How to Change Your Car’s Brake Pads

Your car is a big, expensive car that will cost you a ton to maintain over its lifetime. Learning how to do some of these jobs yourself can save you tons of money. For example, replacing brake pads is one of those jobs that sounds a lot harder than it actually is, and we’re going to walk you through that from start to finish.

Before you start: the tools you need

Before you get started, you will need a few tools. Some of these are likely in your home, but some may require a trip to an auto parts store. Some of these tools have a high initial cost, but you can use them forever. In the long run, you will save more money by purchasing now and doing your own repairs in the future.

  • User manual: Whenever you repair your car yourself, make sure you have the user manual handy. For this repair, your guide will be helpful, among other things, for determining your vehicle’s jack points, weight, and minimum rotor thickness. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, a quick search by model number will give you a guaranteed PDF.
  • Floor Jack : The jack that came with your vehicle is suitable for replacing the spare wheel, but you will need a floor jack for this service. Just in case, get a jack that can handle at least three-quarters of your vehicle’s total weight (a jack will only lift half the vehicle, but better safe than sorry or hurt). The vehicles I have worked on range from 1 to 2 tonnes each, but I have a 3 ton jack to be safe and give myself some flexibility when handling heavier vehicles.
  • Jack Stands : After your car is lifted, you will need supports to keep it in the air. Each jack stand is rated individually based on how much weight it can handle, but you’ll want to use them in pairs. Again, better overestimate. The vehicles I worked on weighed a maximum of 3,300 pounds, so I opted for a pair of 2 ton racks.
  • Brake Tool : This tool adjusts the brake caliper piston to the new brake pads. Caliper piston adjustment is not possible without this tool, but it is super cheap and much safer than most other workarounds.
  • Replacing brake pads: Obviously, you will need new brake pads to replace the old ones. Most auto parts stores can help you find the right pads for your vehicle. Alternatively, you can visit the Amazon Cars section . Here you can enter the make and model of your car and find spare parts specifically for your car.
  • Replacing the rotors (if necessary): In some situations you may need to replace the rotors at the same time as replacing the brake pads. Pads and rotors wear out, but not necessarily evenly. In the operating instructions you will find the minimum recommended thickness for your rotors. If your rotors fall below this value, you must replace them. Once again, Amazon Automotive helps you find the parts you want.
  • Brake grease : This grease is applied to the surface of the brake pads between the pads and calipers.
  • Specific instructions for your vehicle: Replacing the brake pads is a fairly straightforward task, but some vehicle models may differ. If you find anything in your car that differs from our manual, please refer to your owner’s manual. If your owner’s manual isn’t clear on the details, you can almost always find a helpful YouTuber with a video about replacing brake pads on your specific vehicle. Check it out before you climb under the car to make sure you know what you are looking for.
  • Socket wrench
  • Iron tire

If this is your first time working on your car, don’t give up on the initial investment. In my case, tools that I didn’t have yet cost about $ 103, plus $ 30 for replacement pads. You should also expect that it will take you a few extra hours to learn what you are doing. This is fine, take your time and make sure you are doing it right, or talk to someone who can help.

However, if you have the tools and know what you are doing, you can cheaply replace your brake pads in one day in your garage. Plus, there are all other types of car repairs that you can do yourself using the same tools. If you’re stranded, take a look at RepairPal to compare how much you would pay if you took your car to the store to get the job done.

Step 1: lift the car off the ground

You will need to remove the tires to get to the brake pads. If you’ve ever changed a flat tire , the first part of this process should be familiar to you. Start by using a tire iron to loosen the nuts on the wheels you are replacing the brake pads on (you usually have to do this in pairs, that is, either both front tires or both rear tires). You will need to loosen the nuts before lifting the car, because otherwise your wheels will just spin in the air.

