Tech Tuesday - Avid Elixir Brake Pad Replacement

Jun 21, 2011
by Mike Levy  
What you'll need:

2.5mm hex key
Large flat blade screwdriver
Needle nose pliers (optional)

Tips and tricks:

• Having a clean work environment is always important, but never more so than when doing brake work. Getting any sort of lube or grease onto the new brake pads will render them useless, so take a few minutes to not only tidy up before starting, but also wipe your workbench clean of any contamination that may be present from your last repair job.
• Avid recommends replacing brake pads when they get to be 3mm thick, which is about the thickness of two US dimes.
• The pad retaining bolt and E-clip are small items - put them somewhere safe where they won't get lost after removing them from the caliper. An old Tupperware container is perfect for this sort of thing.
• Always reset the pistons - push them fully back into their bore - before removing the old, worn out pads. You are likely to damage the piston if you push directly on it, which is why you always leave the old pads in place while doing this. Also, never reset the pistons with your new pads installed for the same reason.
• Even when a pad change is done correctly, a slight amount of brake drag may be present. Take the bike for a spin to break the new pads in and then recheck to see if the wheel now turns freely. If not, you may need to recenter the caliper by loosening the Avid CPS bolts, holding the brake on and then re-tightening the caliper bolts (a small amount of freehand fine tuning may also be needed to get it perfect)
• New brake pads take time before they can deliver fully power. Avid says that it could take 20-40 stops before they get up to full power. Break them in by doing short hard stops, not by dragging the brakes.

Avid Elixir Pad Replacement:

Views: 72,957    Faves: 121    Comments: 3

Past Tech Tuesdays:

Technical Tuesday #1 - How to change a tube.
Technical Tuesday #2 - How to set up your SRAM rear derailleur
Technical Tuesday #3 - How to remove and install pedals
Technical Tuesday #4 - How To Bleed Your Avid Elixir Brakes
Technical Tuesday #5 - How To Check And Adjust Your Headset
Technical Tuesday #6 - How To Fix A Broken Chain
Technical Tuesday #7 - Tubeless Conversion
Technical Tuesday #8 - Chain Wear
Technical Tuesday #9 - SRAM Shift Cable Replacement
Technical Tuesday #10 - Removing And Installing a Headset
Technical Tuesday #11 - Chain Lube Explained
Technical Tuesday #12 - RockShox Totem and Lyric Mission Control Damper Mod
Technical Tuesday #13 - Shimano XT Crank and Bottom Bracket Installation
Technical Tuesday #14 - Straightening Your Derailleur Hanger
Technical Tuesday #15 - Setting Up Your Front Derailleur
Technical Tuesday #16 - Setting Up Your Cockpit
Technical Tuesday #17 - Suspension Basics
Technical Tuesday #18 - Adjusting The Fox DHX 5.0
Technical Tuesday #19 - Adjusting The RockShox BoXXer World Cup
Technical Tuesday #20 - Servicing Your Fox Float Shock
Technical Tuesday #21 - Wheel Truing Basics
Technical Tuesday #22 - Shimano Brake Pad Replacement
Technical Tuesday #23 - Shimano brake bleed
Technical Tuesday #24 - Fox Lower Leg Removal And Service
Technical Tuesday #25 - RockShox Motion Control Service
Technical Tuesday #26 - Avid BB7 Cable Disk Brake Setup
Technical Tuesday #27 - Manitou Dorado Fork Rebuild
Technical Tuesday #28 - Manitou Circus Fork Rebuild
Technical Tuesday #29 - MRP G2 SL Chain Guide Install
Technical Tuesday #30 - Cane Creek Angleset Installation
Technical Tuesday #31 - RockShox Maxle Lite DH
Technical Tuesday #32 - Find Your Tire Pressure Sweet Spot
Technical Tuesday #33 - Three Minute Bike Preflight Check
Technical Tuesday #34 - MRP XCG Install
Technical Tuesday #35 - Stem Choice and Cockpit Setup
Technical Tuesday #36 - Handlebars - How Wide Affects Your Ride
Technical Tuesday #37 - Repairing A Torn Tire
Technical Tuesday #38 - Coil spring swap
Technical Tuesday #39 - Trailside help: Broken Shift Cable
Technical Tuesday #40 - Installing a Fox Float Air-Volume Spacer

Visit to see their entire lineup of tools and lubes.

