How to Change Brake Pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail: A Step-by-Step Guide


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How To Change Brake Pads On Harley Davidson Softail

Changing the brake pads on your Harley-Davidson Softail can be a daunting task for the average rider. But with this step-by-step guide, you can confidently tackle this maintenance job like a professional. From gathering the necessary tools to the final step of testing your brakes, this article will provide you with the information you need to safely and securely change your brake pads. Whether you are a seasoned rider or a beginner, you can feel confident that you have the right information to take on this task. So, let’s get started!

To change the brake pads, you’ll need to first remove the caliper from the rotor. Then, use a C-clamp to compress the caliper piston, remove the old pads, and install the new ones. Finally, reattach the caliper to the rotor and pump the brake lever until it feels firm.

Overview of Harley-Davidson Softail

The Harley-Davidson Softail is a bike that has a design that looks like a vintage motorcycle with a rigid hard-tail frame with a triangle of steel tubes at the rear axle. This is similar to a bicycle frame. However, on the Softail models, the tubes actually form a triangular swingarm and the shock absorbers are hidden as opposed to the visible regular twin shocks on either side of the rear wheel. Since Harley-Davidson FXST Softail was introduced in 1983 as a registered trademark of the iconic motorcycle brand, the term “Softail” has become synonymous with Harley-Davidson.

One of the defining characteristics of the Softail is its unique frame. The Harley-Davidson Softail’s frame has the appearance of a hardtail bike but with a hidden rear suspension system, which provides a smoother ride. The design gives the Softail its classic look, while it also provides modern-day ride comfort. The design is unmistakably Harley-Davidson, with its long, low-slung profile and wide handlebars. The large fenders, tank-mounted gauges, and spoked wheels contribute to the bike’s vintage appeal.

While the Harley-Davidson Softail is largely associated with leisurely cruising around, it’ll be well worth noting that these motorcycles pack a punch in the performance department. Harley-Davidson offers many engine options for the Softail lineup, ranging from the Milwaukee-Eight 107 to the Milwaukee-Eight 117. These engines are capable of delivering a lot of torque to deliver a satisfying ride, whether you’re cruising around town, speeding down the highway, or taking on winding roads.

The Softail provides optimal performance and ideal comfort levels. A big part of that is possible thanks to the brake pads. They are important for your bike’s braking system and play an important role in ensuring your safety. 

Importance of Brake Pads in your Harley-Davidson Softail

Brake pads are an important component of the Harley-Davidson Softail’s braking system, and they play a critical role in ensuring your safety. This is especially true for the Harley-Davidson Softail, a heavyweight cruiser with considerable stopping power.

Brake parts are an important part of the braking system that come in contact with the brake rotor when the brakes get applied. Once you apply the brake lever or pedal, the brake pads will get pressed against the rotor, which creates friction and slows down your bike. Over time, the friction between the rotor and brake pads can gradually wear down the brake pads, which reduces their effectiveness.

The Harley-Davidson Softail is a relatively heavy bike, as it weighs more than 600 pounds. With all that weight, it will be important for the braking system to be in good working order. The Softail’s large, powerful brakes will generate a lot of heat, which ultimately wears down the brake pads faster than on lighter, smaller bikes.

Moreover, the Harley-Davidson Softail’s weight and power make it essential to have high-quality brake pads installed. Cheap or poorly made brake pads may not be able to handle the demands of Softail’s braking system, which can result in decreased stopping power and increased stopping distance. Having properly functioning brake pads will be important for rider safety. The weight and power of the Harley-Davidson Softail will make it difficult to stop quickly, so having reliable brake pads will be important. Worn-out brake pads can lead to longer stopping distances, reduced stopping power, and increased risk of accidents.

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How Do Brake Pads Work on Harley-Davidson Softail

As any biker will probably know, brakes are the most critical safety feature on a Harley-Davidson bike. Harley-Davidson Softail has designed the brake system with amazing cast iron and stainless steel that is suitable for delivering high performance.

The brake pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail are the high-friction physical entity in the brake system that the caliper uses for converting kinetic energy into thermal energy in the form of abrasion.

