Replace your brake pads in 7 easy steps

Brake pads are the most commonly found component in most modern car brake systems. Meaning a great number of us own cars with brake pads. Brake pads weren’t built to last forever, and friction together with constant use can cause wear and tear of the brake pads. So regular changes are necessary.

In this post, I’ll be showing you the step-by-step process of replacing your brake pads. In case you’re looking to save some cash on replacing your brake pads. And you don’t mind getting your hands greasy or dirty, Before showing you the steps involved, let’s quickly see what a brake pad is and what it looks like.

The picture above shows what a brake pad looks like. Brake pads are a flat steel piece as opposed to the curved shape of the brake shoe. The brake shoe has a thick friction material on one of its sides to help ease a car to a halt. Although brake pads can be a bit more expensive than brake shoes.

They have a great life expectancy and are the preferred choice of the brake system in modern and auto cars. These are 7 easy and simple to follow steps on how to replace your brake pad at home. All of these without breaking the bank or spending hundreds of dollars at the mechanic.

Brake pads

Step 1: get your replacement brake pads

The first step in replacing your brake pads is getting a replacement brake pad. Brake pads are easily found at auto and car stores, or at a tools section at your local supermarket or mall. If you can’t find them on your own, be sure to ask attendants for help, or you can go the online shopping route.

If you need a guide on what brand or make of brake pad to purchase, you can check in with your mechanic for some brand names that are trusted to always deliver or check online for quality reviews. You can also get amazing brake pads from less popular brands if you’re willing to try them with trusted reviews.

Brake pads are generally more expensive than brake shoes. Some popular brands are more expensive than regular ones. However, the more expensive it is, the longer it will last. Before going ahead to replace your brake pads, you want to ensure your car is cool before getting to work on it.

Take note

You don’t want to fumble your equipment and cause other damages to your car by working on it while it’s hot. You may blister your fingers and palm. So if you’ve just used your car, you have to wait for it to cool in some hours.

You can work on it in the mornings when your car is completely cool and hasn’t been driven out yet. Before you embark on your DIY replacement project, you also want to ensure that you have some necessary tools needed to replace the pads. You will need the following tools:

  • A jack.
  • Jack stands.
  • A lug wrench.
  • One C-clamp or length of wood to retract the piston.
  • A wrench to enable you to replace the pads by yourself and in the comfort of your home.

Step 2: loosen the nuts and tires

Brake pads change

The brake system is enclosed in the wheel covered up by your tire, and most brake pads are found in the front wheels. Because brake shoes are mostly installed in the rear wheels. Making use of a lug wrench, carefully take out the nuts on the wheel to be able to take it off.

Please do this one wheel at a time since it’s your first time and to avoid any complications that may arise. Since you’ll be working one wheel at a time, be sure to turn the steering wheel. So that the wheel you're working on is angled out for better access to the brakes.

You can decide to work on only the front or rear wheels depending on how much wear and tear the brake pad has undergone. In addition to how recently it got changed. After some of the bolts and nuts have been removed with the lug wrench, carefully take the wheel out.

To do this, you must make use of a jack and a jack stand to lift ever so gently. So as to avoid your car rolling backward or forward. If you’re not familiar with how the jack works, do consult your car’s manual to know what has to be done.

After your jack has been put in position, you can remove the remaining nuts with the lug wrench and take out the wheel.

Step 3: take out the caliper bolts and pivot the caliper

take out the caliper bolts and pivot the caliper

There are 2 bolts that hold a caliper depending on what design it imitates. So the next step is to take out the bolts to enable you to pivot the caliper. The caliper is responsible for slowing the wheel using hydraulic pressure. On the other hand, the brake pads create friction with the rotors to slow the car to a stop. This is why once the bolts are taken out and the caliper is up, you can easily check the brake pads to know if they do need changing yet.

It may take some time to loosen up the bolt. However once it’s fully loosened, especially the lower bolt, it will easily come off. If you have some extra cash to spare, you can make an extra purchase. The WD-40 spray or PB penetrating catalyst spray will make the bolts come off easier and in less time. Once the bottom bolt is taken out, the caliper goes up. Once it has gone up this way, inspect the thickness of the brake pads to confirm that they need to be changed.

