Rebuilding Calipers for the Mean Streak

Gadget note: These instructions are for the 2002 VN1500P Mean Streak but for the most part will apply or can be adapted to other Vulcan models and even Ninjas.

Jeff says...

I'm going to rebuild the front and rear calipers. Replacing the fluid and dust seals as well as the snap pins and pad springs. When I cleaned the front calipers up the other day I noticed that the snap pins and springs both had grooves worn into them, possibly hindering smooth movement of the pads.

It looks to be a fairly straightforward procedure. If you have done it and can think of any "gotcha's" or tips, let me know.

I do know there are 2 different dust/fluid seals for each front caliper, so I will pay attention to that. The rebuild kit blister-pack has them separated out, so that should be fine.

For anyone else that may be doing this in the future, below are the the part numbers I ordered and where I got them from. FWIW, the manual recommends replacing the fluid/dust seals every other time that you change out your pads.

This is for my '02 MS

Front calipers:

Rear caliper:

Also check for other front and rear parts.

[Gadget's Note: For tips on removing the front brake pads, see Front Brake Pad Replacement for the Mean Streak.]

Well, not a terribly difficult task. I wouldn't do it without owning an air compressor though. You only need but about 15 - 20 psi to get the pistons moving. Use caution when working with compressed air on the calipers. Be aware of where your fingers are before you extend the pistons. You don't want a fingertip in the way of those pistons when they start moving!

The first one went fairly quickly.

The second one took some thought as it was like playing whack-a-mole. I had 2 or 3 stubborn pistons on this one.

The way I ended up doing it was to put the brake pads back in, face to face and pushed all the pistons down on one side. With the pads to that same side where the pistons were down, I held the pads in place with a pair of pliers - being careful to have the pliers positioned so the pistons wouldn't hit it when they extended from the other side. Put the air gun where the banjo bolt goes in and shot air until the 3 pistons were extended as far as the pads would allow. Then I took some grease and lightly coated as much of the extended pistons as I could and pushed them back down.

Tip: Put the half-caliper in a vise, close the vice just enough to hold it by the back and the part that holds the halves together. Use a smooth-face vice or put some cardboard in to protect the surface. When you apply the air, all the pistons will be able to move out and you can probably pull them out by hand the rest of the way.

Repeated the above steps for the other bank of pistons.

Then, still having the 2 pads in place, I centered them with them pushed together, then shot air in until all 6 pistons extended as far as they could. Dropped the pads out, split the caliper in half and pulled the pistons out. The grease really helps to pull them out.

The trick to it is getting all 3 pistons in one bank to be extended to get some grease on them. So, new fluid seals and new dust seals in place and everything is cleaned up and working like new. 

So what started this whole thing is that something is dragging on the front wheel. Figured I would start with the brakes as that will be an easy elimination. 13 year old bike, so I am sure the seals were due to be replaced anyway.

caliper seals

Here are the seals. On the '02 we have the 6 piston calipers. Two of the pistons in each caliper are smaller than the other 4 and as you can see the seal kit has them separated out. The fluid seals are thicker than the dust seals. In the kit I ordered, they also gave me new bleeder valves and rubber caps as well as new banjo bolt crush washers. They also include "rubber grease" as you put a thin coat on the seals and on the piston.

caliper small seals
When you un-mount the calipers from the bike, you obviously want a container close by to catch the brake fluid from the caliper and hose as you undo the banjo bolt. There's really not much to these things. There are 4 hex-head screws to remove and the caliper splits in half at that point. Here they are split with the pistons in, but up enough that I can pull them out. In the smaller half at the bottom, you can see where the 2 very small seals go.

caliper one clean
Here the pistons are removed and with the old seals still in place. One caliper cleaned up. A tip for removing the seals - the dust seals are very easy to get out. For the fluid seals, I used a dentist's tool with a curved point to get behind the seal and pull it right out. A toothpick might work in a pinch, but the dentist tool made short work of getting them out.

caliper clean no seals
This last pic is both halves cleaned up with all seals removed.

That's about it. Rather simple. Put the new seals in, drop the pistons in, put the new bleeder valves in (I used thread tape) and button them back up.

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