Moreover, the rear and front brake pads on your Softail will carry out their designated role accurately and repeatedly via maintaining thermal stability.

Signs That Your Harley-Davidson Softail has Bad Brake Pads

Brake pads are the friction surfaces that contact the brake discs (commonly known as brake rotors) in the disc brake systems. They are made using various friction materials that are bonded to a steel backing plate. Most of the older brake linings were made using asbestos, but as the health hazards of the materials got recognized, asbestos was gradually phased out and newer, high-tech materials got introduced to replace it. Today, brake pad linings are made using a wide variety of high-tech materials.

Like every other system, a brake pad will require maintenance at regular intervals for keeping it efficient and functional. However, if you don’t consider it as a priority, it’ll wear down over time because of friction and fail to work as effectively as it should. Here are the symptoms that you should examine to check if you have bad brake pads. When you apply the brake, it should not – 

  • Wobble or vibrate violently
  • Crank and click
  • Generate squealing or grinding sounds
  • Pull the bike to one side
  • Red or yellow brake indicators
  • Release a sharp, burning odor

How to Test the Brake Pads on Your Harley-Davidson Softail

Functional brake parts are an important part of your Harley-Davidson Softail’s brake system. This is why you need to test them as they wear down over time. You need to know the right way to test the brake pads of your bike to ensure your safety and the longer lifespan of the brake system.

It is simple, but you should first make sure that the brakes cool down for an hour or two before you start inspecting. Then, you will have to test the brake fluid of your bike. If it is dirty and dark, you might require some fresh brake fluid.

Check if the brake pads and wheels of your bike are dusty. In case you notice that they’re clean and clear, this means your bike needs immediate brake pad replacement.

How to Change Brake Pads on Harley-Davidson Softail

Harley-Davidson Softail bikes are known for having a classic style, powerful engines, and excellent braking systems. However, even the best brakes eventually wear out over time and have to be replaced.

Worn brake pads can be pretty hazardous to your Harley-Davidson Softail’s rider, which prevents the bike from stopping as safely and quickly as possible. These hazards appear in less obvious ways, which create deep fissures in the brake disc’s surface as the materials of the brake pads wear away to its metal backing plate.

As soon as there is less than 1/8-inch of material left, you need to replace the pads. This will alleviate the possibility of any negative scenario occurring. Changing the brake pads on your Softail will be a relatively simple task that can be done with the basic tools and the basic know-how of what to do. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to change brake pads on Harley-Davidson Softail  –

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Step 1: Gather the necessary tools and supplies

Before you start, you will need to ensure that you have all the necessary tools and supplies needed for changing the brake pads on your Softail. Some of the tools that you’ll require include – a new set of brake pads, a socket wrench, a torque wrench, a C-clamp or broken piston tool, and a brake cleaner.

Step 2: Prepare your bike

Once you have gathered the necessary tools and supplies, it’ll be time to prepare your bike. In this step, you won’t actually have to warm up your bike. Instead, make sure that it is cooled down properly. Cool down your bike for at least an hour or two before you start the process of changing the brake pads. After that, you must lift your bike to an ideal height so that you can operate it properly. 

Step 3: Remove the brake caliper

To be able to access the brake pads, you will first need to remove the brake caliper. Locate the two bolts that attach the caliper to the brake rotor and remove them with a socket wrench. Carefully pull the caliper away from the rotor and suspend it with a bungee cord or wire so that it does not hang by the brake hose.

Step 4: Remove the old brake pads

Once your caliper is removed, you can now remove the old brake pads. Depending on the type of brake pads, they may be held in place with clips or pins. Carefully remove any clips or pins and then slide the brake pads out of the caliper. Take note of the orientation of the old brake pads so that you can install the new pads in the correct position.

Step 5: Compress the brake piston

Before installing the new brake pads, you will need to compress the brake piston in the caliper. This can be done with a C-clamp or brake piston tool. Place the tool over the piston and turn it clockwise to compress the piston.

