Brake Pads and How to Change Them

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Car repairs can be expensive. Did you know that you can perform a lot of basic car maintenance yourself? You were probably already aware that you could perform oil changes at home, but did you know that you could also change your own brake pads? Keep reading for an overview of how to change your brake pads.

What are Brake Pads?

Brake pads are an essential part of your car’s braking system, sitting between the brake shoe and the drum.

What are the Different Types of Brake Pads?

There are three different types of brake pads. Take a look:

  • Organic: Originally, brake pads were made out of asbestos. These were replaced with organic brake pads, which you’ll find in 67% of new cars. Generally, organic brake pads are a mix of things like rubber, carbon compounds, Kevlar, etc. bound with resin. Because of the amount of heat and friction they create, they are great for people driving regular cars under regular conditions. They also are pretty quiet, and don’t stress the rotors too hard.
  • Ceramic: Ceramic brakes offer a number of advantages over organic brakes. They tend to be quieter, produce less dust and particles as they wear down, and operate effectively in a wider range of driving conditions. That said, they tend to be more expensive to manufacture, and they do not absorb heat well, increasing wear and tear on the vehicle. They are also unsuitable for extreme cold or racing.
  • Metallic: These brake pads are composed of 30% to 70% metal. They are preferred by high-performance car drivers due to their ability to function at the widest range of temperatures and conditions, though they are noisier. Because they don’t compress the way organic brakes do, you don’t need to push as hard either. On the downside, metallic brake pads also put more strain on the braking system.

When Should I Replace my Brake Pads?

Experts usually say that brake pads should last 30,000 to 35,000 miles. Though this varies depending on your driving style and driving conditions. There are a few ways you’ll know that your car’s brake pads are due for a change:

  • Indicator Light: Your dashboard may have a light that comes on when it’s time to change your brake pads. Your owner’s manual will be able to tell you.
  • Squealing or Screeching: This is frequently the first indicator that your brakes need to be changed. The high pitched noise is caused by a little piece of metal that gets exposed as your brake pads wear down.
  • Metallic Grinding or Growling: This could indicate that your disks and calipers are making contact. It’s critical to have your brakes examined as soon as possible to prevent extensive damage from occurring.

What do I need to Replace my Brake Pads?

You’ll need a few different things:

  • Owner’s Manual: This will provide you with important pieces of information like your car’s jack point, weight, rotor requirements, etc.
  • Floor Jack: Make sure it’s rated for at least 3/4s of your car’s weight
  • Jack Stands: These keep your car in the air once it’s been lifted. Use them in pairs.
  • Brake Tool: While you can adjust your brake caliper piston without the tool, it’s much easier with it.
  • New Brake Pads: To replace the old ones.
  • New Rotors: As necessary.
  • Brake Grease: You’ll need this for the pads, and between the pads and calipers.
  • Socket Wrench
  • Tire Iron

What are the Steps for Replacing my Brake Pads?

While the specifics of each car may be a bit different, the general process is the same:

  • Loosen the Lug Nuts: Just like if you were changing a tire.
  • Lift the Car: Use your owner’s manual as a guide for where a safe place to jack your car is located. If you’ve never used a jack, click here to learn how.
  • Put the Pair of Jack Stands in Place: Use a structural part of your car’s frame to place the jack stands. Then slowly lower your car onto the stands and remove the jack.
  • Remove your Rotor and Caliper Assembly: Using the socket wrench. Then slide the calipers off the rotor. Do not hang the calipers by the brake line. If the brake line snaps, the fix will get much more expensive.
  • Remove the Brake Pads from the Rotor: You’ll need to either slide or pop them off. Careful not to damage anything.
  • Install the New Brake Pad: Apply brake grease to the back of the pads. Then place the new pads in the same spot as the old pads.
  • Replace the Caliper Assembly: Place one of the used brake pads inside the caliper assembly against the large circular piston. Then, put the wide plastic part of the brake tool against the opposite side of the caliper. Rotate the handle of the brake tool so the piston compresses the piston back into the assembly and it is fully retracted.
  • Finishing Up: Ensure everything is tight and properly sealed. Put the lug nuts back on your car. Then, carefully put your car back on the jack and lower it to the ground. Then give your car a spin or two around the block at slow speeds to ensure there’s no squeaking or other problems.

Now that you know how to change your brake pads, you can save some money on car maintenance. As you’ve seen, it’s not hard. Nor does it require a lot of expensive tools.

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