DIY Brake Service: How to Change Brake Pads?

Did you ever feel that your vehicle stopping distance has increased at the time of braking?

Have you heard the wheels scream or make a strange noise when you step on the brake pedal?

It is most likely that the front or rear brake pads have worn and it is time to change your brake pads. It is not a simple operation, but if you follow the steps shown below you will know how to change brake pads. There is a good chance that you will save about $100 or $200 dollars (USD) that you will have to pay in a mechanical workshop.

Why Do I Need To Change The Brake Pads?

The brake pads are responsible for creating friction with the brake disc and the more you step on the pedal the more you create that friction until you stop the vehicle completely.

The brake pads are essential elements to have a proper braking mechanism and with time they will gradually wear out and get worse. A brake pad set in poor condition makes little friction on the disc and this increases the stopping time and distance. This cannot be allowed because at the time of an emergency they can fail completely which can lead to a fatal collision or a car accident.

Tools and Materials Required

No matter what you want to repair in your car by yourself, make sure you have your owner’s manual handy. For this repair, your owner’s manual will be helpful for finding the best material needed for your car. It will also help locate your car’s jack points, weight, and minimum rotor thickness. If you don’t have it, do an online search for your model number and internet will immediately find a PDF for it.

Materials Required

1) New Brake Pads: 

You obviously need new brake pads to replace your old ones. These pads are easily available at any auto parts store or your nearest car dealership. Just tell them the year, make and model of your vehicle and select the pad in your price range. In general, the more expensive the pads, the longer they last.

But there are some very expensive brake pads with a higher than desirable metal content for use with performance Rotors aimed at the ‘Rally’ market. You should avoid these because they are more likely to cause premature wear of standard rotors.

2) Replacement Rotors (if necessary)

Brake Pads and rotors both wear down, but it is not necessary that they both wear down evenly. But in specific situations, you may need to change your rotors at the same time you intend to change brake pads. Always check your owner’s manual to find your rotors minimum recommended thickness. If your rotors get below this value, you should replace them immediately.

3) Brake Grease

This is applied to the surface of your brake pads between the calipers and the brake pads.

Tools Required

Before you get started with DIY Brake pad change, you’ll need a few tools. You will probably find some of these around the house. But a few may require you to visit your nearest auto parts store. Some of these tools are costly. But over the long term, you’ll save more money by getting them now, and doing your own repairs in the future.

1) Hydraulic Floor Jack

The jack that you get with your car is fine for changing a spare tire, but for maintenance of this level, you may want a hydraulic floor jack. To be safe, it’s highly advisable to get a floor jack that’s rated for at least three-fourths of your vehicle’s total weight.

2) Jack stands

After you have jacked up your car, you’ll need jack stands to securely keep the car in the air. Each jack stand is rated individually based on how much weight it can handle.

3) Brake tool

This tool helps you adjust your brake caliper piston to the new brake pads. It’s not impossible to adjust the caliper piston without this tool, but it is very cheap and a lot safer than most other workarounds.

4) Cross Wrench

This helps loosen and remove the screws of the wheel.

5) Allen Key

It is needed if you are not able to loosen and remove the screws using the Cross Wrench.

6) Flat screwdriver:

Flat screwdriver helps lever and remove the brake pads from the brake disc.

It’s good to include the following items as part of your toolkit as well. This ensures quick DIY job with few ad-hoc workarounds.

  • 3/8″ Ratchet
  • 1/2″ Ratchet
  • 1/2″ Breaker Bar
  • 3/8″ Assorted extensions
  • 3/8″ Sockets, assorted
  • 1/2″ Sockets, Assorted
  • Open-ended wrenches, assorted
  • Torx sockets, assorted
  • Hex sockets, assorted
  • Reverse Torx sockets, assorted
  • C-Clamp
  • Pry Bar
  • Wire Brush
  • Gloves
  • WD-40

How to Change the Brake Pads?

Autowagons will show you how to Change the brake pads in 10 steps given below:

1) Turn The Wheels

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Turn the direction of your vehicle towards the wheel whose brake pads you want to change. This means if you need to change the one on the right, turn the steering wheel to the right and if it is on the left wheel, turn the steering wheel to the left.

