Front Brake Lever Play

Discussion in 'Softail Models' started by andyfnp, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. andyfnp

    andyfnp Member

    Several posts on the site regarding this issue, I'm still confused over what seems to be a simple problem.

    97 Fatboy with 6700 miles, I bought it out of storage about 2 months ago. One owner, master cylinder, brake pads, fluids all factory. Front and rear brakes are firm and stout, no sponginess at all.

    Bike has buckhorn bars and ribbed grips, foot rests, etc. reportedly installed at original purchase at the Chattanooga, TN dealership.

    Front brake lever has less than 1/8" play, doesn't return fully into the housing after brake is applied, resulting in a constantly burning brake light. Extremely light pressure with one finger returns the lever all the way into its housing and brake light goes off. Unfortunately, once that light finger pressure is released, the lever travels a tiny bit out of the housing and the brake light is on again!

    Everything is well-lubed, I have no idea at this point if the copper wedge in the housing that is referred to in other posts is intact or not.

    Am I gonna have to bleed the front brake system and/or disassemble the master cylinder in order to solve this little problem????
  2. fin_676

    fin_676 Experienced Member Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    If the brake leaver is not being pushed fully out by the master cylinder piston then i would suspect that the piston is not fully retracting this could be due to a weak return spring or some sort of fouling or obstruction to the master cylinder piston
    and i would be looking at doing a master cylinder rebuild
    there should be a wee bit of free play at the leaver and the brake housing should be sat hard against the switch housing

  3. Charlies Harley

    Charlies Harley Active Member

    The copper wedge is in back of the brake light switch and holds the switch in place,. One of the most comon things to cause this is the rubber boot on the switch gets pushed over top of the switch button. If the switch housing has been apart without a spacer holding the brake lever applied the boot gets damaged on reassembly and holds the light on, bin there done that.
  4. 06rdking

    06rdking Banned

    if the switch is in place as it should be then you can fix the problem buy either very slightly bending the tab on the brake lever that works the light switch or useing jb weld to build up the tab that works the switch. I put a set of after market chrome levers on my rd king and started haveing ther same problem. I paid to have the dealer rebuild the mastercylinder, to no avial. lived with it for a whole summer then had the same situation on my softail. thats when I started investigateing for myself. I managed to slightly bend the tab on that comes into contact with the lightswitch and they both have been working great this whole summer. if you decide to bend it take the lever off and situate it into a vise and bend very gently and IT WILL NOT TAKE VERY OF A BEND MUCH TO FIX IT. IF THE LEVER IS CHROME IT WILL STILL WORK BUT BE CAREFUL NOT TO BEND TOO FAR TO CRACK CHROME! good luck
  5. andyfnp

    andyfnp Member

    Fin, an issue with the MC piston sounds reasonable. Maybe piston is fouled due to the length of time this bike was stored. Bike is brand new on the outside, however I've had to deal with several problems so far related to it being stationary for so long.

    06RDKING, was your brake lever just a wee bit out of the housing as I described mine? I MAY give the tab bend fix a try if bleeding and cleaning the master cylinder doesn't do the trick, especially considering the the age, low miles, and post-storage status of my bike.

    Charlie, thanks for the input regarding the copper wedge. Hopefully that little bugger is not going to play into my problem. As far as I know, the switch and housing has never been apart and the switch works fine...just the lever doesn't return far enough to deactivate the switch and turn the brake light off. A space the size of a gnat's whisker is causing my problem!
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 8, 2011
  6. TQuentin1

    TQuentin1 Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    If the bike has been sitting for a long time, I strongly suggest that you go through all the fluid systems flushing where possible and replacing the existing fluids. This would include:
    • Engine oil
    • Tranny lube
    • Primary fluid
    • Shock oil
    • Brake fluid
    • Lube neck bearings
    • Check wheel bearings (repack if not sealed)
    • Gas tank
    Also, you might consider rebuilding both master cylinders. BRAKES are your most important system.


    NEWHD74FAN Experienced Member Retired Moderators

    That copper wedge is really a pain. It goes between the housing and the back of the brake switch, and can easily slip out and be found lying on the bottom of the housing out of reach or fall onto the garage floor which means a lot of hands and knees time with a joy! :(

    Without the wedge, the switch sinks back into the housing if the lever boss contacts it and fail to deactivate the brake lights. You can use a small dab of JB weld or assembly adhesive to stick it to the housing, so it does not move around during reassembly. As TQ says, if sitting a long time just make your life simple, flush and replace all fluids and fresh grease if water contamination is possible :p
  8. 06rdking

    06rdking Banned

    Hey andyfmp what did you find? and as a late responce yes to your ? about the lever position. let us know. ?????
  9. andyfnp

    andyfnp Member

    06rdking, I've not been into it yet. Job and family responsibilities. Hope to crack into the switch housing tomorrow and explore the switch condition and position, brass wedge, etc. If that's OK, I'm going to clean and maybe rebuild the master cylinder. I'll post what I find.

    TQuentin1, thanks for the good advice. Items on your punch list have been completed except for the neck bearings. I'll have to find out how to lube them and get it done. This is a great bike, low miles for a 97 and spotless. Had to replace smoked stator and VR, a new adventure breaking into the primary case. Fairly easy except for pushing the the rubber terminal through the case!
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2011
  10. RANGER73

    RANGER73 Member

    If the bikes been sitting that long, rebuild the MC. It's a $20 kit. And real EZ. Comes with new piston, and springs. Buy some DOT5, and flush the system.