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  1. #1
    Trail Cubist
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    Avid Elixir: Possible to clean/refill and bleed brakes w/o the official Avid kit?

    I just changed the pads on my Avid Elixir 1 front brake. (I bought Avid organic pads.) I did this once before (a year or two ago) and it wasn't a problem. This time, it's not going so well.

    First, I had trouble pushing the pistons in far enough to get the new pads in (with enough space to slide the rotor between them). The only solution for that issue was to let a couple drops of fluid out of the system.

    But then I noticed pretty severe pulsating while riding (enough to shake the whole fork with each pulse under moderate to hard braking). I pulled the wheel off, and I think the problem is that the pistons are gummed up (and possibly there now isn't enough fluid in the system?).

    With the wheel off, and looking closely at the pistons, when I pump the brake lever, only one piston is moving (and these are dual-piston brakes—so I'm pretty sure they should BOTH move inward an equal amount).

    That would definitely explain the pulsating: seriously asymmetrical braking force on the rotor.

    So I guess I'm looking at having to drain the system and disassemble the brake to get at the pistons.

    ---
    My question is, do I really need the $30-50 (depending on where you buy it) Avid-brand bleed kit and replacement o-rings?

    I get that if I'm gonna do the job, I should do it right. But I'm flat broke now and really don't want to spend the money (and wait a few days for shipment) on the Avid kit.

    Is there a "ghetto" way I can do this? e.g. just clean everything well, reassemble, and somehow get fluid back into the system and bleed it without having the official Avid syringes?

    Thanks!
    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  2. #2
    Trail Cubist
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    Ok, I know—shoulda SEARCHED first. (Sorry.) To make amends (partially) here are a couple of threads:

    My DIY Avid bleed kit.

    home made avid bleed kits

    Looks like to do the job you pretty much have to have the screw-in fittings...

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  3. #3
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    I had the same problem with a set of Elixir CR's a while back.

    You can try cleaning the pistons. Remove the pads and gently squeeze the brakes to extend the pistons (be careful not to over extend them). Clean the outside of the piston with some rubbing alcohol, wipe clean, then lube with a drop of DOT fluid. I used q-tips for this. Push the pistons back in and repeat as necessary. If one piston isn't extending at all, maybe a few drops of rubbing alcohol around the edge will help it move again.

    That said, cleaning and lubing like that helped my brake, but didn't really fix it. I ended up buying the rebuild kit and replacing the piston and o-rings. That worked for a while, but eventually I got tired of bleeding them every month or so and resorted to the "XT" fix.

    If cleaning/lubing the pistons doesn't fix it and you're looking at spending ~$50 on the rebuild kit and bleed kit (which really is necessary for bleeding Avids, unfortunately...), I'd seriously think about spending $20 more and throwing a Deore on there (even if you end up with one Deore and one Avid).
    "Never trust a man in a blue trench coat. Never drive a car when you're dead." -- Tom Waits

  4. #4
    cowbell
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    Here's the thing - if you were flushing and bleeding them once a year like you should, you probably wouldn't have this problem anyhow. Go ahead and buy the kit. You should be using it once a year whether you feel like your brakes are working fine or not.

  5. #5
    Trail Cubist
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    @heartland - thanks for the advice. I'd read about trying to clean the pistons, but unfortunately one of mine really isn't extending at all. It just sits there, barely moving at all, when I pump the lever.

    @Cotharyus - I guess you're right about regular maintenance, and I confess I've never done a damn thing to my brakes other than change the pads (I think maybe once). And the thing is, they've worked perfectly for years (the bike is a 2009 model). But sure---it's entirely possible my lack of maintenance contributed to them just reaching the end of their un-serviced life, LOL.

    ---
    In general, while doing research into Avid hydraulic brakes, there are a LOT of reports online of people having issues with Avid Elixirs. (Heck, I found a few mile-log threads just about people trying to find a rotor that worked.) I also saw many suggestions to bag the Avids (as you suggest heartland) and go with Shimanos or another brand. So I think it's reasonable to assume that perhaps the Avid Elixir isn't the best-designed brake out there...

    Still, I found several bleed kits (complete with fittings, syringes, tubing, and clamps) on "that online auction site" for far less than the official Avid kit...so I'll probably go that route and see what happens (and I'll go ahead and buy the replacement O-rings/gaskets from Avid).

    I've gotta say, all this fussing over brakes makes me miss good ol' rubber-block cantilever brakes. I never had trouble stopping with those, and they worked 100% of the time---even with no maintenance! (Other than getting new shoes once every 2 years or so.)

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  6. #6
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    i hope it goes well for you, i tried for a few months and got really fed up, mine were brand new though so i expected much more

  7. #7
    powered by peanut butter.
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    You'll need an air compressor to pop out the pistons, fyi. I tried to find another way, but no go. Luckily, my LBS at the time let me use theirs.

    Oh, and degassing the DOT fluid in the syringe several times before bleeding really is a necessary step. I tried being lazy with that step once, and just ended up bleeding my brakes twice.

    I really liked how my Elixirs worked when they were working. The problem was that they often weren't working...
    "Never trust a man in a blue trench coat. Never drive a car when you're dead." -- Tom Waits

  8. #8
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    I have the same problem, my bike is a 2012 with the elixr 1. i have had it in the shop several time for the rear brake locking up. my lbs finally called sram and they got it covered under warranty and they are replacing them with the elixr 3. but from what i have read thats not much of a upgrade... but at least its not costing me this time.

  9. #9
    cowbell
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    Yeah, I didn't mean to come off as a dick, and in hindsight it kind of looks like I did. The thing about Avid brakes in particular (but it applies to all hydro brakes, including the ones that run mineral oil) is that the old oil gets funky - when you flush it you can see the difference. Just like in your engine, if you let that stuff get gritty, it will start to eat up the parts. With DOT brakes, it's "even worse" because the systems absorb moisture from the air. This likely contributed to the volume increase that wouldn't allow the piston to fully retract to replace the pads to start with. That moisture can be harmful, in addition to cause the brakes not to work right. Sometimes I come off a bit short because people spend so much money on their bike, but then they don't want to buy the tools or pay the shops to perform maintenance then they wonder why things don't work right when they paid so much for the bike. One of these days I'll get old enough to shake my head, mutter "dang kids" and move on. Until then I'll try to help. Anyhow, hope you get it sorted.

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