After the nuts are loose, it’s time to raise the jack. The owner’s manual should indicate where the jack can be safely placed under the vehicle. Some cars have jack points specifically for floor jacks, while others simply use jack points on the side of your car that you would use to change a flat tire. Once you find the jack point, raise the car with a jack (if you’ve never used a jack before, check out this guide on Jalopnik on how to use it ).

Then place the jack under the sturdy structure of the vehicle frame. Once again, your guide can give you specific information. When the struts are in place, slowly lower the vehicle until it rests on the jack supports, then remove the jack. You can now finish unscrewing the nuts and removing the tire from your vehicle.

Step 2: Remove the caliper assembly and old brake pads.

At this point, you should see the rotor and brake caliper assembly. The caliper assembly acts as a clamp, pressing the brake pads against the rotors, which slows down your wheels so you don’t bump into walls. Using a socket wrench, remove the bolts on the back of the caliper assembly.

Now remove the caliper from the rotor. Note that the assembly will still be attached to the brake line. Do not hang the caliper by the brake line . Place the caliper carefully on top of the rotor or hang it from the wheel arch with a piece of wire. Make sure it is fully supported and will not fall over before moving on. If the caliper falls, it can break the brake line, which will be much more expensive to fix.

At this point, you can remove the brake pads from the rotor. They can slide out or pop out depending on your vehicle. Be careful not to damage the clips or the rotor itself, especially if you plan to continue using the same rotor. If your brake pads came with extra clips, you can also remove the old clips and replace them with new ones. When removing the pads, observe their orientation in the brake assembly to facilitate correct installation in the next step.

Step 3. Replace the brake pads.

Now that the old brake pads have been removed, you can install the new ones. First apply brake grease to the back of the pads. When you apply the brake, the caliper piston will press against the back of the brake pads, which can cause an annoying squeak. This brake lubricant helps to reduce this noise. Be careful not to get grease on the front of the brake pads or rotors . Your brakes rely on friction between the pads and rotors to slow your vehicle down. If grease gets between these two parts, this target is defeated and could potentially harm you or your vehicle.

After you have applied the brake grease, place the new brake pads in the same spot where you removed the old pads. If this is your first time doing this, try replacing the brake pads one at a time so you can see exactly where each part is before moving on to the next.

Step 4: Replace the brake caliper assembly

Once your new brake pads are in place, you will need to replace the caliper assembly. You may notice that the assembly no longer fits your brake pads. This is because as the brake pads wear out, the piston inside the caliper assembly will adjust their smaller width. To fix this, you will need a brake tool.

First, place one of the used brake pads inside the caliper assembly against the large, circular piston. Then place a wide plastic piece of the brake tool against the opposite side of the caliper. Turn the brake tool handle to push the piston back into the caliper assembly until it is fully retracted.

You may also need to squeeze the pins into which your caliper bolts are screwed. Once this is done, you can place the caliper assembly onto the brake pads. Insert the mounting bolts and tighten with a socket wrench.

Step 5: replace tires and tighten

Check again to make sure everything is closed tightly and securely before replacing the tire. When you’re ready, reinstall the tire on the rotor and hand-tighten the nuts to keep the tire in place. Place a jack under the vehicle at the jack points and remove the vehicle from the jacks. Remove the jacks from under your vehicle, then slowly lower the vehicle back to the ground.

Once the car is on the ground, you can use your car’s tire iron to tighten the mounting nuts securely. Take extra care during this step to make sure the nuts fit snugly without removing them. If you have a torque wrench , use it to make sure that the nut tightening properly tightened. You don’t want your tires to wobble or fall off when you hit the road again.

If this is your first time changing brake pads, try to bypass the blocking on the machine once or twice by checking the brake pads at low speeds. If you hear a creak or creak, lift the machine up again and make sure everything is securely in place.

While it may sound daunting, replacing brake pads is a ridiculously simple process that almost anyone can do with the right tools. Once you get used to it, you should be able to replace your brake pads in about an hour. Not to mention, you can save hundreds of dollars in the long run by doing the job yourself.


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