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How To Change Your Cars Brake Pads

how to replace brake pads

Step-By-Step Guide To Replacing Your Car's Brake Pads

How to change brake pads: Replacing your car's brake pads is a fairly straightforward job if you're comfortable with basic car maintenance and have a bit of mechanical know-how.

It's a crucial part of keeping your car safe to drive, so make sure you're confident in what you're doing or get a professional to do it. Here's a laid-back guide to swapping out those brake pads.

For guides on knocking or clunking noise click here

Tools You'll Need To Change Brake Pads: 

  • New brake pads: Obviously, make sure they're the correct type for your car.
  • Jack and axle stands: To lift and support the car safely.
  • Lug wrench (or tyre iron): To remove the wheel nuts.
  • Socket set and ratchet: For various bolts and nuts.
  • Brake caliper wind-back tool: Some cars need this to retract the caliper piston.
  • C-clamp or G-clamp: If you don't have a wind-back tool, this might work depending on your car.
  • Brake cleaner: To clean the brake components.
  • Wire brush: To remove rust and grime.
  • Copper grease: To prevent squeaks and corrosion (don’t get this on the brake pads' surface).
  • Gloves and safety glasses: Keep your hands and eyes protected.

Replace your brake pads step-by-step:

  1. Safety First: Park on a level surface, pop the bonnet, and if your car's got one, remove the brake fluid cap for a bit of pressure release. Apply the handbrake, chuck a wheel at the opposite end to stop the car rolling, and make sure you're not going anywhere.

  2. Jack Up the Car: Use the jack to lift the car, then secure it on axle stands. Never trust a jack alone to keep the car up while you're under there.

  3. Wheel Off: Use the lug wrench to loosen the wheel nuts before lifting the car (it's easier with the tyre on the ground), then lift, support the car, and remove the nuts and wheel.

  4. Caliper Inspection: Now, you can see the brake caliper. The brake pads sit inside it, against the disc. Before you proceed, check the disc for wear or damage—now's a good time to replace it if needed.

  5. Remove the Caliper: There are usually a couple of bolts holding the caliper in place. Use your socket set to remove these. Once they're off, the caliper can be lifted away. Be careful not to strain the brake hose. Sometimes, you can just suspend the caliper with a piece of wire or rest it somewhere safe.

  6. Out with the Old: The brake pads can now be removed. They might just slide out, or there could be clips or pins holding them.

  7. Push Back the Piston: Before the new pads can go in, the piston in the caliper needs to be pushed back. You can use a wind-back tool or a C-clamp for this. If the piston doesn't move back easily, your caliper might be seized—time for a professional.

  8. Clean Up: Use the brake cleaner and wire brush to clean up the caliper and the area around the brake disc. A clean setup means better braking and less wear.

  9. New Pads In: Slide your new pads into place. If they came with any anti-squeal shims or clips, fit these as instructed.

  10. Lubricate: Put a tiny bit of copper grease on the back of the pads (not the front!) and on any contact points to prevent squeaking. Don't get grease on the disc or pad friction surface.

  11. Reattach the Caliper: Slide the caliper back over the disc and pads, and bolt it back into place. Make sure everything's tight.

  12. Wheel On and Lower: Put the wheel back on, hand-tighten the nuts, lower the car, then tighten the wheel nuts properly with the car on the ground.

  13. Repeat: Do the same for the other side, because you should always replace brake pads in pairs (both front or both rear).

  14. Brake Fluid and Test: Check the brake fluid level; you might need to top it up. Before driving, pump the brake pedal a few times to get the pads into position. Start slow and test the brakes to make sure everything's working.

  15. Bedding In: New pads need a bit of time to "bed in." Avoid hard braking for the first 100 miles or so if possible.

And there you have it - DIY brake pads replaced!

Not too bad, right? Just remember, if at any point you're not feeling sure on how to change brake pads, there's no shame in getting a pro involved. Brakes are critical for safety, after all. Happy wrenching!

When should you change your brake pads?

mechanic replacing brake pads

Knowing when to replace your brake pads is crucial for maintaining optimal braking performance and safety. While there is no set mileage or time interval for brake pad replacement, there are some general guidelines to follow.

A common rule of thumb is to have your brake pads inspected at least once a year or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, this can vary depending on factors such as your driving habits, the type of brake pads you have, and the conditions in which you drive.

As a general guideline, most brake pads have a thickness indicator, which is a small metal tab that contacts the brake rotor when the pad wears down to a certain level.

When you hear a squealing noise, it's an indication that the thickness of the brake pad is approaching the minimum level, and it's time to have them replaced.

It's important not to wait until the brake pads are completely worn out before replacing them. Doing so can lead to more extensive damage to the brake rotors, which will result in a more costly repair.

Regular inspections and proactive replacement of worn-out brake pads are essential for maintaining the overall health and performance of your braking system.