If they don’t need to be, you can always replace them much later. Brake pads typically last you around 35,000 miles or a little less. Depending on how frequently you drive and the distances you drive. For the caliper, it will still be connected to the brake line, so hang it up with a small piece of wire.

Step 4: take the old brake pads out

Brake pads

You want to be careful while trying to take out the old pads so as not to cause any damage to the caliper. You might need to apply a little force to take out the pads so be careful not to damage the brake line or the caliper. Remove it easily like the picture above.

Once you take out the old brake pads, you want to take out the old clips. especially if your newly purchased brake pads come with their own new clips. Hey, no one likes to mix in the old with the new. As you remove the old pads, be sure to keep track of how they were placed in the brake assembly. This will make it easier for you to insert them correctly when you are fixing in the new pads.

Step 5: replace the clips

Like I mentioned in step 4, new brake pads come with their own clips, so when getting ready to install new brake pads, you take out the old brake clips and install the new ones. The new clips allow the pads to slide back and forth easily when the brake is applied.

Step 6: Install the new brake pads

Install new brake pads

It’s finally time to install the new brake pads! When you purchase new brake pads, they come with some graphite-based grease to help you install them. Gently apply the brake grease to the backs of the pads. When you step on your brakes, the caliper will press against the backs of your brake pads. Which can cause an annoying squeaking sound you don’t want to have to deal with. Applying the brake grease helps reduce that squeaking noise.

Be careful not to get any grease on the front of the brake pads or the rotors. Your brakes depend on the friction generated between the pads and rotors to slow your vehicle. Getting grease in between these two parts defeats that purpose and can potentially harm you or your vehicle.

Once you’ve applied the brake grease, place the new brake pads in the same spot that you removed the old pads. You can also capitalize on the opportunity and check your brake fluid level and you can make an addition if necessary.

Step 7: retract the pistons and fix in the caliper

The arrows show the pistons. The pistons press on the brake pads and squeeze the rotor to stop the car. Before you can fix the caliper back in place, these pistons need to be pushed back so that they will clear the new, thicker brake pads.

After the pistons have been pushed back, you can easily fix them in the caliper. The caliper should slip over the pads with very little effort. Go on ahead to place the caliper assembly onto your brake pads. Insert the assembly bolts that were loosened earlier and tighten them down with your wrench. Once that’s done, you can slide your wheel back in place, then proceed to tighten the bolts for the tire making use of the lug wrench, and then take out the jack stands.

To take out the jack stand, place your jack underneath your car on the jack points, and lift the vehicle off of the jack stands. Remove the jack stands from underneath your vehicle, then slowly lower the vehicle back down to the ground.

Once the car is on the ground, you can use your car’s tire iron to securely tighten the lug nuts to ensure that it’s extra tight. Take extra care during this step to make sure that the lug nuts are snug. If you have a torque wrench, you can double-check using the tool.

Test drive

Repeat these same steps for the 2nd wheel and you’re good to go. Keep in mind that the brake fluid will be higher in the reservoir now. Since you have new pads installed just on one side. So be sure to keep your eye on the fluid level as you retract the piston on the other side.

The fluid will only rise further the second time around. Before calling up your friends to brag about your feat, be sure to take your car on a test drive first to ensure that everything is working as it should. Before going on a test drive, ensure you put your car in neutral or park and proceed to pump your brake about 15-20 times to ensure that your pads are properly fixed. Drive up and down your street or your area at different speed levels and also in reverse.

These brake tests are necessary to ensure there are no issues with your brake pad installation. It will take a few drives to seat the pads on the rotors. So try to avoid excessively hard braking for the first 10 to 20 miles. As you drive, be sure to keep your ears open. To ensure there are no weird or squealing sounds when you make use of the brakes. If you notice a grinding sound such as metal on metal, it may come from the inside of the brake.

This means that you reversed the inside surface of your brake. The metal from the pistons and calipers are grinding on each other. Be sure to stop and re-fix the brake pads to stop the grinding sound.

Final note

If you notice any other thing out of place and a sound you can’t place a finger on, be sure to take a second or third look at your wheels. If you still can’t sort it out, then you made need to pay your mechanic a visit. But, if you follow all 7 steps listed above quite carefully, you’ll have no problems. Not only do you know how to fix your brake pads, you save hundreds of dollars from not having to get it fixed at the mechanic.

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