How to Change Brake Pads

The most important function your car can perform is stopping. It does so with brakes. Your braking system on your vehicle must be reliable and capable. However, over a period of time, your brakes- specifically your brake pads will wear out. If your brakes are not working properly or you notice it is much more difficult to stop, it is quite likely you will need to replace your brake pads.

Brake Pads

There are Two Different Types of Brakes

There are two types of brakes, they are Drum and Disc. Practically all newer cars come with Disc brakes. Disc brakes are cost effective and very reliable. They are excellent at stopping a vehicle and fairly easy to replace. Disc brakes are used on 90% of the vehicles on the road. This article will only focus on changing Disc brakes.

How Do Disc Brakes Work

There are a few elements that make a disc brake work. The parts of a disc brake include the caliper, brake pads and a rotor. There are also clips and bolts that keep everything together. Calipers can come either as fixed or floating. A caliper’s job is to squeeze the brake pad toward the central metal plate called the rotor. As the rotor comes into contact with the brake pad, friction occurs. As friction occurs, your car slows down. Brake pads are usually made out of ceramic materials that are very good at resisting heat and stress.

How to Change Your Brake Pads

Step1. Check to See Whether Your Brakes Require Replacement

There are two easy ways to determine if your brakes need to be replaced. First, if you hear your brakes squeaking or worse- scraping like metal, then it is obvious your brakes generally need to be replaced. Second, you can visually check your brake pads to see if they are damaged, worn down or uneven. Typically brake pads should be at least ¼ inch thick. Any less and they should be replaced.

Change Brake Pads

Step2. Prepare Your Car for Brake Replacement

When repairing your brakes, you will need to take off your car’s wheels. You will replace either the front brakes or the rear brakes. It should be noted that 90% of the brakes replaces are the front. You will need to jack your vehicle up, but first, park your vehicle on a flat surface out of the way of traffic. Put tire blocks behind the tires so the car does not move. Jack up your vehicle and then place tire jacks to hold the vehicle steady. Don’t trust only a jack to keep the vehicle in place.

Step3. Remove the Wheels in Order to Gain Access to the Brake Pads

You should work on your vehicle one wheel at a time. First remove the lug nuts and then the wheel. You will see the braking system. There will be a caliper, brake pads and the rotor. You will also notice the clips or bolts that hold the pads to the caliper.

Step4. Remove the Calipers

Remove either the bolts or clips that attach the pads to the caliper. Once the calipers are removed, you can get a good look if your brake pad is damaged. Check to see if it is worn down, worn uneven or less than ¼ inch thick. Now check the rotor. The rotor is the shiny piece of metal. It should be very smooth and should not have any scoring in it. If it does, it is damaged and should be replaced.

Step5. Prepare to Install Your New Brake Pads

If your brake pads need to be replaced, go to your local auto parts store and purchase a pair of brake pads that fit your exact vehicle. For those that also require new rotors, you should also purchase new rotors at this time. In addition, purchase a small tube of brake grease.

Once you are back at your vehicle, you can start the installation of your new brake pads, however before doing so, you will need to locate the caliper and reposition it to its full open position. You must physically move the piston on the caliper back to its open position. You should be able to accomplish this with either a vice grip or channel lock. Moving it back means towards the center of the vehicle.

Step6. Apply Grease to the Brake Pads

When you bought your pads, you should have also purchased brake grease; so, before placing the brake pads back into the calipers, you will need to apply brake grease on them. The grease goes on the back of the brake pad- the part that comes into contact with the rotor. The grease is applied between the plate of the caliper and the back of the brake pad. Applying brake grease will cut down on squeaking.

Step7. Reassemble your Caliper and Wheels

Once you applied the brake grease, you can start reassembling the caliper with the brake pads using the clips and bolts. Now reassemble the vehicle as it was first disassembled. If you have any problem with reassembly, look at the other wheel on the other side of the vehicle for a guide to assembly.

Important Tips to Consider

  • New brakes will almost always squeak and give off lots of brake dust- especially during the first few days
  • Once you have installed new brake pads, test your vehicle slowly to make sure it stops well. Don’t immediately try to stop at a high rate of speed
  • It is a good idea to purchase a car repair guide for your specific make and model vehicle. Most repair guides give you detailed instructions on how to replace your brake pads.

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