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How To Change Disc Brakes On Your Car

Updated on October 30, 2012

Are your front brakes worn, and in need of replacement? Did you get a quote from your mechanic that made you do a double take? Do you have that tell tale pulsing as you hit the brakes at high speed. Well, changing your brake pads and rotors is a fairly simple procedure that will save you hundreds of dollars and provide a sense of accomplishment. This hub will outline the basics of replacing your brake pads and rotors, this photo step-by step was done for a Jeep Wrangler TJ but should apply to many cars. You should get the appropriate repair manual for your car as it will help immensely for this and any other job you wish to do yourself.

What you need for this:

  • Replacement brake pads and rotors
  • A Car jack (hydraulic or other), Jack stands, Wheel chuck
  • Adjustable wrench or the appropriate metric / SAE socket set
  • Large 'C' clamp with an opening of 6 to 8 inches
  • Rubber / plastic capped hammer
  • Plastic bucket or foot stool


First Step - Remove the tire and lift your car off of the ground. This is the basic stuff, loosen the lug nuts while the tire is on the ground and then finish the job once the car is lifted off of the ground. I recommended using jack stands to hold the car up if you have them as you might have to whack the old rotor with a hammer.

Remember, always set the emergency brake, keep the car in park or in gear to keep it from moving and secure a wheel chuck for a bit of extra insurance. You may find the car shaking as you loosen nuts or remove the rotors, and you definitely do not want it to fall off of the jack stands.

The two caliper Bolts
The two caliper Bolts | Source
The two caliper bolts
The two caliper bolts | Source

Next you need to remove the caliper. Your caliper should be held on by two bolts with rubber boots. You can access these from the 'inside' of the rotor (toward the underside of the car). Using an adjustable wrench or the appropriate socket, fully remove the bolts. Place them where you won't lose them and where they will stay clean The caliper will remain in place seated on the rotor.

To remove the caliper wiggle it off the rotor. Remember to be careful as it may break free and you don't want to drop your caliper to leave it hanging by the hydraulic lines.

Set the caliper on a bucket or stool and NOT ON THE CAR. Setting it a bucket or stool prevents it from falling off as you pull off the rotor which may cause your car to shake a bit.

Pressing the piston back into the housing
Pressing the piston back into the housing | Source

The brake pads should clip into the caliper and are easy to remove and install.

Remove the brake pad from the piston. Using your clamp, force the piston back into the housing all the way. This is required as your new pads will have more... well... pad, on them and will need more space to fit over the new rotor.

When you put the new pad on, make sure the brake pad you replace has the grooved end on the correct side so that it matches the previous brake pad. Double check this part its easy to mistake the different pads, or you will not be able to replace the caliper on the rotor.

Bare rotor and caliper removed and set aside
Bare rotor and caliper removed and set aside | Source

Now we can remove the rotor. You should not need to remove the cotter pins and spring assembly or the axle nut to replace a rotor. If the rotor does not come off easily, use a rubber or plastic mallet to force the rotor off. There should be a cut-out in the inner guard that you can hammer through and hit the rotor. Hit the rotor several times (you can bang away since you are replacing it), and turn the rotor a quarter turn and hammer again until it comes off. Using a bit of WD-40 or PB Blaster where the rotor contacts the hub can help as well

Setting the caliper back correctly
Setting the caliper back correctly | Source
Finished, new rotor and pads
Finished, new rotor and pads | Source

Clean the hub with a rag and put the new rotor on. Re-attach the brake caliper making sure to put the notched side of the brake pads (the bottom) on first. Make sure the notches in both pads are on correctly and that the top of the pads are also in the housing. You may need to move the rotor around a bit to set everything in place.

Re-insert the caliper bolts and tighten. Replace your wheel and repeat on the opposite side. Then, open a refreshing beverage of your choice to celebrate saving a few hundred bucks.


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