Replacing the Brake Pads on the Sportster

This is a very easy job that I think just about anyone with a little shop sense should be able to tackle. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that brakes are such an important function, I'd say this is one of the easiest and quickest projects on the bike you can do. There's no reason to spend the bucks at the dealer to do something this easy and straightforward.

That doesn't mean you don't have to be careful and pay attention to what you are doing though. They are your brakes.

Since I already had the wheel off and the caliper removed, I thought it made sense to inspect everything and make sure it was all in working order.

Before you get started, this is a job that it's probably a good idea to put on a pair of gloves. The stuff they make brake pads out of isn't very good for you. It's been identified as carcinogenic, so wearing a pair of gloves for this just makes sense.


With a flat head screwdriver, remove the plug that keeps gunk out of where the brake pad retaining pin sits. With that removed, loosen the retaining pin, but don't completely remove it.

NOTE: The allen on the end of the pin is 5mm metric, so make sure you have the right allen key before you dive into this. You also need a 10mm 12-point socket to remove the caliper from the fork, so just be prepared that your brake parts will be metric.


Slide the pin out far enough to remove the outside brake pad and set it aside. then pull the pin out the remaining way to remove the inside pad.

NOTE: Your brake caliper could be a little different, but they all basically work the same way.

The retaining pin could be at the top of the caliper or you could have pistons on both sides of the caliper. This caliper has the pin on one end and the pistons are only on one side.


It's a good idea to clean all the crud and road grime out of the caliper once you have the brake pads removed. Use a brake-specific cleaner—I used this stuff made by Gunk. Be careful not to spray it on any of your painted surfaces as it will remove the paint.


Now it's time for the new pads. I'm using EBC pads.

Put a thin layer of lubricant on the back (the metal part) of the new brake pad. You want to lubricate where it will be in contact with the pistons. You don't need to really slather it on—a thin film is enough.

This is one of the areas you'll want to be careful with. Although you want a film of lubricant on the metal backing plate, you don't want any of the lubricant on the braking material itself.


It won't hurt to do the same thing with the retaining pin. Don't use a petroleum-based lube though because that will eat at the rubber piston seals. Use a silicone-based lubricant designed for this application. I've been using a brake-specific lube made by Permatex.

After you've spread the film of lubricant on the the backing plate and the retention pin, remove your gloves and put on a fresh pair so you don't get any of the lube on the pads themselves.


I wasn't able to get a very good photo of it holding the caliper in one hand and the camera in the other, but there are two flat retention trays the end of the brake pad sits in on either side of the caliper. When you look in the caliper, it will be pretty obvious to you where the brake pad sits.

With the flat end of the brake pad in the retention tray, push the brake pad into the retention spring on the other end until you can slide the pin through the inside brake pad. Continue to push the pin through, seat the outer pad and finish by screwing the pin in the rest of the way.


The torque spec for the retaining pin is between 18-25 inch pounds. This is one of those times (because it's the brakes) I don't want to cheat so I torque it to spec.


With the pin in place, screw the retention pin plug back into place and this part of the job is now done.


The caliper and brake pads should now look something like this.

Since I'm waiting for the replacement wheel, I'll wrap this up again in a shop rag and bungee it to the bike so it doesn't drop until the new wheel arrives.

All in, this probably only took 20 minutes, tops. Granted, I already had the caliper off, but that's only two allen head fastener so this particular job might take 25 min to 30 min.