Uneven Brake Pad Wear: What Causes It? Prevention Tips

Uneven Brake Pad Wear: What Causes It? Prevention Tips

When a bike has uneven brake pad wear, you can hear an awful squeaking sound, particularly when the bike is moving slowly.

That’s when you know there is something wrong with the brake pads, but what? What should you do to maintain the brake pads properly and prevent uneven wear in future?

Causes of Uneven Brake Pad Wear

1. Seizing up due to dirt or corrosion

The pistons of one side may be seized up because of dirt or corrosion. If that is the case, you will have to do a full disassembly and properly clean them up. After cleaning, apply grease where appropriate, and then reassemble. It is also possible that you might need to replace the rubber gaskets. The squeaking sound is typically caused by a corroded or dirty pad surface – the piston is in contact with a corroded surface and that causes it to seize up.

In fact, you may not even need to replace the calipers and rotors, despite them being old. After years of neglect, they may have seized up, but that does not necessarily mean you need new ones. Sometimes, all you need to do is disassemble, clean, and then rebuild, and the brake pads are working as good as new.

After disassembling the calipers, you can get the pins out using a hammer and a punch and then carefully sand them to their proper smoothness and size using sandpaper and a drill press. After that, you scrub down and clean the calipers carefully before you add grease in the appropriate places and reassemble. After that, the brake will work just fine and you won’t hear the squeak anymore.

However, if the prospect of rebuilding does not appeal to you, then you should definitely get new caliper (provided you don’t mind the expense). Alternatively, you could outsource the problem to any decent bike shop.

This is true of brake pads for Harley Davidson, Honda, Triumph, and just about any other motorcycle brand.

2. Caliper incorrectly bled

The problem may also be caused by incorrectly bled calipers. The worn pad side of the caliper has extended the pistons and is making more forceful physical contact with the rotor on that side. On the side that is less worn, the physical contact (with the rotor) is less – it is not pushing strongly on the rotor the same way the other side is doing.

Caliper incorrectly bled

The ideal is for both pads to exert roughly the same level of pressure. Due to the unequal pressure exerted on it, the rotor may have become warped. It is therefore imperative that you inspect the rotors to determine if they are warped. If not within the accepted specifications, you may need new rotors as well as new brake pads.

You should carry out a proper brake fluid flush, give it a good bleed. It’s possible that the last time the brakes were worked on, the caliper was not bled completely or correctly.

Prevention and Maintenance Tips

1. Visual inspections

Being a motorcycle owner is like being a parent, and so you always have to worry about the health of your child (your bike), and must do regular checkups to ensure the bike is in good condition. Doing frequent inspections is the only way to get ahead of the problem before it begins or becomes serious.

You should therefore make visual inspection a habit. Inspect the motorcycle’s brake pads before most of your rides and while you are doing oil changes, and so forth.

To carry out a prosper inspection, you might need flashlight so as to properly scrutinize the calipers, including the back side.

If you notice that the friction lining has worn down to approximately an eighth inch or even less, you should replace.

2. Listen for a squeaky sound

Something else you can do is be a good listener. Imagine your bike is a living creature and the brake pads are one of its organs. If the brake pads are having a problem, the bike will alert you. Listen for any strange sounds emanating from the brakes.

If you detect a change in sound, you should consider that a warning. Give your brakes a visual inspection at once.

That squeaky sound, as we have noted, is usually caused by dirt or corrosion causing pistons to seize up, so it’s time to disassemble and do a proper cleanup.


Uneven brake pad wear is risky if not remedied in time. Do visual inspections often, and be alert for any sounds emanating from the brakes. Proper brake bleeding and clean up of accumulated dirt will help deal with the problem. It might also mean buying new brake pads.

joshua mattie

Joshua D. Mattie

My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!

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