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Do-It-Yourself Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Brake Pads

By Greg Gordie

In front-wheel drive vehicles, the brake pads on the front wheels supply nearly three-quarters of your car’s stopping force. As a result, they wear down much more quickly than the pads on the rear wheels. This means they need to be replaced more frequently.

Most people take their vehicles to their mechanics to have the pads replaced. But with a few tools, you can easily do the job yourself, saving time and money in the process. You’ll need a couple of sturdy jack stands, a C-clamp, hammer, and a few wrenches to do the job properly. I’ll walk you through the steps below.

Lift Your Vehicle On Jack Stands

Since you will need to remove the wheels prior to replacing the pads, you’ll need to lift your car on jack stands. A lot of people use normal jacks. Doing so is dangerous, however, because they are less sturdy than jack stands.

Each of your vehicle’s wheels are secured in place by lugs. Loosen the lugs with a lug wrench before you lift your car. It’s much safer than doing so while it is supported on the jack stands. Once you have loosened the lugs, lift your vehicle.

Remove The Wheels

With your car on the jack stands, remove the lugs and place them in a small container to avoid losing them. It’s a good idea to remove the top lug last. That way, your wheel will stay in one place more easily.

With the lugs taken off, remove the wheel. If it sticks and you’re unable to take it off, replace the lugs (don’t tighten them) and lower your car from the jack stands. Drive it forward a few feet. Then, drive it in reverse a few feet. Lift it back on the jack stands and you’ll find the wheel will be loose. Remove it.

Remove The Brake Caliper

The caliper covers a portion of the rotor. You’ll see mounting bolts near the top and bottom that hold it firmly in place. Use an Allen wrench to remove these bolts. Then, place them in the same container holding the lugs. Gently remove the caliper and set it out of the way, taking care not to damage the brake line.

After you remove the caliper, you’ll notice a few hoses exposed. This is a good time to check them for cracks and leaks.

Remove The Brake Pads

With the caliper off, you’ll be able to see the brake pads. Before removing them, take particular note whether there are clasps or anti-rattle clips holding them in place. Then, simply slide – or coax – the brake pads off. If your vehicle is several years old, the pads may need a small nudge.

Move The Caliper Piston

The caliper is equipped with a small piston that moves as your brake pad wears down. The piston applies pressure to the back of the pad when you engage your brake pedal. It pushes it against the rotor to stop your car. By the time you’re forced to replace the worn-down pad, the piston will have moved a significant distance. You’ll need to move it back before installing the replacement. You can accomplish this with the C-clamp. Once the piston has been pushed back far enough, you can install the new pad.

Replace The Pad And Caliper

Position the replacement pad and caliper assembly, making sure the pad is snug, but loose enough to prevent friction or pulling. Then, replace any clasps or anti-rattle clips. Once everything is reinstalled, replace the wheel and tighten the lugs. Lower your vehicle from the jack stands and check the lugs to verify they’re sufficiently tight.

Your first attempt to replace your car’s brake pads will take time and may cause a little frustration. But after two or three experiences, the job will be quick and relatively problem-free.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Gordie, Greg "Do-It-Yourself Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Brake Pads." Do-It-Yourself Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Brake Pads. 2 Jul. 2010. 18 Jul 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Gordie, G (2010, July 2). Do-It-Yourself Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Brake Pads. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Gordie, Greg "Do-It-Yourself Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Brake Pads"

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