Step 6: Install the new brake pads and re-install the brake caliper

Once the piston is compressed, get started with installing the new brake pads. Align the new pads with the caliper and slide them into place. Reinstall any clips or pins that were removed. Once you have installed the new brake pads, you can now re-install the brake caliper. Carefully align the caliper with the rotor and reinstall the bolts that hold the caliper in place. Tighten the bolts to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specification using a torque wrench.

Step 7: Finish up and test the Brakes

After installing the new brake pads, it is important to test the brakes before riding your motorcycle. Pump the brake lever a few times to build pressure in the brake system. Then, slowly apply the brake to ensure that it is working properly. If you notice any issues or concerns, consult a professional mechanic.

Step 8: Clean the Brakes

Before riding your motorcycle, clean the brakes with brake cleaner to remove any grease or contaminants that may have accumulated during the installation process. This will help ensure that your brakes are working at their best.

Step 9: Clean up the mess

Once you are done changing the brake pads on your Harley-Davidson Softail, it’ll only be logical to clean up the mess that you’ve left behind. Clean out anything that might have spilled on the floor, clean your bike, and dispose of the old brake pads.

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Benefits of Using New Brake Pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail

Brake pads play a crucial role in stopping your Softail, and new brake pads will offer you a wide range of benefits. Here are some of the main benefits of upgrading your brake pads to new ones – 

1. Improved stopping power

New brake pads on your Softail can provide improved stopping power over worn or degraded brake pads. As brake pads wear down, the stopping power of the brakes decreases, and it takes longer to bring the motorcycle to a stop. By replacing your old brake pads with new ones, you can restore the full stopping power of your Harley-Davidson Softail, helping to prevent accidents and promote safe riding.

2. Reduced brake fade

Another benefit of new brake pads is reduced brake fade. Brake fade occurs when the brake pads get too hot, causing them to lose their stopping power. This is particularly common during long rides or on steep inclines. New brake pads are designed to dissipate heat more efficiently, reducing the risk of brake fade and helping to ensure consistent stopping power.

3. Longer lifespan

Harley-Davidson Softail Brake Pads

Investing in high-quality brake pads can provide a longer lifespan for your Softail’s braking system. High-quality brake pads are designed to withstand high levels of wear and tear, and they are less likely to degrade quickly than lower-quality pads. This means that you can enjoy more miles on your Softail before having to replace the brake pads again, saving you money eventually.

4. Quieter operation

Old brake pads can cause unpleasant squeaking or grinding noises when the brakes are applied. This can be distracting and annoying, and it can also indicate that the brake pads are worn down to a dangerous level. New brake pads, on the other hand, are designed to operate quietly, providing a smoother and more pleasant riding experience.

5. Increased safety

Ultimately, the most significant benefit of upgrading your brake pads on your Softail motorcycle is increased safety. Harley-Davidson Softail motorcycles are powerful machines that require reliable and effective braking systems to ensure safe operation. By upgrading your brake pads, you can restore the full stopping power of your motorcycle and reduce the risk of accidents on the road.

Conclusion: The Final Verdict

Changing the brake pads on your Harley-Davidson Softail is a straightforward process that can be done at home with basic tools and a little bit of know-how. Regular maintenance of your brake system is essential to ensure that your motorcycle is safe to ride. If you have any concerns or questions about changing your brake pads, consult a professional mechanic.


What tools do I need to change the brake pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail?

To change the brake pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail, you will need a set of metric sockets, a pair of pliers, a flathead and Phillips head screwdriver, and a torque wrench. You will also need brake fluid, a wire brush, and a pair of protective gloves.

What is the process for changing the brake pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail?

The process for changing the brake pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail involves removing the caliper, replacing the brake pads, reinstalling the caliper, and bleeding the brakes. First, the caliper must be removed and the old brake pads taken out. The new pads must then be fitted, and the caliper reinstalled with the appropriate torque. Once the caliper is secure, the brakes must be bled.

What are the safety precautions for changing the brake pads on a Harley-Davidson Softail?

Safety is of utmost importance when changing brake pads on a motorcycle. Always ensure that the motorcycle is securely supported, and wear protective gloves when handling the brake fluid. Additionally, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the correct torque when reinstalling the caliper.

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