Changing Your Brake Pads Yourself




About: I enjoy looking up how to do things myself, not having to pay someone an outrageous amount of money to do something that would cost me my own time and effort. My wife and I are pretty handy, so I will be upl...

Every pad (don't quote me on this) has a metal tab located around it that when the pad itself is worn down so much, it will actually rub against your rotor, emitting an awful squealing sound when you brake. Eventually, you'll hear the sound even when you are not braking. This is the true tell sign that your brake pads are in need of replacing. If you let the pads wear out anymore, there won't be any pad left and will ultimately cause damage to your rotor. You don’t want that. Fortunately, changing your brake pads is very simple, at least for a 2012 Dodge Avenger, but I’m sure a lot of brakes are designed as easily as this was.

*This is my first instructable so I didn’t take as many pics as I wanted to*

Step 1: Assess the Fact That You Might Need New Brake Pads

The tools you will need are as follows...

  • Floor Jack
  • Lug nut wrench (I used the spare tire wrench in my trunk)
  • Tire blocks (optional but better safe than sorry)
  • 14 mm socket wrench (A Lot of caliper pins are 14mm, but you may want to find out what yours is exactly)
  • New Brake pads
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • A C-clamp(Also optional, but makes the job really easy if your piston starts to creep back out)
  • About 30 mins to an hour of your time.

Start off by putting your car in park and put your emergency brake on, This is a must for safety reasons, the last thing you need is for your car to fall off the jack when you don't have a wheel on. If you have tire blocks, put them behind your two back tires so the car has no risk of moving. Once your car is in park, decide which side you want to work on first. if you are going to work on the left hand side, turn your steering wheel all the way to the left. This will position the caliper for easier access when you take your wheel off. Once turned all the way to whichever side you are working on, then turn your engine off, this will lock the wheel in place.

Go ahead and hop out and get your car jack out. Like I had mentioned before, I just used the spare tire jack that I have, and it worked like a charm. Place the jack underneath the vehicle (usually there is a grove indicating where the jack should be placed, if not, check your owner’s manual for proper placement of the jack). Before you jack the vehicle up, we are going to start by loosening your lug nuts.

Loosening your lug nuts on a vehicle is easier to do when the tire cant spin at all. Since the vehicle is on the ground, and your tire has no chance of turning while you are trying to, we will start to loosen them while the car is on the ground. Remember, righty tighty, lefty loosey. Loosen each lug nut so that it’s just finger loose, you don’t have to take the nuts off right away, just enough to break it.

Once you are done, go ahead and start to jack your car up, just enough so that you can see the tire lift off the ground. you can usually hear your tire kind of "lift off" from the pavement. You don't have to have it super high, just far enough to get your tire off. Once your tire is in the air, remove the lugnuts with your fingers and keep them in a safe place for later. Once the tire is off, I placed it underneath the car next to the jack for extra safety. If, for whatever reason, the jack gives out, you have the tire for the car to land on.

Congratulations, your tire is off and there in front of you is your brake what?

Step 2: Your Brake Assembly

Staring right at you is your brake assembly. That big clunky thing thats encasing your rotor, that is your brake caliper. That's what houses your brake pads. Take a minute to look and examine it, inspect it, make sure there isn't anything lodged between your rotor and the shield behind it, etc. When you're done studying it, we can get started on replacing your pads.

Step 3: Depressing Your Brake Pad

First thing you want to do is to depress your brake pad.

How your brake works is really simple. When you depress your brake pedal, a piston in your caliper pushes against your brake pad, which pushes against your rotor and makes you stop. Chances are that the piston is still extended against your rotor. In order to depress it, you will need to take your flat head screwdriver and place it in a position where you can pry SLOWLY and depress the brake pad on the side thats closest to the actual car. This will depress the piston and make the caliper much easier to swing up and out of the way. When doing this, try not to nick the back side of your rotor, just be careful. When you remove the screwdriver, you will notice the pad will be loose now.

Step 4: Removing Your Caliper Pin

Take your 14mm (or whatever size this bolt head is) and remove this pin. It shouldn't be on too tight. Pro tip, you have to remember the righty tighty lefty loosey rule here. If you are facing the front of the car, the right side you will want to pull up on your socket wrench to loosen it. On the left side, you will want to push down to loosen it. You can remove it and place it off to the side for now. Your caliper should now be able to swing up being hinged at the top bolt. Be careful when you swing the caliper up that you don't kink or twist your brake lines too much. Once you swing the caliper up, you pads should just fall right out.

Step 5: Keeping Your Brake Piston Depressed

Here is where your c-clamp will come in handy. Over time, your brake piston will start to extend back out. My picture doesn't show this, but what you can do is use your old brake pad and clamp the piston to depress it into its housing. Make sure to do this slowly, you don't want to pump all that brake fluid back fast through your system. Once its fully depressed, you can leave the clamp on, or if you want to, you can do this step before you lower the caliper back.

