These are my opinons only and what I look for and perform – should you choose to use any of this information it is at your own decision and risk.
Brake Pads are the one part of the braking system that is prone to wear and tear more than another part. At the end of the day the condition of the pad is the one single point that can determine if you have a good day or not. Sadly the pads are often overlooked when you perform your periodic maintenance, this could be due to not knowing what to check, what to look for, how to maintain them?
The most basic of tests should be performed everytime before you turn your ignition on and hitting the road. This test forms part of BOLTS
What is BOLTS? This is an acroynm for :
BRAKES Oil Lights Tyres Steering
For the BRAKES segment you stand to the side of the motorcycle (engine is off) pull in the front brake lever and see if you can move the motorcycle. If you can move the motorcycle then there is an issue with your brake system, this should be addressed and resolve before you ride your motorcycle.
As part of this test the brake lever should not pull back so far as so it touches the handlebar grip, you should feel it pull back a little before feeling resistance. Note that some system can behave differently ie a monoblock caliper however no brake lever should touch the handlebar grip , regardless.
For the rear brake, depress the rear brake foot lever and have someone try and push the bike.
WHAT IS A BRAKE PAD ?
The brake pad is pad is made of two parts, the metal backing plate and the friction material. Some may have a thin plate to aid against vibration issues.
It is the friction material that will suffer the wear and damage over time
The brake pad is housed in the brake caliper secured by a pin or pins and metal springs.
WHAT WAY SHOULD THE BRAKE PAD SIT IN THE CALIPER?
The friction material should always be facing the metal rotor disk !!!
WHEN SHOULD I CHANGE MY BRAKE PAD
You should change you brake pad if the wear has reached to such a level where the friction material depth is minimal and ceases to be effective. There is damage to the friction material. Oil like liquid such as brake or fork fluid has come into contact with it and can not be removed totally. You should always change both pads if the brake caliper has two pads.
WHAT IS THE MINIMAL PAD DEPTH LEVEL?
I shall be using the ZX10R and GSXR1000 motorcycles as the examples here, but you can take these as a ‘rule of thumb’ for most motorcycles.
Sintered friction material will be used as the example opposed to organic friction material. If you are using your motorcycle for track use regardless of being a racer or a general track ride day rider you should really be using sintered.
The pads used for this example have a backing plate of 4mm and friction material of 3.5mm
From discussions with a well known brake pad manufacturer they advise that a racer whoose friction material is at 3mm should think of changing out the pads
When a sintered pads wear to half their friction material thickness, the pad performance drops off. Not to the point where safety is an issue but to where passing the braking marker or beating the next rider into the next corner.
As a general measurement guide for general riders once the friction material reaches a depth of 1.5mm then it is advised that the pad should be changed. As a scrutineer that is the depth I would be looking at for the ‘generic’ track ride day rider.
Some Pads have wear markers in the friction material. My opinion these may be ideal for general road riding but for the track I would change these out before reaching the change point on them. During heavy use at the track it wont take too much to wear below the marker, at that point the pads are no longer usable and you should change or if you have no spares with you – should stop track riding!
WHAT IS THE RATE OF WEAR?
This is something that the manufacturer is currently assessing.
It is something that varies from rider to rider i.e. if you are a ‘fast’ rider that is braking hard into every corner, then expect your friction material to wear quicker.
On a ride day, if a rider turns up and knows their friction material depth is nearing the estimated wear level, it is their resonsibilty to change those pads out.
NEVER HAVE THE ‘OH THEY WILL DO’ ATTITUDEThis can make all the difference from riding again or not !!!
If the friction material is damaged you should change out the pad/s
- If the friction material is damaged, chipped or other where it is fixed to the metal backing plate – CHANGE THE PAD
- Embedded fluid in the friction material – CHANGE THE PAD
- The friction material is split or delaminating – CHANGE THE PAD
AFTER YOU HAVE CHANGED YOUR PADS – MAKE SURE YOU ‘PUMP’ YOUR BRAKESThis ensures that the brake fluid is pushing against the pistons in the caliper against the pad backplate again.