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Brake Pad Replacement

brakes sign

by Aaron Turpen

How to replace brake pads

For a brake pad replacement, you'll need some simple hand tools, the ability to lift the vehicle to take off the tire, and the replacement pads and associated springs or clips (usually sold with the pads).

A note on safety: always used jack stands in the appropriate way when you lift your vehicle and work underneath it!

  1. Do your brake pad replacement one side at a time.
  2. Loosen the lug nuts on the wheel, then lift one side with the jack, place the jack stand for safety.
  3. Remove the tire and wheel to expose the disc (rotor) and brake caliper. Visually inspect the caliper, brake lines, and pads for wear, leakage, and other problems. If the pads need replacing, then remove the caliper.
  4. Most calipers are held in place with two or three bolts that go through the top of the caliper. Be sure you are not loosening brake lines or other essentials when loosening the caliper. Some will require the bolts to be completely removed while others will only require loosening.
  5. brake pads

  6. Pull the caliper gently away from the rotor. The pads will be loosely ensconced inside and are easily removed by hand. Using a large C-clamp, slowly compress the pressure plate (it usually looks like a pipe coming out of the center of the caliper on the brake-line side). Make sure you're compressing it slowly and at center so you do not cause damage to the interior rubber. When fully compressed, remove the clamp.
  7. Replace the pads and the clips. Before putting the caliper back on, inspect the rotor for wear, warps, or cracks. If there are any present, you may need to have the rotor turned or replaced. It will slide off when the tire is removed, so you can remove it now and take it to a professional for repair.
  8. Replace the caliper and spin the rotor by hand. Using your hand or an assistant, have them push the pedal (without getting into the car, for safety reasons) and watch as the caliper compresses. Look for leaks. If none are present, replace the wheel and tire, lower the vehicle, and tighten the nuts. With the keyswitch "on" (but the engine not running), compress the brake pedal a few times to test for softness. If it becomes very soft or falls to the floor without resistance, you will need to bleed the brakes.
  9. Before bleeding, do the other side (as above). In most cases, disc brake repair and pad replacement does not cause the brake lines to receive air and thus need bleeding.

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Photo by John Nyboer