Are Your Brakes Squeaking? It Might Be Time for New Brake Pads!

worn brake pad vs new brake pad

If you've noticed an annoying squeaking sound every time you come to a stop, it's a clear indication that your brakes might be in need of attention.

Don't let this go unchecked! In this article, we'll dive into the telltale signs that it's time for new brake pads and why it's important to address this issue sooner rather than later.

 What's causes squeaking brakes:

can be caused by a few different factors, but the most common culprit is worn-out brake pads. Over time, the friction material on the brake pads wears down, causing them to become less effective and produce that obnoxious noise.

Ignoring this warning sign can lead to longer stopping distances and potentially more expensive repairs down the line.

Whether you're a regular commuter or an occasional driver, it's essential to have your brakes in top-notch condition.

So if your brakes are squeaking, don't ignore the warning signs. Read on to learn everything you need to know about getting new brake pads and keeping your vehicle running smoothly.

Common signs of worn-out brake pads

In addition to the squeaking noise, there are other signs that indicate your brake pads are worn-out. One such sign is a grinding or scraping sound when you apply the brakes.

This indicates that the brake pads have worn down to the metal, and the metal is now rubbing against the brake rotor.

Not only does this sound unpleasant, but it also means that your braking system is not functioning properly and needs immediate attention.

Another common sign is reduced brake responsiveness. If you find that you need to apply more pressure to the brake pedal or that your vehicle takes longer to come to a complete stop, it's likely that your brake pads are worn-out.

This can be dangerous, especially in emergency situations where quick and efficient braking is crucial.

Importance of regular brake maintenance

Understanding the importance of regular brake maintenance is key to keeping your vehicle safe on the road. Your brakes are one of the most critical safety components of your vehicle, and neglecting their maintenance can have serious consequences.

Regular brake maintenance not only ensures that your brake pads are in good condition but also allows for the detection of any potential issues before they become major problems.

Addressing brake pad wear early on:

By addressing brake pad wear early on, you can prevent further damage to other components of the braking system, such as the brake rotors or calipers.

Additionally, well-maintained brakes provide optimal braking performance, allowing you to stop quickly and safely when necessary. This is especially important in emergency situations or when driving in adverse weather conditions.

 Keeping your brake pads in good condition also reduces the risk of brake fade, which occurs when the brakes overheat and become less effective.

Understanding brake pads and their function

Before delving into when to replace your brake pads, it's essential to understand their function and how they work within the braking system.

Brake pads are a vital part of the disc brake system, which is the most common type of brake system used in vehicles today.

When you press the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is applied to the brake calipers, which in turn squeeze the brake pads against the brake rotors.

This friction between the brake pads and rotors creates the necessary resistance to slow down or stop your vehicle.Brake pads are typically made of a composite material that includes a mixture of friction materials, binders, and fillers. 

The specific composition may vary depending on the type of brake pad, but the primary goal is to provide consistent and reliable stopping power while minimising wear on the brake rotors.

Different types of brake pads available in the market

When it comes to choosing new brake pads for your vehicle, you'll encounter a variety of options in the market. Each type of brake pad has its own unique characteristics and is designed for specific driving conditions and preferences.

1. Organic brake pads: These are made from a mixture of non-metallic materials, such as rubber, glass, and resin.

Organic brake pads are generally quiet, produce less dust, and provide smooth braking performance. However, they may wear out faster than other types and may not be suitable for heavy-duty driving.

2. Semi-metallic brake pads: As the name suggests, semi-metallic brake pads contain a combination of metal fibres, such as steel or copper, and non-metallic materials. 

They offer excellent braking performance, especially in high-temperature conditions, and are more durable than organic brake pads. However, they tend to produce more noise and dust.

3. Ceramic brake pads: Ceramic brake pads are made from a mixture of ceramic fibers, bonding agents, and fillers. They are known for their quiet operation, low dust production, and excellent braking performance.

 Ceramic brake pads also have a longer lifespan compared to organic and semi-metallic pads. However, they can be more expensive than other types.

The choice of brake pads depends on various factors, including your driving style, vehicle type, and budget. It's best to consult with a professional or refer to your vehicle's manual to determine the most suitable brake pads for your specific needs.

How to choose the right brake pads for your vehicle

Selecting the right brake pads for your vehicle involves considering several factors to ensure optimal performance and safety. Here are some key points to keep in mind when making your decision:

1. Driving style: If you do a lot of city driving or frequently encounter heavy traffic, organic or ceramic brake pads may be a better choice due to their quieter operation and reduced dust production.

If you engage in more spirited driving or towing heavy loads, semi-metallic brake pads may provide better performance and durability.

2. Vehicle type: The type of vehicle you own can also influence your brake pad selection. Lighter vehicles may perform well with organic or ceramic brake pads, while heavier vehicles may require the additional stopping power provided by semi-metallic pads.

