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Brake pad change

robthehungrymonkey Feb 7, 2005

  1. Hi,

    Not sure if this is on the right forum. I am due to change my front pads very soon, and thought I would do it myself.

    I am not much of a mechanic and being brakes, I was wondering if anyone could give a brief "guide" on how to do it, so I end up stopping when needed! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/angel.gif


    ROb. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/beerchug.gif
  2. DavidR

    DavidR Active Member

    Being brakes + not being a mechanic... Can I suggest you pay the labour charges of somewhere cheap and independant.

    If you are really going to try...

    STEP ONE: Comfort first. Park the car in a cool, shady spot.

    STEP TWO: Now safety. Block the rear wheels so the car won't roll once you jack it up. Put the car in park and set the parking brake firmly.

    STEP THREE: Lay out your tools. Grab a tire iron and go to the front wheels. The tire iron is that long metal rod with a socket on the end of it that usually comes with the vehicle. You can also buy a really cool one (called a spinner) that looks like a metal cross -- in fact, it is a metal cross -- with different-sized sockets on each end.

    What we want to do here, before jacking the car up off the ground, is loosen the lug nuts on the wheels just enough to break them free. So go do that. Work them off just enough until they loosen their resistance and become easy to turn with the tire iron. Now slip the jack under the car.

    There are several places to safely jack up the car. If you have a floorjack, you can roll it all the way under to the center of the engine and jack it up using the K-member that holds the engine. Be careful not to use the oil pan, as you might damage it. If you have a smaller, single floor jack, you'll have to do one side at a time. Look for flat spots on the frame, immediately to the rear of the front wheels, or on the end of each axle.

    CAUTION: Always use jack stands. Never attempt to work on an elevated vehicle held in place only by a hydraulic jack.

    Okay, raise the front axle off the ground. Put your jack stands under each end of the axle, and lower the car onto the stands. A jack stand (see illustration) is a metal tripod with variable height adjustments. You should own two.

    STEP FOUR: Remove the lug nuts and the wheel (the tire will be attached). Best to work on one wheel at a time, leaving the other side intact as a point of reference. As a safety precaution, roll the wheel/tire assembly under the front-center of the car, between the jack stands, and plop it down beneath the engine's K-member. In the event of a faulty jack stand, this will break the vehicle's fall and could possibly save your life.

    STEP FIVE: Okay, take a breather. Now let's look at what we have before us.

    A disc brake assembly is composed of the following elements: a caliper, two brake pads, a rotor, and some bolts and clips to hold it alltogether. It's a very simple design. Here's how it works.

    The caliper comes in two flavors -- floating or fixed. Each works on a similar principle. The caliper's job is to squeeze the brake pads toward a centrally located metal plate -- the rotor -- producing friction, which in turn slows the car. Think of a hand slowly clamping down on a spinning record (or a CD, for you youngin's who've never heard the term "record" before).

    The brake pads hover on either side of the metal plate. They attach to the inside of the caliper, depending on your car's design, with clips or bolts. They are composed of heat-resistant material that rubs against the rotor. When the brakes are applied, the pads move toward one another, gripping the rotor between them and slowing the wheels.

    The rotor is that shiny metal disc staring you in the face right now. You can almost see your reflection, right? Get your eyes level with it. If you can't see your face, or at least its general outline, it may mean that the disc needs servicing or replacement. Below, we'll show you how to check this disc for scoring or marring, and what to do about that.

    STEP SIX: Back to work. Remove the bolts holding the caliper in place. Gently slide it out and away from the rotor. Inspect the inside of the caliper. See the pads? They will be held in place by a bolt or a series of clips, sometimes both. Remove the bolts or clips holding the pads in place (remember, you left the other side intact to use as a reference) and work them free. Examine the pads. Is there any "meat" left on them, or are they worn down to the screws? If they're completely worn, you should've been hearing a metallic scrape for a while every time you applied the brakes.

    Lay the pads aside and inspect the rotor. Can you see yourself in it? If the pads were worn into the metal, your rotor will be scored; you'll have trouble seeing yourself. Run your fingernails along the surface of the rotor -- careful, though; if it's been less than 20 minutes since you last drove the vehicle, they might still be hot -- first the side facing you, then the side facing away. Is it scored? Deeply? This next point is very important. If the rotor has any grooves at all in it, remove it at once. Now you have a decision to make.

