If you know how to change brake pads yourself, you can spend a few hours in the garage and do it yourself. And since brake pads are a consumable part that will wear and need changing multiple times over the course of a vehicle’s life, you’ll get plenty of practice and may pick up some tricks along the way that make the job easier and more efficient. Here are a few pointers to get you started if you’re familiar with changing brake pads but new to doing it on your own.
1. Safety Setup
To keep yourself safe, make sure the vehicle is lifted properly off the ground at the correct lifting points and held there with jack stands — never just jacks or cinder blocks or other such makeshift stands.
Be sure to put on safety equipment such as goggles, gloves and a dust mask as well. It’s likely that you’ll be dealing with a lot of dust and grime as you work to dislodge dirty or rusted parts, and you should not be inhaling any of that.
Consider taking pictures before you start and as you go to track the placement of the components.
When you remove the caliper, you can crack the cap on the master cylinder reservoir before you start, which should make it easier to push the pistons in. Don’t forget to tighten it back at the end, though, and don’t open any other part of the system, or else you’ll have to bleed it.
Once you have your caliper off, suspend it from the chassis with some spare string or wire. This way, the part isn’t hanging by the flex line and causing premature wear or damage.
Look closely at all brake parts you encounter beyond the pads and replace anything that isn’t up to snuff, even smaller items like caliper pins.
Check components like rotors for scoring, warping, rust or any irregular wear. Examine your calipers and lines for signs of leaks, and your old pads for glazing or odd wear. These are the usual suspects when something is wrong with your braking system. Now is also a good time to check the neighboring suspension for indications of wear, alignment problems, rust or other apparent issues.
To ensure that a part can be reused, clean it of excess grease and grime before you put it back together. This can reveal imperfections you might not have seen earlier and will help to keep things running smoothly.
Also, be sure to grease the caliper bolts and add a tiny amount to the back of the new brake pads themselves to reduce squeaking.
5. Breaking in the Brakes
Lastly, take time to break in the new pads by finding a stretch of road where you can cruise for half a mile around 30 mph, and then slowly brake to a stop. Repeat this 20 or so times. Always avoid hard braking if possible, especially for the first few weeks after changing your pads. Doing so can help provide a good starting point for even wear on the pads, ensuring a long life.
The more you change your own brake pads, the more you’ll pick up tricks that make the job go even more smoothly. The only way to really master the process is to keep practicing!
Check out all the brakes and equipment available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to change brake pads, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.