Keep on stopping: How to change motorcycle brake pads

Changing brake bads
Changing brake bads

It’s inevitable that if you carry out your own maintenance, sooner or later you will be changing motorcycle brake pads. They are, after all, consumable and will need replacing more or less often, depending on how you use the bike.

Having said that, you may find that you want to change them from the standard, factory-fit versions to something that offers a little more braking power or initial bite. While you may end up improving your braking characteristics, the process is the same.

We have illustrated the changing motorcycle brake pads process on a Royal Enfield Himalayan. It uses a single front disk and floating caliper so we only needed one pair of pads; for bikes with twin front discs, you will need to carry out the steps here on each of the front calipers.

As a floating caliper, there are only pistons on one side of the caliper though other designs may have pistons on both sides of the caliper. The brakes on the Enfield Himalayan are fairly wooden, with little initial bite and needing quite a hefty squeeze to get them working and a change of pad to an ‘HH’ sintered style helped with both bite and overall power. Changing motorcycle brake pads is a key skill.

Here are the general principles involved in changing motorcycle brake pads.

Step 1:

Step 1

Our Royal Enfield Himalayan uses a single disc and caliper on the left-hand side of the front wheel. Your bike may have one on the other side or more likely, twin discs and calipers, meaning you will need to repeat this entire process on the other side too.

Step 2:

Step 2

First off, remove any clips that may be holding speedometer cables or ABS-sensor wiring to the brake lines.

Step 3:

Step 3

The release the bolts mounting the caliper to the front forks leg(s).

Step 4:

Step 4

Unless your bike has very high miles on it and is filthy, the mounting bolts should be finger tight but if not, use a socket or a ratchet to remove all bolts completely.

Step 5:

You can now remove the complete caliper, with the pads still in place within it.

Step 6:

Step 6

Looking at the inside of the caliper, you can see the pads mounted in grooves at one end and on a pin at the other. The pistons are behind the far pad, out of sight.

Step 7:

Step 7

Here you can see the thickness of the pad material remaining – still plenty of life in these. You can also see the accumulation of dirt within the caliper.

Step 8:

Step 8

There are two spring clips securing the pad pin into the caliper. Start by removing this one, which sits within the caliper.

Step 9:

Step 9

Then remove the second clip. A pair of pliers is useful here, while a screwdriver can also help to release the clips if they are stuck in with dirt.

Step 10:

Step 10

The pin then needs to be withdrawn to release the pads. As this bike is relatively new and low-mileage, the pin pushed out easily by hand but again, if it has been in for a while, you may need to tap it out gently with a drift.

Step 11:

Step 11

With the pin released, it is withdrawn completely from the caliper to free the pads.

Step 12:

Step 12

Turning the caliper over, you can see here how the pads are held in. Now the pin is removed, the old pads can be unhooked from the groove at the far end and removed.

Step 13:

Step 13

With a pair of water-pump pliers, push the pistons back into the caliper body, to make room for the new pads. The pistons will have moved out as the pads wear and need retracting to give you room for changing motorcycle brake pads and fitting them over the new pads over the disc.

Step 14:

Step 14

As you can see, the brakes get pretty grubby, with used pad material, dust and general road grime, so while we’re here, we’ll give the caliper a clean.

Step 15:

Step 15

If you have access to a can of proprietary brake cleaner, you can use that but almost as effective is a bucket of warm water with a little washing liquid in it.

Step 16:

Step 16

Dip a stiff brush in the water and clean out the main channel in the caliper, as well as around the outside to remove as much dust and dirt as possible.

Step 17:

Clean the pin as well, to help prevent it sticking in place for the future, as well as ensure the pads move smoothly on it.

Step 18:

Step 18

While the caliper is drying, it’s worth running your fingernail across the brake disc in a few places and on both sides to feel for any scoring or ridges that might indicate wear and that the discs needs changing too – eventually, they will.

Step 19:

Step 19

Time to fit the new pads. To start with, the end farthest from the pin hooks into a groove with a spring clip underneath, to hold that end secure.

Step 20:

Step 20

This is how the pad should sit in the caliper, against the piston housing to make as much room to fit the disc as possible.

Step 21:

Step 21

The other pad is also fitted and both are held downwards, against the spring clip at the top (the bottom in this photo – the caliper is upside down) of the caliper photo.

Step 22:

Step 22

With both pads slotted in to the groove at the far end, the pin is replaced to hold them properly within the caliper.

Step 23:

Step 23

The first of the spring clips is fitted to prevent the pin moving in or out.

Step 24:

Step 24

The second spring clip is fitted and the caliper is now fully assembled.

Step 25:

Step 25

Double-check the pads are fully retracted, then slot the caliper and pads over the brake disc, as shown here. Line the bolt-holes up with those in the fork leg and insert the mounting bolts with a little thread lock, tightening them to the torque specified in the handbook or workshop manual.

Step 26:

Step 26

Re-fit the ABS wiring and/or the speedo cable and you’re done at the dirty end.

Step 27:

Step 27

Before you go anywhere, you need to pump the brake lever, to bring the pads into contact with the discs from their retracted position. Pump the lever all the way back to the grip.

Step 28:

Step 28

After a couple of pumps, the lever should become firm and will only come back this far – the normal range – indicating the brakes are sorted and the bike is ready to be ridden. The job of changing motorcycle brake disks is done.

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