Your new pads will probably come with new shims as well. Make sure that you replace your old ones with the new ones.

Step 6: Replacing the Pads and Putting Your Tire Back On

However you took the old pads off, make sure you match them up with the new ones when putting them back on. My pads actually were the same for both sides so it was only a matter of differentiating which ones where left and right. Once the shims are in, place the pads in their new homes.

Remove the c-clamp and lower your caliper housing back down over your new pads. When lowered, put the pin back in and tighten your caliper.

All thats left now is just putting your wheel back on!

Go get your tire and place it back on your assembly and start to finger tighten your lug nuts back on. once they are finger tight, use your socket wrench to tighten it just a little more.

Go back to your jack and start to lower your car, once its back on the ground, go back to your wheel and start to tighten your wheel. When tightening your lug nuts, do it in a start pattern. tighten one, then move to the next in a star formation until they are tight, then do it again just to make sure. Definitely put some effort into tightening it. These are your wheels after all.

Step 7: Congratulations!

Look at that, you just saved yourself $400!!

When you get back into your car, make sure to pump the brakes multiple times to that your piston extends to hit your pad, you don't want to start driving right away because your brake pistons are extended right away. Once you've pumped your brakes, go ahead and give it a short drive, but make sure your brakes are pumped!! You will be able to tell if the piston is not extended yet because the brake pedal will be super easy to depress.



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    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Make sure your discs are thick enough to withstand another 60.000 km or so. The discs i come across everyday wear out at the same pace the pads do. Or are just above the minimum thickness.

    Please use a tourqe wrench to tighten the wheels.

    If you are unsure about your work, ask a mechanic to inspect it.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Normally after im done changing brakes, if im ever unsure of torque etc on the wheel nuts, I just take it to the garage to get them rotated and then i'll know that they are to spec.

    uncle reamus

    2 years ago

    First rule of auto maintenance : Never ever rely on the jack to support the vehicle while working on it.

    2nd rule see #1.

    Use either jack stands or blocks to set the vehicle on.

    Some brakes do not have the "squeakers" on them. If yours do not have them a good way to quickly check whether you need brakes is to check the level of the brake fluid. It does not evaporate. The fluid moves into the caliper, the less pad you have the more fluid will be needed to fill the caliper. Thereby lowering the fluid level in the reservoir.

    Use a liquid like Brake-Kleen to clean away brake dust. Apply ceramic brake lube to all metal to metal contact points, rubber seals, and sliders (pins).

    Before driving the vehicle short stroke the brake pedal a couple times. This will take up the gap left after compressing the caliper. If you dont the car will not stop right away. Do not push it all the way down just about an inch several times. When you depress completely you can push the seal in the master cylinder past its wear point and tear the seal. This will result in spongy weak feeling brakes. Dont always happen but better safe than replacing the master.

    The rotors can be resurfaced but i have found that most passenger cars the rotors are cheap enough to just replace them most cost between $15 - $25.

    When putting the rotor on or the wheel back on apply a coat of never seize between the hub and rotor and the rim and rotor. Not the braking surface but the mounting surface. This will make them easier to remove next go round and will eliminate squeaks when braking.

    I am a certified auto tech. specializing in transmissions. 35 years experience.


    2 years ago

    Everything OK, but:

    1) If you can't unscrew bolts - use "liquid wrench" (WD-40, silicon oil or DOT-3), wait 15-20 min than unscrew your bolts - it will be much easier;

    2) Before installing pins - put grease on it (ask about the grease in auto parts warehouse when you will purchase brake pads).


    2 years ago

    To answer Dave's question.... you should get your rotors "skimmed" or resurfaced if you ever run your brake pads too far which will actually score them. Most O'Rileys will do it for about $20 or $40 per rotor if you bring it to them.

    Only thing I saw missing in this 'ible is to apply anti-squeal compound on the new shims before installing back in to the caliper. Costs 3 dollars for a packet that will do all 4 tires and well worth the investment... other than that, great 'ible!


    2 years ago

    Nice guide for a car illiterate person like me. Question: When I have had front brake pads replaced by a dealer they always skim the discs as well. Is this necessary or is it overkill to charge more money?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey Dave, I'm not entirely sure, I know they like to resurface it to make it look new again and even out all the groves and imperfections on it, but you can only do that so many times. I've never done it myself before though I'm afraid.


    2 years ago

    Excellent write up. Just a tip when squeezing back in the caliper pistons....that rubber seal can be breached pretty easily. I lost a caliper due to that. Again wonderful instructable.


    2 years ago

    I remember changing the breaks on my old Volkswagen bug when I was in high school. That car was always so much work, but it was so much fun to drive!