How to change the disc brake pads on your bike

Put a stop to sub-standard braking

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, always carry a spare set when out riding as it's not unheard of to wear through a set on a particularly long and muddy ride.

How to change your disc brake pads

Find out how to change your brake pads in our walkthrough video

You will need

It's worthwhile investing in a can of disc brake cleaner for this job
It's worthwhile investing in a can of disc brake cleaner for this job
  • Pad pusher tool or ‘fat’/wide flathead screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Paper cloth
  • Disc brake cleaner
  • Replacement 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 will 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 hydraulic system, and force you to bleed the brake unit.

Be sure to inspect your brake pads on a regular basis
Be sure to inspect your brake pads on a regular basis

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.

Step 1: Remove and clean

Start by pushing the old pads into the calliper with a pad pusher tool or a large flathead screwdriver. You must do this at this stage because pushing on new pads or directly onto the pistons can cause damage.

Make sure you push the pistons back into the body of the caliper with the old pads still in place
Make sure you push the pistons back into the body of the caliper with the old pads still in place

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.

Make sure you put the retention pin/bolt somewhere safe when fitting your new pads
Make sure you put the retention pin/bolt somewhere safe when fitting your new pads

Step 2: Replace and adjust

Install the new pads along with the retention pins and clips and return the wheel to the bike. Try to avoid squeezing the brake lever at this point.

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.

Unsure how to centre a calliper? Check out our walkthrough video on how to do this here.

Make sure the rotor runs true through your calliper
Make sure the rotor runs true through your calliper

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.

It may take a few pumps at the lever before your brakes begin to 'bite' the rotor
It may take a few pumps at the lever before your brakes begin to 'bite' the rotor

When you’re happy that 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 will be ready to ride. 

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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