Having a motorcycle gives you a sense of freedom that no four-wheeled vehicle can match. With the wind in your hair as you cruise down an open highway, it’s easy to feel like you’re flying.
But that exhilarating feeling can quickly turn to panic if you squeeze the brake lever and feel almost no braking power. Worn out brake pads are extremely dangerous and can lead to crashes or collisions. Knowing when to replace your motorcycle’s brake pads is crucial for staying safe on the road.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about inspecting and replacing your bike’s brake pads. From signs of wear to step-by-step instructions, you’ll learn how to keep your brakes in top condition. Ride on!
How Often Should You Inspect Motorcycle Brake Pads?
The first step is knowing how frequently you need to inspect your brake pads in the first place. Experts recommend checking them at least every 2,500 miles or 4,000 kilometers.
For motorcycles that are ridden in harsh conditions like mountains, heavy traffic, or bad weather, inspect them more frequently – around every 1,000 miles.
During routine maintenance and oil changes, have a mechanic take a look at the thickness of the brake pads. They can quickly determine if a replacement is needed.
Brake pads have built-in wear indicators that make it easy to identify when they are almost fully worn down. Refer to your owner’s manual to see where these indicators are located on your particular motorcycle model.
Tip: Mark your calendar or set a reminder on your phone to inspect brake pads regularly. Consistent inspections help prevent sudden brake failure.
What is the Average Lifespan of Motorcycle Brake Pads?
On average, you can expect motorcycle brake pads to last around 20,000 miles or 32,000 kilometers before needing replacement.
However, many factors impact the lifespan of brake pads, including:
- Motorcycle type and model – Heavier bikes use pads faster than lighter ones. High performance motors wear pads quicker too.
- Riding conditions – Frequent braking in traffic diminishes pads faster.
- Brake pad material – Organic pads generally wear quicker than sintered metallic pads.
- Rider’s braking habits – Aggressive braking reduces pad lifespan.
Under normal riding conditions, usingOEM brake pads, 20,000 miles is a reasonable expectation. But stay vigilant with inspections, as actual lifespan can vary widely.
Signs Your Motorcycle Brake Pads Need Replacing
Don’t wait until your brake pads are fully worn to replace them. There are a few clear signs that indicate replacement is needed long before that point:
- Wear indicators engaged – Look for wear indicator tabs touching the brake disc. This shows the pad material is nearly gone.
- Thin pad thickness – Inspect pads visually or with a ruler. Less than 1/16 inch (1.5mm) means replace them.
- Squealing sound – You’ll hear a high-pitched squeal when applying brakes. The friction material is gone.
- Loss of braking – Brake levers feel “mushy” and you need to squeeze much harder to slow down.
- Overheating – Pads and discs are hot after riding. Glazed and shiny pads indicate overheating.
If you notice any of these warning signs, replace the pads right away to avoid unsafe riding conditions. Waiting too long severely reduces braking performance.
How to Measure Brake Pad Thickness
Measuring the thickness of the brake pad friction material is the best way to identify when replacements are needed. Here are step-by-step instructions:
Front Brake Pads
- Position your bike on level ground and engage the kickstand for stability.
- Look at the front brake caliper, located around the perimeter of the brake disc.
- Identify the inner and outer brake pads within the caliper assembly.
- Use a ruler to measure the thickness of the pad friction material. Be sure to measure at the thinnest point.
- Compare measurements to your brake pad specifications. Generally, below 1/16 inch (1.5mm) means replacement time.
- Repeat process on the other side.
Rear Brake Pads
- Repeat the same process as above by locating the rear brake caliper, typically under the right side of the motorcycle.
- Measure thickness of inner and outer pads.
- Replace if below manufactures specifications, usually around 1/16 inch or less.
Measuring thickness periodically helps you stay ahead of brake wear issues before they become hazardous.
Step-By-Step Brake Pad Replacement Instructions
Replacing motorcycle brake pads is a relatively straightforward job you can do yourself to save on labor costs. Here are step-by-step instructions:
- New brake pads
- Brake cleaner spray
- Clean rags
- Wrench for caliper bolts
- Small flathead screwdriver
Front Brake Pad Replacement
- Position bike on level ground and engage kickstand.
- Remove caliper bolts and detach caliper from fork. Don’t let it hang by the brake line!
- Remove outer pad first by prying out with a screwdriver.
- Slide out inner pad. Tip: Mark pads Left and Right.
- Use brake cleaner and rags to remove debris from caliper and brake disc.
- Insert new inner brake pad first.
- Push in outer pad until you hear it click into place.
- Reattach caliper and tighten bolts to torque specs.
- Pump brake lever until firm pressure is felt. Check for leaks.
- Repeat process on other side. Discard old pads.
Rear Brake Pad Replacement
Follow the same procedure outlined above. The rear caliper is typically located under the right side of the bike. Take care not to damage rear brake components when removing the caliper.
And that’s it! With the right parts and tools, you can swap brake pads yourself and save money. Always bed-in new pads properly with a few hard stops at low speeds.
Organic vs. Sintered Brake Pads
When selecting new brake pads, you’ll typically encounter two main friction material types:
Organic pads use fiber-based compounds like glass, rubber, Kevlar and other materials suspended in resin. They offer excellent braking performance but wear fairly quickly. Organic pads are quieter and operate well at lower temperatures.
Sintered pads use metallic-based compounds fused together under heat and pressure. The end result is harder brake pads that withstand high heat and last longer. But sintered pads are usually more expensive and tend to be noisier.
So which is better for your motorcycle? It depends on your specific bike and riding style. Talk to your dealer about the best choice. If unsure, organic pads offer reliable all-around performance for most riders.
Improving Motorcycle Brake Pad Life
Your riding habits and maintenance regimen play a big role in brake pad lifespan. Here are tips to maximize how long your pads last:
- Avoid aggressive braking and downshifting. Gradual braking reduces heat and wear.
- Pick OEM or premium pads for maximum durability.
- Keep wheels properly aligned to prevent uneven pad wear.
- Replace worn rotors. They cause accelerated pad wear.
- Flush old brake fluid regularly. Moisture causes corrosion.
- Break-in new pads properly with gradual use.
Developing smart riding habits makes a big difference. And be sure to inspect pads regularly to identify wear before it becomes an issue.
FAQs About Replacing Motorcycle Brake Pads
Should I replace front and rear pads together?
Not necessarily. Front pads typically wear out faster since they handle the majority of braking force. It’s fine to replace front and rear pads separately based on their individual condition.
Can I just replace one pad instead of both?
No, you should always replace pads in pairs on each caliper. Mixing a worn pad with a fresh one causes uneven braking.
What tools do I need to replace pads myself?
At a minimum, you’ll need a wrench for the caliper bolts, small screwdriver, brake cleaner, rags, and eye protection. Refer to your bike’s manual for specific tools.
How do I bed-in new brake pads properly?
Bedding in pads involves making 6-10 hard (but not immediate) stops from around 30 mph to fully transfer material. This helps condition the pads and discs.
Should I clean the brake disc when replacing pads?
Yes, use brake cleaner to remove any grease or debris from the disc surface to ensure proper bedding and performance.
Knowing when to swap out worn brake pads is critical for staying safe on your motorcycle. Learn the signs of excessive wear and inspect them regularly. With routine replacement and proper bedding, you’ll keep your bike’s brakes performing perfectly for miles to come!