How to replace the pads on your car's disc brakes.

*** NOW UPDATED *** with new retaining clips. See photos step 14.

This project won the Technical Video Rental 'Cool Project' award!
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Step 1: Gather materials


  • new brake pads
  • brake disc lube (high temperature synthetic grease)
  • probably, new retainer pin spring clips


  • floor jack or other jack
  • lug nut wrench
  • assorted screwdrivers and pliers

My two cents:

Brake pads come in several flavors, named (in order of increasing high-techiness):
1 organic -- old style asbestos
2 semi-metallic -- fitted to most new cars
3 metallic -- usually used on race cars
4 ceramic -- the New New Thing in brake pads

Since you're saving beaucoup $$$ by replacing your own pads, it certainly does not hurt to spend a few extra bucks for the next better pads than the factory pads.

For instance, in my case, my car (1997 Ford Escort LX wagon -- not-too-sexy!) was factory equipped with semi-metallic in front, and organic in rear. I bumped up to ceramic in front, for $18 more, and if I were to do the rear, I would probably fit semi-metallic.

Step 2: Raise car and remove road wheel

Using a floor jack or your car's emergency jack, raise the road wheel off the road.

Remove the road wheel to expose the disc and the brake caliper.

If you're doing front brakes, you may wish to turn your steering wheel to afford better access to the caliper.

  • put car in gear
  • apply parking brake
  • chock wheels
  • stash road wheel UNDER the chassis while you're working on the brake. That way, if you have your head stuck in the fender well and your car falls off the jack (against all odds), the chassis will fall on the wheel, and hopefully your head won't be squished like an overripe cantaloupe.

Step 3: Remove retaining clips

At the back of the caliper, you'll find two complex-shaped little twisty spring clips. These springs hold the retaining pins in, which in turn hold the brake pads in.

Using needle nosed pliers and a flat blade screwdriver, remove these spring clips.

The ones on my car are broken, so the tangle doesn't make much sense in this photo. I'll add new photos when I get the new clips.
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great spot

Nice Work Great Job sir.

This is awesome

Nice work..

Great one:;;

i love with your job

nice project !!!!!!!

nice one;

johnsonpaul2 months ago

impressive stuff

GrahamAbbey2 months ago

had best excursion here

Rejanblink4 months ago

Pretty useful.. can you do one for the bikes as well

Cringojames4 months ago

those pins are very important aren they

Davementor4 months ago

Put some brakes on it

KanwarSingh4 months ago

beautiful stuff######

HarryLaine5 months ago

nice project !!!!!!!

indiadumbells5 months ago

oh great .... so useful im gonna try this on my car brakes

simply woww ..

amazing stuff

Mohawksmith6 months ago

nice stuff

This is so great!
Gelfling62 years ago
On a older Chevy I had, it had 2 side-by-side pistons, and you imagine what could happen if I tried to push only one in at a time.. A easy trick, take one of the old pads, and use it to press both at the same time with a C-Clamp. this way, they'll stay even, and not do the same as I saw someone else do, pressing just the inside edges of the two.. )( (YIKES! Bring in a new caliper!)
tcowl2 years ago
you should be using two stands at a time to lift the entire rear end up or the entire front end up. when you replace pads you should be replacing both of the back brakes or both the front brakes at a time if not all 4 at once. this is to produce even wear. Also you should take the caliper off when replacing the pads to inspect it for wear and damage also it makes the removing and installing of pads simpler. you don't want to use anything to pry against the rotor...."disc" could gouge it or crack it if it's old enough(perhaps a new rotor is necessary if you actually manage to crack it.) this is more important when you are compressing the piston to allow for the new pads. also with the caliper off it easier and safer to compress the piston by use of a c clamp.
eyesee2 years ago
Brake to be careful
chuckyd2 years ago
Relying on a jack to support a vehicle during maintenance is totally hazardous. Unless you have a really wide wheel the the tire trick will fail in a deadly manner.

