Brake Pad Replacement

Brake pads typically last a few years so they aren't changed too often. They're a critical part of your car, and replacing them properly ensures you'll be able to control your car while driving. This job can be intimidating, but it's actually pretty straight-forward.

DISCLAIMER: As always, follow all safety protocols. Don't undertake this task if you aren't comfortable with it and fully understand it. You are ultimately responsible for anything you do. Neither Redpants, LLC or myself is responsible or liable for anything that may occur.

My very first "talk to the camera" video was an overview of the Porterfield R4-S brake pads, and in doing so I covered the process of replacing brake pads:

I did a newer video showing the job a bit more up-close to help show exactly what's involved with swapping out brake pads:

New brake pads
Pin punch
Brake caliper piston compressor (optional)
Brakleen or other brake cleaner
About an hour

If you aren't familiar with the terminology for a braking system, reference this picture during the DIY:

Two quick notes before you begin:

  1. Using Brakleen and anti-squeal will help ensure your new brake pads don't squeal. The most common cause of squealing with new pads isn't caused by the friction surface, but rather by the metal-on-metal contact between the brake pad backing plates and the brake caliper pistons.
    Do NOT get anti-squeal on the brake pad friction surface or on the brake rotors!!
  2. When pushing the pads into the calipers, make sure your brake fluid reservoir is covered or closed. If you push the pad into the caliper during Step 4 and the reservoir isn't covered, brake fluid can spray out of it. Brake fluid is extremely corrosive and will damage your paint if not cleaned up very quickly.

Step 1
Get the car on jack stands and remove the wheels.

Step 2
Use the punch pin and hammer to remove the retention pins. Hold the spring clip in place when you remove the first one - the spring clip is highly sprung so it will shoot out when the first retention pin is removed unless you're holding it down.

Step 3
Set aside the spring clip and first retention pin, then remove the second retention pin.

Step 4
You can now remove the brake pads. The easiest way to do this is to use your fingers to press the pad into the caliper, away from the rotor. This will push the caliper pistons in and allow you to remove the pad. Press the pad in as far as you can - a new pad is thicker than a used one, so you'll need more space between the caliper pistons and the rotor to install the new pads. Remove the old pad and discard.

Step 5
Apply anti-squeal to the backing plate of the brake pad, then install it into the caliper.

Repeat Steps 4 and 5 for the second pad in that caliper. Installing one pad at a time makes the caliper pistons easier to deal with.

Note: If you're having trouble getting the caliper pistons to retract enough to fit the new brake pads, you can use a caliper piston compression tool. If you don't have one of those, you can use a long ratchet/socket extension to carefully (carefully!) pry the piston into the caliper using the edge of the brake rotor as a leverage point.

Step 6
Clean the retention pins and spring clip with Brakleen, then apply anti-squeal to the pins. Reinstall the one of the retention pins. Set the spring clip back in place, then hold it down while you reinstall the second retention pin. Make sure everything is secure.

Step 7
Repeat Step 5 for the other three brake calipers.

Step 8
Put your wheels back on the car and tighten the lug nuts as best as you can. Lower the car, then tighten the lug nuts the rest of the way. Pump the brake pedal a few times to push the caliper pistons back in place against the pads and the pads back in place against the rotors.

Step 9
Bed in your new brake pads! It's best to refer to your brake pad manufacturer's specific guidelines. A general way to do it is to brake hard from 80-mph to a slow speed (don't stop all the way), then speed up and do it again a few times.

All Done!