How to Change Your Motorcycle Brake Pads

If you’re new to working on your bike – or have never done any type of wrenching before – changing your brake pads is one of the easiest jobs to do. Other than a torque wrench you don’t need any special tools – just the usual spanners lying around the garage. Get some brake grease/lubricant and within no more than 10 minutes you’ll have replaced your old pads with nice new ones – saving yourself big dollops of money by not taking it to the mechanic.

If you’ve got a torque wrench and some spanners and some hex keys you’re just about good to go. When you buy your replacement pads, get some brake pad grease or lubricant. It’s placed on the backs of the pads and the pad pins to reduce brake squeal and noise. You can buy it in small sachets at most auto stores for a few dollars – don’t go buy a huge container of it.

First we’re going to loosen the pins that hold the brake pads in place. These slot through the calipers and can be loosened with a hex key generally.

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Don’t remove the pins just yet, let them loosely sit in the caliper for now.

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Next we want to remove the caliper from the bike. This allows us to maneuver the caliper around more easily and more easily access the pads. You’ll need to use a wrench or socket here to unscrew the bolts.

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Once the bolts are removed, take the caliper and remove it from your bike and pull the pins out by hand.

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If they don’t fall out by themselves, remove the pads.

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A quick tip – don’t leave your caliper hanging and pulling down on the brake line. If you need to leave your bike, put the caliper back on the bike and just thread through one of the bolts by hand to hold it in place temporarily.

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Get your brake pad lubricant and smear a small amount on the backs of the new pads and all over the pins. Don’t put too much on, just a fairly thin layer.

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Time to install the new pads. First, take the pad that will rest against the pistons and put it in place. It will be shaped to sit snugly inside the caliper.

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Then star threading one of the pins through and push it as far it will go – it will stop when it reaches the pad.

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To get the pad pin through you need to simultaneously push down on the pad and push the pin in further – you’re wanting to whole on the pad to line up with where the pin comes through.

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Do the same with the other pin.

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Now get the other pad and insert it. Again, just push down on the pad so that the holes at the bottom of it line up with the pin and it will slot through.

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One that’s done, return the caliper to your bike and tighten both the pad pins on the caliper and the bolts that attach the caliper to the bike.

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Make sure you correctly torque all the bolts to the amounts as specified by your manufacturer – you don’t want your caliper coming loose heading into a corner.

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How to Bleed Your Motorcycle Brake Lines with a Vacuum Pump

Air is essential for life. Air is detrimental to your life when in your brake lines. It’s one of the ironies of life. There’s a number of ways to bleed your motorcycle brake lines but by far and away the best method is with the use of a hand vacuum pump. It’s pretty much the way all professionals do the job and with good reason as if you do it correctly you’re guaranteeing that you remove unwanted air in the brake lines.

So why is air such a danger in brake lines? Your braking system is simply hydraulics. The brake fluid (liquid) inside is pushed by your brake lever into the piston, thus pushing the pads onto the brake disk. It’s an incredibly simple system and it works because liquid doesn’t compress under pressure. Air on the other hand, does. So if you have air in your brake lines and you pull your lever in, it compresses and therefore there now won’t be enough volume inside the lines to push the brake piston out and into the pads. That means you won’t have the stopping power you’re after.

At its most basic, if you have a completely empty brake line and you pull the brake lever, you’ll feel no resistance. But even if there’s just a small amount of air, it can be enough to prove fatal.

The difficulty with getting air out of your lines is that while you’re putting new fluid into your lines, the air bubbles are doing their best to move up the line. So while continually flushing your lines you can get the air out of them, it’s not a guaranteed solution. You can end up having to flush them a half or dozen times or more before the brakes feel like they’re air free. That’s why a vacuum pump makes the job so easy because it will suck everything – air and fluid – out of your lines.

