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How to Replace Disc Brake Pads? Top 10 Brake Repair Tips

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When your new brake parts are installed, take things slow at first. I was so eager to try my fresh pads that I zoomed down the road – then realized I forgot brake fluid! Thankfully my fence stopped the car. Check for leaks and test braking in empty parking lots before hitting the open road. Listen for any odd sounds too. I left one bolt loose once and the rotor rattled around noisily. That’ll scare your poor Nana!

Most importantly, be proud of doing your own repairs! Sure, you may make some hilarious goofs like your truly. But there’s no better feeling than saving money while gaining skills and confidence. Just look out for stray rotors, mind those pinched fingers, and enjoy an afternoon under your ride. And next time your brakes are worn, you’ll know just what to do – thanks to tips from Chris and silly stories from me!

In this blog post, I’ll summarize Chris’ top tips and add some extra repair pointers I’ve learned over the years. Whether you’re a novice or seasoned pro, these brake repair tips will have your car stopping smoothly in no time!

Tip #1: Work with Your Car by Turning the Steering Wheel

As Chris demonstrates in the video, turning your steering wheel to gain better access to stuck bolts is an excellent tip. I’ll often run into the issue of not having enough room to fit my wrench or ratchet onto caliper bracket bolts. No matter how much I strain my wrist at odd angles, those bolts sometimes feel impossible to reach. But after seeing Chris easily remove the bolts with a simple turn of the steering wheel, I now use this trick all the time!

Not only does it provide more working room, but it also prevents wrist strain. And we all know how easy it is to injure our hands and wrists while wrenching. So remember—before cussing up a storm because you can’t loosen a bolt, take a breath and turn that steering wheel. Your wrists will thank you!

Use Extensions When Needed

Even with the steering wheel turned, I sometimes can’t seem to reach those pesky caliper bolts. In cases like these, I break out my wrench extensions for some extra reach. Extensions are cheap, fit most ratchets and sockets, and make accessing awkward bolts much easier. I prefer gearwrench’s flex head ratcheting wrench with extension bars. The flex head provides even more maneuverability for hard to reach spaces.

Tip #2: Don’t Forget to Grease Guide Pins

Chris’ tip about greasing caliper guide pins is invaluable advice that I see many technicians skip. The guide pins are what allow the brake caliper to slide back and forth smoothly. Without proper lubrication, they’ll seize up and prevent the caliper from floating properly. This can lead to uneven brake wear, sticking brakes, and other issues.

To avoid seizing, be sure to use silicone brake lubricant on the pins. Don’t use regular grease, which can damage rubber components. I recommend Permatex’s ceramic extreme brake lubricant. Make sure to remove the guide pin boots first to thoroughly clean and lubricate the full length of the pins. And don’t forget to grease both the top and bottom pins!

Many auto parts stores will also sell complete brake hardware kits with fresh lubed pins, boots, shims, and pads. I like to replace all the hardware whenever I install new pads since the rubber components tend to dry out and crack over time. It’s cheap insurance against sticking, dragging brakes.

Tip #3: Use a Bungee Cord to Support Calipers

I cringe every time I see a dangling caliper putting excessive strain on the brake hose. Like Chris said, brake hoses aren’t designed to hold the weight of the caliper assembly. Over time, hanging calipers can damage brake hoses and cause dangerous fluid leaks.

His tip of using a bungee cord to support the caliper is brilliant. In a pinch, you can also carefully rest the caliper on top of the suspension coil spring. Just be sure not to knock the caliper off the spring once it’s precariously perched up there! I now keep spare bungee cords handy in my toolbox just for supporting calipers during brake jobs. It protects the brake hoses and makes installing the heavy brake components much easier.

Tip #4: Clean and Lube Brake Contact Points

Thoroughly cleaning components before installing new brake pads and rotors is critical for proper bed-in and noise-free operation. As Chris demonstrated with the oily new rotor, you always want to wipe down rotors with brake cleaner before installing them. The anti-rust coatings can prevent proper brake pad bed-in. I also use a small wire wheel on my drill to thoroughly scuff up both sides of new rotors. This removes any minor imperfections while providing some extra bite for the pads.

The hub face should be wire brushed to remove any rust or debris as well. I always apply a thin coat of high temp brake lubricant grease to the hub face, caliper mating points, and back of the brake pads. This lubricates any contact points to prevent vibrations, squeaking, and proper pad seating. Permatex’s ceramic extreme brake lubricant is ideal for lubricating brakes.

Tip #5: Use Spare Lug Nuts to Secure Rotors

I used to struggle with getting new rotors perfectly centered on the hub when installing calipers. No matter how cautious I was with the caliper bolts, the rotors always seemed to shift a bit, throwing off the caliper alignment. But Chris’ tip of using spare lug nuts to secure the rotor first is awesome. The lug nuts hold the rotor tightly against the hub face so it can’t move at all while installing the caliper. It’s such a simple trick that works flawlessly to center the rotor every time.

