One of the most amazing things about our journey is the change that is beginning to take place within our perspective. If you had asked me six months before we began our simplifying if we would be culturing dairy products or changing break pads I would have exclaimed an adamant "No!" The idea wouldn't have seemed like a bad one, necessarily, but it would have been far past the reaches of our comfort. At this point, the idea of doing our own car maintenance (beyond an oil change) seems like a normal transition. Why not? It will cut the price dramatically and make you feel awesome all at the same time.
Like so many of the processes which seemed vastly complex, much car maintenance is a series of rather simple steps which add up to create a complicated machine. That isn't to say you should run out and just start taking things apart, but don't be intimidated by the idea of doing things yourself. A Chilton handbook can go a long way, a knowledgeable neighbor or family member, a few Internet searches, and you might be amazed at what you can conquer. This spring we (I should say Jules) conquered my brakes.
The front disc brakes of my car had hit the point of needing to be changed or serious damage was going to result. They weren't just squeaking every once in a while, nor were they lightly whining a bit. They were full on squealing in pain! No grinding had begun so the calipers were fine, but oh how the metal on metal made some noise.
Below is a picture tutorial of how to change the front disc breaks of my 2003 Mazda Protege. Most all vehicles have the same basic process, to some degree. Most all wear and tear on a vehicle's brakes occur in the front brakes. Secondly, most cars have front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE DRUM BRAKES YOURSELVES UNLESS YOU ARE A TRAINED TECHNICIAN.First off, jack the car up and make sure it is fully supported. Remove the tire and locate the brake.
If you look behind the brake you will find the slide pin. It is more like a rather large bolt which holds the brake together. Usually the pin is covered with a plastic or spongy cap which is just pulled off to reveal the head of the pin. There is also another black rubber, spongy gasket the slide pin fits through. It is the black semi circle in within the highlighted section above. If your car has ever been in an accident, this is a part which is frequently replaced. In my car, the driver's side slide pin was a metric screw; on the passenger side it was an allen screw. In either case, you want to locate the pin and remove it.
There are two wire clips which hold down each of the brake pads (both front and back). You will need to pop these out. They come off easily by pinching the two sides together. Don't loose them. They are small.
You can now remove the old brake pads. There is one on either side (front and back). They should slide out very easily. At this point you can see just how much you were able to eek out of the old pair by stacking them up next to the new ones. As you can see, my old pair were just about completely toast!
Anti-squeal brake lubricant is completely optional. It helps the new brake pads seat themselves within the caliper. You don't need it, but for under 10 bucks it is well worth the cost. If you are going to use it, squeeze some of the blue (I think it is purple) goo out of the little tube and smear it onto both faces of the new brake pads.
You are ready to pull the caliper back down over the top of the new pads. The problem is the piston head (big circle thing) has been compressed so that it could squeeze the worn out break pads. It is too snug to fit over the new brake pads. By taking a piece of scrap wood and a big, old C-Clamp you can push the piston head (big circle thing) back into place allowing you to close the caliper. Use wood to prevent damage to the piston head. Once the piston head (big circle thing) is pushed back into place, it won't come back out.
Once the caliper is put back into place over the top of the new brake pads, all you have to do is put the slide pin (big bolt) back in. In order to do that, you need to put the black, spongy, rubber gaskets in place, line up the holes, and slide the pin through. This is sometimes easier said than done. A little wiggling, some cussing, and Jules got it to work. A couple of tries might be necessary. Put the last black, spongy topper on the slide pin and you have replaced your brake pads!
Put your tire back on, slowly release your car from the jack, and then take a short trip down the block. This seats your new brake pads. Until they seat fully, they might squeak a tiny bit. This should sound nothing like the old ones, and sometimes it doesn't happen at all. Remember the piston head (big circle thing)you had to clamp down? Well, now it is having to readjust the pressure to your new brakes in order for them to squeeze the tires. If the piston head doesn't squeeze, the brakes don't squeeze. This is why seating is so important.
Warning: Do not decide to make your first trip after replacing your brake pads on an interstate freeway drive at 70 mph. Go to the grocery store down the street first at about 5 mph. Just in case. I wouldn't have my toddler in the car either. You want to be sure that all is good before you really endanger anyone else. They are your brakes after all.
In only nine simple steps you can complete a task that should cause much pride and newly found confidence in your personal ability. Not only that, it can get you some really great bragging rights! Why not try it.
UPDATE: When you purchase your brake pads, take them out of the box carefully! Some have A and B pads designated by small extra tabs which stick out. Each brake needs to have both an A pad (with tabs) in the back and a B pad (without tabs) in the front. When Jules fixed his truck brakes, he put them on with A and A on the left side and B and B on the right. The right side was fine, no extra tabs sticking out. On the A and A side however the tabs splintered off and broke the caliper. There was no writing to alert him to look for the tabs and nothing in his manual. Just be careful. In the end, the cost was still cheap, but it was an annoying set back.