Step by step guide on how to replace front brake pads on a front wheel drive
car, though appearances may vary, the process is the same on most vehicles.
Difficulty Scale: 5 of 10
Tools and Supplies Needed
- Socket set
- Wrench set
- Shop towels
- Screw driver set
- Large "C" clamp or channel locks
- Brake fluid
- Jack stands
- Hydraulic floor jack
- Breaker bar or lug wrench
Begin with the vehicle on level ground, emergency brake set and front of vehicle
lifted in the air safely using jack stands.
- After the car has been lifted, remove the wheel cover
plastic nuts or hub cap.
Removing Lug Nut Cover or Hubcap
Step 2 - Remove lug nut with lug wrench or breaker bar. Shown with air
tool. (Note: Loosen lugs on ground if no air toll are used.)
Removing Lug Buts
Step 3 - After all lug nuts have been removed, grasp the tire with both
hands and lift off.
Step 4 - Once the wheel has been removed, loosen the caliper bolts and
remove. Make sure the bolt threads are in good shape and replace if necessary.
Lifting Wheel from Axle Studs
Step 5 - Now, lift the brake caliper off the rotor and brake pads. Tie
or secure the caliper, being careful not to bend or kink the brake caliper flex
hose. Thoroughly inspect brake caliper and brake hoses for leakage, cracks or chaffing
and replace as needed.
Removing Both Caliper Mounting Bolts
Step 6 - Next, remove both brake pads.
Removing Brake Caliper
Step 7 - Once the brake caliper has been removed, retract the caliper
using a large "C" clamp or channel locks until fully depressed, use old brake pad
to protect the caliper piston. Remove the master cylinder cap or open the brake
caliper bleeder screw to allow excess brake fluid to be released if necessary.
Removing Brake Pads
Step 8 - Next, remove caliper bracket mounting bolts to allow the brake
rotor to be replaced.
Retracting Brake Caliper
Step 9 - After the caliper mounting bracket has been removed, use side
cutters (dikes) to remove assembly clips.
Removing Caliper Bracket Mounting Bolts
Step 10 - Once the assembly clips have been removed the brake rotor will
slide off the axle hub.
Removing Rotor Assembly Clips
Step 11 - After the brake rotor has been removed, replace it with a re-machined
or new unit. Clean bearing hub rotor mount surface to ensure the proper mounting
of the new brake rotor. The new rotor is manufactured with a protective film over
the rotor to keep it from rusting, remove protective film with brake cleaner before
installing; also after the brake job is complete, a small amount of smoke from the
rotor may occur when first used. This is normal and will dissipate after the first
couple of uses.
Removing Brake Rotor
Step 12 - Next, install the caliper mounting bracket onto the spindle.
Installing New Brake Rotor
Step 13 - Un-box and inspect replacement brake pads to insure they will
properly replace the old brake pads.
Installing Caliper Bracket
Step 14 - Some brake pad applications involve anti-rattle clips which
should be installed when provided.
Inspecting New Brake Pads
Step 15 - Remove the old clips to install the new set.
Step 16 - Now, the new brake pads are ready for installation, be sure
to install the pad with the sensor on the inboard side.
Installing New Anti-Rattle Clips
Step 17 - Before installing the brake caliper check the caliper slides by
moving them in and out of the caliper mounting bracket. They should move smoothly,
if not disassemble by pulling slides out to clean and lubricate.
Installing Front Brake Pads
Step 18 - Once the brake pads have been installed, the brake caliper can
be put back into place. (Note: clean and lube brake caliper slides if needed.)
Inspecting Caliper Slides
Step 19 - Tighten caliper bolts and double check caliper mounting bracket
bolts with a torque wrench.
Installing Brake Caliper
Step 20 - Re-install tire
Tightening Caliper Bolts
Step 21 - After the tire has been re-installed add the lug nuts to hold
the wheel on, and tighten. (Note: Finish tightening lug nuts once the car has been
lowered onto the ground.)
Step 22 - Re-installing hub cap or lug nut cover.
Re-installing Lug Nuts
Step 23 - After the car is back on the ground and the tires are tightened,
slowly push the brake pedal down, then allow back up slowly. This operation is forcing
the brake pads to travel to the brake rotors. Do this
until normal brake operation has returned (brake pedal in its normal position),
This helps prevent air bubbles in the system which alleviates bleeding.
Installing Lug Nut Cover
Never drive a car without normal brake pedal operation. If bleeding is needed
(spongy pedal) follow normal bleeding procedures. When test driving the vehicle
listen for any unusual noises during the operation of the brakes, Note: Brake pad
operation may be slightly impaired until the surfaces mate together, (about 2 miles).
Brake System Bleed
Push Brake Pedal Down Slowly
Front brake pads provide up to 70% of a vehicles stopping power. In general,
front brake pads wear out twice as fast as rear brake pads, roughly a 2 to 1 ratio
on a standard disc-drum brake combination, this will be slightly different on a
disc-disc arrangement due to the efficiency of a rear disc brake versus drums. Disc
brakes have a definite braking power advantage over drum style brakes and performance
is not compromised as much when wet or hot. Some disc brakes utilize cooling fins
in-between the braking surfaces of the rotor to maximize cooling efficiency.
Replacing brake rotors can vary depending on the make and model of car, two or
four wheel drive, front or rear wheel drive. Always replace brake rotors with top
quality or OEM (original equipment manufacturer) brake rotors, some less expensive
brake rotors can squeak and may not dissipate heat or perform as well because of
their inferior metal quality. The same applies to the brake pads; they should be
high quality (OEM) to ensure proper performance. When a grinding brake rotor is neglected, it will cause the brake system to fail due to the separation of the rotor hat (center) from the outer web (braking surface). Additional problems the can occur include the brake pad to fall out completely or the brake caliper to blow out a piston, either of these conditions will cause brake operation failure.
A vehicles brake pads wear out at
different rates depending on design, driving habits, brake pad quality, stop and
go traffic and freeway conditions, etc. Hydraulic pressure is supplied to the
brake caliper forcing the pads against the brake rotor causing friction to slow
the vehicle. Most brake pads have some kind the sensing device that will warn
if the brake pads are getting low, either a brake warning light, or a noise
sensor the will create a high pitched squeal when the pads have worn down beyond
manufactures recommendations. After a brake service has
been performed and the car is safety on level ground, recheck the brake pedal operation,
this should be done with the car running and in park to aid the power brake system.
Press the brake pedal up and allow to return and check proper brake pedal operation,
if proper brake pedal operation not present further inspection is required (do not
drive). As the car is first driven , start slow and test the brakes, listen for
any sounds that are abnormal. Observe the brake operation if any irregularities
occur inspect the brake system immediately.
- Clean and inspect wheel studs, replace if any are damaged.
- Inspect the ABS sensor wheel for cracks or damage and replace as needed.
- Bleed the brake system after replacing brake components are replaced.
- Brake service usual occurs between 15,000 and 30,000 miles depending on
driver habits, road conditions, brake pad and rotor materials used.
- Use high quality pads and rotors when replacing brake components.
- Lubricate caliper sliders if needed
- Clean surface between the rotor and axle flange to ensure proper operation.
(If debris is left between the rotor and hub bearing, it can cause the rotor
to wobble on the axle causing the steering wheel to shake when the brakes are
Article first published 2016-05-25