Useful Car Tips


March 01, 2019

Brake pad replacement is a standard maintenance procedure you’ve probably already had done at a dealership or auto shop. This job can usually be accomplished by a professional quickly, within 1-2 hours, but can cost anywhere from $100-300 and even more on luxury or sports cars. Fortunately, changing your brake pads can be one of the easiest things you do on your own while saving $150 or more. All you’ll need is some tools you may already have lying around (and some that you probably don’t) and about an hour or two of your time, the same as the pros. Ready to get started?

Here are some tools you’ll need: a floor jack and jack stands, brake grease, C-clamp, torque wrench, bungee cord, and of course your replacement brake pads (and rotors if you plan to replace those too). You’ll also want to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find its recommended brake pad replacement interval, as this can vary greatly between cars. Your owner’s manual may also list any tools or skills you’ll need to complete this job for your particular car.


Start by getting your car off the ground and removing the wheels. Loosen the lug nuts in pairs, i.e., the two front wheels as a pair or the two rear tires as a pair. Jack up the car and then place a jack stand under the car’s frame, slowly lowering the car until it’s sat gently atop the stand. Consult your owner’s manual before these first steps as it should have recommendations for safe places to place the jacks. At this point, you’ll be able to fully unscrew the loosened lug nuts and remove the wheels from your vehicle. This gives you access to the brake pads and underside of the car. Remember to practice the utmost safety when working anywhere underneath your car and don’t work on it if it’s only supported by a floor jack.

Next you’ll want to loosen and remove the brake calipers before accessing the pads. Use a socket wrench to remove the bolts on the back of the caliper assembly. Slide the caliper off the rotor and take care to not let the caliper hang freely by the brake line. Instead, use your bungee cord or zip ties to gently attach it to the top of the rotor or hang it from the wheel well.


Now it’s time to remove and replace the exposed brake pads. The only things holding them loosely in place should be the retaining clips so you can simply slide or pop off the pads. If your new pads came with retaining clips, you can discard the old ones and replace them. Apply brake grease to the backs of the pads, being careful to not get any on the front side or on the rotors, as this will result in decreased brake performance. Slide on the new pads and attach them in the same position the old pads were originally in.

Compress the brake pistons with a C-clamp so you can lower your calipers back into place. A little more space will be needed so the pistons can clear the newer, thicker brake pads. With the pistons retracted, you should be able to simply slide it over the new pads. Repeat this process for the other side of the vehicle. At this point in the process, you may want to inspect your calipers for brake fluid leaks. Replace the caliper if you observe any.


Your last step will be reattaching the wheels in the opposite manner in which they were removed. Double or triple check to make sure that all components are tightened and in their correct positions before reattaching the wheel. Hand-tighten the lugs in the air and then torque them down with a torque wrench or breaker bar once they’re on the ground. Repeat this process for all four wheels and voila—you’re done!

About an hour, some money for tools, and a little elbow grease is all it takes to replace your brake pads. Just be sure to give your handiwork a test in a controlled environment first, making sure the new pads work as well as they should. If they do, you’re all set to drive with those shiny new brake pads!

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