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Getting Ready For Your First DIY Brake Job: 4 Tips For Success

Getting Ready For Your First DIY Brake Job: 4 Tips For Success

Is your car telling you it’s time for a brake job? Are you thinking of taking the leap of doing your own DIY brake job? Whether you are dealing with disc brakes or drum brakes, preparation is key to success. Here’s 4 tips about getting ready for your first DIY brake job.

Educate Yourself

Since this is your first DIY brake job, take out your owner’s manual and read through the maintenance section. It will give you an overview of the brake system. It also helps to get a repair manual for your exact year/make/model vehicle. Either a traditional paper manual or a digital version will work just fine. The point is to get an idea of how things go together, as some vehicles may require removing parts for full access.

Find Your Workspace

Take stock of where you can work undisturbed for a few hours. You want a flat, smooth space the size of your vehicle plus an extra two feet all the way around. The flat, smooth area will be easier and safer to work on. It gives a stable surface to operate a floor jack and place jack stands (ALWAYS use jack stands). A flat surface also makes it easier to move in & out from under the vehicle. Clear any dirt or debris with a leaf blower or broom.

Collect Tools & Supplies Disc Brake Pad Spreaders

Do yourself a favor and get all your brake job needs together now. Grab some rags, brake parts cleaner, safety glasses, and gloves to protect your hands. Depending on if you are working on disc brakes or drum brakes you will need some special tools. For disc brakes you need a way to push the caliper piston back into its bore. The most common tool is a disc brake pad spreader, but some calipers need the piston spun back in with a special tool that fits into the piston face. Drum brakes are much easier to manage with a brake spring tool and drum brake adjusting tool. You will also need to lift the vehicle off the ground with a floor jack. Remember to ALWAYS rest the weight of the car securely on jack stands.

Gather Parts

The next steps will vary by vehicle, which is why we recommend picking up a repair manual for the specifics. You will need to figure out which parts need to be replaced. Obviously you will need new friction materials like brake pads or brake shoes. But you may also need brake pad sensors, rattle clips, shims, etc. Depending on the condition of your rotors or drums, you may be able to have them machined to bring back a smooth surface. But be prepared to buy new rotors or drums if yours are no longer usable. Brake drum replacement is easy, but brake rotor replacement can vary in difficulty. Be prepared and do your repair manual homework to make sure you are up to the task.

The next steps will vary by vehicle, which is why we recommend picking up a repair manual for the specifics. It is important to work slowly and methodically. To finish up we recommend bleeding your brakes.

Check out all the brake parts available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on getting ready for your first DIY brake job, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Brian Medford View All

With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.

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