Use the jack only to raise and lower the vehicle. One the vehicle is raised place jack stands under a frame part and remove or lower the jack.

Even a little pressure with a metal device will damage a rotor surface. It doesn't take much. Large mouth pliers can be used to collapse the piston.

As others have said, the rotors need to be turned by an authorized brake specialist. The specialist will also assure that the finished rotor will meet the manufacturer's requirements for rotor thickness.

You failed to mention examining the brake system for wear and signs of leakage at the joints and at rubbing points in the brake lines. You should also install a rebuild kit on the piston. And as others have said, bleed the brake lines.

Brakes are life savers and their maintenance cannot be taken too seriously.
lloydrmc2 years ago
one more thing - there is such a thing as a pad spreader, and many auto parts stores will loan you one for free.
lloydrmc2 years ago
Oh, yeah - what he said about the hierarchy of usability of shop manuals. Factory-> Haynes, and then Chilton probably not worth the trouble. I would add that many public libraries have an excellent collection of factory shop manuals. Many has been the time when I couldn't figure something out, or wasn't confident about something, and I have found the answer in a factory shop manual at a library.
lloydrmc2 years ago
While I've been working on cars for very nearly four decades, I've only ever done disk brakes on Fords. They have all been similar to this 'able. I've never had to polish the pins, and then the ones I have worked on have never been anywhere near as corroded as pictured. If I had to, I would use Scotch Brite pads or the like, as that would probably not damage whatever coating they had. If they are as cheap to replace as people say, I would go ahead and do so. Likewise, if I had any question about integrity the caliper, though I would definitely replace both, rather than just one.

I've gotten away with never turning a rotor. I once replaced them when I had a wobble under partial braking, figuring that they were warped.

What he said about bedding the brakes, though if you aren't some tailgating maniac, the expedient of driving gently around the block (as explained) will probably be sufficient.

BTW, I have NEVER put the wheel under the car. I have been known to use two sets of jack stands, and/or to let the jack down enough to put most of the weight on the jack stands, then to leave the jack there. If one was determined to do so, I suppose one could get some wheels at a junkyard, or maybe free off Craig's list. My car came with alloy wheels, and I'm sure that even a junkyard replacement would be expensive.

If you shop around, you can get a floor jack for not too much money. It is definitely an excellent investment. Harbor Freight has bottle jacks cheap. In either case, you can usually put it under the suspension, rather than the body, which means you don't have to lift the car anywhere near as much, which is much safer.

