How To Change Your Own Brake Pads

If you hear a squeaking or grinding or even a screeching sound as you drive on the road, there is a good chance your car needs some maintenance. While this could mean you just need more brake fluid, for example, it might also mean that it is time to replace your brake pads.

While your car is a complex machine, the braking system is actually pretty simple.  When you press the brake pedal it uses a hydraulic system to apply a clamping pressure to the wheels.  Brake pads are necessary to prevent this process from resulting in too much friction and wearing down the wheel’s rotor.  Of course, over time, the brake pads eventually wear down instead and you simply have to replace them.

Replacing your brake pads is actually not that complicated, though you may need to acquire the necessary tools.  Basically, you will probably need a lug wrench, a hydraulic lift, jack stands, and a socket/open-end/adjustable wrench).

And, of course, you will also need the replacement brake pad(s).  Ceramic pads tend to be the best.

Now, to replace your brake pads you will need to remove the wheels.  Loosen the lugs on the wheel(s) and then use the hydraulic lift to raise the car enough so you can get under it.  Use the jack stands to support the vehicle and remove the lift; now the machine is secure and you can work beneath it safely.  Now you can finish removing the wheel(s) to get to the brake calipers.

Next, of course, you will remove the bolts that secure the caliper.  This will loosen the caliper so you can slide it out (you may have to pry it out); and you will find the brake pads.  Simply unfasten the retaining clips to loosen them, remove them, and then replace them with your new brake pads. Make sure to apply grease or fluid (which come with the new pads) so they are properly lubricated.

In order to replace the caliper into the braking system, though, you will need to retract the pistons that typically hold the caliper in place. Use the c-clamp to do so and replace the calipers.  Now you can tighten all the bolts and then restore the wheel to the axle.

Repeat this process with every wheel in need of brake pad replacement.

And if you do not replace your brake pads when it is necessary, it can damage your rotors and then you will have to replace those.  Rotors are far more expensive than brake pads, so be sure to check your brake pads periodically—and replace them as necessary—to avoid this more costly repair.