| I've been getting a lot of feedback about the
brake pads story. Here they are:
Love the illustrated instructions on how to change break pads. Just thought I would shoot you an email about a specific and costly brake problem that I had not once, but twice! on my old Pontiac Grand Prix.
Basically, it had to do with the parking brake. When you set the parking brake on my car, and many others, it pulls the outside brade pad against the brake disc on the rear wheels. I believe that it does NOT pinch the
brake disc like it does when you are slowing down, it merely pulls the outside pads into solid contact with the disc.
The problem was that I did not often use the parking brake, and when my father drove my car, he did. When it would get cold, everything in the car would get stiffer, and on two occasions, there was a problem with either the spring release or the slide pins on my rear brakes. This caused the parking brake to essentially stay on, even when released. This resulted in the outside brake pad remaining in contact with the disc as you drove. However, because the brake was released, and the parking brake on this car did not grip too tightly, you could not feel it happening. So basically, my outside brake pad on the rear would stay in contact with the brake disc until it was completely worn away. The result was the dreaded metal-to-metal contact that results in scorched rotors and TERRIBLE noises during stopping. Once the rotors have been scorched and scraped up that badly, you are left with no choice but to replace them, because they would chew up new pads in no time if you le!
ft. Thusly, you have to buy new rotors AND new pads to fix the brakes.
Thankfully my neighbor was a mechanic and was happy to do the work, but it is still a major inconvenience.
Sorry if this seemed pointless, but I figured since you had the interest in brakes, I'd share the story and info with you.
THIS, THIS is what I need for every facet of my life-- clearly
illustrated and explained steps for doing those things I'm just a
little afraid of tackling myself, but I know are probably within my
If you could get to work on the 1040a or plain old 1040, along with
some detailed instructions on how to deal with my mother, well, you'd
be doing me a great favor.
In all seriousness, this is far better than the Haynes manual I
have for my car. It's written simply and is over-illustrated, if such
a thing can be (it can't).
A longtime fan,
I noticed on your "change brake pads" page that you were using an adjustable spanner. This is a really bad move because sooner or later you will butcher up a bolt or nut and it will cost serious money to get a mechanic to get it out once you have done that. Use the money you saved by doing your own brakes to buy yourself some good quality spanners. Snap-On are what most mechanics use (and are the most expensive) but Facom or Teng are just as good and about half the price. You may be shocked by the price of quality tools but they will last you a life time and will be replaced free of charge if you manage to break them (in normal use) and will have paid for themselves many times over by the time you pass them on to your kids.
I've been reading cockeyed for years now and this is the first time I've noticed a mistake, so you're doing pretty good.
Keep up the good work
PS, although the page title was right, the page header was "brake shoes". Brake shoes are used in drum brakes, not on disks.
is it true that you used the lid of a jar of gunpowder when g-clamping the brake piston back into its cylinder? Why would the lid from the gunpowder jar be the most convenient item you had??? why would you have a jar of gunpowder?? I was very intrigued by this part of the story!!!
please keep up the good work.... I have been reading your website regularly for so long now that I would feel lost on the internet without it!!
I love your site, and just wanted to let you in on a little trick I learned from changing brakes.
Instead of finding a piece of wood or a bottle cap to help push in the plunger, use the old brake pad that you just removed.
Also, you should remove both bolts and apply brake lube to the tube that is in the holes; since this is where the caliper movement occurs.
Great article on changing your brake pads! There's one extra tip that
might help some of your readers:
Take a turkey baster and remove at least a few ounces of brake fluid
from the reservoir in your engine compartment before starting the job.
Why? When you squeeze the piston back into its cylinder to put the brake
system back together, fluid backs up into the reservoir. Sometimes this
means the reservoir will overflow - spilling brake fluid onto your
engine and associated muckety-muck (technical term).
Once you're done changing out all of the pads you need to change, put
NEW brake fluid into the reservoir up to the fill line. Then start the
car and press HARD on the brake pedal. This will seat the new pads. Then
turn off the car, check the brake fluid reservoir level, and fill it
again if needed.
Not only does this keep you from making a mess, it partially changes out
your brake fluid too!
A couple of critiques on your brake pad article- my dad was a certified class A mechanic all his life, so I’ve had the benefit of his experience as far as automotive repairs go..