Years ago, my first cars were Corvairs, and no amount of jack stands, etc. seemed to keep them from falling over, off the jack stands, and to the ground with some regularity (it didn't help that the driveway was gravel/dirt. The solution ended up being getting 4x4's that were substantially wider than the car, and stacking them up crossways underneath.
normanwest3 years ago
went to garage for brake pads I bought to be installed......had people who were coming to my house but were going to jack car up on stands and I wanted my car on a lift so i went to redneck garage that jacked it up on stands never used any grease on any parts at all and did not adjust the brake peddle so it would not travel to grab brake and did not bleed out brake fluid and put in new fluid as you failed to mention.......the install cost me 90...
durban13 years ago
Wish you were here to do my brakes! Signed... old lady!
bigern713 years ago
If you plan on keeping vehicles for a few years remember part number and take
a pic of pads so you don't buy wrong ones next time
lkirchner5 years ago
I don't see where it is specifically states that the S shaped spring is re-installed between the holes in the top and bottom pins. I believe this is what keeps the pins from coming out. I got a new brake hardware kit that had 4 small clips to replace this spring.
Justagirl695 years ago
I'm a 23 year old female and after reading your article I went to Checker, bought some front brake pads for my 2006 Pontiac G6 and changed my own. The first one took me over an hour with a little cussing, but I did the second one in less than 30 minutes! (proud smile) Thanks for the excellent coaching!
bigb555 years ago
Installing new pad's on old rotor's is bad news. You should at the very least have them turned down at a local auto shop,it's cheap and the new pad's will seat themselves to the new rotor surface instead of causing premature wear on the old surface.
I did'nt think I could do the brakes on my grandma's 2000 escort zx2 cuz im used to working on old chevy's, with your instructions, i flew thru it and it was great! thank you soooo much!
brianl7036 years ago
Should also mention that you should use the proper lubricant for caliper slides. That is a lubricant designed for the purpose, such as Permatex Ultra Disc Brake Caliper lube or Sil-Glyde Brake Lubricant. You should NOT use: Motor oil, anti-seize, WD40, Liquid Wrench, PB Blaster, axle grease, bearing grease, lithium grease, corn oil or anything BUT a lubricant designed for the purpose.
brianl7036 years ago
"Oh wait before you do see if there is another set of do it your self instuctions for polishing and lubricating caliper slides. " Caliper slides should be replaced, not polished. That is because they are often plated to protect them against corrosion. Polishing removes that plating, so they will corrode sooner than if you'd done the job right and installed new ones.
I just finished mine and this instruction was great. For clarification I am adding one additional photo that shows the difference between the caliper mounting bolts framed in red (dont need to be touched) and the caliper slide bolts (with the rubber protectors) highlighted with a yellow border in the new photo. You will see what part of the caliper sort of underneath slides on these two bolts. Mine didn't slide very easily but they did slide.
(Here I'll improve on the Aug 6 details so I deleted those to avoid duplication confusion)
It's been a while, but where I wrote, "In fact, one of the bolts was finger loose! But the bushings..."
I meant those 2 bolts holding caliper to car, which Johnny-B now shows in Yellow. They each have rubber boots to keep the corrosive effect of water out, but it gets in. The top one is a metal-to-metal bearing, the bottom is metal-to-rubber. But both need to be greased. I just checked on mine after 2 years. They are still lubed ok on top pin, but dry on lower one. Need to ask Ford what grease they use here. Someone....?
Remove the bolts but leave caliper connected to brake line hose. Hang it with wire, and pull spring clip off hose to allow even more free movement. Once caliper is loose and bolts are out, you'll see the bushings that the bolts went through (in caliper). That caliper was supposed to be sliding on these! But you may need to pull*do not* pound (DAMHIK) those bushings out of caliper if they corroded in place. Hereafter I'll call it a "pin" like Ford does.

See my photo, it shows the caliper hanging off wire, 2 pin faces, and red anti-squeel on the casting where inner pad rests.

There is enough "pin" exposed if you push boot down to grab it with channel locks. Whatever you do, don't scuff up the pin where it slides into caliper. Only scuff up the ends which remain exposed outside bearing surface.
Boots won't remove nor install while pin is still inside. You'll want to only pull the 2 top ones for cleaning, leave the bottom one alone. It's one long boot all the way through caliper. Just clean its inside surface.

To pull top boots: pull out pin first. Then 2 boots. Clean, apply BRAKE GREASE to pin and bore. Insert 1 boot, insert pin, push too far until it clears groove for other boot, insert 2nd boot, now retract pin into it. You'll now see the way boot is retained in its groove by the pin.

Both pins do need grease, so pull lower pin. Clean, apply BRAKE GREASE to lower pin and inside surface of lower boot, insert pin. I think this boot accepts much more grease than the tight clearance upper bore. It dries out if you don't generously grease it. I tried injecting more grease than on upper pin.
After bolt onto car (30 Lb-ft) push and pull the caliper, you'll see it slide as long as pads aren't tight against rotor. Make sure before you leave that all the boots are snapped into the groove on end of pin. It should stay dirt and water tight for a couple years. And put the clip back onto hose.
brake Ford.jpg
miamor8 years ago
This is a floating caliper
Right about now you should be pulling the 2 -14mm bolts to grease the bushings. If you don't, you will have a stationary, sticking assembly. I know, I just did mine, and it was absolutely stuck. In fact, one of the bolts was finger loose! But the bushings where both really stuck in there with crusty 'ol grease/dirt goop.
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