Tools you’ll need are:

There’s many brake bleeding kits on the market and probably the most well known is the Mityvac. But any hand vacuum pump will do. The type we’re using is a specially made one from Bikeservice which comes with all the bits and pieces you need to bleed your brakes – hoses, adapters to go on the bleed valve and importantly, a reservoir for the bled brake fluid to be captured into. It’s also great to diagnose various engine and carburetor issues, too.

The video above shows us doing this with a brake system completely void of fluid. If you’ve got brake fluid in your system but with air trapped inside, skip down below.

Start be opening up your brake reservoir and removing the diaphragm. Pour fluid into the reservoir and begin circulating it through your system. To do this, just push/pull the brake lever in and out gently. Keep doing this – and topping up the reservoir – until you start to feel some resistance. There’ll be plenty of air in your lines still, but putting fluid into them makes the job of sucking both the air and fluid out with the vacuum pump easier.

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Next, loosen the bleed valve on the caliper with a wrench and then tighten back up by hand.

Find the correct adapter that will fit over the bleed valve from your kit and then attach clear hose to it. Attach that hose to the kit’s reservoir and finally, attach a further clear hose from the reservoir to your vacuum pump. The ‘circuit’ should look like this:

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When attaching the open end of this circuit to the bleed valve, a trick is to position it in such a way that when you open the valve, the hose will hang down and not twist. That means you’ll probably attach it so that the hose is pointing upwards and when the valve is opened, will drop to face down as shown below.

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Before opening the bleed valve, pump the hand vacuum about ten times. If everything has been put on correctly, the gauge will show a steady reading.

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Now, open your valve and keep pumping the vacuum pump. You’ll want the pump to maintain a reading of between 15 and 20 inches of mercury (a common measurement of vacuum) to ensure that it’s pulling the brake fluid and air out at a steady pace. It can sometimes help to keep one hand on the hose and adapter covering the bleed valve to keep a tight seal and prevent it from coming off.

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All while this is happening, keep an eye on the brake fluid reservoir. If it goes empty you’re going to start sucking air into the lines and have start all over again. If you’ve got someone with you, they can continually top the reservoir up, but if you’re by yourself you’ll need to close the valve, top the reservoir up with fluid and repeat the process again.

Depending on how long your lines are and the size of your brake fluid reservoir, that may mean you can only keep the valve open for a few seconds before needing to close it again and top up the fluid.

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Now test your brakes – they should offer good feel and resistance. If your bike is lifted off the ground you can check too by rotating the wheel and engaging the brakes. The pads should progressively grip the disc as you put more pressure on the lever and when released, the pads should retract enough for the wheel to rotate again.

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Once you’re satisfied all the air is out of the system, tighten the bleed valve up with the wrench and replace the diaphragm and cap on the reservoir.

One thing to keep in mind – don’t let the reservoir that’s connected to your vacuum pump get too high – you don’t want to suck brake fluid into it. For a motorcycle brake system, you’re unlikely to need to suck that much fluid for a single brake line, but more so for a car.

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How to Clean, Repair and Rebuild Motorcycle Brake Calipers

While most know the importance of changing brake pads, few perhaps understand the necessity of maintaining both your pads and the brake pistons. Keeping them clean and in good order contributes to optimal braking and in the case of seized pistons is an essential skill to get them working again.

Tools you’ll need to clean, repair and rebuilt your calipers are:

  • Both 1500 and 800 wet and dry sand paper
  • Wrenches and sockets
  • Brake Piston removal tool
  • Brake fluid
  • Brake cleaner
  • Specially formulated grease for brakes

Let’s begin by removing the pads from the caliper. You’ll first need to remove the pad pin or pins (1) which holds the pads (2) in place. Once you unscrew that you can remove the brake pads. There’s usually an anti-rattle shim (3) beneath the pads too – it’s probably a good idea to take a photo of the shims location as it’s not always obvious when you return everything back together.