Check Rotor Runout

While the rotor is mounted with lug nuts, I’ll check for excess runout with a dial indicator. Spec is usually under .002 inches of wobble. If runout is excessive, the rotor should be replaced.

Tip #6: Don’t Contaminate Brake Fluid

Compressing caliper pistons without properly cleaning them first is a mistake I see too often, even among experienced techs. As Chris demonstrated, you should always pry back the piston boot and clean out all the debris before pushing the piston in. Forcing contaminates from old pad material and road grime into the caliper bore is a recipe for brake failure.

I like to use an old brake pad to scrub the exposed piston face till it’s squeaky clean. Be careful not to damage the piston surface or boot. After cleaning, special brake cylinder hones can be used to recondition any corroded bores. Always top off the master cylinder with fresh brake fluid after caliper service as Chris suggested. I’m also a huge fan of his one-man brake bleeder tool to safely bleed brakes solo without needing a helper to pump the pedal. It makes brake flushing so much easier.

Tip #7: Crack Bleeder Valves When Compressing

Along with cleaning piston bores, Chris’ tip of cracking open bleeder valves while compressing caliper pistons is critical. This is the professional technique we’d use at the shop all the time. Opening the bleeder allows old contaminated fluid to drain out while preventing air from getting sucked back into the system. I like to give the bleeder a half turn with my line wrench, then snug it back up before removing the brake tool.

Bleeding the brakes through bleeder valves is also the proper way to flush the system of moisture-contaminated fluid. Just be sure to keep the master cylinder full of fluid during bleeding to avoid draining it completely. And remember – clean, dry brake fluid is essential for a high performance pedal. So change it regularly as part of your brake maintenance routine.

Tip #8: Install Warning Wear Sensors on Pads

I religiously install brake pads with built-in wear sensors on both my own vehicles and customer cars. The thin metal tab that Chris highlighted makes a squealing noise when the pad material wears down to a dangerous level. This audible warning gives you advanced notice that the pads need replacing soon. Too often I see destroyed rotors and metal-to-metal pads from neglected brake maintenance.

Pay the few extra bucks for warning sensor pads on your next brake job. Wagner ThermoQuiet pads include wear sensors on affordable, high quality pads. For extreme duty applications, I’ll also install external pad wear sensors that have a flashing dashboard light. This gives you a visual indicator in addition to the audible squeal. Protecting your rotors and preventing blowouts with early warning signs is well worth the small investment.

Tip #9: Clean Rotors Again Before Completed Install

Even if you thoroughly degreased and cleaned your brake rotors initially, Chris makes an excellent point about giving them one final cleaning after all work is complete. It’s amazing how much dust and oily fingerprints from your hands can transfer back onto the rotors throughout the process of changing pads and hoses.

That oily residue is the leading cause of annoying brake squeal. So make one final pass with brake cleaner and a clean rag over the rotors before closing everything up. It’ll ensure quiet, effective braking right off the bat when you take it for an initial test drive after service.

Tip #10 One Last Wipe Down Prevents Noisy Brakes

It’s important to give the brake rotors one last spray down with brake cleaner after all work is complete. Even if you thoroughly cleaned the rotors at the start, your hands and components can transfer small amounts of oil and debris during the process of changing brake pads and calipers.

That oil residue left on the rotors is a primary cause of brake squeal and noise as the new pads bed-in initially. Spraying off the rotors at the very end removes any contaminants and ensures your newly serviced brakes will operate quietly from the first drive. It’s a simple final step that makes a big difference in getting noise-free performance from your fresh brake pads.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a backyard tinkerer or seasoned technician, Chris’ top 10 tips contain valuable advice for any DIY brake job. Combined with my additional professional pointers, use these suggestions to make your next brake service hassle-free and highly effective. Remember—quality brake parts, proper preparation, and attention to detail is the key to smooth, pulse-free stops in any automobile.

FAQs

What should I look for on a post-brake job test drive?

Ensure pedal feels firm, holds pressure when stopped, and brakes stop straight without pulling, vibration or noise.

Do I need special tools for bleeding my brakes at home?

A one-man brake bleeder makes the process much easier without needing a helper to pump the pedal. Use proper technique.

Will I damage anything if I compress the pistons incorrectly?

Yes, you can ruin the caliper seals or piston surface by contaminating with debris or pushing too far. Use brake tools properly.

What type of brake pads do you recommend?

For most drivers, a quality mid-grade ceramic or semi-metallic pad offers the best combination of life, performance and low dust.

What brake parts typically need lubrication?

Caliper slider pins, pad abutments where the pads rest, and caliper guide rods if equipped. Use silicone or brake specific lubricant.

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