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Ask the mechanic: How do I change brake pads?

There are a number of car repairs that people can do on their own which can be a big money saver. Among them is replacing brake pads. This repair takes a little effort, but the cash you save will make it all worthwhile.

Here are the steps to change your brake pads:

  1. Loosen the log nuts on one of your front wheels. You can do either one first, but be sure you only do one side at a time. Once loosened, use a jack to lift up the car and use a jack stand to support the car's frame. Then lower the car so it rests on the stand. Completely remove all lug nuts and the wheel itself.
  2. Now you should be able to see the calliper. Find the two slider bolts which hold it in place. Usually only the bottom bolt needs to be loosened. It's a bit long, but keep at it and it will slide right out once it's completely loosened. Now the calliper will pivot up and open. Be sure not to disconnect the hydraulic line (rubber hose) that you see.
  3. Now check the pad's thickness to be sure that they should be replaced. Usually pads have indicators for metal wear that will begin to squeak when making contact with the rotors, but even if they're not touching yet, the pads are known to be worn if they are below one-eighth of an inch thick. The pads are held in loosely by retaining clips, so it should be easy to slide the old pads out.
  4. New pads typically come with a new set of clips, so remove the old ones. Snap the new clips in, and then take the little packet of grease that also comes with the new pads and apply it onto the clips. This helps prevent squeaking. Next, the ears (metal tabs located on the end of each pad) fit inside the clips. There are also metal shims that come with new pads; some are riveted on, and others need to be held in place while you install the pad.
  5. Now, with the new brake pads in, you need to locate the pistons. They are part of the calliper, and they work by pressing on the pads and squeezing the rotor which then stops the car. These will have to be retracted to make room for the thicker new pads. If there are two pistons, they must be retracted together. A C-clamp is usually the tool of choice to get this done. When retracting, check your brake fluid levels in the master cylinder, as some of the fluid will get pushed back up into the lines.
  6. With the new brake pads in place and the pistons retracted, you should be able to close the calliper easily. If it seems tight, you may need to check that the pistons have been retracted sufficiently.
  7. Finally, re-tighten the slider bolt so that the calliper is secured. Then simply remount the tire and attach the lug nuts and you're done. Just repeat these steps for the other front wheel.

If you require any assistance, feel free to get in touch with us at Reliance Auto Centre. We've been servicing Sydney's North Shore for over 35 years and pride ourselves in our quality car servicing.

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