How To Replace Bicycle Brake Pads

If you are an avid bike rider you may know that frequent rides can put your bike under stress, especially if you own a mountain bike. The challenging terrain that mountain bikes are built for may also lead to your brake pads wearing over time. You’ll know they need to be changed when braking is weak, has little grip, kicks in late or oscillates, and at that point, you need to completely replace the old bike brake pads with new ones. So, how do you change bike brake pads?

Before changing your bike brake pads, it’s important to decide which type you need to install. Your choice of bike brake pads should be dependent on the type of conditions and terrain that you choose to ride on.

There are three types available:

  1. Organic (good cold operation, low durability, low resistance to overheating)
  2. Semi-metallic (they work well both hot and cold, quite durable)
  3. Metallic (great resistance to overheating, little grip when cold).

Things you will need

Step 1: Disassemble The Clamp

The brake pads to be replaced are housed inside the clamp installed on the fork, near the disc. The clamp is fixed to the fork with two screws which have an Allen recess. If it is difficult to unscrew using the Allen wrench, you can spray a little WD-40 Smart Straw Multi-Use directly onto it using the handy Smart Straw applicator and let it sit for a few minutes before unscrewing. At this point, separate the clamp from the disc without detaching it from the brake cable.

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Step 2: Replace The Pads

Unscrew the transverse screw that locks the spring on which the pads are installed. This screw may have a safety Seeger ring that you’ll need to remove with nose pliers. You can use a small amount of WD-40 Smart Straw Multi Use again if you are finding it difficult to remove. Next, pull the spring out with the clamp. To do this, use the nose pliers to grab the top of the spring.

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Step 3: Bike Piston Cleaning & Maintenance

Before installing the new spring with the new brake pads, it is almost always necessary to clean the two pistons that compress the spring and pads during braking. Often, water, mud, and other elements will interfere with the correct movement of the pistons. You will know if this has affected your bike if you find one piston protruding more than the other inside the clamp. Isopropyl alcohol can be used to properly clean the piston body, but for a faster and extremely effective solution, apply a few drops of WD-40 Specialist Brake Cleaner. This compound (which contains isopropyl alcohol) perfectly cleans the body of the pistons, which will resume their normal alignment inside the clamp. After applying, thoroughly clean and dry the inside of the clamp with paper towels or cotton swabs.

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Step 4: Insert The New Pads And Mount The Clamp

The new pads are usually sold together with a new clamp-holder spring. Mounting them inside the clamp is simple: compress the two sides of the spring with your hands and insert the assembly into the clamp-holder, placing it correctly between the side pistons. To stop the spring and clamp, re-insert and screw the transverse screw that goes across both the clamp supports and the protruding part of the springs. The safety Seeger ring (if present) should also be inserted on the screw.

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Step 5: Clamp Reassembly and Centring On The Disc

The last thing to do is reassemble the clamp, which must be seamlessly centred so that the disc is equally spaced from the pads. Replace the screws that lock the clamp to the fork without completely tightening them. Before you completely tighten them, ensure the disc is perfectly centred between the pads. Then, practice turning the tyre and make sure that the disc doesn’t come into contact with the pads themselves while it’s turning. If this does happen, make some adjustments on the clamp moving it as much as necessary so that the tyre rotates without any contact. Once it is in the ideal position, the clamp locking screws can be tightened to the fork. Finally, test the braking both with the bicycle on a stand and on the ground to make sure that they are working perfectly.

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Pro Tip:

Now that you know how to safely change and adjust your bike brake pads, why not find out How To Clean Your Bike Disc Brakes or How To Stop Your Bike From Rusting with our step-by-step guides. Looking for more products to keep your bike in top condition? Browse our Specialist Bike products.

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