Do you have some of your own pointers to add? Put them down below!


  • 43 25
 Waste of a tech Tuesday....
  • 19 2
 I would agree... but not a lot of people are mechanically fluent when it comes to their bike.. thats why there are tech tuesdays
  • 10 5
 Worst Tech Tuesday, Best Outake Clips. lol
  • 44 3
 NOT a waste of Tech Tuesday: the last time I was in the shop I replaced two sets of pads and the bikes' owners had no idea how to do it. It is a simple thing, for sure, but some people are scared or not mechanically minded. I've also seen plenty of people that have installed new pads themselves without pushing the pistons back first.

The most common repair I do is fix flats: people should know how to do it, but they don't.
  • 12 1
 Another good way to spread the pads apart, USE THE SPREADER THAT COMES WITH THE BRAKE!!!
  • 6 1
 i second that @iamamodel. Some people (not me myself) don't know how to change pads or arent confident enough etc
  • 4 4
 what will happen if i don't push the the pistons back?
  • 1 0
 the pads probably wont fit for a start, then you wont be able to get the rotor to fit back in when you put the wheel back and if theyre not that bad youll have a ton of brake drag which is killer
  • 2 1
 I despise Hex keys.

Im assuming this is for all those people who buy brand new bikes and cant ride or maintain them properly.
Would prefer to see more of the "trailside help" videos.
  • 2 0
 right, my problem with my elixir....

The pad retainer bolt on my caliper has mushroomed and is stuck in my caliper, its not screwed in anymore, theres no movement to even allow me to screw it back it, it twists, but its just stuck.

any ideas? apart from taking the caliper apart and cutting the bolt?
  • 1 0
 so many bloopers for a 4minite reel Big Grin i 3 tuesdays!
  • 1 0
 tomsik, elixir brake's pistons move inwards as the pads wear down order to keep things consistent and to provide good power so that the pads are always say half a millimetre from the rotor each. When you take out your worn down say 2.5mm pads and put in your new 6mm pads without resetting the pistons the brakes will be biting without even pulling the lever as the pads will be touching the rotor all the time creating a lot of rub and friction slowing the wheel right down, which is far less than ideal.
  • 1 0
 It's taught in Bleeding Avid brakes video.
  • 3 0
 this is not a waste of a tech tuesday. you guys are lucky you know how but the thing is, you don't know the number of people who don't know how. i even have friends who don't know how to patch tubes or repair a broken chain. ridiculous but true.
  • 2 1
 I think the majority of users on Pinkbike would know how to repair a tube , however the majority of people i know that dont ride have no clue about anything. Its like putting how to check your oil level on a car enthusiast site.
  • 1 0
 Haha sean exactly
  • 1 0
 sean, good point there. so i guess PB has to think about their readers knowledge/skill level when it comes to maintaining bikes. but then again, there's 365 days or 52 weeks in a year. for sure PB will run out of tech tuesdays in 2 or 3 years even if they combine the lame and not so lame tech tuesdays.
  • 1 0
 I disagree, they havnt covered anything with boxxers.
  • 7 0
 as a pro mechanic who was worked on Avid Juicy and Elixir brakes for's a good tip

remove the old worn brake pads, but before you install the new pads, apply to the exposed pistons a silicon-spray like "Fork Juice" or if you can find it (its a little rare) - Avid's Pitstop DOT rebuild grease (or get some motorbike DOT piston grease - its the same product and much cheaper!)

apply this to the piston surfaces that are exposed in the brake caliper, and use a 10mm ring spanner to gently push the pistons back into the caliper

pull the brake lever so the pistons are again exposed, apply a little more, and push the pistons back again with the 10mm spanner

this coats the piston bodies and piston seals and will make the brake pistons slippery under braking action, and literally transforms the feel of your brakes

you also use the DOT rebuild grease on the pistons / seals if taking the caliper apart, but my tip works 80% as well without the hassle of a strip-down and rebuild with re-bleeding!

