With the ever-rising cost of auto repairs, it is getting harder and harder to keep vehicles in proper operating condition. Brake pad replacement is a big profit monster for most shops, as the brake pads typically only cost about $15.00, they are paying the mechanic one hours labor (which runs about $20) that means the true overhead for a brake job runs about $35.00. Some shops are charging upwards of $150.00 (semi-metallic) to $175.00 (ceramic) per axle for a brake job, including resurfacing rotors. This makes a heafty $115.00 to $135.00 for the shop with minimal time spent, and a good technician can complete 2 to 4 brake jobs per hour. One thing shop owners do not want their customers to know is that changing brake pads is typically easier to do than a basic oil change. Here I will outline a basic brake pad replacement. Remember, some vehicles vary, this is only an outline.
Tools you need
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Socket set
- 8-inch C-clamp
- Turkey baster
- Small container (less than 1-quart)
- Torque wrench
- Bungee strap
- Flat head screwdriver
Parts You Need
- Brake Pads
- Ceramic recommended
- Disc brake grease
- Hardware kit
- Open the hood and siphon out about half of the brake fluid with a turkey baster, place this fluid in the small container for reuse.
- Loosen the lug nuts from the front wheels.
- Jack up the front of the vehicle; make certain you are jacking on a secure part of the vehicle, like the sub-frame. Place the jack stands under a secure part of the vehicle and lower the car on to the stands.
- Remove the lug nuts and remove the wheels. Always place the lug nuts in a secure location, away from your work area. It is always frustrating to accidentally kick them and loose a few.
- Loosen the two caliper bolts on the rear of the brake caliper. Pull the caliper off of the rotor. At this point one of two things will happen: the brake pads will remain attached to the caliper or the pads will remain attached to the brake caliper bracket. Make certain to hang the caliper by a bungee strap, allowing it to hang by its hose will cause damage.
- If the pads are still on the caliper, pry them off using a flat head screwdriver. Keep track of how they are position, as they must be replaced in the same fashion.
- If you would like to replace or have the rotor resurfaced, simply remove the brake caliper bracket bolts, on the rear, pull the caliper bracket off and pull the rotor towards you.
- Place the C-clamp over the caliper, positioning the screw of the clamp on the caliper piston. Tighten the C-clamp to press the piston into the caliper. This creates the space needed for new pads.
- Grab the old hardware from the caliper bracket and place the new hardware in its place. This may seem tedious and sometimes difficult, but it will prevent noises and pad wear in the future.
- Place the new pads on the caliper, or in the caliper bracket, in the same fashion they were before removal. Place a thin coat of disc brake grease on the backs of both pads to prevent vibration noise.
- Place the caliper back on the rotor and tighten the bolts to manufacturer’s specifications, using a torque wrench. The specifications are found in a repair manual or at AutoZone’s Repair Guide site.
- Repeat steps 5 through 9 for the other side of the vehicle. (Yes, you have to do both sides)
- Place the wheels back on the vehicle and hand-tighten the nuts.
- Raise the jack, remove the stands, and then lower the vehicle to the ground.
- Torque the lug nuts to manufacturer’s specification, with a torque wrench. The torque specs can be found online or in a repair manual. Most passenger cars are between 75 and 100 foot-pounds.
- Check the brake fluid level and add some from the small container if needed. The level should be between the “Max” and “Min” lines. Never fill the master cylinder to the “Max” unless a brake overhaul is performed.
- Pump the brake pedal until it feels hard. This extends the caliper piston back out.
So, the $1,000,000 question is “How much did this save me?” I will base this off of a pretty common car—a 2001 Chevy Cavalier—to keep it fair for most people.
- Ceramic Brake Pads: $54.99 (Lifetime warranty)
- Brake pad grease: $3.99
- Hardware: $2.69
- Total Parts: $61.67
- Cost at a shop: $175.00
- Difference: $113.33
That $113.33 can add up. Let’s imagine you are 30 years old, and will be driving and able to repair your own vehicle until you are 60 (hypothetical of courseJ). The average driver has to replace their brake pads every 2 years, so that makes 15 changes in brake pads.
$113.33 X 15 = $1,699.96
Not counting inflation, you would be saving upwards of $1,700 over the life of your vehicle. Combine that with other savings by doing it yourself; you have a lot of money saved.
So as you can see, doing brake pads on your own vehicle can be easy and save tons of money.
To request a specific repair, email me at cupler2 [at] Gmail [dot] com and I would be happy to post your repair, unless I am uncertain how to do it.