If you have driven your car recently, make sure that your vehicle is cooled down first. There is a chance that you would be working with extremely hot pads, calipers, and rotors. Make sure these parts are safe to touch before moving ahead.

2) Loosen the Lug Nuts

Then grab the cross wrench and loosen the screws of your wheel without removing them. Loosen each of the lug nuts by about two-thirds of the way.

No need to loosen all the tires at once. You would generally change at least the two front pads or the two back pads. This depends on your car and how evenly the brakes wear.

3) Lift The Vehicle and Remove The Tire

Grab the hydraulic floor jack and lift the vehicle.

Place the jack stands under a rigid structural piece of the vehicle’s frame. Your owner’s manual will help you find those specifics. Once your jack stands are in place, slowly lower your vehicle until it is safely resting on them. Then remove your hydraulic jack. 

Remove the screws with the cross Wrench and then take out the wheel so that you can access the brake system.

4) Remove the Caliper Bolts

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You would be able to see caliper and brake rotor assembly. The caliper assembly fits over the brake rotor like a clamp. The role of the caliper is to use hydraulic pressure in order to slow the wheel by creating friction with the rotors to stop the vehicle.

Calipers usually come in one-piece or two-piece designs. They are secured between two and four bolts at the inside of the stub axle housing. This is where the tire fits onto the axle.

Before you start, check the caliper pressure. The caliper should move back and forth a little if the car is at rest. If the caliper is under pressure, it can fly off when you remove the bolts. Take a lot of precaution while checking and keep your body to the side of its path.

Use the correct size of socket or ring-spanner in order to remove them. In case of any difficulty, spray WD-40 or PB Penetrating Catalyst on these bolts in order to easily remove them.

5) Take out the Caliper Assembly

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Now you have to slide the caliper assembly off the rotor. You will notice that the assembly will still be attached to the brake line. Never hang the caliper by the brake line and ensure it is supported properly. If the caliper drops, it could snap the brake line which would be much more expensive to fix.

It is advised to gently place the caliper on top of the rotor without dropping it. You can also hang it up with a small piece of wire hanger or other scrap metal so that it doesn’t hang and put pressure on the brake hose.

6) Remove The Brake Pads

After removing the caliper assembly, you have to remove brake pads. These may either slide or pop out depending on your car. Be careful not to damage the rotor especially if you plan to continue using the same rotor.

You may have to apply a little force to pop them out. So take care not to damage the caliper or brake line while getting them out. Grasp the screwdriver and lever the end of the screwdriver into the pads and with the edges of the disk, never on the surface of the contact. As you remove them, remember how they were oriented in the brake assembly to make it easier to insert them back correctly once done.

Check your brake rotors for heat damage or cracks and get it replaced if needed. It is recommended to get your rotors replaced or resurfaced during brake pad replacements.

7) Install The New Brake Pads

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The new brake pads have to be installed by applying some pressure. You just have to introduce a little pressure on the side so that they enter and hook into the metallic top plate. When they are inside, apply some force and adjust the brake piston in order to fit them perfectly. Then hold the Allen Wrench and screw them again.

8) Mount the Wheel Back

After verifying that everything is fine, assemble the wheel again. Place the screws on the bolts and use the cross wrench to tighten them, making sure nothing is loose.

9) Repeat The Same For Other Wheel

When you finish with the first wheel, follow the same steps with the rest of the wheels. In case you only want to replace the front or rear pads you will only repeat the process once.

10) Pump the Brake System

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As a precaution it is important to pump the brake system, this is done by pressing the pedal fully and progressively several times. It is advisable to pump the brakes 15 to 20 times to make sure the pad is seated properly. In this way, the brake piston closes the pad to the disc and leaves it in its correct place so that it works in perfect condition.

You can also top off brake fluid levels or follow bleeding of brakes section to flush out old fluid and replace with new fluid.

To test the new brake pads it is recommended to roll the first 96 miles (100 kilometers) braking gently and not abruptly. Any abrupt braking will shorten the life of the brake pads.

You should go no more than 5 mph (8.0 km/h) on a quiet residential street. If the car seems to stop normally, repeat the test and go up to 10 mph (16 km/h). Gradually increase the speed to 40 mph (64 km/h). Don’t forget to check in reverse direction as well. These braking tests ensure there are no issues with your brake-pad installation and gives you immense confidence while driving on the main streets.


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