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BrakeOverstock Brake Pad/Rotor Installation Guide
*Note – This installation guide is a general overview of how to change brake pads and rotors on a majority of automotive braking systems. Certain braking systems are more complex and require special procedures to service the pads or rotors. Always consult a factory service manual if you are unsure of any procedure.
General Operation of a Disc Brake System:
A disc brake system consists of several parts; the Master Cylinder, Brake Hoses, Calipers, the rotors, the brake pads, and caliper pins/bolts/hardware.
- Brake Rotor: Round, disc shaped object that is mounted behind the wheel/tire assembly. The rotor rotates with the wheel and contacts the brake pads.
- Brake Pads: Contact the brake rotor and apply friction force against the surface of the rotor to stop the rotor from spinning.
- Brake Caliper: This is the part of the braking system that fits over the pads and uses hydraulic pressure to squeeze the pads against the rotor to stop it from spinning.
- Caliper Pins: Bolts that attach the caliper to the caliper bracket (if applicable) or directly to the spindle/hub.
- Brake Hose: Flexible hose that supplies pressurized brake fluid to the caliper
- Bleeder Screw: The Bleeder screw is part of the caliper. It looks like a bolt with a hole in the middle of it positioned on the top of the back of the caliper.
- Caliper Bracket: (Some Vehicles) Bracket which fits around the brake caliper, holding the pads in position.
- Abutment (hardware) clips: On vehicles with caliper brackets, there are stainless steel clips that clip into the caliper bracket where the pad rides back and forth. These clips keep the pad from moving excessively back and forth, preventing noise during braking.
- Master Cylinder: The master cylinder is located under the hood of the vehicle directly in front of the driver’s seat. This attaches to the brake pedal through the firewall and provides pressurized brake fluid to the rest of the brake system
Socket wrench kit, large C-Clamp, Allen wrench set (On some vehicles), Open End wrench set, a wire brush, Brake Fluid, Car Jack and Jack Stands. If you are bleeding the brakes, have an assistant there to help.
Set the parking brake on the vehicle and block the rear wheels if you are servicing the front brakes, or block the front wheels if you are servicing the rear. Loosen the lug nuts on the wheels you will be removing before you raise the vehicle. Raise the vehicle with the jack and support it with the jack stands. It is important that the vehicle is SECURELY supported by the jack stands on the frame of the vehicle, otherwise, bodily injury may occur. Do NOT rely on the jack alone to support the vehicle.
Remove the master cylinder cap, taking note of the fluid level. Remove the wheel and tire assembly using a lug nut wrench. Inspect how the brake pads, rotors and calipers are assembled. Take note of the position of all parts of the braking system. A good idea is to leave the opposite side assembled until you are finished assembling the side you are working on, in case you need to reference it.
After carefully examining the assembled brake system, begin by removing the caliper pins. On most cars, the caliper pins are on the back side of the caliper. If there is a caliper bracket present, you will need to remove the caliper and bracket as an assembly if you are replacing the rotors. Depending on application, it may aid reinstallation if the caliper and caliper bracket are disassembled from each other. With the caliper pins removed, you should be able to remove the caliper and pads off of the brake rotor. (This may be difficult and you may need to apply a prying force to remove the caliper assembly from the rotor.)
*Note: Be sure to support the caliper by a coat hanger so that the brake hose is not stressed by leaving the caliper hanging from the hose.
Look inside the caliper and note how the brake pads are held into it. Remove the brake pads and inspect for uneven wear of the friction material. Also look for any uneven wear on the rotor (gouges in the friction surface, etc), as either of these problems may require additional parts to fix.
*Note: On the rear calipers of certain models there will be two notches on the piston where it contacts the pads. These calipers require the piston be turned, or screwed back into the caliper, rather than compressed. You can usually do this with simple hand tools with a little bit of difficulty, but auto parts stores sell special tools for this application.
Clean the caliper where it contacts the pads of any caked on brake dust or rust with a wire brush. Inspect the piston seal for any damage or leakage. Now you need to press the caliper piston back into the caliper to make room for your new brake pads. Take an old brake pad, insert it into the caliper against the piston. Open the bleeder screw slightly until brake fluid starts trickling out (taking care to keep the bleeder pointing upward, also to make sure brake fluid is not spilling on anything important as it can damage painted or plastic surfaces). Then take the C-Clamp and press the brake pad against the piston, pushing the piston back into the caliper taking care not to push the piston on an angle, damaging it. The top of the piston where it contacts the pad should be almost flush with the rest of the caliper. Close the bleeder just before you get to that point.
