It is inevitable that if you carry out your own maintenance, sooner or later you will need to change your brake pads. They are, after all, consumable and will need replacing more or less often, depending on how you use the bike.
Having said that, you may find that you want to change them from the standard, factory-fit versions to something that offers a little more braking power or initial bite. While you may end up improving your braking characteristics, the process is the same.
We have illustrated the process on a Royal Enfield Himalayan. It uses a single front disk and floating caliper so we only needed one pair of pads; for bikes with twin front discs, you will need to carry out the steps here on each of the front calipers.
As a floating caliper, there are only pistons on one side of the caliper though other designs may have pistons on both sides of the caliper. The Enfield’s brakes are fairly wooden, with little initial bite and needing quite a hefty squeeze to get them working and a change of pad to an ‘HH’ sintered style helped with both bite and overall power.
Here are the general principles involved in changing your front brake pads.
Our Royal Enfield Himalayan uses a single disc and caliper on the left-hand side of the front wheel. Your bike may have one on the other side or more likely, twin discs and calipers, meaning you will need to repeat this entire process on the other side too
First off, remove any clips that may be holding speedometer cables or ABS-sensor wiring to the brake lines
The release the bolts mounting the caliper to the front forks leg(s)
Unless your bike has very high miles on it and is filthy, the mounting bolts should be finger tight but if not, use a socket or a ratchet to remove all bolts completely
You can now remove the complete caliper, with the pads still in place within it
Looking at the inside of the caliper, you can see the pads mounted in grooves at one end and on a pin at the other. The pistons are behind the far pad, out of sight
Here you can see the thickness of the pad material remaining – still plenty of life in these. You can also see the accumulation of dirt within the caliper
There are two spring clips securing the pad pin into the caliper. Start by removing this one, which sits within the caliper
Then remove the second clip. A pair of pliers is useful here, while a screwdriver can also help to release the clips if they are stuck in with dirt
The pin then needs to be withdrawn to release the pads. As this bike is relatively new and low-mileage, the pin pushed out easily by hand but again, if it has been in for a while, you may need to tap it out gently with a drift
With the pin released, it is withdrawn completely from the caliper to free the pads
Turning the caliper over, you can see here how the pads are held in. Now the pin is removed, the old pads can be unhooked from the groove at the far end and removed
With a pair of water-pump pliers, push the pistons back into the caliper body, to make room for the new pads. The pistons will have moved out as the pads wear and need retracting to give you room to fit the new pads over the disc
As you can see, the brakes get pretty grubby, with used pad material, dust and general road grime, so while we’re here, we’ll give the caliper a clean
If you have access to a can of proprietary brake cleaner, you can use that but almost as effective is a bucket of warm water with a little washing liquid in it
Dip a stiff brush in the water and clean out the main channel in the caliper, as well as around the outside to remove as much dust and dirt as possible
Clean the pin as well, to help prevent it sticking in place for the future, as well as ensure the pads move smoothly on it
While the caliper is drying, it’s worth running your fingernail across the brake disc in a few places and on both sides to feel for any scoring or ridges that might indicate wear and that the discs needs changing too – eventually, they will
Time to fit the new pads. To start with, the end farthest from the pin hooks into a groove with a spring clip underneath, to hold that end secure
This is how the pad should sit in the caliper, against the piston housing to make as much room to fit the disc as possible
The other pad is also fitted and both are held downwards, against the spring clip at the top (the bottom in this photo – the caliper is upside down) of the caliper photo
With both pads slotted in to the groove at the far end, the pin is replaced to hold them properly within the caliper
The first of the spring clips is fitted to prevent the pin moving in or out
The second spring clip is fitted and the caliper is now fully assembled
Double-check the pads are fully retracted, then slot the caliper and pads over the brake disc, as shown here. Line the bolt-holes up with those in the fork leg and insert the mounting bolts with a little thread lock, tightening them to the torque specified in the handbook or workshop manual
Re-fit the ABS wiring and/or the speedo cable and you’re done at the dirty end
Before you go anywhere, you need to pump the brake lever, to bring the pads into contact with the discs from their retracted position. Pump the lever all the way back to the grip
After a couple of pumps, the lever should become firm and will only come back this far – the normal range - indicating the brakes are sorted and the bike is ready to be ridden