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DIY Brake Pads Replacement: Things to Know Before Changing

Brake pads are essential components in your vehicle’s brake system. Functioning brake pads ensure that other elements of your vehicle, such as rotors, calipers, and discs, do not wear away. Making sure that your brake pads are in good working condition will not only save you lots of money from costly repairs, it can also potentially save your vehicle and even save your life from any accidents that may happen. Replacing brake pads is something most car owners leave to the experts. However, given the proper tools, expertise, and equipment, you can do it yourself. This is a cheaper alternative than going to the shop for replacements. Before starting on this DIY project, here are the important things you need to know. Modern vehicles have brake systems that are complicated. While rotors and brake pads replacement is a pretty straightforward process, things go wrong if you are not sure what you are doing.

Before You Begin

  • Check for ABS

Before starting, check if your vehicle is equipped with ABS or an Anti-Lock Brake System. ABS is a computer-controlled system that needs additional electrical and mechanical parts to prevent the wheels from locking up when braking. It is important to temporarily remove a few of the ABS parts or disconnect the system before replacing the brake pads. 

  • Right Tools and Equipment for the Job

It is always recommended that you have the right tools and equipment to ensure that you can change the brake pads properly. You may already have some of these tools at home, while you might need to take a trip to the auto parts shop. A few of these tools may be a little out of your budget. However, you can use them for a long time and the savings in the long-run is worth more than the amount paid upfront.

  • Floor Jack
  • Jack Stands
  • Brake Tool
  • Replacement Brake Pads
  • Replacement Rotors (if needed)
  • Brake Grease
  • Socket Wrench
  • Tire Iron
  • Large C-Clamp
  • Wire Brush
  • High-temperature lubricant

It is also important to have the owner’s manual handy. It will be helpful should you need to find your vehicle’s weight, jack points, or the minimum rotor thickness, among other things. Some car models may be different too, so before getting under your car, check for any specific instructions for your vehicle. You may find some online guidelines or video tutorials that can be useful.

  • Know Your Calipers

Most cars now include a “sliding caliper” brake assembly, while some have “fixed caliper” assemblies. Know what calipers your vehicle has since the process can be slightly different for each.

  • Never do Both Sides Together

For safety and as a reference point, do one side first then the other. While working on the other side, turn the steering wheel to make sure that the wheel you are working on is angled out for better access to the brake pads.

Replacing Brake Pads

  • Remove the wheels

Have your vehicle parked on a flat, even surface with the parking brakes fully engaged. To keep your car in position while jacked into the air, place wooden blocks behind the rear tires. Loosen the wheel nuts but make sure not to completely remove them. 

Lift the front end of your car off the ground by using a trolley jack or portable car jack and locate the jacking points on both sides. Place the axle stands in place and lower your car into them. Now since the wheel nuts are fully loosened, you are now able to remove the wheels.

  • Compress the brake caliper

Focus on replacing only one side at a time. If you take both calipers, you risk losing the piston out of one of them after compressing the other side. For better access, you may also turn the steering wheel towards the side you are working on.

Once you have the tire off, take out the brake caliper so that the brake pads slide through to the top. Ensure that your caliper is directly above the lug bolts at the 12 o’clock position. Both sides of your caliper have bolts. Remove and set them aside in a safe place. After removing the bolts, hold the caliper tightly from the top and pull directly upward. If needed, loosen the caliper with a few taps of a hammer. Once the calipers are removed, the brake pads will slide out smoothly.

  • Remove and inspect the pads

Once you have the brake pads removed, check if they are 1/8 thick or less. If so, they need replacing. You may also need to check for other underlying issues, like signs of uneven wear. If you notice that the rotors are covered in deep grooves, you may have to replace or get them turned as well.

  • Install new pads

Now it’s time to install your new brake pads into the caliper. As recommended, it is easier to position the inner pad first, then the outer pad afterward. In some cases, you may have to tighten the C-clamp to push the piston down enough to create more space for the new pads. After installing the pads, put the caliper back in the rotor and bolt into position.

  • Refitting the wheels

Perform a visual check to ensure that everything is in the correct position. Once done, replace the wheels. 

  • Perform a Safety Check

Before performing a brake test, check the brake fluid levels first. Drive slowly and check the brakes in a quiet area before hitting the road again. If the foot pedal feels spongy when depressed, bleed the brakes first before moving the vehicle.

Should you decide to go the DIY route of replacing your brake pads, make sure that you are addressing the root cause of the brake issues, and that the rotors, pads, and other parts really need replacement. If you need professional advice and guidance on replacing brake pads or any other car issues you have, contact The Auto Warehouse.

 

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