Replace Sportster Brake Pads

Replacing brake pads is a standard maintenance procedure essential to a bike’s safe operation. Rear brake pads typically wear at the same rate as the back tire and should be replaced at the same time. Front brake pads typically last two to three times longer. According to the maintenance guide “101 Harley-Davidson Performance Projects,” replacing brake pads is a project that takes between 30 and 60 minutes.


1. Park the Sportster for a period of several hours in the location where you plan to change your brake pads. It is important that you allow the bike to cool completely before performing maintenance.

2. Unscrew the two bolts that hold the front caliper in place using an Allen wrench. This will free the caliper for removal.

3. Pull the caliper back toward the rear of the motorcycle until it pulls off the rotor.

4. Inspect the caliper for damage. The caliper should not have any visible signs of wear. Check for cracks or other signs of damage. Replace damaged calipers.

5. Remove the brake pads from the brake system by hand. Remove the 5/16-inch bolt that holds the pads in place from the brake caliper. Pull the brake pad clip, which contains the pad itself, out of the caliper. Push the brake pad out of the clip. Dispose of the used pads.

6. Clean the brake rotors. Spray the rotor with brake cleaner and use a dry rag to wipe it away.

7. Depress the brake pedal on the Sportster. This will discharge the air from the brake pistons. Release the brake when all the air is released from the piston.

8. Clean the pistons. Spray the pistons with brake cleaner and wipe the cleaner away with a clean, dry rag.

9. Push the pistons back into the caliper using a flat-head screwdriver. This restores the pistons’ full range of motion and will improve braking power.

10. Snap a brake pad into the brake clip that you removed from the old brake pad. The clip is essential to the way the brakes work and should be replaced if it appears worn or damaged.

11. Put a small amount of lubricant on each pad and spread it evenly over the surface. The lubricant both improves brake operation and protects the face of the rotor.

12. Slide both brake pads back into position inside the caliper. Insure that they are properly positioned and fully inside the caliper system.

13. Screw the 5/16-inch bolt back into the caliper. This will secure the brake pads in position.

14. Place the brake caliper back into position on the rotor. Tighten the two bolts using the Allen wrench.

15. Pump the brakes to rebuild pressure in the line.

16. Test-drive the Sportster at low speeds where there is little or no traffic. Make sure that the brake depresses as it should and that the bike has appropriate stopping power.