How to Replace Brake Pads: A Newbie’s Guide

How to Replace Brake Pads

Driving is not just about convenience, but it is also about safety. When driving, the person behind the wheel is responsible for the well-being of other passengers, fellow drivers, and people walking around.

With that said, you must learn how to maintain your car, and one of the most important skills that you should learn is how to replace brake pads. That is because faulty brake pads can be a serious danger to all parties involved in traffic.

Of course, apart from learning how to replace brake pads, it is also essential to know the signs when you need to replace your car’s brake pad as well as keep in mind some common practices when it comes to tossing the old out for the new.

How Often Should You Replace Your Brake Pads?

There’s no real straight answer to this question, but there are a lot of things that can help the driver determine when it’s time to get some fresh pads. Braking involves friction, a lot of it, in fact. The heavy friction combined with the surrounding climate, type of vehicle and type of brake pad will all provide useful insight as to when the driver needs to perform maintenance.

  • Check with Your Service or Dealer

The first and easiest step is to check with the manufacturer or dealer. They will generally provide a lot of useful information on the durability and endurance of the respective type of brake pads, as well as other valuable information on the vehicle.

  • Take Note of the Respective Model

Brake pads, as with most products on the market, come in a variety of forms. There are organic pads, semi-metallic brake pads, and ceramic brake pads. Organic brake pads, for instance, are cheaper because of the low manufacturing cost. A lot of carmakers still fit their vehicles with this type of brake pad since it’s perfectly suited for classic models.

Semi-metallic brake pads are another good choice. More of a mid-range type of pad, they’re made using both organic and metallic elements, which are bonded together. They’re more resistant to friction and heat that comes with it, making them last longer than their organic cousins.

Ceramic pads are considered to be the high-end choice when it comes to brake pads. They’re also referred to as “synthetic pads” and are made using fiberglass and other fibers. They’re more resilient in harsher climates and can deal superiorly better with shifts in heat; thus, they last longer.

What are the Signs Indicating that You Need to Replace Your Car’s Brake Pads?

There’s a consensus between mechanics and car makers that brake pads should be swapped between 30,000 and 70,000 miles (roughly 50,000 – 115,000 kilometers). There’s a good margin of error there, so here are some useful tips on how to determine when it’s time for a new set.

  • Pulling

When stepping on the brakes, the driver should check to see if the car is pulling left or right. If it is, this means that the pads have worn unevenly. Meaning, one of the pads is performing better than the other. If that’s the case, then it’s time to move on to a new set.

  • Reduced Performance

When braking requires a longer distance, then there’s clearly an issue with the braking system. The driver should check the pads (or have them checked) for wear, although this might be attributed to other problems. Braking systems are based on a hydraulic mechanism, which means fluid is required for the braking action to take place. If the driver has to sink the pedal when braking, then there’s a good chance that a fluid leak is the cause of the problem and not the pads.

  • High-Pitched Noises and Growls

High-pitched noises that occur when braking are a good indicator of brake pad wear. If this is a recurring phenomenon, then it’s important to take a look and determine whether or not the brake pads need to be changed.

How to Replace Brake Pads?

The first thing to keep in mind when replacing the vehicle’s brake pads is what are the best pads that would last longer. If budget isn’t an issue, then picking up a set of ceramic pads is the safest way to go.

Although they’re a bit pricier and have a slightly inferior stopping power, they’re the most endurant and cause less damage to the rotors compared to other models.

With that out of the way, some tools are essential for successfully changing the pads. The driver needs a floor jack and stands that should be strong enough to support at least three-thirds of the vehicle’s weight.

All of the information required for swapping the brake pads is present in the car’s manual, including weight and jack points. Brake grease is also required. While the grease isn’t applied to the inside of the brake pads or rotor, it’s very useful in making sure that the caliper assembly, screws and anything that might become stuck would function.

  • Step One: Elevate the Vehicle

Using the tire iron, the wheels in question must be loosened up. After doing so, then the driver should use the manual to determine where to place the floor jack. Elevate the car and set the stands under a structural point and get ready for the next step.

  • Step Two: Remove the Brake Pads

The brake caliper assembly should be visible at this point. It looks like a clamp, and it keeps the brake pad and rotor tightly connected. It’s all held together by bolts, so using a socket wrench would be the best and fastest way to loosen it, allowing the brake pads to slide right out.

After removing the old pads, it’s time to apply grease on the replacements. Just apply lubricant on the exterior of the brake pads and on the caliper assembly, making sure nothing gets into any parts of the rotor. Getting any sort of lubrication between the pads and rotor will have a significant negative impact on the stopping power, translating into a big risk in traffic.

  • Step Three: Put Everything Back Together

If the driver remembers every step that went into replacing the brake pads, then it’s easy to retrace them and get everything back in place. Remove the jack stand and floor jack and take the vehicle out for a quick spin.

Final Thoughts

If the new brake pads are different than the old ones, make sure to adjust to the new stopping power. In addition, if changing the brake pads seems like too big of a task, then there’s nothing wrong with taking the vehicle to an auto shop. Remember, safety always comes first when driving!

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