Are your brakes squealing? Are they grinding into your precious shiny rotors?
Well, sounds like you need to change your brake pads (and rotors if you’ve destroyed them). Contrary to common belief, changing brake pads is quite an easy affair… if you can jack up your car and take the wheels off you’re pretty much half way there. And don’t forget by doing it yourself you’re saving a fair bit of cash and time.
Firstly, you need to figure out if you just need to replace the front set, the rears or both. If the brakes are squealing (produced by the warning tab on the pad itself indicating they’re wearing thin) it’d be obvious which end they’re coming from. The fronts will usually always need to replaced anyway as they do majority of the braking work.
Secondly, choose and buy a suitable brake pad. If it’s just your standard daily driver, you can easily go to your local automotive store and check the reference books to see what is suitable for your car. If performance is what you’re after, best to do some research and see what people have used and reviewed; this is where it gets expensive.
And lastly, put on some dirty clothes (or no clothes if you prefer that) and get to work!
Tools required: Piston Screw Tool (highly desirable for rear brakes)
Profanity level: Low (fronts), medium (rear).
Technical difficulty: Easy
Reference car: Nissan S15 200SX JDM (Pearl)
1. Jack up the car, put it on stands and take off the front wheels.
2. Turn steering wheel (turn on ignition) so that caliper end points out making it more accessible.
3. On the inner side of the brake caliper, you will notice a thin metal piece. Push down on the middle hook and pull it out.
4. Disconnect each side of the metal piece from each pin that is on each side of the caliper.
5. Now that the connecting piece is out, slide out the pins on the outer side. This also allows you to take off the middle metal cross piece.
6. The two brake pads should be able to slide out but may need some forceful wiggling.
7. Your old pad may have a metal shim (this is used to minimise squeal, optional to reuse), take that off and attach it to the new brake pad.
8. Check the new brake pads to see if there is any difference between the inner and outer pad as it may be specific and the last thing you want to do is repeat this whole process. Some brake pads will have an extra notch at the bottom meaning this is the inner pad.
9. Slowly push back the piston within the caliper with a screw driver/spanner/vice grip/G-clamp until there is enough space to put the new thicker pad in. The rubber surround will shrink and deform when pushing in which is normal, just be careful not to tear it by going psycho.
10. Once both pads are in, slide both pins in again through the caliper making sure they go through the brake pad holes correctly.
11. Attach the thin connector piece to the ends of the pin and hook back into the middle hole in the caliper. Put the middle cross piece in and voila! All done… on this side anyway…
Make sure you don’t have old school drum brakes. And if you do well… maybe consider upgrading to disc brakes one day.
And if you have Brembo’s then I’m jealous, you can just repeat the front pad changing process. For the rest of us you will have to do it this way:
4. Slide and push in the new pads all the way to the disk taking note again if there are specific inner and outer ones.
5. Chances are the metal holders will come off so it will be a matter of trial and error to slot them back in with the brake pads. Frustration and moderate levels of cursing is normal on this part as holding the top holder whilst pushing both pads in can be challenging.
6. You will now need to wind back the caliper piston so that it can be mounted back on, this is where the tool comes in handy as it may be tight. If you don’t have the tool, a screwdriver or vice grips will do the trick, push and turn slowly. We take no responsibility if you stab yourself. Remember to check that the handbrake is DOWN or else you might bust a vein trying to wind it back. Don’t push it further than the where the rubber boot starts.
7. Screw back the 2 bolts from the beginning and now repeat from step 1 for the other side!
The final step is bedding in the brakes to optimise it’s lifetime and efficiency:
1. Apply medium pressure to slow down to 5kmh from 60kmh 8-10 times.
2. Apply hard pressure to slow down to 5kmh from 80kmh 3 times.
3. Avoid heavy braking for the next 15 minutes.
And that’s it! See, it wasn’t so hard after all. Not only do you have spare money in your pocket, you now also have the pro skills to change whomever brake pads you want for brownie points! Or even open your own workshop and charge stupid money for this service!
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