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How To Replace Pads and Rotors | How To Replace Your Car’s Brakes

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How To Replace Pads and Rotors | How To Replace Your Car’s Brakes

When it comes to replacing brakes on your car, the installation of the new brakes is important. When installing brake pads and rotors taking the time to service components will determine how long your brakes will last. This is our secret sauce to making brake pads and rotors last a long time even in harsh climates.

This brake pad and rotor replacement was done on a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze. Should be quite similar on other vehicles. The brake pads and rotors replacement procedure


Tools Needed

  • Flat Head Screw Driver
  • Basic Wrench Set (10MM-19MM)
  • Basic 3/8” Socket Set With Ratchet (8MM-22MM)
  • Basic 1/2” Socket Set With Ratchet (10-24MM)
  • 1/2” Breaker Bar
  • Hammer
  • Wire Brush
  • C-Clamp
  • Jack
  • Jack Stands
  • Bungee Cord
  • Torx Bits (American & German Cars)

Recommended Supplies

  • Brake Lube
  • Brake Clean
  • Anti-Seize
  • Penetrating Fluid

Making sure everything that should move freely does is very important. Pads must move freely in the caliper brackets but should be tight and not overly loose. Could cause noises. Same for the caliper sliding pins.

Step 1: Loosen Wheel Nuts

To make it easier to loosen off the wheel nuts. It is best to break them free prior to lifting your vehicle. You can also use the parking brake to help from the car rolling back and forth. Using a breaker bar also helps with leverage. Most wheel nuts are 17MM to 22MM. Now at this step you are only loosening NOT REMOVING.

Step 2: Raise Car

Place the hydraulic jack underneath vehicle. Make sure to put a block or wheel chock behind the rear wheel if replacing the front brakes. You can use the frame rails, pinch welds or subframe. Always make sure to lookout for heavy enough steel to lift from. Some vehicle even have specific pads to lift from. Please refer to your owner’s manual for more details on lift points specific to your vehicle. Once lifted make sure to rest onto jacks on an approved jacking point from the manufacturer. At this point make sure vehicle is stable.

Step 3: Remove Wheels

Now it is safe to completely remove the wheel nuts and to remove the wheel. An added safety feature is to put tires and wheels under the rockers. Now we can start disassembling the brakes.

Step 4: Loosen Caliper Bolts

Most vehicles use 10MM, 12MM, 13MM or 14MM sized head. Sometimes you need to hold the slider from rotating. Especially if the vehicle is new and haven’t had brakes replaced before. Now the caliper should come off. If it doesn’t, gently pry up on the caliper. Now your caliper is ready to be removed. Before removing make sure to have a bungee cord ready. Find a place to hang the bungee cord. The best location is normally the coil spring. This prevents the brake flex hose to get damaged upon removal.

Step 5: Remove Caliper Bracket

Now that we have the hydraulic part of the caliper removed and hung out of the way we can remove the caliper bracket. We can remove the pads from the caliper bracket / caliper carrier. Sometimes the pads can be stuck in there pretty good. If so, pry in between rotor and the pads. The caliper bracket bolts are normally much bigger than caliper bolts. Most cars are 17MM-22MM sized head. Remove Caliper bracket and set aside

Step 6: Remove Rotors

Some rotors on certain vehicles are anchored to the hub. There is sometime one bolt holding it to the hub. Commonly a torx bolt, Philips Bolt and/or a regular hex depending on vehicle. Now some rotors can be stuck on there pretty good. It will require some good hits with the hammer. Hit on the rotor face at the furthest out extremity alternating from top to bottom or side to side. If your rotor is really stuck on, many rotors have threaded holes that can aid to remove it.

Step 7: Clean Rust Off Hub

Not required but aids in brake servicing in the future. Use your wirebrush or grinder to clean surface as best as possible. You can also let penetrating oil soak in. Once cleaned we can add anti-seize to the hub to help prevent further seizing.

Step 8: Clean Caliper Bracket

This part is crucial to ensure the longevity of the new parts. Remove caliper hardware (Stainless Steel Clips). Behind these clips rust tends to build up and squeeze the pads not allowing them to move freely. Inspect it carefully. Now if your brakes were serviced prior this should be as simple as using a wire brush to clean off excess rust. Sometimes we need to use a file to get most of the baked on rust. Spray penetrating oil to help clean it off. Apply anti-seize on the freshly grinded parts

Step 9: Install New Brake Hardware

Now that our caliper brackets, we can install the new caliper hardware. Most caliper hardware just clips in. Some vehicle don`t have them at all. Make sure they clip in nicely and adjust as needed. Once installed lubricate with anti-seize.

Step 10: Clean & Lubricate Caliper Pins

Remove caliper pins from the caliper bracket. They should move freely. Inspect the grease inside the boot. If grease is contaminated or dirty make sure to clean out with brake clean. Install new grease into caliper pin boot. Sometimes the caliper pins and boots need to be replaced. If caliper pin is pitted replacement is recommended. If caliper pin boots are cracked, they must be replaced as they will allow water and other elements in causing premature seizing and wear. Pin & Boot Kits are also available for purchase if needed.

Step 11: Install Brake Rotor

Now that we have services all required brake pad, rotor and caliper components we can install the brake rotor. The brake rotors simply slips on most vehicles. Vehicles that have a locating bolt / screw, go ahead and install. If not use wheel nut to help hold the rotor in place. Uncoated basic rotors need to be cleaned off with brake clean. They have an oil coating on them to prevent rust. This MUST be removed. On coated brake rotors, we can simply open the box and install them.

Step 12: Install Caliper Bracket

At this step we should have completed servicing of the caliper. Hardware should be installed. Wire brush and clean old bolts. Re-install bolts into caliper bracket. These should be quite tight. Use breaker bar to give the final snug. Refer to service manual for proper torque

Step 13: Compress Caliper Piston

The best way to compress the caliper piston is with a c-clamp and an old pad. Secure the old brake pad against the caliper piston and tighten the c-clamp until caliper piston is flush with boot. Afterwards ensure that the caliper piston dust seal looks okay and has no folds.

Step 14: Install Brake Pads

Everything should be serviced well at this point. The new brake pads should easily slide into caliper bracket and hardware. Once installed ensure they move easily. Using force to get them in shouldn’t be required. It is important that the brake pads have an interference fit.

Step 15: Install Brake Caliper

If caliper was compressed all the way and the boot is properly fitted the caliper should slide on easily. Make sure that the caliper is on straight and sliders line up correctly. Install bolts into caliper slider and snug up. Refer to service manual for proper torque.

Step 16: Re-Install Wheels

Re-install wheels and tires onto vehicle. Make sure to bottom out lug nuts and snug them. Lower vehicle. Then torque wheel nuts to appropriate torque.

Step 17: Pump Brake Pedal

You MUST pump your brake pedal until it feels firm. This resets the caliper pistons to the new brake pads and ensures that your first application will have friction.

Step 18: Break-In Brake Pads Into Rotors

Bed-in of the brakes is something often overlooked. It is important to ensure even brake wear and performance. Make sure you aren’t on a crowded road and it is safe to do so. The best way is to drive to about 80KM/H (50MPH) and brake pretty hard until you get to about 30KM/H (20MPH). Allow brakes to cool down and repeat 3-4 times.