to enjoy your new super smooth feeling levers.