How To Replace Car Brakes

Know when and how to replace the brake pads in your car without going to an auto mechanic for service.

How To Replace Car Brakes
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Overview
Your car's brakes are its most important safety feature, and should be closely monitored and maintained. Brake pads wear down over time and require periodic replacement. Pads that are worn within 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch should be replaced as soon as possible. Luckily, replacing your car's disc brake pads is both relatively simple and cost effective.
Replacing Automotive Disc Brakes

Step 1
Park your car and allow the rotors and brake pads to cool before beginning. Once the car is ready, siphon 1/4 to 1/2 of the fluid from the master cylinder. Be sure to use a siphoning device and not your mouth, as brake fluid is hazardous. Dispose of the fluid in accordance with state regulations.
Step 2
"Break" each of the lug nuts on the wheel by turning each counterclockwise one or two full rotations. Do not completely remove the lug nuts from the wheel. Place the floor jack under the car, lining it up with the car's frame. Your owner's manual likely contains a diagram specifying the best location to place the floor jack. Lift the car until the wheel is off the ground. Remove the lug nuts completely and set them aside. Remove the tire.
Step 3
Remove the brake caliper assembly from the rotor (the metal disc from which you just removed the tire) by removing the clips or bolts holding it. These clips or bolts will be facing inward, so be sure you do not accidentally tighten when you mean to loosen. If they do not loosen given a reasonable amount of exertion, use brake parts cleaner (spray). Once you have removed both bolts or clips, remove the assembly from the rotor. Be careful not to drop the assembly, as it is connected to your brake hose, and you risk disconnecting the two.
Step 4
Remove the brake pad which contacts the outward side of the rotor. Pay attention to the method by which the brakes attach to the brake caliper assembly. Before removing the pad which contacts the inward side of the rotor, you must retract the piston. Place a c-clamp between the center of the remaining pad and the exterior of the caliper assembly. Tighten the clamp until the piston is fully retracted and remove the pad. Pads that snap into the caliper piston might require some force to remove. Your car may also require that you disconnect a brake sensor cable. If your caliper has metal mounting brackets, remove those as well.
Step 5
Inspect the rotor for any deep pits or scratches. If the rotor surface is not reasonably smooth, it should be refinished or replaced. Clean everything, but be sure you are using a spray specifically for brake parts; otherwise, you may compromise your ability to stop and/or damage your rotor. Put the new mounting brackets in place. Coat the ends of the new brake pads with grease, but be careful not to get any on the rotors or the pad's surface. Place the new pads in the caliper assembly and place the assembly on the rotor. Reinstall the bolts or clips. You may have to use new bolts or clips, depending on the manufacturer.
Step 6
Replace the tire and tighten all lug nuts. Remove the jack stand and slowly lower the car to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts one more time. Repeat the entire process on the opposite side of the car. Replace the brake fluid (use new fluid; do not reuse old fluid). When you first push down on the brake pedal, it should drop to the floor. Regain pressure by pumping the pedal until it is firm. Test the brakes at slow speeds before attempting to drive on a major road.
skill
4
ingredient
Brake Parts Cleaner

Brake Grease

New Disc Brakes

New Brake Hardware (If Applicable)

Socket Wrench OR Allen Wrench

C-Clamp

Tire Iron, Breaker Bar or T-Wrench (Spinner)

Floor Jack

Jack Stand

ingredients
Brake Parts Cleaner
ingredients
Brake Grease
ingredients
New Disc Brakes
ingredients
New Brake Hardware (If Applicable)
ingredients
Socket Wrench OR Allen Wrench
ingredients
C-Clamp
ingredients
Tire Iron, Breaker Bar or T-Wrench (Spinner)
ingredients
Floor Jack
ingredients
Jack Stand
tip
Bring the old pads to the store to ensure a match.

Buy more brake grease than you think you will need.

Read the directions twice before beginning.

tips
Bring the old pads to the store to ensure a match.
tips
Buy more brake grease than you think you will need.
tips
Read the directions twice before beginning.
warning
Never place anything beneath a car that you intend to keep.

Do not touch or apply anything to the rotor other than brake parts cleaner.

Replace pads that are less than 1/8 inch thick immediately.

warnings
Never place anything beneath a car that you intend to keep.
warnings
Do not touch or apply anything to the rotor other than brake parts cleaner.
warnings
Replace pads that are less than 1/8 inch thick immediately.
keyword
Disc Brakes Automotive Car Repair
keywords
Disc
keywords
Brakes
keywords
Automotive
keywords
Car
keywords
Repair

Resources
reference
Advance Auto Parts: Replacing Disc Brake Pads
reference
Edmunds.com: How To Change Your Brake Pads
reference
Consumer Reports: Brake Pads - What To Look For
resource
What is Rotor Failure? How To Inspect Car Brake Rotors