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Rotate disc brake pads?

Old 11-10-22, 12:56 PM
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Rotate disc brake pads?

I don't know if this is a dumb question or not but if it is, it wouldn't be my first.

I noticed the last time I checked my disc brake pads for wear that either the front of the rear ones had worn down faster (I don't remember which). Would it be a bad idea to swap the front pads for the rear ones in order to get more life out of the pads?
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Old 11-10-22, 01:04 PM
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I always put the front ones in the rear and replace the front ones (unless both sets require simultaneous replacement).

This does two things:

1. It gives the best, most optimal braking in the front, where it is needed most.

2. It allows me to over-fill the rear hydraulic system a tiny little bit, to keep the bite sharp, without having the annoyance of pads rubbing when I put new ones in.
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Old 11-10-22, 01:04 PM
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No benefit for me. And assuming that no two discs are perfectly the same and will have little peaks and valleys on them you'll never see without a microscope then you might actually increase the wear on the pads until they wear into the new surface profile given to them.

It's not like you have to replace the front and rear pads at the same time. So you won't really save anything. Unless you are swapping your faster wearing pads with another persons slower wearing pads. <grin>
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Old 11-10-22, 02:41 PM
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I wouldn't swap. There's nothing to be gained. Each pair of pads has a certain life. Moving them around can't change that. All rotating would change is the timing of replacements to both at once vs. one at a time as needed.

In fact, rotating will be worse than not doing so, since it's added labor and fluid (if hydraulic) for no gain.

Also consider that you're not likely to perfectly match the wear, so when you replace one because you must, you'll also be replacing the other sooner than you would otherwise.

Last edited by FBinNY; 11-10-22 at 06:49 PM.
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Old 11-10-22, 05:07 PM
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Car and motorcycle practice is to absolutely never do this. In these cases, taper often wears into the pads and so placing partially worn pads into a different caliper under possibly different load conditions, may cause below par braking until the pads wear down. I also see no advantage. Just leave them where they are until they are worn out.
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Old 11-11-22, 12:08 AM
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Swapping the pads will actually ACCELERATE the wear rates...any differences in Rotor contour or Caliper Alignment will cause different contours of the Pads... once swapped, the high spots will quickly wear until the pads assume the profile of the rotor they now reside upon. General rule of thumb is to MEASURE the remaining pad thickness... any pad pair with one or more at 1mm remaining is overdue to replace.... Just below 1.5mm remaining pad friction material is the best time.... the friction material tends to begin chipping and sluffing off below 1mm, and remember those differences i mentioned? the low spots on the pads can wear thru and gouge the snot out of your discs too.

bottom line...if they look oily, thin, grooved, uneven in thickness, or Glazed, time to change Pads.

there are Resin and Metallic pads,, metallic last longer, but can be noisy and might squeal if not perfected... Resin pads offer superior braking, are much quieter, but wear much more quickly.... Warning: some DISCS won't like Resin Pads and WILL WEAR Rapidly when Resin pads are fitted.

Tip: Semi-Metallic Pads offer Good braking and longer wear than Resin pads.. ;-)

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Old 11-11-22, 09:54 AM
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Thanks you all for your input!

When I do decide to replace the pads, will I have to mess with the brake fluid too or just swap the new ones for the old ones?
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Old 11-11-22, 10:34 AM
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As long as the brake works well with the new pads (doesn't rub, applies sufficient stopping "power") why would one deal with fluid? Now if there's other issues that are fluid related (leaks, air in lines, too much lever pull) than these need to be dealt with independent of whether the pads are worn or not. Andy
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Old 11-11-22, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
As long as the brake works well with the new pads (doesn't rub, applies sufficient stopping "power") why would one deal with fluid? Now if there's other issues that are fluid related (leaks, air in lines, too much lever pull) than these need to be dealt with independent of whether the pads are worn or not. Andy
The only caution I would add is that the pistons of hydraulic pads have to be pushed back into the calipers when installing new pads. On mechanicals, the pad adjusters have to be adjusted outward.
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Old 11-11-22, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
The only caution I would add is that the pistons of hydraulic pads have to be pushed back into the calipers when installing new pads. On mechanicals, the pad adjusters have to be adjusted outward.
Does this require the use of a special tool?
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Old 11-11-22, 10:51 AM
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While I agree that rotating pads isn’t necessary, I would disagree with this whole “pads have to match the rotors” argument. The pads and the rotors are wear items and will wear to match each other. Rotors don’t need to be replaced if new pads are installed nor do are new pads needed when new rotors are installed. They will wear together relatively quickly.
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Old 11-11-22, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Route 66
Does this require the use of a special tool?

