Tech Tuesday: Brake Pads

NEWS January 31, 2012


Tech Tuesday: Brake Pads

Photo by Brian J. Nelson

 

This week, we are extending our segment on brake systems and will take a look at brake pad wear and brake pads. Last week while exploring brake fluid maintenance, we wrote about the assumed faith that the brakes are going to work every time the brake levers are used. The fact of the matter is, brakes are consumable items that wear away and have to be changed. In this article, we would like to help fellow riders notice the signs of wear, help prevent any mishaps due to brake failure and speak briefly on the different types of brake rotors.

Noticing Signs of Brake Wear:

Brake pads are a friction stopping device, meaning the more complete surface they have to create friction, the better they work. Brake pads can sometimes give signs to inform the rider when the pads need to be changed. The easiest way to check the brake pads on a motorcycle is to visually check them. On most motorcycles, the pads can be seen from the front of the motorcycle by looking down the rotors to the calipers. If the pads can’t be seen on the front and rear of each brake caliper, using a small extendable mirror can help fix that easily. The mirror will more than likely have to be used to view the pads on the rear of the motorcycle, as well. It is recommended to change the brake pads before they get down to 1/16th of an inch or 1.5875 millimeters of remaining brake life.

Brake pad material is held on by glue to a metal backing plate. When the pad material wears through, the only thing left to stop you will be the metal backing plate; this is bad! The metal rotor and the metal backing plate rubbing together to stop a motorcycle equals scarred rotors. When the rotors are scarred in this fashion, the contact patch will be reduced, thus making the new pads, if installed, less functional. To regain proper brake functionality, new rotors must be changed along with new pads to increase the contact surface.

Brake Pads:

When shopping for brake pads, notice that many different compounds of brake pads are available. The different materials of pads can be associated with the track day/street person, the track only person and the street only person. These different materials will make a huge difference on how fast or slow the pads will wear. A harder compound of brake pad will wear slower and have more longevity. When purchasing a softer compound, the pad will wear faster and create more heat through long, heavy braking. For more information on the different compounds of brake pads, it is always suggested to go to the manufacturer’s websites and choose the compounds that best suit your riding application.


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