How To Change Your Brake Pads Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,237
edited July 2017 in Editorial
imageHow To Change Your Brake Pads

Changing disc brake pads yourself is fast, easy and can save you $250 or more.

Read the full story here


  • verlaufverlauf Member Posts: 1
    Shouldn't you bleed the brake lines before taking it for a spin to ensure proper pressure? How important is it to bleed the lines every time you replace your pads and/or rotors?
  • jeffersonginjeffersongin Member Posts: 1
    Hi thanks for this article, I need to change my brake pad as suggest by a professional mechanic. To avoid dust caked after I drive. Thanks.

    I will browse for more of your "how to" articles so that I can discover more on how to remove and reinstall other car accessories.
  • edititeditit Member Posts: 1
    Thanks for these very good instructions, remember on step 8 that the master cylinder filler cap needs to be loosened before clamping or squeezing the piston open, sometimes excess fluid will be expelled, a catch container or old rags place under the master cylinder will avoid spilling fluid on vehicle
  • cort2cort2 Member Posts: 0
    You say "remove the bolts" holding the caliper. What tool is used for this?
  • richardw1richardw1 Member Posts: 1
    I am replacing rear brake pads on a 1978 sable. I have not been able to move the piston back on the left rear wheel. This is the wheel I started on so do not know about the other wheel. help
  • philip17philip17 Southern CaliforniaMember Posts: 25
    Here are some answers to the questions listed above.

    Verlauf: There should be no need to bleed the brakes since the level will not be replaced. As mentioned in the article, if the fluid has been "topped off" by some mechanic, it might spill over the top of the master cylinder when the piston is pushed back. As "Editit" points out in Step 8, a catch container or rags under the master cylinder will help to minimize the mess.

    Cort2: In Step 2 we say to locate the two slider bolts but REMOVE only the lower bolt. The caliper will rotate up on the top bolt. A socket wrench is used in the picture. But you can use an open end wrench or even an adjustable wrench.

    Richardw1: I'm a little concerned that your 1978 Sable has rear drum brakes which are constructed differently than disc brakes. Compare your Sable brakes to the pictures here to see if they match. If they do, make sure you are pressing in on the piston with either a C-Clamp or a pry bar in the fashion shown in Step 9.

    Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor

  • katorcekatorce Member Posts: 1
    This is awesome!! Please do more. You explained it so well even I understood.
  • mechanic_joemechanic_joe Member Posts: 1
    The reason most auto shops machine or replace the rotors is so the new brake pads are properly seated, or mated, to the surface of the rotor. Replacing only the brake pads usually reduces the overall efficiency of the braking system, it also creates very deep grooves into the rotor face and can result in noise from a moan on gentle stops, to a high pitch squeal.
  • overchargedovercharged Member Posts: 1
    Thank you for explain the process in such a clear way with the nicely taken photos. Now even I can understand it, which doesn't happen very often. Looking forward to seeing more articles from you!
  • thecardoc3_2thecardoc3_2 Member Posts: 8
    Wanting to do things yourself is fine, and it can be quite rewarding. Just about every professional technician started out by doing things themselves, hopefully with the guidence of someone with experience with the system being serviced. Otherwise the learning curve can be steep and surprises where you least expect them.

    A few notes to consider before you try and do your brakes yourself.

    What is displayed here is commonly referred to as a "Pad Slap", or "Pad Slapping". There are a few occasions where brakes can be properly serviced by simply replacing the pads, however the emphasis on the word "few" is not to be taken lightly. If a new student came to a tech school and his/her experience with doing a brake relign amounted to the routine as described above, then he/she would not be doing brake repairs for a customer without direct supervision. Pad slaps are the number one reason for consumer complaints and come backs for shops, in fact more than 50% of attempted pad slaps result in a dissatisfied customer.

