How to Change Brake Pads on a Car

Brake pads are one of the most significant safety systems of a vehicle. They convert the kinetic energy of a vehicle to thermal through friction. The main function of vehicle brake pads is to decelerate the vehicle safely, and also making it to a halt when necessary.

As a driver, it is expected that you apply and release the brakes hundreds if not a thousand times a day. Therefore, it is significant that your brake pads can deliver the needs of regular utility and consistently perform its duties – not minding the changes in climatic, geographical, or application conditions.

Nowadays, most vehicles are manufactured with front disc brakes. Rear brakes are usually more durable than the front brakes, which could either be drum or disc brakes. Front brakes should be changed more frequently because they wear easily.

When to Change?

You have to change your brake pads when they get too slim or thin. Particularly, when these brake pads start to make a frequent grinding noise or metallic squeaking whenever you press the brake pedal.

Although, in most cases grinding noise alone isn't generally the best indicator that your brake pads are bad. Therefore, it is essential to check for the thickness of the brake pads to know if they are thin or not.

Brake problems can be frustrating if you don't know the cause, but changing your brake pads is a much easier and cheaper option than inviting a motor mechanic or taking it to a car shop.

It is essential to know what the cause of your brake problem might be before an automobile professional starts stating the need to replace this or that.

Various Parts of the Brake System 

In case you're not familiar with these terms, I'll quickly discuss the four major parts of the brake system. The master cylinder is a hydraulic pump that forces the brake fluid into the caliper. The caliper is a pincher that presses the pad or shoe against the metal disc rotor or drum to slow down or stop your vehicle.

Rotors are what your vehicle clamps on to halt the wheel from rolling. Here, brake pads provide the exact amount of friction to slow down or stop your car.

Soft or Spongy Brake

Soft brake is one of the most common brake problems that car owners face. Whenever your brake pedal feels squishy or sink to the floor with no resistance, you have a severe brake problem, and you shouldn't drive any further.

The brake pedal can lower toward the ground if brake liquid breaks out of the system. Yet, the brake pedal can likewise sink or feel spongy if air has gotten into the system. Therefore, the brake system on a modern vehicle ought to be closed entirely without any leakage to avoid brake problems.

Car Shakes During Braking 

Whenever your entire vehicle shakes when you apply your brakes, the problem could only be with your rear brakes. As a dependable guideline, shaking brought about by an issue in the front part of the vehicle will be felt in the controlling wheel(steering). Accordingly, shaking in the rear will appear to influence the entire vehicle.

To be sure if it's the rear brakes that are bad, you have to test them separately. And this can be done while driving, by applying the parking brakes slowly. Because, only the parking brake uses the rear drum brakes.

Stiff or Hard Brake Pedal

The hard brake pedal is also a common brake problem. It is directly opposite to the spongy or soft brake pedal situation. If your brake pedal is hard to push or won't move at all, you could have an issue with the brake promoter, also called the booster.

Its main responsibility is to intensify the power on your brakes when you press the pedal. On the off chance that it quits working, you may discover the brake pedal on your vehicle unexpectedly turns out significantly harder to press.

The Steering Wheel Vibrates When the Brake is Applied

If you ever felt a vibrating steering wheel, you are to stop the vehicle immediately. The vibrating steering wheel has resulted in many motor accidents. It's one of the most severe brake problems on this list.

Further, if your brake rotors happen to be distorted, harmed, or covered with patches of dirt from the brake pads, this can make an uneven surface on your rotors. As the brake pads move on these uneven zones, it can cause pad impression. This leads to the vibrations you feel in your steering wheel.

When your vehicle shakes, vibrates, or pulsates when you brake, you can fix it by having your rotor resurfaced. That's only if the rotor is still thick enough. some advice if you think there is a problem with the engine of your car, you can find out the problem through the timing light.

Metallic Squealing Brakes

Do you ever wonder why most vehicles make some squeaking noises whenever the brakes are applied?  It is mainly because the vehicle brake pads are almost entirely worn out.

Here's what brings about the sound, there's a little metal tab that rubs against the rotors when the brake pads have been almost totally eroded or worn away. This squealing or squeaking noise is telling you that your brake pads are hanging on by a thread, and need replacement ASAP.

Fade Brakes

Fade brakes happen when the brakes start to lose their hold and may not carry a happy vehicle to a stop as conveniently as you might want. One potential reason for this is the water collecting in the brake lines.

In the long run, your brake fluid can gradually retain moisture from the air. And under frequent braking in a Chevy Silverado vehicle, it could bubble up from the heat as you brake. When the water in the brake fluid gets heated up, the brake liquid will pack instead of squeezing the brakes to stop your vehicle.

Tools and Items that You Will Need

Now that you're familiar with the common brake problems, let's take a look at how you can change your brake pads by yourself without any technical skills required. All you need to do is get some materials and tools ready and follow our simple steps.

