There’s no doubt about it – there’s a lot of knowledge you can soak up about motorcycle mechanics in books and videos.

But as great as these books and videos are, sometimes, hands-on experience is the best teacher you could have.

Even if said hands-on experience was far from smashing success.

For some reason, mistakes and failures hold invaluable lessons that can surprisingly improve your mechanical skills.

In this article, you’re about to discover more about:

  • The story of the first time I attempted to change brake pads,
  • How it went wrong – and what I did wrong
  • Two invaluable lessons I learned from what seemed like a real ordeal at the time

Before that, however, I need to give you some context.

The Context of This Story

Back in 2021, I decided that I needed and above all, that I WANTED to learn a brand new skill – so I decided to enroll in a 1-year job training scheme to become an automotive technician.

Although I started out working on cars at this time, don’t get hung up on that – this experience (and more importantly, the lessons learned from it) could easily apply to motorcycles and other two-wheelers.

Anyway, a large chunk of this job training course focused on practical exercises – such as changing brake pads.

In fact, that was the very first exercise I was asked to do.

Now, as far as repair jobs go (regardless of vehicle), changing brake pads is one of the easier ones.

Even better, the school I went to had some very handy step-by-step instructions, complete with illustrations that showed in great detail how to carry out the procedure.

All I had to do, was follow the instructions, and the job would be all done and dusted.

Changing Brake Pads – How Hard Could It Be?

As it turns out, even with all these resources, this job was a lot harder than it seemed.

Keep in mind, that even though I can change brake pads very quickly these days, back in 2021, this was a completely new experience for me.

At that time, I had NEVER attempted anything kind of mechanical repair on any kind of vehicle – this was brand new territory for me.

Although it was not all that difficult getting the old brake pads off, putting on the new ones were a different matter.

The “problem” that I had was that in order to get the old ones out, I had to apply the brakes.

This would push out the old brake pads, making them easier to remove.

But now, the brake piston was still pointing out.

And while it was pointing out, it was impossible to get the newer, thicker brake pads in. I had no other choice but to push the piston back in again.

But no matter how much or how hard I pushed, it was no use – the piston wouldn’t budge.

And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back –  so much so that I slammed the spanner I held in my hand against the top of the tool chest in anger and stared at the brake caliper.

In fact, I kept staring at it for nearly an hour while a handful of not-so-nice thoughts rolled around in my head:

“I’m such a screw-up – I’ll never get this right!”

“What made me think I could do this?”

“Damn it, what am I doing wrong?”

What I Did Wrong – And How I Eventually Solved It

There was a reason why I couldn’t get the new brake pads in – it’s actually quite a common scenario.

Remember that brake piston that was in the way – and that I couldn’t push back in?

I realized later that I could take the old brake pads that I had just removed, put them back in their place, and use them as a wedge against the brake piston.

Once the old brake pads were in place, I simply pressed them against the piston with my hands.

And sure enough, it worked! I now had the space I needed to put the new brake pads in.

I wasn’t the first one to use this approach, and I’m certain I won’t be the last – but the important part was that I solved this issue that was causing me so much grief.


The 2 Mechanical Life Lessons I Learned Through this Botched Brake Pad Change

#1: Take your time the first time

That sure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But it’s true – by far, the biggest mistake that I made here was that I rushed through the entire thing.

And that happened because of an unrealistic expectation I had.

The way it went in my mind at the time was that I had to change the brake pads as quickly as possible. So that meant that I was needlessly stressed out.

And once again, I need to remind you that this was the first time I picked up a wrench. And think about this:

When you did something for the first time – was it a flawless run? Probably not right?

So what would be the point of rushing through something you’ve never done before? Wouldn’t it be better to:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time
  2. Read through any instructions you might have carefully
  3. Complete the job with a great sense of “yeah, I did it!”

The job might not get done as quickly as you would like it to, but don’t let that discourage you.

The second time you attempt the same job, you’ll do it a little faster, and better. Then, the third time will be even faster and better than your second time, and so on.

But either way – don’t rush it. Let your first time take time.

#2: Nothing good comes from complaining

Do you know that saying about how “quitters never win?” Well, complainers never win either. And what happened to me certainly proves it.

  • Did complaining solve the task at hand? – No
  • Did complaining give me any ideas about how to solve the problem I had? – No
  • Did complaining make me feel better? – No – not by a longshot.

Imagine if instead of complaining about how I would “never get this right,” I would have replaced it with this thought:

“Hmm, if I can’t push the piston back into the caliper with my bare hands, is there anything I could use to make it easier?”

It would have required some detective work on my end, but at least it’s better than simply giving in to the frustration and (almost) giving up.

If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, it’s better to stop what you’re doing, step back, and look at the big picture again. If you have to, take a break.


Despite my initial frustration at a simple repair job, it really was all uphill from there.

I just got better, and better – and one year later, in 2022 – I had become a fully qualified automotive technician.

It was certainly an educational year for me – not just from what I read, but also from experiences like the one I just shared with you.

These real-life experiences taught invaluable lessons about how to improve my mechanical skills that no book, video, or Google search could teach.

And because of their invaluable lessons, I’ve decided to compile them all into a free ebook – “5 Mechanical Life-Lessons I Was Taught From Real-Life Experiences

Inside this ebook, you’ll discover more about another time I was spared from more aggravation doing a much more complicated repair job – all thanks to a tool you don’t normally keep in a toolbox.

You’ll also get to read a story I’ve dubbed The Tale of Mr. Bottle” – a story that truly is stranger than fiction (I couldn’t make up something half as strange if I could).

Download the Free Ebook “5 Mechanical Life-Lessons I Was Taught From Real-Life Experiences

front cover of 5 mechanical life lessons i was taught from real life experiences ebook dwj