Friday, April 16, 2010

How to Change Your Brake Pads

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.

Click on images to enlarge
Now that the pin is removed the brake can swing open and you can change the pads inside. Pry the caliper open. It will swing up to reveal the brake pads inside. Sometimes this will be a bit tricky. Jules used the handle of a socket wrench.

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.

Replace the pads into the caliper.

Put the clips back on.

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.

21 thoughts:

Mr. H. said...

I loved this post on brakes, we did ours last summer and saved a bundle...they still work too.:) I learned how to do it by watching an online video, your tutorial would have come in handy.

Chris said...

Yesterday, while I was driving home with my daughter, I noticed that my brakes were a bit squeaky. I instantly pulled over to our local auto repair in Indianapolis because the other day, I also heard screeching under the hood. The mechanic told me that the brake pads were dirty and they just needed cleaning, and the screeching noises was caused by a worn out timing belt. Thank goodness, I did not hesitate to stop by this car repair (Indianapolis, IN based) shop. The mechanics did an amazing job fixing my car.

I am no mechanic, but your tutorial and pictures make changing brake pads seem easy. Thank you so much for your post!

Erin Fred said...

Nice tutorial; amazing and interesting. Thanks
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Enoch Ross said...

Nice instructional post on how to change your brake pads. You even wrote a warning to those who are not keen in doing such repairs on their cars! My dad was a grease monkey, and I often observed him do repairs and replacement on our car parts. When I owned my own car, I did repairs too. However, I didn’t do well at first. Through practice, I was able to do them flawlessly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience!

Enoch Ross

Jameel Johnson said...

Thanks for the post. I have been debating on whether I should do it myself or hire someone to get it done. I have been looking around for a auto mechanic in Las Vegas. I have been waiting to get the motivation to just get it done.

Kat Brennan said...

This is super helpful. I have been researching how to change my break pads so I could have my brother help me out with it this weekend. Turns out he can't come down anymore so I think I'll just take it to some brake repair shop in Calgary and learn how to fix it myself another time.

aliah said...

When you are looking to change car brake pads, you should take auto repair expert advice for changing brake pads. auto repair expert can help a lot in changing car brake pads properly.
Chine brake pads

Abed Nadier said...

When I lived in an apartment complex, I had a neighbor that worked on all my car stuff for me. I was thankful for it because it saved me a lot of time and stress, but at the same time I wish I would have learned how to take care of my car. My brakes are having issues so I need to take them to a professional to fix them. Maybe he can show me a thing or two about my car so I know what to do in an emergency.

Holly James said...

This is some really cool information, I am glad that I came across this. My husband is going to drool over this! He loves fixing cars and anything to do with them! I had a scary experience where my brakes went out while I was driving, luckily I was okay and I got them fixed. Hopefully that never happens to me ever again for as long as I'm alive!
Holly James |

John Bond said...

It's cool to see people change their breaks by hand. I am looking to have mine replaced in Calgary. Would anyone have a good idea where to get it done?
John Bond |

Hilary Kimbel said...

I had no idea that you could change your brake pads by yourself. This seems like a pretty complex job. If I were a better handyman, I would maybe try this on own. For now though, I think I'll just stick with hire mechanics to do work like this.

Seamus Lowe said...

This is a pretty thorough explanation on how to replace your brake pads. I replace mine just a few months ago, but apparently something else is wrong with them. They're not working as well as they should with new pads. I'll probably have to take it to a shop to get it fixed.
-Seamus |

Beanie Anderson said...

I learned a lot from your blog my car brake caliper is not working properly, so I purchased it from ebcbrakesdirect, and I need guidance on how to put a brake caliper on my car.

Ray Smith said...

I noticed my brakes weren't working as good so I took a look at them. I tried to figure out how to do it but couldn't figure it out. I just ended up taking it in to get repaired. After reading I knew what I did wrong. Next time I should be able to do it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this site is really useful. I love how you use pictures and arrows to explain the different parts of the wheel and brake. I don't like to have to go into the car shop for every problem my car has, so a lot of it I try to learn on my own. This definitely helped me figure out how to change the brake pads on my own.
Charles Norton|

Sylvia Sanderson said...

It's valuable to see picture and a demonstration with descriptions! We've been needing to get our spare car's brakes repaired. They are completely old and battered!

Quin Trent said...

I have actually known how to repair and replace my brakes since I was younger. That is because I have been doing these kinds of things from my dad. He taught me at so that I would know what to do when these things happened.

Cathy Smith said...

Thanks for the information! While this is an awesome idea, I don't know how safe it is to replace your brake pads by yourself. I would recommend hiring a professional. That way you avoid as many problems as possible. If you replace them but mess something up, you could cause a major accident.

Paul Herman said...

I've been trying to fix my break pads on my own. I thought that I was doing everything right, but my methods seem to be failing me. I'm looking up instructions on changing brake pads to find out exactly what I'm doing wrong. Now I see that I haven't tried pulling the caliper down over my new brake pads. I'll make sure to do that once I get back to replacing my brake pads.

bryan flake said...

I have been hearing a grinding squeaky sound when I apply my brakes in the car. I would like to get a guide book so that I can do the job myself. At this time of year I cannot afford too much, in the way of excess expenses.

Karina Beazer said...

It was actually pretty fascinating for me to look at your article because I had no idea what brakes even looked like before seeing your pictures. Thank you for the information on how to change brake pads. I feel as though auto repair places always tell me that I need to replace my brake pads, but I never had any idea of what they were talking about. Now, I feel very much informed for next time.

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