Project Café: 1973 Honda CB500, Part 5

Rebuilding the front brake caliper and installing new brake pads

| September/October 2009

  • caliper1
    Begin by taking the front caliper off the fork leg. Remove the two bolts that hold the two sides of the caliper together.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper4
    Once the brake pad’s out you’ll find the small plastic isolating washer seen here. Set it aside. Keep pumping the brake lever till the piston pops out.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper2
    Once apart, you’ll have access to both brake pads. We’ll remove these in a minute.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper5
    Once the piston pops out, clean it thoroughly with brake parts cleaner. Remove the brake line from the caliper.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper3
    Attach the master cylinder, and use it to pump the piston out of the caliper body. This will also push the brake pad out. This can be done on the bike or off, as we’re doing.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper7
    Use a 3/4-inch brake cylinder hone to clean the inside of the caliper body. Put a little bit of oil on the stones then slowly move the spinning hone in and out of the body to evenly clean and resurface the bore.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper6
    Using a hook-end awl, remove the seal inside the caliper body. This seal is the barrier between the piston and the brake fluid.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper8
    Grab the other half of the caliper, and bend the end of the cotter pin on the outside straight.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper9new
    Flip the caliper over and grab the other end of the cotter pin with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Remove the pin and the pad from the caliper.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper13
    Insert the piston and slowly push it down through the seal and into the caliper. Press it completely into the caliper body.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper12
    Lubricate the seal with brake fluid then use your finger to slide the seal down into the caliper. Make sure it seats evenly and completely in the groove inside the caliper.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper14
    Set the plastic washer back on top of the brake piston. Set the brake pad on top of the washer and piston. Using your hands, press the pad into the caliper body.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper11
    Once you’ve honed the inside of the caliper body, clean the body, the piston and the plastic washer with brake parts cleaner. Shown here is our clean caliper, piston and new piston seal, ready to be assembled.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper10
    Here’s what new pads (front) look like compared to the old ones that came out. Frankly, the old pair of pads had plenty of miles left in them, but once they get fouled with brake fluid, they need to be replaced.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper15
    Set the other brake pad on the other half of the caliper. Using your hands, squeeze the new pad into the housing. Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, insert the cotter pin.
    Landon Hall
  • caliper17
    Reinstall the two bolts that hold the two halves of the caliper together. You now have a freshly rebuilt caliper! If your caliper looks like ours does, consider masking it and giving it a fresh coat of black paint before installing it back on the fork leg. MC
    Landon Hall
  • projectwheels
    The new hubs from Buchanan's Spoke & Rim fitted with new Continental ContiGO! tires.
  • caliper16
    Flip the half of the caliper over, and bend the end of the cotter pin down to hold the pad in place.
    Landon Hall
  • projecttires
    The tread pattern on the Continental ContiGO! tires.

  • caliper1
  • caliper4
  • caliper2
  • caliper5
  • caliper3
  • caliper7
  • caliper6
  • caliper8
  • caliper9new
  • caliper13
  • caliper12
  • caliper14
  • caliper11
  • caliper10
  • caliper15
  • caliper17
  • projectwheels
  • caliper16
  • projecttires

One step at a time, our Project Café Honda CB500 is coming together! We’ve sent our tank and side covers off to Craig McGlothlen at Precision Motorcycle Painting, Inc. (www.precisionmotorcyclepainting.com) in South Bend, Ind. Regular readers will remember the spectacular job Craig did on our last project bike, the 1971 Triumph TR6C, and we’re looking forward to seeing his magic paint work on the Honda. Early Honda CB models had tank badges that clipped into the side of the tank, but to give our Café a more custom look, Craig has filled the indentions, a process he does the old-school way with lead, not body filler. Our tank has already been prepped and primed, and we’re just days away from seeing the finished product.

We also got a Café Fender Wide from Omar’s Dirt Track Racing, Inc. (www.omarsdtr.com). Designed for Seventies and Eighties bikes with wide gas tanks, it comes with a vinyl-covered seat that attaches to the fender with Velcro. The fender comes in white gelcoat, so we’ll be sending it off for paint too, but first we have to build a mounting system for it.

This issue’s “How-To” project takes you step-by-step through rebuilding the front brake caliper and installing new brake pads. Be sure to also check out our web exclusive step-by-step guide to rebuilding the master cylinder.

Back in black
They’re back! We’ve been talking for several issues now about having our wheels rebuilt by Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim, Inc. (www.buchananspokes.net) in Azusa, Calif. Last issue our hubs had just gone out the door, and a couple of weeks later, they showed up all finished and mean lookin’. With new black anodized Sun aluminum rims and stainless steel spokes mounted to our stock polished hubs, they’re perfect — even better than what we imagined when we sent them off. 



Within a day we had our new Continental ContiGO! tires (www.conti-online.com) mounted on them. These are one of the latest tires from Continental, a cross-ply tire designed for all-around use. Not as soft and sticky as a track tire but not as hard as many of the classic-tread-style touring tires mounted on many classic bikes we see, the ContiGO! tires should provide the perfect mix of good grip, good water displacement and still last many miles — and we love the the tread pattern.

Continue on to Part 6 of the Project Cafe: 1973 Honda CB500 rebuild.



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