It's important to consider the manufacturer's recommendations and consult with a professional if you're unsure.

3. Environmental factors: If you live in an area with extreme weather conditions, such as frequent rain or snow, it's essential to choose brake pads that perform well in those conditions.

Ceramic brake pads are often recommended for their consistent performance and resistance to fade in high-temperature situations.

4. Budget: While it's important not to compromise on safety, it's also essential to consider your budget when choosing brake pads. Organic brake pads tend to be the most affordable option, while ceramic brake pads are typically the most expensive.

Semi-metallic pads fall somewhere in between. It's best to find a balance between performance, durability, and cost.

How to change brake pads vs professional installation

replacing brake pads

Once you've chosen the right brake pads for your vehicle, you'll need to decide whether to change brake pads yourself or seek professional installation.

While some DIY enthusiasts may prefer to handle the job, it's important to consider the complexity of the task and your level of expertise.

Replacing brake pads involves removing the wheels, calipers, and old brake pads, cleaning the brake components, and installing the new pads.

It also requires proper torquing of bolts, lubrication of certain parts, and bleeding the brake system if necessary. Any mistakes or improper installation can compromise the effectiveness of your brakes and put your safety at risk.

If you have experience working on cars and access to the necessary tools and equipment, DIY brake pad replacement may be a viable option.

However, if you're unsure or uncomfortable with the process, it's highly recommended to leave it to the professionals. They have the knowledge, expertise, and experience to ensure the job is done correctly and safely.

Brake pad replacement cost and factors that affect it

cost of replacing brake pads

The cost of replacing brake pads can vary depending on several factors. These factors include the type of brake pads you choose, the make and model of your vehicle, and whether you opt for DIY or professional installation.

On average, the cost of a brake pad replacement for a standard passenger vehicle can range from £100 to £300 per axle.

This cost typically includes the price of the brake pads and labor expenses. However, it's important to note that prices can vary significantly depending on your location and the specific circumstances of your vehicle.

Prioritise safety, save money:

Factors that can influence the cost include the complexity of the brake system, the need for additional repairs or replacements, and the reputation and expertise of the service provider.

 Higher-quality brake pads, such as ceramic pads, may also be more expensive than organic or semi-metallic pads.

While the initial cost of brake pad replacement may seem significant, it's crucial to prioritise safety and invest in high-quality brake pads. Remember that properly functioning brakes are essential for the safety of you, your passengers, and other road users.

Tips for extending the lifespan of your brake pads

To maximise the lifespan of your new brake pads and maintain their optimal performance, it's important to follow some simple maintenance tips:

1. Avoid aggressive driving: Frequent hard braking and rapid acceleration can wear out your brake pads faster. Practice smooth and gradual braking whenever possible, allowing your vehicle's momentum to slow it down naturally.

2. Keep a safe following distance: Maintaining a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you allows for smoother and less frequent braking. This reduces the strain on your brake pads and helps them last longer.

3. Avoid unnecessary braking: Anticipate traffic flow and road conditions to minimise unnecessary braking. This can be achieved by looking ahead and planning your movements in advance.

4. Avoid excessive load: Limit the weight you carry in your vehicle, as excess weight places additional strain on the braking system. Remove any unnecessary items from your vehicle to reduce the load on your brake pads.

5. Regular inspections: Periodically inspect your brake pads for wear and tear. If you notice any signs of damage or excessive wear, have them replaced promptly to prevent further damage to the braking system.

By following these tips, you can extend the lifespan of your brake pads and ensure optimal braking performance, saving you money in the long run.

Conclusion: Safety first - prioritise brake pad maintenance

Your vehicle's braking system is crucial for your safety and the safety of others on the road. Squeaking brakes are a clear indication that it's time to replace your brake pads and address any potential issues.

By understanding the signs of worn-out brake pads, the importance of regular maintenance, and the different types of brake pads available, you can make informed decisions to keep your vehicle's braking system in top-notch condition.

Top Tips:

Whether you choose to replace your brake pads yourself or seek professional installation, always prioritise safety above all else. Remember to consider factors such as your driving style, vehicle type, and budget when selecting the right brake pads for your needs.

With proper maintenance and regular inspections, you can ensure your brake pads last longer, provide optimal braking performance, and give you peace of mind on the road.

A recent survey from the AA found that worn brake pads are ranked top for most common issue  Don't ignore the warning signs - it's time to take action and keep your brakes in top shape!

About the author

My name is Karl Scott
I started my blog because because I wanted to share the wealth of knowledge and experience I've accumulated over the years, and to connect with others who share my passion for cars.

Through my posts, I plan to focus on simple DIY repair tutorials, maintenance tips, and how to spot potential issues before they become major problems.

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