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How To Change The Brake Pads On Your ATV: A Step By Step Guide

How To Change The Brake Pads On Your ATV: A Step By Step Guide

Keeping your brakes in good condition is critical for ATV maintenance. Once your brakes start to wear out, you could be putting yourself into dangerous situations. You need to be able to stop quickly and successfully at all times on an ATV. 

Mud and moisture, along with excessive use, are the primary factors that can significantly degrade your ATV brake pads. Brake pads work best under dry conditions I understand that completely avoiding mud is not practical, especially since it adds to the excitement of off-roading. So while indulging in muddy adventures, it’s important to be mindful that your ATV brake pads may require replacement at some point. Now, if you’re seeking guidance on how to change them, look no further!

The short answer is this! To change the brake pads on your ATV, first determine whether you have disk brakes or drum brakes. Then, gather the necessary tools, loosen the wheel lug nuts, and lift the ATV off the ground using a car jack or ATV stand. Remove the caliper, replace the old brake pads, and clean the caliper and slider pins if needed. Inspect for any damages and replace any faulty parts. Install the new brake pads, making sure they lightly touch the rotor. Finally, gradually test the brakes to ensure proper functionality.  

This article explores in detail the step-by-step process of how you can replace the brake pads on your ATV. Keep reading to learn more!

How Can I Determine Whether My ATV Is Equipped With Disk Brakes or Drum Brakes?

Most modern ATVs are equipped with hydraulic disk brakes on all tires, which are highly effective in stopping and reducing the risk of accidents and injuries. However, drum brakes can still be found on some older four-wheelers. 

To determine whether your ATV has disk or drum brakes, you can inspect the brake system located behind the tire or on the axle. Here are a few examples to help you identify the type of brakes on your ATV:

ATV Disk Brakes

You will notice where the ATV disk brakes got their name, there’s an actual disk that the brake pads press against to slow the machine down.

These are very common for sport or racing quads. The front disk brakes will be very similar except they will most likely be behind the front tire, usually on both sides of the front wheels.

This is because the front brakes are used more often and are critical to slowing the machine down quickly.

ATV Drum Brakes

The drum brakes will look like this picture, they are enclosed with the brake shoes being pressed onto the the wall of the drum inside the drum itself.

These are more often found on older quads or utility ATVs on the rear wheels. Since the front brakes are most important, it’s usually fine for the back brakes to be the less effective drum-style brake system.

After you figure out which brake system you have, drum or disk, you can get the parts and do a brake pad change.

If you do have drum brakes but want disk brakes, they sell pretty good Disk Brake Conversion Kits on Amazon, just make sure to get the right kit for your make and model.

But what type of pads will you want to get? Let’s talk about the different brake pad materials.

What Are The Different Materials Used For ATV Brake Pads?

There are three common types of brake pad material to choose from. Ceramic, Metallic, and Organic

Ceramics are usually the most expensive but run a lot cleaner. They create less brake dust which in turn causes less wear and tear to your other brake system components.

Metallic brake pads are popular for sport quads because of the high temperatures they can withstand. But they tend to be noisy and rough on the rotors. Semi-metallic brake pads are optimal for an everyday rider.

Organic brake pads are the cheapest option of the three. They are easy on the rotors and contain no metallic material. The downside is they offer the least performance and slowest braking time.

Semi-metallic brake pads are the most common and best for everyday use. Here is a link to Semi-Metallic ATV Brake Pads on Amazon to help get your search started. Make sure you get the right set for your make and model

What Are The Necessary Tools Required When Replacing ATV Brake Pads?

The first step is to make sure you have all the tools you need to complete the job. Unless you like running out to the parts store in the middle of a job. Most of these tools are very common and already in most garages.

  • Socket Kit- For my job, I needed the 10mm socket, yours may be different. I’ve seen some need a set of Allen wrenches. This is to remove the brake assembly.
  • Clamp- Something to compress the caliper piston
  • Vice Grips- Something to compress the caliper to get the pads of the pins.
  • Jack- Something to hold the quad off the ground while you remove the wheel and change the pads.
  • A Lug Wrench- To remove the lug nuts.
  • Gloves- To protect your hands.
  • Safety Glasses- Safety protection if you can. Eyes are important.
  • New Brake Pads- Nice to have before everything is taken apart.

How To Change The Brake Pads On An ATV: A Step-By-Step Guide

Once you have all your tools and parts ready, it’s time to replace the brake pads. This is a pretty easy straightforward process.

Step 1: Remove The Wheel

First, remove the ATV tire and wheel assembly from the machine. It’s best practice to loosen the lugs while the ATV is on the ground. Then lift the quad and remove the lugs and wheel.

Step 2: Unbolt The Caliper

This is usually done with a socket set, sometimes with an Allen wrench. Look on the back of the caliper and you will notice two bolts that hold the brake assembly on.

Remove these bolts and the whole assembly comes off the rotor. The pads may still be on the caliper held there by two pins.

Step 3: Remove Old Brake Pads

You will need to suppress the pins on the caliper to remove the brake pads. This is where you’ll use the vice grips or clamp. Once suppressed the brake pads will easily fall right out of the caliper housing.

This part can be a bit of a pain, but if you get the vice grips on just right you won’t have any problems.

Step 4: Install New Brake Pads

You will need to compress the caliper piston with a c clamp or something to get the new brake pads in the caliper.

Once you compress the caliper piston you can remove the clamp and insert the new brake pads.

Remember to set the pads back on the caliper pins just the way the old ones were installed. You will need the vice grips again to compress the pins to put the new pads on.

Step 5: Re-bolt the Caliper

Simply put the brake assembly back onto the machine by bolting the caliper back into place. There you have it, you just changed your brake pads. Not that difficult of a job, and can be easily done in less than an hour once you know what you’re doing.

Step 6: Finish Up

Put the wheel and tire back onto the machine and lower the jack. It’s best to loosely put the lugs on while the machine is jacked up, and then firmly tighten the lugs after you’ve lowered the quad back to the ground.

Press the brake down to be sure that your brake is working properly. The first or first two pumps on the pedal are soft as the piston started at a new point on the backside of the brake pad.

This might be a good time to check your brake fluid and replace or add any if needed. If you want to bleed the brakes and get all-new fluid in there check out this article on How To Bleed Your Brake Fluid On An ATV.

How Often Should I Replace My ATV Brake Pad?

The average rider can go a few years before needing new brake pads. However, it’s not a good idea to judge if you need pads by how long it’s been since the last replacement though. Since everyone rides their machine differently and with differing frequencies, there are better ways to check if you need to do a replacement.

The best way to tell if you need to replace your ATV brake pads is by looking at the thickness of the pads. You could always measure them by hand, but a quick look is enough to tell if they’re worn out.

In this picture, the pads on the right are worn and the pads on the left are new.

Another way to tell is if you hear a scraping noise while using your brakes when you’re riding. If you press down hard on the brakes and notice a jittery feeling in your handle bars, that’s another sign you should check out your brake pads.


Summarily, keeping your ATV brakes in good condition is essential for your safety. As you ride through mud and water, your ATV brake pads can wear out over time. By following a step-by-step process discussed in this article, you can easily change your ATV brake pads. Also, don’t forget to regularly inspect your brake pads, while paying attention to signs such as thickness and unusual noises, as this will help you determine when it’s time to replace them for optimal braking performance.

Thanks so much for reading to the end!

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