The braking system on any vehicle is one of the most critical systems on them, especially on a motorcycle. Within the braking system are brake pads, consumable parts that your motorcycle will need to replace every now and again. But how often is this? How long do brake pads last on your bike and is there a way to make them last longer? These are all questions I asked myself before I purchased my bike.
On average, motorcycle brake pads last 20,000 miles, but this number can vary depending on what they’re made of, the conditions you ride in, and your braking habits. I’ve had brake pads last 15,000 miles and some last 25,000 miles or more. You should check your brake pads regularly to ensure your safety.
Throughout this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about brake pads, when to change them, what to look for, and why they’re so important. It’s important to remember that if your brake pads aren’t up to par, your life and the life of others may be at risk.
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What Brake Pads Do And Why They’re Important
Brake pads are friction surfaces that make contact with the rotors in the disc brake system. They are constructed of different friction materials that are bonded to a steel backing plate. They used to be made out of asbestos but were replaced with new high-tech materials.
Sintered brake pads are the most popular type of lining and are used as the original brake pads on almost all motorcycles because they’re able to handle the widest range of weather and road conditions.
When a rider presses on the brake lever or pedal of their bike, the brake master cylinder attached to the lever or pedal pressurizes the system and sends hydraulic pressure to the brake caliper(s). The brake pad will then clamp against the spinning rotor to create friction that converts to kinetic energy.
This then turns into heat energy, which passes into the brake rotors, pads and calipers, then into the air. All of this in turn stops the motorcycle. If there’s nothing left on the pad, all that’s going to happen is you’ll hear a lot of noise and won’t stop.
If you can’t stop due to bad brake pads, you could cause an accident. This could endanger your life and the lives around you.
When Should Brake Pads Be Changed?
Brake pads should be inspected for wear every 2,500 miles. Since your bike should be services every 2,500 or 3,000 miles, you can ask the dealer or service shop to check the brake pads during the servicing.
According to the Harley Davidson owner manual, brake pads should be inspected every 2,500 miles, but if you ride under adverse conditions, steep hills, heavy traffic, etc., or if you stop frequently, then you should inspect the brake pads every 1,000 miles or less, especially if you only use 1 brake, but this isn’t recommended.
Additionally, brake pads have to be replaced whenever the thickness of the friction material is less than 1/16th of an inch or 0.07 inches.
Inspecting brake pads becomes much easier if the motorcycle has wear indicators. You won’t have to worry about measuring the friction material. All you have to do is check the wear indicators against the brake pad materials.
Other Factors That Dictate When Brake Pads Should Be Changed
There are a couple of other factors that can come into play when it comes to changing your motorcycle brake pads. These can include the type and model of the bike, what conditions you ride in, the material of the brake pad, and the rider’s braking habits.
Motorcycle Type and Model
There are various motorcycle types and models that have different sizes and weights. Motorcycles that are large and heavy will require more braking power at high speeds, resulting in brake pads being worn down quicker when compared to lighter and smaller bikes.
Higher cc engines and sports bikes see their engines wearing out quicker than that of lower cc and standard motorcycles.
The riding conditions that you put your bike through can have a great effect on the brake pads. The climate, place, and conditions matter. If you’re riding on busy roads where traffic is high, you will be braking more frequently. This will make your pads wear out quicker. If you ride in the suburbs with almost no traffic and on good roads, you may not use the brakes much.
I ride my bike in the hills a lot, so I tend to go through pads quicker since I’m constantly maneuvering through hilly terrain and constantly changing speeds. I tend to have to change my brake pads every 15,000 miles as opposed to every 20,000 miles or more.
You may be able to get brake pads for cheap, but they’re most likely not made of the most durable material.
The quality and hardness of the brake pad will determine its life span. Whether the material is organic or sintered, it should have sufficient hardness to apply brakes smoothly and should not wear easily. Poor quality material will wear down quicker and may need to be replaced more frequently.
Most importantly, your braking habits greatly affect the brake pads’ longevity. If you speed up fast and then apply the brakes, even when it’s a short distance, your brake pads aren’t going to last as long as you think.
On the other hand, if you ride your bike without a lot of unnecessary braking, you won’t see much wear and tear on your brake pads. The wearing down of the friction material will be slower, so your brake pads will last longer.
Signs Your Brake Pads Might Need To Be Changed
Changing your brake pads will keep your braking system functional. When your brake pads are wore out and basically not functional, the braking ability is compromised, leaving you and the people around you at risk.
When you brake, the friction pieces will apply pressure against the rotors. When your brakes begin to make a squealing or squeaking noise, this is a good indicator that the pads are worn down below their safe limits. The more squealing and squeaking you hear, the worse your pads are.
If your pads are worn down and rubbing against the rotors, it can cause serious damage and it’s expensive to repair.
If each time you press on the brake and hear a loud grinding sound, it means that the pads are worn down so badly that the rotor disc is making contact with the caliper. This means that the pad metal is cutting into your rotors, creating a major brake system issue if not addressed.
If your motorcycle is equipped with an electric indicator light, it will come on if the pads are bad or if the brake fluid is too low. When this indicator light comes on, you need to change the pads right away to avoid damage to the rotors.
10 Brands That Produce Long-Lasting Brake Pads
|Edge trimmed and radius ground, die-cast aluminum, original brake shoe springs
|8oz, aluminum material, $32.86, for street bikes
|Made from carbon aramid fiber, 30% cooler, made in the USA, lightweight
|9.6oz, for street cruisers, organic, $52.06
|Sintered metal, withstands heat well,
|1.05lbs, $26.90, sintered metal
|Great stopping power, high-strength fibers, good for all riding conditions
|Kevlar material, Fits 2008-2016 Harley, 1.54lbs, $22.49
|Great for high temperatures, semi-metallic, durable, reduce abrasion on the rotor
|$24.29, for street cruisers
|No excessive noise, non-sintered, semi-metallic
|1.65lbs, for Harley Road Kings or similar
|Sintered, fast heat recovery, great “feel”
|For street sport, OEM, ceramic, $32.40, 3.52oz
|GG friction material, no brake fade, performs well in wet or dry conditions
|For off-road bikes, aluminum ceramic material, $37.60, 12.8oz
|V-pads, good toughness, high temp resistance, great performance in poor conditions
|For street bikes, ceramic material, $51.99, 2.18lbs
|Excellent braking, decreased wear, carbon fiber material
|Carbon fiber, $20.69, 1.43 lbs
Cost Of Changing Brake Pads
When it’s time to get your brakes serviced, you could choose to do it yourself like I do, or you can take it to a certified motorcycle mechanic. You have to remember that the rotors are going to be more expensive than the pads, so you should take it easy on the brakes so you don’t destroy your rotors.
Brake pads by themselves will cost between $30 and $50 per set. The rotors can cost a couple of hundred dollars per brake pad set or more. This is a relatively quick service, so if you take it to a mechanic, you may only be charged for an hour or two of labor, but some shops will charge more or take longer.
Your brake pads will last as long as you want them to. This means that if you want them to last longer, you have to take it easier on them. If you don’t mind changing your brake pads every 10,000 miles or less, then you could choose to be harsher on your brakes. The amount of miles your brake pads will last is a lot different depending on the compound of the brake pads and your riding habits.
This is an easy and affordable maintenance chore that you can do yourself. It’s important to check the brakes every 1,000-2,000 miles to ensure they’re wearing as they should. If they’re wearing quicker than you expect, then it’s a good idea to change your braking habits.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.