Remove the rotor. There are two different kinds of rotors, hub and rotor assemblies, and hat-style rotors. Hub and rotor assemblies have the wheel bearings inside of them, while hat-style rotors are a separate piece from the hub and just fit over the wheel studs. Hub and rotor assemblies are common on trucks and older (1980’s and prior) vehicles. Hat-style rotors are commonly used on most vehicles today.
Hub/Rotor assemblies: To remove hub/rotor assemblies, you will need to remove the dust cap covering the center hole of the hub/rotor. Under the dust cap, there is a castle nut with a cotter pin going through it. Remove the cotter pin, nut and the washer behind the nut and the hub/rotor should slide right off the spindle.
Hat-Style rotors: Hat style rotors should just slide off the wheel studs, but sometimes they can be slightly corroded in place and will require a couple taps with a soft-face mallet to dislodge.
Step Seven: Install rotors
Hub/Rotor assemblies: Clean old grease and debris off of the spindle. Then to install the new hub/rotor, you need to remove the bearings from the old rotor, or if you choose to use new bearings, remove them from the package. The inner bearing will be behind the wheel seal, so the wheel seal needs to be removed to access it. The wheel seal usually gets destroyed during the removal process, so new seals are recommended. The outer bearing should just fall out when the rotor is removed. The bearings need to be packed with fresh hi-temp grease before installation in the new rotor. After the inner bearing is placed into the hub/rotor, lightly tap the wheel seal in place. Slide the hub/rotor onto the spindle and slide the outer bearing in place. Install the washer and the nut, being careful not to over tighten (the nut needs to be tight enough so there is no side-to-side movement in the rotor, but not so tight the rotor doesn’t turn), and install the cotter pin through the holes in the castle nut and spindle.
Hat-Style rotors: Brush any rust/corrosion off of the hub surface with a wire brush so that the rotor will sit flush against it, then slide the new rotor over the wheel studs.
Inspect all clips, bushings, shims, etc. for any type of damage and replace as necessary. Any broken or worn hardware can cause brake noise or pad performance issues. Install the brake pads into the caliper (or into the caliper bracket on certain models) It is recommended to put a noise suppressor such as ‘disc brake quiet’ between the back of the pad and the caliper to reduce any vibration between the two (do not get any on the friction material!). Make sure the friction surfaces of the pads are facing each other, because they will be on either side of the rotor. Then slip the caliper back over the rotor, ensuring that the pads are on either side of the rotor with the friction surfaces contacting the rotor.
Make sure the friction surface on the pad does not overlap the edge of the rotor. Tighten the caliper bolts/pins and the caliper bracket bolts (if applicable).
Bleed the brakes. Fill the master cylinder up with the recommended brake fluid. Begin with the caliper furthest from the master cylinder and have someone press down very slowly on the brake pedal while you open the bleeder. Tell them to let you know when the pedal is at the floor and quickly close the bleeder. Tell them to slowly release the pedal. Repeat the process until no air bubbles come out of the bleeder. Methodically move closer to the master cylinder until all 4 calipers are bled. Keep checking the level of the fluid in the master cylinder to make sure it does not go dry.
I have found it useful (and cleaner) to attach a clear tube to the bleeder on one end and put the other end into an old bottle or pop can. This makes it easier to see bubbles in the fluid.
After the bleeder is closed, have your assistant pump the brake pedal a few times to see how the pedal feels. If the brake pedal is soft, perform the bleeding procedure again. If the brake pedal is firm, you have done a good job.
Double check to make sure everything is installed and tightened properly and put the wheels back on, putting the lug nuts on as snug as possible with the vehicle in the air. Lower the vehicle and tighten lug nuts to the recommended torque found in your owner’s manual. Tighten lug nuts in a criss-cross or star pattern to ensure proper seating of the wheel and rotor.
Check the fluid in the master cylinder, make sure it is just below the ‘max’ line in the reservoir. Top off as necessary and close the cap. Start the engine and pump the brakes again to make sure the brake pedal is firm.
This step is critical to pad performance. All brake pads need to be properly bedded to the rotors immediately after installation. The break in process is as follows: Perform 5 or 6 moderate to aggressive stops at 40mph down to 5mph without letting the brakes cool in between stops, being sure to not come to a complete stop. Expect to smell the resin burning the brake pads as they heat up and break in properly. Then, drive around slowly, without stopping, about 15-20 mph and let the rotors cool down.
*Note: For the first 100 miles, avoid towing or hauling so the brake pad resin can cure.