Your photo of the old and new pad showed that you had 61% (according to a rough measurement made with the Photoshop ruler tool comparing the old and new) of the pad left. This is far from worn out- that pad was good for at least another year or two (depending on your driving style of course), but certainly much more than the 3 months you quoted, which could mislead some of your readers into prematurely replacing otherwise good brake pads.. So, basically, you replaced a perfectly good set of brake pads when all you really needed to do was fix the shim on the other side… Oh well, for $35 and a couple of hours of labor, it was good preventative maintenance..
Although leaving one of the caliper bolts in is handy for pivoting the caliper out of the way (and I’m assuming here that the Hyundai is just like every other car where the caliper bolts double as caliper slides) you really should remove both of them and inspect the smooth central portion of the bolts for rust, and then re-lubricate them before re-installing as these bolts are critical in allowing the caliper to slide and remain centered over the disk rotor. If these happen to rust in place, this could cause uneven braking pressure and in the worst case, for one pad to be in continuous contact with the disk, even when the brakes are not applied, which will wear out both the rotor and the pad in short order.. The little protective rubber boots around the ends of the caliper bolts should also be inspected for damage as a crack could let water in which again, could rust the slide bolts in place.
I also recommend wire-brushing the calipers and the rotor to get rid of the loose rust and then spray painting them with a good zinc “cold galvanize” primer or a good brand of caliper paint.. This helps keep the brake components from rusting and seizing and also improves the appearance of the braking components, especially on cars with spoked alloy rims where you can see the calipers quite clearly.
Lastly, if you do have a brake failure, shift into low gear to shed speed and try the emergency brake… If you still can’t stop, your choices are to try to hit something soft and yielding, or as long as there’s no traffic behind you, you can brace yourself for a sudden stop and try shifting into reverse (or park as well if an automatic), which may cause some transmission damage (but hey, it’s an emergency, and $600 for a transmission overhaul is usually cheaper than the average $1500 for front-end body work if you smash into something), but is pretty much guaranteed to bring your car into a halt (with a big Bang! as the forward rotating gears instantly try to go into reverse) and stall the engine at the same time, preventing the car from going any further..
Kudos on the disk brake write-up. As someone who's been changing my own
brakes for years, I'm glad to see you encouraging people to take on such a
project. One thing I picked up a few years back is this kit:
it makes pushing the pistons back in a lot easier. Especially on the
rear pads where you have to rotate the piston while simultaneously pushing
it back in (because of the parking brake).
Hope that helps,
Thanks for the detailed photo essay on changing brake pads. I loved it. That is one of my favorite things on your site.
On a somewhat related note, you may want to check out factoryfive.com or ffcobra.com to see what other cool things you can do that are auto related. I’d love to build one of these someday. All I need is the time, the money, and the garage.
Just what you need, right?
I thought your illustrative example of how to change brake pads was right on the money!
In fact, I may attempt at only removing one bolt off the caliper next time, to save time.
But you should loosen the cap over where you put the brake fluid under your hood. If you don’t do that, when you re-adjust the piston with the c-clamp, you may pop the top off and lose some brake fluid. Keep it up with the instructionals! Love ‘em all!! And next time you have those calipers off, paint ‘em red!
Next, show us how to change oil. How fun. ;-)
Neil E. Henne
Rob, that is a great illustrative guide on changing brakes. I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve always heard how easy it is. Now, I understand just how easy it really is.
But really, just how much is inside a brake pad, anyway?
The disk brake article was super! I'm gonna have to try it next time I hear the brakes doing their thing. Thanks!
Have a super day
Very good page on brake job! I hope it encourages others to do this easy task, one that I have done dozens of times. One very minor point: Sometimes when you press the pistons back in the caliper the brake fluid you displace over flows the master cylinder reseviour. Not really safety related, more messy then anything else.
Web page for a slightly different B9: http://home.earthlink.net/~robotb9/
Good write-up, but I wanted to make a couple of comments:
1. You didn't mention safety at all. You did mention using jackstands,
but then didn't show any. Nor did you mention setting the parking brake
and/or chocking the wheels. Or safety glasses.
2. It's often a good idea to change the brake hardware (the anti-rattle
clips and such) when you change the brake shoes. A hardware kit is cheap.
