Your owner’s manual will tell you the right type of brake pads and brake oil, as well as any other specifications from the manufacturer.
Angie's How To change your own brake pads
Do you enjoy tinkering with your car during your spare time?
If you already know how to change your oil, a tire and an engine filter, changing your car’s brake pads could be your next big challenge.
Most highly rated mechanics say changing brake pads is a manageable task that can save people hundreds of dollars.
Jeff Crawford, owner of highly rated Crawford’s Auto Repair in Mesa, Arizona, teaches a free monthly class on do-it-yourself brake pad changes. He charges $250 per axle at his shop, but says a driver can do it themselves for about $70.
“My son has been changing brake pads since he was 12, so it can certainly be done,” Crawford says. “You’ll need to read your car’s owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with it.”
Brake pads usually squeal when they wear down and need to be replaced. A metal tab connected to the pad assembly rubs against the motor when it wears out, which causes a squealing sound when braking.
Loosen your tire’s lugnuts a quarter of the way, jack up both sides of the car and place a jack stand underneath. Make sure to choose a flat spot so your car doesn’t move. Then remove the lugnuts, tires and wheels — which exposes the rotor and caliper. Place the lugnuts in a container so you don’t lose them.
Use your hands to turn the wheel right or left so you can easily access the calipers.
If the rotor is smooth, it likely doesn’t need to be replaced and you can move on to removing the calipers. Rotors with friction or visible grooves likely need to be resurfaced or replaced.
It’s best to use a micrometer to measure the thickness of the rotors in several spots to determine whether they should be replaced or resurfaced, says Daran Thomas, owner of highly rated Peak Auto in Apex, North Carolina. “If you do not do this and only do a pad swap, then your brakes will wear out prematurely and possibly give you some brake vibration,” he says.
Your owner’s manual should indicate how thick the rotors should be. You can replace your vehicle’s rotors by buying new ones at any auto parts store or have a highly rated mechanic put on new ones.
To remove the calipers, loosen and remove any bolts (there are typically two) holding it to the rotor. After this, lift the caliper away from the rotor. Some brake oil may come out. Highly rated mechanics say it’s important to be careful not to damage the brake hose that’s connected to the caliper.
Metal pins or clips may connect the brake pads to the caliper. After removing those, the pad should come right out. Place the new brake pad inside the caliper and re-clamp the metal clips or pins.
Bob Waeiss, owner of Integrity Automotive in Carmel, Indiana, says the next step involves compressing the round caliper brake pistons using a C-clamp. The piston adjusts itself when brake pads thin and need to be pushed back to make way for the new pads. The pistons’ job is to push on the pads.
Lubricate the pins and other parts of the caliper that comes into contact with metal. “The other common mistake that DIYers make is that they do not grease the slides and moving parts of the brakes and, over time, they rust and will cause squeaking noises,” Thomas says.
Bolt the caliper back onto the rotor, and tighten the caliper bolts and bleed your brakes.
Bleeding the brakes eliminates any trapped air in the brake system. First, loosen the bleeding screws located on the caliper with a wrench or appropriate tool. Then place a flexible piece of tubing over the screw and the other end into a bottle or jar. Have a helper, at the same time, push on the brake pedal. While the brake pedal is down, take off the screw and brake fluid should come out and into the container.
You may need to top off your brake fluid level after this process. The brake fluid container is located under the hood on most cars.
Replace the tire and test the brakes to make sure they’re operating correctly.