Brake Pad Replacement in 6 Easy Steps

Lead Image
  • 2-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 25-50
What You'll Need
Socket set and ratchet
Lug wrench
Hexagonal, torx, or star-shaped keys
New pads
2 blocks of wood
Trolley jack or portable car jack
2 axle stands

Brake pad replacement is one of the most important aspects of motor vehicle maintenance and is a major contribution toward safe driving. Although many drivers choose to take their vehicle to a garage or service center for brake-pad replacement, it is possible to complete the job yourself. This should be a relatively simple task for anybody with an intermediate level of mechanical knowledge.

Step 1 – Remove the Wheels

Park your vehicle on a flat, even surface and make sure that the parking brake is fully engaged. Place the wooden blocks behind the rear tires to keep the vehicle in position when it is jacked into the air. Loosen the wheel nuts but do not remove them completely.

Then, locate the jacking points on both sides of the vehicle and use a trolley jack or portable car jack to lift the front end of the vehicle off of the ground. Put the axle stands in place and lower your vehicle onto them. The wheel nuts can now be fully loosened, and you should now remove the wheels.

Step 2 – Compress the Brake Caliper

You might want to focus on changing one side at a time because if you take both calipers off, it’s possible you could lose the piston out of one of them after compressing the other. You can also turn the car’s steering wheel toward the side you’re working on. Doing so will create more space and therefore better access to the calipers and brake pads.

When you’re ready, take the C-clamp and compress the piston of the caliper until it is forced into the brake caliper housing. This allows for the caliper assembly to be removed, and it also creates the additional space required to mount the new brake pads. If your brake calipers need repair, you should fix them before continuing.

The mounting bolts of the caliper can be unbolted using a ratchet and an appropriate-sized socket, and the caliper should easily come away from the rotor. Occasionally, special keys in hexagonal, torx, or star shapes are required to do this. Take care not to bend or break the brake hose.

Step 3 – Remove and Inspect the Pads

The old brake pads can now be removed. If they are 1/8 inches thick or less, they need to be replaced.

Check for signs of uneven wear, as this will indicate that your vehicle has other problems. It also helps to check the condition of the rotors; if they are covered in deep grooves, you will need to get them turned or replaced.

Step 4 – Install New Pads

Take your new set of pads and install them into the caliper. Usually, it is easier to place the inner pad into the caliper first and then add the outer pad afterward. You may need to tighten the C-clamp further to depress the piston enough to create space for the new pads. Once the pads are in place, the caliper can be put back on the rotor and bolted into position.

Step 5 – Refitting the Wheels

Once a visual check has been completed to make sure everything is in the correct position, the wheels can be replaced. Tighten each by hand before dropping them back to the ground, and finish tightening with the lug wrench as soon as the vehicle is back on all four wheels.

Step 6 – Perform a Safety Check

Check brake fluid levels before testing the brakes. Pump brake pedal several times to seat the new pads. It is recommended that you drive slowly and check the brakes in a quiet area before entering traffic again. Remember that you may need to bleed the brakes before moving the car if the foot pedal feels spongy when depressed.