3. Just replacing the pads and not also replacing or resurfacing the rotors
can in some cases just cause the pads to wear out more quickly than they
would have if you had done the "whole thing". Pads are cheap, though, and
as you pointed out, changing them is easy, so what does it really matter if
they wear out in 10,000 miles rather than 25,000.
Long time listener, first time caller ;)
Just on the brake pads thing, a few pieces of advice.
- You used a shifer/crescent/adjustable spanner ... that's pretty bad,
especially on brakes. You should always use a ring spanner so you
dont shear the heads, and so that you can do the bolts back up tight
- When you use a G-clamp (not a c-clamp ;) to push the piston back in,
you can use the old brake pad to spread the load over the whole face
of the piston.
- Brake pads are called pads - they're only called 'shoes' when
they're part of a drum brake assembly
- Using a scissor jack is cool, but it's normally automotive zen to
advise people to always use a set of jack stands as well as a jack, so
that if the car falls off the jack it won't fall on you.
Alternatively, for just a DIY brake service, swing the wheel you
removed under the side sill of the car
- You called the front wheels 'tires' on the first page.
I'm not criticising .. i think it's awesome that you're writing about
this stuff ... your website is always an eye opener :)
Rob, when you are working on a car and need to jack it up, you *never* want to leave it on the actual jack (except, perhaps, in the case where you're just changing a flat tire). Once you have the car jacked up, you need to use jack-stands to support the weight. The reason for this is because your typical jack can fail, potentially crushing you or some favored body part of yours under the car.
Standard procedure for getting a car up:
Using the jack, get the car an inch or so higher than it needs to be.
Place a jackstand under a solid point of the car's body.
Lower the jack so the car rests on the jackstand.
Give the car a decent shove or two, to make sure it is solid on the jackstand.
Now you are ready to work on the car.
Also, make sure you are using good jackstands, and not some cheap-o pieces of crap that're gonna break and get you crushed under a car. When we're talking a crushed foot, you can probably spare the dough.
- Louis Clausen
I forgot to mention, you'll also want to put blocks in front of and behind at least one and probably two of the other wheels, so that the car doesn't roll forward or backward (as might happen if someone leans on the car).
Good instructions on the brake installation, exactly how I would’ve done it. The only thing that might be helpful to mention is that if people can’t get the piston to retreat back it’s likely because there’s pressure in the system. Loosening the cap on the brake fluid reservoir would allow pressure to decrease and have the piston slide back in. Just remember to tighten it back up and pump the brakes a few times before flying down the interstate!
Love the article about changing brakes.
There are, however, a couple of fairly blatantly unsafe acts pictured. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to tell a competent adult what risks they're allowed to take, but aren't you worried about someone else getting hurt following your instructions and suing you?
I ask, because worries along that line have stopped me from documenting some of my less UL-approvable garage projects.
Does it have something to do with your brutally unreadable disclaimer?
Eerie, I changed my brake pads the day that page came out. I've been
doing it for years, just for the ease of it. Plus, here's a neat trick.
If you get the "lifetime warranty" brake pads and keep the box and
reciept, you never have to pay for them again. Ever. Just bring the old
ones back in the box with the reciept and you've stuck it to the man.
First-time caller, long-time reader.
This past week, my brakes have started squeaking on occasion. Not often, but sometimes. I was about to go to a brake repair place and fork over a few hundred bucks until I saw your post. (As it happens, the pads are still fairly thick and there's no scoring on the drum to indicate metal rubbing against it, so I don't know what's causing the squeak.)
Thanks for helping me work on my car.
- JK Howell
I just read your article on changing brake pads. I completely agree that people should try to change there own brake pads, it isn't very had and way cheaper than taking them to a shop. The first time I changed my brakes I learned two valuable lessons. First, if you are going to be working under your car, make sure you have sturdy jack stands. I was able to pick up a pair of 3 ton jack stands for like $20. The jack that comes with most cars is usually pretty flimsy, at least mine is.
Secondly, some cars, like mine, require more than just pressure to retract the caliper. My 2001 VW Jetta requires rotation and compression, at least for the rear brakes. I was pulling my hair out because I couldn't put the new pads in or even put the old pads back without retracting the caliper. My car sat in my car port for a week because it couldn't finish the job. I went so far as to call a tow truck to take my car to a mechanic to finish the job. Luckily the tow truck driver clued me in on what I was doing wrong. In the end I bought a tool set for $40 that allows for the easy compression of calipers for most cars. Between the tool set, the brake pads, and the jack stands, I still spent less money than if I had taken it to a brake specialist. The cost of my time, the first try at least, is another story. But now I can change anyone's brakes easily and at a huge savings to my friends.