It’s easier if you have a piston press or at least a pad spreader. You can use other tools like a screwdriver or a chisel but those are more likely to damage the pads or pistons. It requires a bit of force to push the pistons back into the caliper.
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Old 11-11-22, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
It’s easier if you have a piston press or at least a pad spreader. You can use other tools like a screwdriver or a chisel but those are more likely to damage the pads or pistons. It requires a bit of force to push the pistons back into the caliper.
I guess you're saying that the piston press would work better?
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Old 11-11-22, 11:49 AM
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A popsicle stick will work also to spread the pads. And many other things. But a brake tool for bicycle brake pads is ideal if you have to have that ideal tool.
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Old 11-11-22, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
A popsicle stick will work also to spread the pads. And many other things. But a brake tool for bicycle brake pads is ideal if you have to have that ideal tool.
yes if you leave the pads in then that tool works great
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Old 11-11-22, 06:13 PM
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When it comes to safety stuff just replace it, if it is worn enough to consider moving it, it is probably ready to replace entirely. Brake pads are not a place I need to save money or want to save money, on a chain and cassette sure to a point not a big deal but pads, no. With brakes always get the best pads and rotors you can get and keep up with replacing them and keeping them clean (with isopropyl alcohol and clean non-oil cloth) and you will have great braking. You hopefully shouldn't really need to change your fluid that often and if just changing pads you should be pretty well set for that.
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Old 11-11-22, 09:35 PM
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Pad spreading tool- I use a clean cone wrench with the pads still in place. Andy
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Old 11-11-22, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes
When it comes to safety stuff just replace it, if it is worn enough to consider moving it, it is probably ready to replace entirely. Brake pads are not a place I need to save money or want to save money, on a chain and cassette sure to a point not a big deal but pads, no. With brakes always get the best pads and rotors you can get and keep up with replacing them and keeping them clean (with isopropyl alcohol and clean non-oil cloth) and you will have great braking. You hopefully shouldn't really need to change your fluid that often and if just changing pads you should be pretty well set for that.
I watch people buy those chap pads from china nope my brakes have saved my life not worth a few bucks saved. especially on the tandem we need all the breaking we can get sometimes.
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Old 11-12-22, 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Route 66
I guess you're saying that the piston press would work better?
I use a tire lever and that usually works fine.
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Old 11-12-22, 10:12 AM
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I guess you're all telling me that there's lots of ways to skin a cat.
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Old 11-12-22, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Route 66
I guess you're all telling me that there's lots of ways to skin a cat.
Nope not talking cat abuse in any form, talking safety and buying good high quality pads instead of reusing : )
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Old 11-12-22, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark
I always put the front ones in the rear and replace the front ones (unless both sets require simultaneous replacement).

This does two things:

1. It gives the best, most optimal braking in the front, where it is needed most.

2. It allows me to over-fill the rear hydraulic system a tiny little bit, to keep the bite sharp, without having the annoyance of pads rubbing when I put new ones in.
That works. But since I'm lazy, I just replace the front pads more often and leave the rear alone until it needs replacement.

PS, for whoever needs to see this: whether you use a pad spreader, a cone wrench, or a tire lever, it's probably safest to spread the pads apart BEFORE you remove them...Then put in the new ones. Some brakes (Ultegra and D/A, for example) use ceramic pistons that are more easily damaged by metal tools. (I learned this from cxwrench , who has unfortunately been excommunicated from this subforum.)

Last edited by Koyote; 11-12-22 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 11-12-22, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
I learned this from cxwrench , who has unfortunately been excommunicated from this subforum.
What!?!? Why!?!?
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