Materials Required

  • Can of brake fluid 
  • New brake pad (with grease)

Few Things to Note Before You Begin

Know Your Calipers Type

Recently, most of the vehicles are manufactured with "sliding caliper" brake assembly. Different cars have "fixed-caliper" assemblies. The pads in fixed-caliper brakes are additionally simple to change, yet the procedure is somewhat different. Therefore, you need to be familiar with the exact type of your vehicle's calipers.

Get the Correct Type of Brake Pads for Your Vehicle Model.

Brake pads differ in shapes and sizes; you need to get the correct type of brake pads for your vehicle model. For instance, the brake pads for Silverado 1500 are much larger than those used on other vehicles.

Brake Pad Replacement Cost

The brake pad replacement cost varies depending on your location in the United States, but the average brake pad replacement cost is $160 per axle. This can range from $110 per axle to $290 per axle, depending on your location and the seller.

Some car dealerships sell high-quality brake pads for high prices, but in general, the high the price, the more durable the pads would be.

How to Change Brake Pads on a Car?

Follow these simple steps to change your vehicle's brake pads.

Step 1 - Cooldown Your Vehicle

You need to make sure your vehicle is not hot. If the car has just be driven, you should allow it to cool down. Else, you might deal with awfully hot rotors, calipers, and pads. Double check whether these the brake system components are cooled down before working on the vehicle.

Step 2 - Get your Car Off the Ground

The process should be more familiar if you've ever replaced a flat tire, raise your vehicle rear end on a level surface and support it on jack stands. However, you must remove the tires to access the brake pads. Loosen the wheel nuts on the wheel where the brake pads need replacement with your tire iron.

Make sure the wheel nuts are loose before you lift your car to avoid the wheels from spinning in the air. It is advisable not to unfasten all the tires simultaneously; either you begin with the back or front.

Once you've loosened the wheel nut, then the next thing is to jack up your car. Please make use of the user's manual, and it will help you to know where it is safe to put the jack underneath. You have to careful about the fuel line material, it is very sensitive so you have to word slowly so that the line is not hurt for any reason.

All thanks to modern advancement, vehicles now have a jack point explicitly for floor jacks. Once you've located your jack point, you can now lift your vehicle with the jack.

Step 3 - Remove the Wheels

After you've removed the wheel nuts, take out the wheel gently.

Step 4 - Remove the Caliper Assembly and Old Brake Pads

You can remove caliper by loosening the bolts on it using a ring spanner or a socket wrench. These calipers are generally manufactured with one or two piece designs. They are mostly tightened with either two or more bolts at the inner parts of the components.

These bolts can be hard to remove sometimes; spraying with an anti-seize compound or WD-40 will aid removing them. With the caliper assembly still attached to the brake lines, glide the caliper off the rotor.

Please do not hang the caliper by the brake lines. Instead, use a piece of wire to hang it. Ensure that it is well supported to avoid falling during the process of replacing the brake pads.

At this point, you can now remove the former pads "either by slide or pop out" from the rotor. Removing these pads might require little extra force, so be careful about damaging the brake lines or the caliper.

Step 5 - Replace the Brake Pads

Now that you have removed the old brake pads, you can put in the new one. New brake pads used to come with a small packet of grease, apply this grease to the pads’ back surface. The grease will help avoid the annoying squeaking noise that the brake system makes when you apply it.

Please make sure the grease does not get to the brake pads’ front surface or rotor. For the brakes to work properly, friction must occur between the pads and rotor. Getting grease in between the pads and rotor will cause lubrication. This stops the entire brake system from working properly. To do this, if you get grease on your hands, you need to wash your hands to romove the grease.

Step 6 – Assess the Brake Fluid Level

After putting in the new brake pads, you must check if the brake fluid is adequate, if not, then add some. However, if the brake fluid level overflows, you will need to suck out some of it with a turkey blaster. When you’re done, replace the reservoir cap of the brake fluid.

Step 7 – Restore the Caliper and Replace the Wheel 

To restore the caliper, you need to move the caliper assembly gently back to the rotor. Doing it gently will avoid damaging the brake lines or any other things. You can now restore and fasten the bolts on the caliper to hold it together.

Having done that, fix back the wheel by sliding it over into spot and tightening its wheel nuts. Finally, slide in the wheel before bringing down the vehicle from the jack.

Step 8 - Start the Vehicle and Test Your New Brake Pads

Put the vehicle on neutral, then test the brakes 20 to 25 times to be ascertained that the new brake pads are well seated in the right place. Test drive your vehicle to check out the new brake pads. Make sure you don't go past 16 mph for the first test drive.

After that, you may begin the second test drive of about 40 mph on a residential street. Don't forget to also check on reverse driving. This brake test is essential; it helps to know if the brake pads installation went well.

During the brake testing, if you hear any metallic squeaking, lift your vehicle again and check to make sure everything is in place.

Final Words

Your vehicle is undoubtedly a valuable machine that will cost you a ton for maintenance. Moreover, if you learn how to do some of the maintenance yourself, you will save a lot of money.

The replacement of your vehicle's brake pads is one of those car maintenances that sound a lot harder than they are. But with the help of this article, we hope you're now acquainted with the simple steps of changing brake pads on a car.

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