Hope this is helpful.
Link to a picture of the tool set I bought - http://store.eldoradotoolsales.com/ap-7860.html
Link to a picture of jack stands similar to the ones I got - http://store.eldoradotoolsales.com/otc-1772c.html
Man, maybe your cheapest pack of brake pads will give you trouble free
kilo's/miles for many months/years, but I never ever buy the cheapest
brakes pads and/or liners. They might end up giving you the problem you
where trying to eliminate in the first place. This is the one area on a
car's set-up where I don't make any compromises. Though I don't buy the
most expensive either, I always go for a well know brand that's been proven
to give good results, you could say I go for the middle to upper class
Even though I'm a programmer, I've been working on cars with my dad since I
could pick up a tool. He's a qualified motor machinist and fitter, and I
half completed my apprenticeship in the same line before moving on to
computers. Anyway, brake squeak/squeal has been baffling motor mechanics
and auto repairmen from early ages. Being very interested in cars and
anything that goes vroom, I also service cars as a hobby, usually asking
for a few beers as payment...:-) However, occasionally someone would turn
up that's had enough of the squeaking from their brakes and would literally
beg me to try and fix it. Without exception I would turn them down, as this
may be the Achilles heel of auto repair. I've seen people with brand new
Mercedes' with the problem, that eventually gave up trying to get the
agents to solve the problem. This after replacing disks, pads and whole
strut tower assemblies... The reasons this happens vary from one car to the
other, and even on the same make and model.
Thought in general there are a few rules that may, or may not, help you
avoid this problem.
Older brake pads, tend to produce squeak, because they become harder from
the baking effect created by the heat. Usually the only cure is to replace
the pads, but it's not guaranteed to work. Sometimes a simple but thorough
blast of compressed air around the pads will clear out dust, which has also
been known to produce squeak. That's about what I wanted to say about that.
Let's move on to cheap/ish brake pads and their cons...
Cheap brake pads have been know to be a sure source of brake squeak, and to
a lesser extent cheaper brakes discs. The problem is that cheaper brake
pads are in general much harder in composition than the better slightly
more expensive ones. Apparently the harder compound can generate a
harmonious vibration when making contact with the disk, generating the
squeak. Other than that in general they also contain more metal particles,
which also contributes to the squeak problem.
More importantly because the friction material is harder, it will and can
not give you the same level of friction a softer compound gives you. Even
though the clamping power of the calipers remains the same, this translates
into less stopping power. They also tend to generate far more heat on the
caliper (note not necessarily the disk) due to their thermal conductivity
being better, thus transferring more heat to the brake fluid, resulting in
the brake fluid aging much faster than normal. Brake fluid is hygroscopic,
meaning that it absorbs water, the more water it absorbs the lower it's
boiling point becomes. It will absorb water faster when it gets heated and
cooled down more often. If you have these inferior brake pads fitted, you
might land in some trouble at some stage when you hit the brakes a few
times on the highway, where the brake fluid will boil from the heat and
you'll end up having no brakes.
Harder pads wear down the disks faster, than the softer ones, and any money
you saved when purchasing the cheaper pads will be gobbled up by the new
disks and pads when you have to replace them. Driving a Hyundai myself, I
know that their replacement parts are more expensive than that of other
cars. Remember you can put new pads on old disks, but not old pads on news
disks. The "seating" process for the old pads will damage the new disks,
but not vice versa. In fact the new pads may smooth out some of the rough
edges on old disks, during the seating process.
I also think you should put up a warning on your site and the article, that
people should start their cars, and give the brakes a good few pumps to
bring the pads back into contact with the discs before driving off. As one
tends to open the cylinder up slightly to much, the first 2 - 3 steps on
the pedal may generate no pressure on the disks at all. After that one
should be careful for at least another good few kilo's/miles, because the
brakes won't generate their full braking power until the pads have properly
seated on the disks.
Other than that a very good and informative article with good pics to
properly illustrate the procedure. One other thing, you did use a proper
socket wrench to loosen and fasten the bolts on the caliper, and not that
shifting/ adjustable wrench? Using an adjustable wrench may cause undue
damage on a bolt's head, and make it more difficult to remove the next time
you have to go through the exercise.
