How to Replace Rear Brake Pads and Rotors

Step by step instructions on how to replace automotive rear brake pads and rotors. This article pertains to all rear disc brake vehicles. Begin with the vehicle on level ground, in park and the engine off and safely lifted in the air to perform a brake service. A rear caliper reset tool is necessary for parking brake integrated systems. The reset tool screws the piston back into the caliper. These calipers cannot be compressed with a clamping tool, it can only be reset with the reset tool. A locator slot is used on the inboard piston, which is fitted into a peg located on the backing plate of the pad. Rear disc brake pads offer improved performance and are not affected by moisture like conventional brake shoes.

Common Problems

  • Brake pads wear down making a grinding noise.
  • Caliper slides lock up, not allowing the caliper move causing premature pad wear.
  • Inferior parts squeak, grumble and prematurely wear.

Best Practices

Step 1
- After the vehicle is safely lifted into the air, remove the lug nut covers. (Step does not pertain to every vehicle.)

remove lug nut cover
Remove Lug Nut Cover

Step 2 - Once the lug nut cover is removed, a lug wrench or socket can be used can loosen the wheel lugs.

lug nut cover removed
Lug Nut Cover Removed

Step 3 - Next, loosen and remove the wheel lug nuts. (Note: If air impact wrench is not used, loosen the lug nuts one turn while the vehicle is still on the ground.)

Remove Lug Nuts

Step 4 - Then, grasp the tire and lift from wheel studs and axle flange.

Removing Tire

Step 5 - Using a pair of dikes remove the rotor retainer clip which is used in initial assembly and will not be reinstalled.

retainer clip
Remove Rotor Retainer Clip

Step 6 - Next, use a socket to remove both upper and lower caliper mounting bolts. Use a wrench if necessary to secure the slide.

remove caliper mounting bolts
Remove Caliper Mounting Bolts

Step 7 - Once both upper and lower bolts are removed, grasp the caliper and lift it from the brake pads, the fit can be a little tight. Secure the caliper away from work area, do not allow the caliper be supported from the brake line.

remove rear brake caliper
Remove Rear Brake Caliper

Step 8 - Next, use a small screwdriver to pry the brake pads from the caliper bracket.

remove rear brake pads
Remove Rear Brake Pads

Step 9 - After the caliper is secure, loosen and remove both upper and lower caliper bracket bolts.

remove caliper bracket bolts
Remove Caliper Bracket Bolts

Step 10 - Once both caliper bracket bolts have been removed, grasp the caliper mounting bracket and lift it from the axle. Inspect the caliper slides on the bracket and add a small amount of brake grease to lubricate.

remove caliper mount bracket
Remove Brake Caliper Mount Bracket

Step 11 - Next, use a hammer and strike the rotor near the edge of the axle flange, this will force the rotor free.

shock rotor
Shock Rotor

Step 12 - After the rotor has been loosened, grasp it using both hands to remove. (Note: brake rotors can be heavy.)

remove rear brake rotor
Remove Brake Rotor

Step 13 - Match the old rotor to the new one, then clean the brake surfaces using brake cleaner.

clean rotor
Clean New Rotor

Step 14 - Then reinstall the rotor after cleaning the axle flange surface using a shop towel.

new brake rotor
Installing New Brake Rotor

Step 15 - Install an old brake pad as a buffer between the tool and the caliper piston(s). Using a large "C" clamp or channel locks move the piston(s) inward until fully retracted. If a brake caliper utilizes a parking brake mechanism, a caliper reset tool is needed.

retract caliper
Retract Caliper

Watch this video to get an idea on what you are in for then continue down through the guide to get more information and tips.

Step 16 - Once the caliper has been retracted, insert the caliper mounting bracket over the rotor.

install caliper bracket
Install Caliper Bracket

Step 17 - After fitting the caliper bracket into place, insert the mounting bolts and tighten.

tighten caliper bracket bolts
Tighten Bracket Mounting Bolts

Step 18 - Next, remove worn pad stabilizer clips from the caliper mounting bracket using a small screwdriver.

remove stabilizer clip
Remove Stabilizer Clip

Step 19 - After removing both upper and lower clips, install new clips, premium brake pad sets include these clips.

install stabilizer clip
Install New Stabilizer Clips

Step 20 - Then, remove the brake pads from the box and match to the worn pads to ensure proper fit.

new brake pads
New Brake Pad Set

Step 21 - Install new brake pads into the caliper bracket while keeping the stabilizer clips in place.

install new brake pads rear
Install New Brake Pads

Step 22 - Some brake calipers utilize a pressure clip which should be replaced if provided or damaged, these clips help hold the brake pads securely while not in use.

pressure clip
Install Pressure Clip

Step 23 - Next, install the brake caliper onto the brake pads, while retracting the brake caliper slides.

install brake caliper
Installing Brake Caliper

Step 24 - Once the caliper is in place, reinsert the caliper mounting bolts and tighten securely.

tighten caliper bolts
Tighten Caliper Bolts

Step 25 - After the caliper mounting bolts are securely fastened, lift the tire into place.

reinstall tire
Reinstall Tire

Step 26 - Then, install lug nuts while checking thread quality, never lubricate lug nuts.

install lug nuts
Install Lug Nuts

Step 27 - After install all lug nuts onto the wheel studs, tighten lugs evenly in star pattern to manufactures specifications. (Note: Air impact set to 70 foot pounds.)

tighten lug nuts
Tighten Lug Nuts

Step 28 - Once the lug nuts are tight, reinstall the lug nut cover.

install lug nut cover
Install Lug Nut Cover

Step 29 - Tighten lug nut cover into place.

tighten lug nut cover
Tighten Lug Nut Cover

Step 30 - Slowly press the brake pedal down, then, slowly allow the pedal to return to its original position. This will bring the brake pads to the rotor, initiating contact.

press brake pedad
Press Brake Pedal

After completing the job check the brake pedal operation. Because the system was never opened, brake bleeding should not be necessary, but if the pedal is spongy, bleed the brake system. Never operate a vehicle without normal brake pedal operation. While driving the vehicle, listen for strange noises as this is an indication of a problem in which repairs will need to be performed. Inspect brake fluid levels in the brake master cylinder. Brake pad design configuration may vary slightly, but the concept is the same.


Our certified technicians are ready to answer rear brake questions for free. We hope you saved money and learned from this guide. We are creating a full set of car repair guides. Please subscribe to our 2CarPros YouTube channel and check back often for new videos which are uploaded regularly.

Article published