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To properly clean your calipers, you’ll need to disconnect them from the brake line. That means you’ll need to bleed your system when you reinstall the caliper. If you don’t want to do that, you won’t be able to remove the piston(s) and it will be a little more difficult to give the caliper a thorough clean.

On the basis that you are going to clean everything, loosen the banjo bolt that connects the brake line to the caliper and for the meantime, tighten it up by hand. This allows us to release pressure in the system so that we can remove the piston.

Sequence 01.Still011 We’d recommend using a proper piston removal tool like the one we have from Bikeservice. It works by being placed inside the piston and gripping it internally and saves a lot of time and headaches for a job like this. Whatever you do, don’t grip the outside of the piston when trying to remove it – you’ll potentially score or damage the piston that way and that will lead to a leaking and ultimately useless brake piston.

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An alternative is to completely disconnect the banjo bolt and spray compressed air into the hole, pushing the piston out.

Now onto cleaning. Make sure that you only use proper brake cleaner as certain cleaning fluids don’t play nicely with the seals inside the piston. We’re using a brake cleaner from Motul.  You can use a metal brush on bracket and other hard parts of the caliper, but keep it well away from the piston, cylinder and the pads. To be safe, just use an old toothbrush in conjunction with the brake cleaner.

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For the piston itself you can clean it and remove any dirt, rust or grit with 1500 grade wet and dry paper in conjunction with brake cleaner. For the pads, clean them with 800 grade wet and dry. Don’t forget to clean the backs but just as importantly, the sides and the whole where the pad pin goes.

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Once everything is cleaned up but before we reassemble, we need to apply some grease to the backs of the pads and the pad pin. Some people decide to forgo using grease on the backs of the pads which essentially just reduces noise, but seeing as you have to use it on the pad pin(s), we don’t see any harm in it. Just make sure you use properly formulated brake grease – it needs to be able to withstand extremely high temperatures and be water proof.

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Now, time to reassemble. Put some brake fluid on both the outside of the piston and in the cylinder, then push the piston in by hand. It should slip in nicely. Next, place the anti-rattle shim back to its original location and then the first pad – place the one that sits up against the piston first and/or is on the side that the pad pin first enters. Place the opposing pad and then thread through the pad pin(s). Check to make sure that the anti-rattle shim hasn’t moved while doing this. Re tighten the pins to the manufacturer’s recommended torque levels.

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Now return your caliper to the bike and re-bleed your brakes. We’d recommend that for the first few kilometres, treat your brakes as if they were brand new and go easy on them. Do a few low speed emergency stops too.

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Stoptix Automatic Brake Lamp For Motorcycles

Looking to give other motorists a bit more warning that you’re slowing down that doesn’t require any real technical know-how save for replacing your existing bulbs? The Stoptix by MechOptix is supposedly the world’s first automatic brake light that illuminates for any deceleration event.

That includes:

  • Downshifting
  • Engine braking
  • Normal braking
  • Collissions
  • Malfunction (i.e. engine stopping and coasting to a stop)

“Stoptix is a good example of new technologies on the horizon that increase visibility for motorcycle riders,” said Jeff Hammock, president, MechOptix. “This is the first of many products from MechOptix that apply the latest sensor and LED lighting technologies to reduce your chances of a rider being hit by another vehicle. Our goal is to design these products as replacement parts so you don’t have to modify your vehicle wiring. This means that these products will also install in cars, trucks, trailers, buses, tractor-trailers and more.”

The bulb does a contain a battery to measure deceleration which requires recharging every three hours. However, that really shouldn’t be a problem as the battery is automatically recharged every time you apply the brakes (charging via the lamp socket) and is fully charged within 2 seconds. Also, if you have a bike with the a running lamp always on like on most modern motorcycles, the Stopix is fully charged always.

We love things like this that improve rider safety, especially ones that are so damn simple and there’s nothing really any more simply than changing a bulb. MechOptix plans to have the Stoptix brake light available in US stores late this spring and it will eventually be available worldwide with CE certification. Pricing is unavailable at this time.