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Change Your Car's Brake Pads On Your Own With These Simple Steps

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If your car needs its brake pads replaced, you may be able to save some money by doing the job yourself. The following offers an in-depth process that details how you can successfully change your own brake pads.

Safety First

Safety is always important when working on any aspect of your vehicle. Here are a few essential tips that can help you stay safe as you install your new brake pads:

  • Before you do anything else, you'll want to make sure your vehicle is parked on a solid surface (such as your driveway or a garage with a concrete floor) that's also relatively flat.
  • Loosen those lug nuts loose before you start lifting your vehicle. If you don't, you won't have enough muscle to break the lug nuts loose from their threads. You don't need to remove those lug nuts just yet – simply loosen those lug nuts by a couple of turns.
  • Always use the factory-approved jacking points located on the sides of the vehicle. In many cases, these surfaces may be the only ones strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle being lifted.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly supported by jack stands before you start changing your brakes. Once supported, simply give the car a slight shake to make sure it doesn't move while it's on jack stands.

Removing the Caliper

Start by completely removing the lug nuts holding your wheel in place, along with the wheel itself. Once the wheel is off, you should be able to see the brake caliper, which is the device that's clamped over your brake rotor. At the back of the caliper should be two bolts (also known as the caliper pins) holding the unit in place. You'll need a Torx or Allen head socket to remove these pins from the caliper.

Once you've removed the caliper, you'll need to suspend it in the air so that there's absolutely no force being placed on the brake line. Letting the caliper hang by its brake line could result in damage to the line, which could cause leaks or even catastrophic brake failure. Instead, hook a bungie cord around the caliper and hang it off the suspension spring or another sturdy component.

Compressing the Caliper Piston

Inside of the caliper against one of the brake pads is a piston that pushes the pad against the rotor as you apply the brakes. You'll need to compress this piston back inside of the caliper so that your new pads will fit and clear the rotor. Locate the brake bleeder screw on the back of the caliper and loosen it just enough that the brake fluid seeps slightly out of the screw. This will make it easier to compress the piston without damaging any other braking components.

While your old brake pads are still in place, attach a C-clamp over the old pad so that it's situated over the piston. Tighten the C-clamp until the piston is completely recessed within the caliper, then tighten the bleeder screw and check your brake fluid level. Afterwards, you can pop your old brake pads out of the caliper.

Installing Your New Brake Pads

Before you install your new brake pads, you'll want to add a small amount of anti-squeal compound to the back of your pads. This will help prevent squealing and other noises as your brakes are broken in. If your brake pads also require shims, don't forget to add those to the new pads, too.

Insert the new pads into the caliper and carefully slide the caliper over the rotor. It's always a good idea to add a light coating of high-temperature brake grease to the caliper pins before installing them back on your caliper. Tighten the caliper pins according to your vehicle manufacturer's recommended torque specifications. Afterwards, you can reinstall your wheels and start work on any other brake pads that need replacement.

Breaking In Your New Brake Pads

Before you hit the road, you'll want to make sure that your brakes are properly broken in. So find a comfortable stretch of lightly-traveled open road and follow these steps:

  • Accelerate to 35 mph and slow down to 5 to 10 mph using moderate brake pressure. Repeat the step at least 3 to 4 times.
  • Accelerate to 45 mph and use moderate brake pressure to slow down to 10 mph. You'll also want to repeat this step at least 3 to 4 times.
  • Park your vehicle and let the brakes cool down. This should take about an hour or so to complete.

As you break your new brake pads in, you'll also want to listen out for any strange noises coming from your brakes. If you do hear something, you may want to double-check your handiwork before you put your vehicle back on the road.