Changing Brakes




Introduction: Changing Brakes

About: My goal with every instructable is to be short & sweet with lots of pictures.

If you've never done this before, you'll be surprised how easy it is!

I'll include some helpful hints on how to make this project as painless as possible and hopefully save you a few bucks.

This particular project is on a 1999 Toyota Camry but you'll find the process is very similar for many other vehicles. Just take your time and be very observant where everything goes. Pictures are always helpful.

Tools Needed:

  • Socket wrench set
  • Jack
  • Jack stands
  • Torque wrench
  • Brake Pad / Caliper service tool kit
  • Wood Blocks (to help prevent rolling)
  • Magnetic Light
  • Replacement parts

Time to Complete:

20 mins each side for a total of 40 mins working at a casual, non-rushed speed.
Your first time changing breaks may take closer to 1.5 hours, but I've done this several times before so I'm familiar enough with the process to run through it pretty quickly.


  • Brake Lube $1.50
  • Brake Pads $20
  • Brake Cleaner $4.30
  • Anti-Seize Lubricant $1.50
  • Total: $27.30 + Tax


  • Be sure to buy brake pads with a lifetime warranty and save the receipt. This way when they go bad you can just exchange them and don't have to buy them again.
  • The brake pad / caliper service tool kit can be rented for free. You'll just need to leave a deposit that is refunded when you return it.

ATTENTION: I accept no responsibility for any actions of a reader(s) as a result of this “Instructable.”

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Step 1: Prepping

Safety always comes first. The car should be parked on level ground, placed in "Park" and blocks behind the wheels. Anything you can do to reduce the chances of the vehicle rolling back would be a good idea. I've never had an accident like this happen, But it's always good to play things safe.

Step 2: Pulling Off the Wheel

It's always easier and safer to break loose the lug nuts before jacking up the wheel. Don't take them off, just loosen them.

When placing the jack, be sure to place it securely on the frame where it won't slip around when the car is propped up. Then you can finish loosening the lug nuts and remove the wheel.

Step 3: Getting Dirty

Essentially this is what you're going to see when you get the wheel off. The brake caliper is the big bulky part placed over the rotor (the disk.)

Step 4: Removing the Caliper

On the back side of the caliper you'll see 2 bolts. Remove them and it should slide right off with a little assistance from a screw driver.

Once the caliper is off, gently suspend it with a wire or other method. DO NOT LET IT HANG FROM THE BRAKE-LINE! Doing so could cause damage to the line and result in loss of functionality to the brakes, which is obviously not a good thing.

Step 5: Removing Pads & Inspection

Again, you can use a screwdriver to gently remove the brake pads.

Always inspect the rotors for any wear. In the picture above you can see half of the rotor is smooth/shiny while the other is rough with gouges. If these are deeper than 1mm I recommend getting them resurfaced at a shop for about $10-15 or buying new ones at $20-40 each.

For this situation I didn't bother resurfacing the rotors. It wasn't bad enough for me to worry about. Plus my car is 16 years old so I'm not too concerned about it. Since the change I've put on another 5k miles and there have been no issues.

You can also see how much wear the old pads took when compared to the new ones. You never want to wait this long to replace the brake pads! A good time to change them is when there's little more than a quarter's width left on the pad but no later. Many brake pads have a squeaking mechanism built into them to help alert you to their condition, but I've noticed these aren't always reliable. As a matter of fact, I wasn't aware to change these pads until I heard the grinding, which is a sure indication the pad has completely worn out and the rotors are gouging.

Step 6:

The bracket, to which the caliper is bolted, has a couple of pins that slide out. These need to be pulled out and cleaned with brake cleaner. Allow them to dry for a couple of mins before applying liberal amounts of brake grease and replacing them back into position.

Step 7: Compressing the Cylinder

This is a point at which you should refer to the service manual of your specific vehicle. If you have Anti-Lock brakes then you may need to bleed the brake-line in order to properly compress the piston back into the cylinder. Not doing this may result in damage to the ABS control module. However, if you know your car does not have ABS braking then forget about what was just stated.

It should be noted that I have researched the whole “bleeding the brakes” for ABS systems and came up with mixed results. Therefore refer to your service manual. In this example I don’t do it.

When using the compression tool, you should be aware that there are a couple types of cylinders. One simply compresses the piston directly back into the cylinder. The other will twist in addition to the compression.

  • Apply the compression evenly on the surface of the piston.
  • Avoid damaging any of the rubber seals. If damaged they will need to be replaced.
  • Compress with a slow and steady rate. Don’t force it.
  • Compress it until the piston is even with the cylinder, no further.

Step 8:

From this point you'll need to reassemble everything following these same steps but in reverse, using the new parts.

Be sure to refer to a service manual for torque specifications on how tight bolts need to be.

Step 9:

When putting the wheel back on I always like to apply a little aluminum based lubricant to the lug-nut studs. This helps more with older vehicles but is nice to use with any car.

When tightening the lug-nut, use a star-type pattern for evening out the pressure. Don't fully tighten them all at once, just a few lbs at a time, repeating the same pattern until you've reached the proper torque specs.

Step 10: Last But Not Least!

Before doing anything, start the car (Do Not Drive It) and pump the brakes a few times. They'll feel super soft the first couple times but they should gain their firmness again.

Step 11: You're Done!

Hopefully this was helpful to you.

If you have any helpful info/tips to include please feel free to leave a comment!

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    4 years ago on Introduction

    Very well Detailed ! Like the few Laughs you threw in too :P

    If anyone doesn't want to drop money on a (Caliper Compressor?) I've always sworn by a good ole' C-Clamp and a 2x4 !

    Nice Job, Hope to see more :P