    While doing an entire brakes class is out of the question for this format, some of the steps not mentioned are checking for run -out and rotor thickness variation, both important considerations to ensure the brakes don't pulsate and cuase a handling issue. At the same time the rotor thickness must be measured to see if it is still within serviceable limits. Too thin and it must be replaced.

    The caliper slides and brake pad support surfaces must be serviced to ensure the pads are free to move with the application of the brakes. That by the way is impossible to do correctly without completly removing the caliper from the bracket, as well as the bracket from the knuckle. If this step is skipped the common result is dragging brakes, and/or tapered wear and premature failure of the new brake pads.

    The last portion to be considered is the retraction of the piston(s) in the caliper. Needing to use a lot of force to do that as potentially demonstrated in the above description again often leads to dragging brakes which while not only risks overheating them and ultimately brake fade. It can cause short pad life, and of poor fuel economy as the engine now has to struggle against that additional resistance to the car traveling down the road. It's also adviseable for the technician to start pushing the piston back and take note of the effort that is required, then open the bleeder screw and now push the piston all the way back while removing that old fluid from the system. Any debris from corrosion or failing components typically migrates to the lowest portion of the system, this debris will be disturbed when the piston is pushed back into the caliper bore, and can cause failures in the ABS hydraulic controller or master cylinder. By discharging the fluid any disturbed debris gets ejected from the system instead of forced back upstream. This also makes for a very convenient time to replace the brake fluid, which is something that is often overlooked and worthy of it's own article to explain why.
  • usedcarsguy99usedcarsguy99 Member Posts: 1
    Thanks for the tip it was helpful.
  • garafolagarafola Member Posts: 0
    Looks great are my Rotors on my 1995 Jeep grand Cherokee bolted on or Pull off
  • doitmyself1doitmyself1 Member Posts: 1
    Great article and nice pictures. Going to do this on my Dodge Durango just now :)
  • danwat1234danwat1234 Member Posts: 27
    @richardw1, with some calipers I've heard that you need to turn the piston either clockwise or counterclockwise while pushing the piston in.
  • rmasters2007_rmasters2007_ Member Posts: 1
    Dangerous and irresponsible 'instructions'.

    Not even the most simple and safest aspect of proper torque (bolts and wheel lugs) was mentioned.

    Slider bolts need to be inspected and may have to be replaced. Also, proper technique per manufacturers manual is to use bolt lock like Loctite.
  • adophiusadophius Member Posts: 1
    Good afternoon.

    So as silly as this sounds, when i buy rotors (for a 2005 dodge grand caravan), do the rotors come in sets of 2 or do i have to buy them separately? and do that go for all the brakes parts? My front right side brake pad is COMPLETELY GONE...i hear metal and it's loud. The van has been sitting for 11 months (for financial reasons) but i will have it on the road by mid i wanted to know if all of what i need to buy to replace the entire brake system. can you please help.
  • albertknopalbertknop Member Posts: 1
    Better is to pump the pedals slowly a few times befor you start driving. The first few pedal strokes could not give the desired brake effect and are therefore dangerous when the car is moving.
  • brookhurdbrookhurd Member Posts: 1
    edited February 2015
    Thanks for these step-by-step instructions! I probably need to change the brake pads in my car soon. Although, I think my car has fixed caliper assemblies. Do you have any instructions on how to replace those? I love the tip you gave to turn the steering wheel so that the wheel you're working on is angled out. That will definitely provide better access to the brakes and make the process a lot easier!
    Brook | [non-permissible content removed]
  • SavedABuckDIYSavedABuckDIY Member Posts: 1
    You totally helped me as a 1st timer🥇, Thanks! An added warning ⚠️ is that you’ll want your parking brake (emergency brake) OFF. With it on, it Prevented the Caliper from pivotting up all the way;took me a long time & a helpful neighbor to figure that one out! 🙂
  • CaitlinJGCaitlinJG Member Posts: 1

    What was the piece of string for? I can’t find it anywhere

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