once the pistons are reset, use a little degrease in the caliper bay to remove any excess, then install the new pads

the Park PP-1 brake tool is well worth buying to ensure your disc brake pistons are 100% balanced when working on your pads, as you can use this tool once the pads are installed without damaging the pad surfaces - the Avid disc brake pad spacer also works very well when resetting pistons, or wanting to "advance timing" on your Avid brakes
  • 2 0
 you sound like you know what you're doing! i've just changed my pads on my elixir R back brake, but in the resetting piston stage they didn't stay back. the pistons creep out as i'm putting the pads in and the wheel on. i'm getting huge brake rub, so how can i keep them back properly?
  • 3 0
 the typical cause is slightly too much fluid in the brake system

try loosening the bleed port on the brake lever body with the Avid torx tool, and get an old wrag or tissue ready

now reset the pistons with your 10mm ring spanner, and you will notice a small amount of DOT fluid seep out of the bleed port onto your rag or tissue

tighten the bleed port, use disc brake cleaner or water (this de-activates DOT fluid) to stop any DOT fluid from attacking the painted finish on the lever body, and then install your brake pads to the caliper as normal
  • 1 0
 thank you very much!
  • 1 0
 hamsteadbandint, I have a question for you.
My avid elixir 1 brakes need both bleeding and pads replacing.
Which do I do first? Or does it not make a difference?
  • 1 0
 do both at same time, if you are working on the brakes anyhow it makes sense in terms of saving time, and you are much more certain of a proper brake set up when using fresh pads!

try superstar for Elixir pads, they do 4 pairs for just £20 if I remember correctly, and these come from the same factories that make all the other pads Wink
  • 1 0
Hamsteadbandit, thanks! I was one step ahead of you; my superstar elixir pads arrived today; I ordered them friday, I believe. Just waiting on the bleed kit to arrive. My next question for you; what do I use as a bleed block if my bleed kit does not come with a bleed block? I bought a kit from a seller with good feedback; but it is not the avid original bleed kit, it comes with everything except that it does not come with a bleed block. Can't complain as it was only £10!!! So I got 4 sets of pads for £22 from superstar and a bleed kit fro £10. Total of £32. Retail that would have cost me £110! WOOP!
  • 1 0
 top tip! on the piston/seal lubing, in a pinch use a bit of dot fluid and rinse and repeat a couple of times..
  • 1 0
 sorry to disagree, but DOT fluid is not a lubricant and should never be used for "lubing" the piston seals

DOT fluid actually causes the piston seal to "swell" (this is how the brake pistons seals, and resist overpressure when the brake is being used in extreme riding)

during initial installation, using DOT will certainly help you push the piston back into the caliper body, which gives the illusion of benefit to the brake set up

but it does not help with brake performance, and will actually increase piston drag, piston imbalance and wear to the pistons and seals

a great "quick fix" tip if you are having piston problems is to pump the pistons a couple of times so the body is exposed (not so far that the piston come out of the piston bore in the caliper)

then use a silicon spray like "Fork Juice" to dose the piston, reseat the piston and then wipe the caliper bay with ISO alcohol or disc brake cleaner to remove any excess silicon spray (you don't want this on the brake pads when the brake gets hot)

this will provide a degree of lubrication to the piston seals and will help the brake

but the real fix is to de-seat the pistons and then rebuild the caliper using high temp silicon grease liberally smeared on piston seal cavities and seals before seating pistons (then degrease caliper bay)
  • 1 0
 HB thanks, never thought that it could cause it to swell using it to "clean" (not lube) the piston/seal sliding area, a valid point, as you say rebuild with correct grease is the correct way to service a sticky caliper :-)
(in a pinch)
i have cleaned the sliding surface like this during pad maintenance and it has been ok for me so far...!
  • 1 0

