Introduction: How to Change Your Brake Pads

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Whether you spend your weekends racing at the drag strip or taking the kids to soccer practice, being able to stop your Mustang or mini-van is absolutely essential for your safety. Your vehicle’s disc brake pads will wear out - it’s an unavoidable feature of any vehicle – and when they do you’ll start to notice that you’ve lost some stopping power, or you may hear a bone-curdling screech each time your brake. Luckily, changing your own brake pads at home isn’t really that hard, and you can save a ton of money from avoiding the shop all together.

Step 1: Find the Right Brake Pads and Tools

Your stopping power, performance, and safety all hinge on choosing the best brake pads for your particular vehicle – and your driving style. For example, if you know you’ll be making your way out to the race track, you’ll want some performance brake pads which are specifically formulated for racing applications. Always consult your owner’s manual to be sure you’re getting the right brake pads.

You’ll also need:

  • Jack and jack stands
  • Lug wrench
  • C-clamp or length of wood
  • Turkey baster

And remember, it’s best to complete one side first, then move on to the other side.

Step 2: Open the Brake Caliper

First, grab your jack and jack that sucker up. I like to recommend using a jack stand for safety.

Of course you’ll have to take a front wheel and tire off first, and set that aside.

There are two slider bolt (or pins) on your caliper that hold it in place. These bolts can be in slightly different places on different vehicles, so again, check your manual. These bolts can also be surprisingly long, but once they’re sufficiently loosened they will slide right out.

You’ll want to remove the bottom bolt. Once that’s removed, the caliper will hinge upwards, showing you your old, worn brake pad.

Step 3: Remove the Old Brake Pad

Once the caliper is out of the way you can grab your old brake pad and remove it. Usually it will slip right out without any problem. It’ll probably look quite a bit thicker than your current pad! That’s how you know it was really time to switch them out.

Step 4: Install the New Brake Pad

Your new brake pad should have some retaining clips. These will snap right into place on your caliper – no need for screws or anything like that. It will fit right in the place where the old pad came from. You want to slide this new one in in the same position the old one was in.

Your new pads are thicker, so you’ll need to grab that c-clamp or piece of wood and retract your caliper pistons (push them back). This may cause a bit of brake fluid to overflow. You can grab a turkey baster and suck that up (which is called “bleeding” the brakes).

With your pistons retracted, it will be easy to put your caliper back in place. If it seems to be hitting the pistons when you try to put it back, it’s likely that you didn’t retract your pistons enough. Once the caliper is back in place you can go ahead and tighten that bolt back in place.

Finally, get in the driver set and presses the brake down a few times. You should feel it start to get a little firmer with each press. That’s because your pistons are getting back in place.

Now, replace your tire and repeat the process on the other side.

Step 5: Giver ‘er a Test

An important final step is to test these new brake pads out in a safe area. You wouldn’t want to take it up to 60 MPH without trying them out, only to realize you did something wrong! Assuming your car can stop itself at low speeds, try it a little faster. Soon you’ll see that your new brake pads are in ship shape, and you’re ready to go.