Knowing how to change brake pads can save you a few bucks and shouldn’t be all that difficult. The brake pads are the part of the braking system that is pushed into the rotor (or disc) by the caliper to slow the car down. Normally brake rotors last longer than the pads and won’t need to be replaced unless they are cracked, warped, rusty, or too thin. Brake components should be replaced on both sides at the same time, and since pads are usually sold in pairs there’s no reason not to do both sides together.
The first step is to jack up one corner of the vehicle and support it safely. Next, remove the wheel. With the wheel off you should be able to perform an inspection on the condition of both the pads and the rotor. For a more thorough inspection or to change the pads you will need to remove them from the the caliper. This process varies by vehicle, but the first step normally involves removing the caliper from the caliper bracket by removing a couple of bolts and then rotating it off. Once the caliper has been removed the pads can be popped out. Don’t let the caliper hang by the flex hose as this could damage the hose, instead support it on something like a block of wood.
When replacing brake pads you should also lubricate the slides. Depending on the design the slides may be integrated into a bolt or may be separate. Make sure that the slide is free of rust and debris and that it is straight. If the slides’ boots are damaged replace them as otherwise moisture will eventually get into the slides. Lubricate them with a synthetic grease designed for the purpose and ensure that everything moves freely.
The next step is to retract the pistons in the caliper so that the new brake pads will fit over the rotor. Before doing this, check the brake fluid level to ensure that there is room for the fluid to rise as the caliper pistons are pressed in (brake fluid can destroy your car’s paint). Normally a c-clamp is an effective tool for getting the piston back into the caliper, but some cars may need a special tool to twist the piston back. Once the piston is retracted insert the new pads into the caliper. Place the caliper and pad assembly over the rotor, and torque the retaining bolts to the proper specification as found in the owner’s manual or by contacting the manufacturer. These bolts are extremely important as they hold the brakes to the car. Replace and torque the wheel and then repeat the steps on the opposite side.
Once you’ve completed both sides pump the brake pedal a few times to get the pads into contact with the rotor. Carefully take the car for a test drive to ensure that the brakes are working correctly and that the car isn’t making any odd noises.