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 is the main killer of ATV brake pads, as well as excessive use. Brake pads do their job best under dry conditions. I’m not saying avoid mud, that’s the best part of off-roading, but it’s just something to be aware of.
To complete a successful brake pad swap out, the first thing you need to be aware of is if you have disk brakes or drum brakes.
ATV Disk Brakes VS ATV Drum Brakes
Most newer quads you will see with disk brakes for every tire. Hydraulic disk brakes are the norm now a days, but you still see drum brakes here and there, and more on older four wheelers. The hydraulic disk brakes are so popular because they stop so much more effectively, limiting the amount of ATV accidents and injuries.
You will be able to easily tell if your brakes are disk or drum brakes by looking for the brake system behind the tire or on the axle. Here are some examples:
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 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 so much more critical to slowing the machine down quickly.
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 on utility ATVs on the rear wheels. Since the front brakes are most important, it’s usually fine for the 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.
ATV Brake Pad Materials
There are three common types of brake pad material to choose from. Ceramic, Metallic, and Organic. Ceramic 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 down side 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.
Tools Required When Replacing ATV Brake Pads
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.
Step To Change The Brake Pads On Your ATV
Once you have all your tools and parts ready, it’s time to replace the brake pads. This is a pretty easy straight forward 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 lower 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 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 An ATV Brake Replacement Should Be Done
The average rider can go a few years before needing new brake pads. It’s not a good idea to judge if you need pads by how long it’s been since last replacement though. Since everyone rides their machine differently and with differing frequency, there are better ways to check of 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.
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