How to change disc brake pads

Guide to removing and replacing worn pads

Disc brake pads are a consumable component of your bike, and it goes without saying that it’s important to keep them in good condition. 

Thankfully, renewing them is a five-minute job, and they’re cheap and light enough that you can – and should – carry spares when riding.

Tools

  • Pad pusher tool or ‘fat’/wide screwdriver
  • needle nose pliers
  • paper cloth
  • solvent spray (optional)
  • replacement pads

How to change disc brake pads

Inspect for wear

Remove the wheel from the bike and check the brake pads for wear. It’s important to check the pads regularly, because metal-on-metal contact can destroy brake rotors very quickly.

Be careful not to actuate the brakes at this stage, because squeezing the brake lever after you've removed the disc rotors can compromise the hydraulics, and force you to re-bleed the brake unit.

You should replace your pads when there’s 1.5mm or less of braking material remaining. If the pads are okay, replace the wheel and keep riding. If not follow these steps.

Remove and clean

Start by pushing the replacement pads into the calliper with a pad pusher tool or large flathead screwdriver. You must do this at this stage, because pushing on new pads or directly onto the pistons can cause damage. Remove the pad retention system – some have a screw-in pin, which you'll need to remove, while others just clip in.

Remove the pads and springs using needle nose pliers. At this point it’s a good idea (although not essential) to clean the inside of the calliper and rotor with a little degreaser and paper cloth, to remove any brake dust or dirt build-up.

Replace and adjust

Install the new pads along with the the retention pins and clips, and return the wheel to the bike, avoiding squeezing the brake lever.

Closely examine the calliper position relative to the rotor. The rotor should be running parallel and central to the calliper body. If it isn’t, undo the mounting bolts and adjust so the disc is centred.

When you’re absolutely sure that the disc is running straight, spin the wheel and squeeze the brake lever. It might take a few pumps before the pads bite. If they don’t grip the rotor after repeated pumps, then you will need to bleed the brakes.

When you’re happy the pads are stopping the wheels properly, you will need to ‘bed them in’. This can be done by riding in a safe car-free area. Bring the bike up to speed and brake hard. Repeat the process a few times, and the bike is ready to ride. 

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