I have too done this DOT "lube" trick in a pinch and it was okay, but did not cure the problem in the long term Frown
  • 7 0
 replace at 3mm? I'm guessing that's including the backer plate. the pad's not 3mm new..
so, would that be 2.5mm for the plate, then .5mm for the pad? so, replace at 0.5mm?
  • 1 0
 3mm does sound like they're including that back plate but another tip i've heard is if you take a dime and stick on the back plate beside the pad and if the the pads are thinner then a dime then you need to replace them ASAP
  • 1 0
 Great learning vid for me. I'm buyin second hand parts for a boardman 2010 rebuilld and this vid was a great help so I will know what I am doing as the pads are in need of. Nice to see I had initially fitted them properly yesterday using the pump and hold brake method to site the calipers before finally tightening them up. Cheers PB family.. nice one.
  • 1 0
 This was all good until I got to the part of resetting the pistons. I could not set both pistons, as I pushed one, the other would come out. After an hour of not being able to get them flush I finally opened the bleed screw on the lever just enough to release a few drops of oil. As I reset the piston, oil dripped out. Then I closed the screw. No air in the lines and got the pistons reset completely.
  • 1 0
 I know this is an old video, but I followed the instructions of slowly twisting a screwdriver in between the brake pads to reset the pistons and took big gouges out of my pads by doing so. This was the 1st time I've attempted this, but there are other ways to reset the pistons. Now I have to buy new pads. Thumbs down.
  • 2 0
 "Always reset the pistons - push them fully back into their bore - before removing the old, worn out pads. You are likely to damage the piston if you push directly on it, which is why you always leave the old pads in place while doing this. Also, never reset the pistons with your new pads installed for the same reason."

You're not meant to do that task with the pads that you'll be using installed.
  • 3 2
 I'm looking forward for something like how to service/maintain Fox RC4 Smile or something not so simple it's not fair to show Avid Elixir Brake Pad Replacement the truth is the Tech Tuesday are going down Frown
  • 1 0
 servicing rear shocks is such a bitch lol
  • 4 0
 If you are mechanically inclined enough to feel confident in even TRYING to service your rear shock, surely there are enough resources on the internet to help you out that you don't need to wait for Tech Tuesdays to show you how.
  • 3 0
 ^ Werd. Even shops send an rc4 to Fox themselves. I reckon its THAT of a b*tch to service.
  • 5 0

Lol look at those tiny springs and like a billion seals/washers
  • 1 0
 i have serviced both the coil and air dhx 5, they are both easy to do yourself. the only danger is if the air version is stuck down you have to release the pressure slowly when unscrewing the body, using a towel between the eyelets makes this safe, see a guide. when servicing the coil you don't need to mess with the springs and washer/shim stack, just replace the seals and you're good. if you accidentally do mess with the shim stack when you're in there though its a PITA.
  • 2 0
 RC4 is far different then DHX 5 for example different frames come with custom fit RC4 may be this is the one of the reasons not to show how Wink as well its still new technology and Fox dont want to reveal the details
  • 1 0
 It's funny how Rock Shox has 2 excellent Youtube videos showing step by step how to perform maintenance on the VIVID 5.1 and 4.1, to the very last detail.. It does require few special tools, but they do make it available for everybody to do it themselves. I happen to have a complete guide to service the DHX 5.. Is it indeed a pita, but do-able.
  • 2 0
 Brakes having top loading pads made things allot faster and easier in changing your brake pads
  • 1 0
 Shame you gotta pop the pistons back anyway so it's not really that handy
  • 1 0
 Not really, cause you will always have to remove your wheel, clean up inside the caliper and reset the pistons... Top loading is a bit pointless.
  • 2 0
 i never remove my real wheel when changing my formula brake pads and it works pretty well.
  • 1 2
 Brakes having top loading pads are pointless because by the time your brakes need new pads there will be so much crap like dirt and old brake dust in the caliper you be mad not to try and clean them, as well as lube the pistons!
  • 1 0
 Get this tool:
Makes spreading the pistons a lot easier than a screw driver.
  • 2 0
 lol bloopers, f*ck F*CK f*ck F*CK f*ck F*CK
  • 2 0
 that was usefull! now let's replace those pads...
  • 2 0
 anyone else watch this even tho they already knew how to do it?
  • 1 0
 i did. just to compare how its different from a shimano. almost the same in my opinion.
  • 1 0
 Useful, esp. since it reminds me how much easier it is to change these pads over the old bottom loading Juicy pads.
  • 1 0
 I came across this video. Hope it helps. Cheers!
  • 4 2
 amazing truly amazing
  • 1 0
 Dude you need to say OVER, not F*CK! lol
  • 2 1
 bloopers were hilarious!!!!!!! lol
  • 1 0
 I keep on coming back to watch the bloopers Big Grin !!
  • 1 0
 How 'bout a TT on Avid's CPS, in *one* take, no clicky hubs
  • 1 0
 where is #12 tech tuesday?
  • 1 0
 The pistons on my Elixer's are very hard to push in!

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