    If you have a scored rotor, you must decide whether to have it "turned" or to replace it. If you're short on money, take it to a local mechanic and ask him to "turn" it for you. What they do is put it on a special metal-cutting lathe and shave off several thousandths of an inch of metal until the disc is shiny again. Remember, though, one of the real advantages of disc brakes over drum is their heat-handling capability. By removing metal, you reduce the system's thermal transfer capacity. We recommend turning the discs only when you are short on bucks. The better way is to take the disc to the auto parts store, match it up with a replacement, and buy a new one. Last time we did this, it only cost us twenty bucks for a new rotor, a cheap investment in safety. You have to go there anyway to buy the new brake pads, as well as a few other things, so why not make it one trip. In fact, here's your shopping list:

    new rotor, or rotors, if needed
    new brake pads (bring the old ones, to match them)
    brake pad grease (comes in little packets; they're cheap, so buy two)
    STEP SEVEN: Go home and have a lemonade.

    STEP EIGHT: Before you go any further, you must move the piston back to its "full open" position. The piston? you ask. Ah, we didn't tell you about that one, did we? Remember the hand-and-record analogy. As the fingers push down (equivalent to the brake pads wearing) the distance between the brake pads shortens. Now that we have brand new pads, we must return the system -- the hand -- to its original "open" position, to accommodate the new pads. There are several ways to do this.

    First, find the piston. It is located along the back (closest to the engine) portion of the caliper. It's usually about three to four inches across, and resembles a small metal promontory with a flat top. See it? Depending on its condition and age, there are several things you can do to move it back (toward the center of the car). If it's new, try pushing it in with the heel of your hand. Doesn't work? Okay, then try a channel lock or a vise grip. Still won't budge? Then here's a suggestion. A neighbor of ours turned us on to this once, and it works great. Get a large C-clamp, place a thin piece of wood or cardboard over the face of the piston to protect the surface from marring, and work it back that way. As you turn the handle on the clamp, it will increase pressure on the piston, until it becomes flush with the surrounding metal. Then loosen and remove the C-clamp.

    STEP NINE:Install the new rotor, if necessary. Remove the old brake pads from the caliper (usually held in place by several clips), but, before putting on the new ones, you must do something. Remember the little packets of grease you bought? These are used to lubricate the brake pads. Careful now -- not on the front of the pad, which comes in contact with the rotor, but on the back. The pads attach to the caliper via a plate-and-clip arrangement. The lubricant goes between the plate and the back of the brake pad. Got it?

    Don't overlook this. If you don't do it, you'll get a horrible screeching sound every time you apply the brakes, like a dinosaur in heat (and you know how horny those velociraptors used to get). After you apply the grease, attach the pad to the plate and slide the whole thing into place.

    STEP TEN:. Basically, at this point, just reassemble the system in reverse order of the way you took it apart. Now do the other side. Take the car for a test spin. Sometimes, with new brakes, you can get some weird scraping and scratching sounds; these will usually go away in a few days. Clean up, and you're done.

    Easy, huh?
    m19lte likes this.
  3. Rev-head

    Rev-head Active Member

    What a great read ,couldnt put it better myself /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/bravo.gif
  4. CJ A4

    CJ A4 Active Member

    I agree with David this is not some DIY thing which if goes wrong it will be ok these are your brakes and better to get a professional to do it than you do it wrong and have an accident! Why dont you do a course in basic mechanics and car servicing at least you will be more confident in your abilities and it will be alot safer for you too. Good luck /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/ok.gif
  5. DavidR

    DavidR Active Member

    I learnt most of my car knowledge (and medical procedures) from the school of see one, do one, teach one... Works well.

    It's tricky to get things just right from a book, and always helpful to watch someone who knows what they are up to 1st.
  6. Wow, thanks for the help guys!!! What a thorough, and helpful post David.

    Have decided to get it done proffesionally as I need new discs too, and that was going a bit far. But am saving all the info for next time.

    Thanks again!!

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