It's too bad I just replaced my pads last March.
I know you probably don't want to turn your site into an auto repair
themed one, but I'd love to see a similar article on changing your own
oil, including how to dispose of the old oil.
Hey Rob! I love your web site. I've created a guide to making chicken
that is a spin-off of your over-illustrated instructions. I'd be honored
if you would link to it on your web page. God only knows how much I need
the extra traffic. For this, I will be forever in your debt.
Love the site and love your story on brake pads. As a mechanic by trade though, I was
a little concerned with safety. I try not to be one to be hypercritical of people not in the business of repairing cars for a living, as our tools and skills will differ
drastically. Nice to see people that can handle the small stuff themselves. Anyway what I am getting at is using the scissor jack to lift the car and do work on. Now, I know they tell you always use jackstands, and this is very very true, although not so bad if you keep a good maintained hydraulic jack with you. But this jack that comes with the car is not suitable for anything except changing the tire in a hurry, and
I'm disinclined to say its ok for even that. I myself have had one of these jacks drop a car while changing a tire, and I have witnessed someone change
the brakes with the exact same jack, the jack failed and after it fell, it ripped the bumper off and was sitting on the ground.
I'm not sure if you did this, but if you must use this jack or something equally unstable, take the tire you removed from the car and set under the “frame” of the car so if the jack fails at least you have something to stop it from hitting the ground. This is useful for 2 reasons, 1, you have a better chance of not being squished, and 2, you ever tried to lift a car that was laying on the ground? Damn hard my friend, damn hard. Anyway, don’t mean to sound to harsh, love the site, as I have said many times. Take it easy
(For the record, I have tried to lift a car that has been lying on the
i'm sure i'm not the first person to tell you this, but the old
innermost brake pad is PERFECT for compressing the cylinder. how
i hate changing brakes, but it's the only auto repair i do well. -matt
I'm a big fan and always follow your website. You need to do more pranks. Anyway, in your latest article on how to replace brake pads you didn't mention the "tiny packet of lubricating powder". What is it for?
David Keniston - New Forest, Hampshire. UK
Great instructions. I always change my own brake pads because I am a
cheap bastard, and doing the job myself leaves me with more money to buy
important things like beer and CD's. Or, as is increasingly the case
recently, children's orthodontia.
I'd like to make two comments though. First off I would highly
recommend using jack stands instead of leaving the car supported on the
cheapo jack that is included with modern automobiles. You can buy these
at any auto parts store or Sam's Club. Or garage sale. Dropping the
car off the jack is irritating, especially if the car lands on your foot
Second, I would also use mechanic's nitrile gloves. They are a very
attractive robin's egg blue color, and can be blown up into funny shapes
or used to inhale helium for comedic purposes. They also keep your
fingers clean if you wear them on your hands while working on your car.
A box of 100, suitable for one average human to do 50 average
automobile repair tasks, or 50 average humans to do one very complicated
automobile repair task, can be purchased for as little as $10 if you
shop around (see "cheap bastard" above).
Engineer in Research - Lead
I thought your illustrated instructions on how to change brake pads was, for lack of better words...very cool..
However I was wondering what do you do with the lubricating powder that comes with the brake pads?
Hey Rob, love the site, loyal reader and silly website "I just put up for fun but now it's taking more and more time" guy here. One thing you may want to add to your article at the very end is the critical part about pumping up the brakes BEFORE moving the car, so it will actually have brakes that work when you first move it :)
Don't ask why this springs to mind as critical, let's just say it cost me about $500 to repaint the back end of a friends car I was doing a favor for some years back, and now I remember every time.
Keep up the highly entertaining and overly photographed work.
Please don't tell me you used an adjustable wrench on your caliper bolts.
You are asking for serious trouble.
If you want some detailed instruction on simple repairs it is hard to beat a Haynes manual. I always purchase one when they are available for each vehicle I have. If a repair goes much beyond the scope of the Haynes it is usually time for me to head to a repair shop.
So, there you have it! Readers advise using jackstands, using nitrile
gloves, using eye protection, removng some brake fluid before you start,
setting the parking brake, avoiding an adjustable end wrench and pumping
the brakes when you are done!