“How hard is it to change the brake pads on my bike?”
A question I hear all too often in the industry. What I’d like to say is “Well.. hard enough to possibly kill you.” This isn’t a topic I want to take lightly. Want to do a guess job on your car? Be my guest. At least you have a metal box around you in case something rears its head after your repair. When you’re on two wheels, your motorcycles brake service needs to be PERFECT. Lets get into some steps and tips to make sure that your brake repair is done professionally with confidence. Before you begin busting your knuckles, be sure to check your tool supply to get the job done. People tend to “make do” with what they have to save time and energy instead of stopping in at your tool store to get what you really need. By reading through this post as well as watching the video version, you will not only learn the steps to efficiently performing your brake job but also gain some very important fundamental knowledge on some possible problems and information on the importance of each step.
If your eager to get going, feel free to scroll straight to the steps I’ve provided below!
Besides your basic socket sets to get the job done, there are a few other tools you will need to complete your brake service.
Additional tools you should have
1. Some very fine steel wool (Grade #000 very fine) or scratch-less scotch-brite pads
2. Brake contact cleaner spray
3. Water proof all purpose grease .(I use AMSOIL synthetic water-resistant grease)
4. “C -Clamp” to help press the pistons back into their home
HOW TO SERVICE YOUR BRAKES
STEP 1. Start by removing which ever master cylinders cap cover and seal that directly effects the caliper you are working on. The reason we do this first is because you need to make sure that the resivour brake fluid level is low enough to not overflow when you have finished cleaning up your brake calipers pistons and go to press them back into the caliper. This is also a great opportunity to inspect the brake fluid for any build up that may need to be clean out and replaced with fresh fluid. If the reservoir is already full and topped off you will need to suck out or bleed through some fluid to drop the level. Be sure you don’t remove ALL of the fluid because you will be using a small amount to push the pistons out manually in the next step.
Like most people brake fluid is the last thing they are worried about changing on their bikes. Trust me when I say it’s just as important as any other fluid on your bike. One mistake I see all to often is the “Top off” mindset. When people see this holding cup low from looking through the foggy inspection window designed in them, the first thought that comes to mind is: “I should fill that back up!” Which isn’t wrong, but there is a reason for that being low. Most of the time it’s because your brake pads have thinned to the point to where your brake systems reservoir fluid level has dropped to make up for the space lost against the brake rotor. Either that or it has sprung a leak. This would be the least of these two common reasons. The reason I am bringing this up is because when you’re done with step two of these tips, and you force the calipers pistons back into their cylinders, you’re physically forcing all the fluid that accommodated the low brake pad material back up through the lines and into the holding cup. If this reservoir is already full, brake fluid will push itself out of the closed system and onto your beautiful painted tank or plastics. Brake fluid will eat the clear coat and paint off faster then you can say “where are my rags!” To be safe, throw a cheap towel over anything directly under that master cylinder reservoir. If you want to make life easy, place a small clear hose on the calipers bleed valve, crack it open and then manually press the pistons into their homes. This will force the fluid directly out of the calipers bleed valve. While you’re at it you might as well flush that brake system. Just like a car, pump pump bleed, pump pump bleed. Until your face turns blue, then do it again. (two full cups is enough)
STEP 2. Your caliper’s pistons live inside of your caliper. They are the brassy, hollow cylinder shaped do-hickeys that press on one side of your moving brake pad. (sometimes both) These parts collect all sorts of dust, rust and debris from your rides. So what you need to do once you have removed the caliper from its location, as well as removed the old brake pads manual press your brake lever to slowly press the pistons out just a bit further to uncover the cleaner portion of the piston. In this picture notice the RIGHT piston is was pressed out a bit further to uncover that cleaner section.
Using the steel wool and brake cleaner spray, start to clean and polish those brake pistons. Working with the side that is easiest to access, then using your fingers to slowly spin the piston all the way around until the entire brake piston is clean. Once you are satisfied with the outcome of your cleaning, be sure to give the caliper one final spray with contact cleaner to remove the debris left over from both the dirt and dust, as well as the metal fibers that come off the steel wool during cleaning. Take a clean rag and remove the residue left over on the pistons from the contact cleaner. Using the C-Clamp, slowly begin to press the piston back into the caliper until they both sit flush inside the brake caliper.
They typically always have a coating of some kind of nasty grime around them. This HAS to be removed before you push them back in to make room for the new brake pads. Failure to do this can result in seized calipers, and even boiling brake fluid from excessive drag. If you have trouble turning the pistons, don’t try and use pliers to spin the piston. This will score the soft metal, ruining your calipers pistons’ functionality. Instead, try using either reverse style pliers to grab onto the inside of the piston and spin it. This method is the most effective and easiest way to access all side of the piston.. Once it is shiny and new looking and thoroughly cleaned, press them back into their cylinders until seated. This ensures that the seal that keeps fluid in stays clean and unaffected. That seal plays a huge role in your brakes’ functionality. Don’t skip over this process.
3. You’re almost done! Last step I advise you to do, is to re-lube the slide pins that allow your calipers to function evenly and effectively. Most calipers are considered a “Floating” system. Meaning, while one brake pad is getting the direct force from the calipers pistons from your pressure, the other pad floats in its place. As pressure is applied, the calipers slide system pushes itself left or right to contact the other stationary pad. This allows for the pads to be used evenly when braking takes place. This slide typically can be easily removed and greased. Rubber dust seals are mounted around those pins to keep when you just cleaned off the pistons away from its sliding pins. Some waterproof grease there will ensure a perfect slide and function. Very easy to do, with 100% satisfaction from the results.
That’s it! Nothing to it, right?! I trust you as much as you trust yourself. Follow these steps and I am confident your did the job right. One more thing. Before you throw your leg over and hit the street, pump the brake levers a few times to bring the pistons back into position. Double check your nuts, bolts, screws and washers and pat yourself on the back. I hope this helps, and that you learned something new. Ride safe
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