Changing brake pads and rotors

This was one of the first things I learned how to do. A couple of years ago, at a "HADA Motorsport" school day, my brake pads were done half way trough the day and I had no clue what to do.
A good fellow from HADA (Jonathan Weir), fortunately had some spare brake pads and he took the time to teach me how to change them.

This is my way of saying thanks and trying to give back and help others that might get in the same situation.

Things that you will need:

  • lift jack
  • jack stands
  • a set of wrenches (depending on your car and brake setup, different size are needed)
  • torque wrench (even if is the cheap "Beam Type Torque Wrench")
  • impact screw driver (needed when replacing the rotors)

Before doing anything, open your engine hood and open the cap for the brake fluid reservoir. Leave it in place but do not tighten it. We will have to compress the pistons of the caliper and this will allow us to do it much easier.

Step 1 - lift the car and remove the wheel

On a flat and hard surface, jack up one side of the car and place it on jack stands.
Remove the lung nuts from the wheel then remove the wheel and as an extra safety precaution, place the wheel under the car so that in case the jack stands fail, the car will fall on the wheels and not on the ground. A wheel is cheaper to replace :).

Don't do this on the grass (or any kind of soft surface) even if you put the car on jack stands.
If you are unsure as to where to place the jack stands under the car, please consult your car's manual. Somewhere in there it should explain where are the places from where the car can be lifted and where it can sit on jack stands.

Personally I do NOT recommend to go under the car even if the car is on the jack stands. There were some rare cases when the jack stands failed and people had serious injuries and some of them even died.
So, play it safe and play it smart - jack stands are only for keeping the car lifted while the wheels are off.
You work around the car, not under!

Step 2 - remove caliper, brake pads and brake bracket

Look behind the caliper (you might need a flash light) and see how the caliper is hold in place - you should notice 2 bolts.
Grab the appropriate wrench and remove those bolts. If you haven't changed your brake pads for a while, it might be a little tough to get them going.

After the bolts are removed, simply slide the caliper out.
At this point (so you won't forget later), you can compress the caliper's piston. You kind of need to do this so you will have an easier job to place the caliper back in. You can do it anytime before placing the caliber back.
You do not need to have caliper spreaders. You can simply put one of the wrenches over the piston and gently push it in. Might take a little bit of force but it will work.

For the calipers on the rear wheels, you will need to rotate the piston Contra-Clock-Wise to compress it in.
Again, a special tool is not really need it. What I usually do is put an Allen key across one of the grooves and rotate :). Works just as good :D.

Don't leave the caliper hanging. Try and place it in such a way that there is no tension on the brake line.

After you are done dealing with the caliper, remove the brake pads - because the caliper is the only thing that holds them in place, you can just slide them out of the grooves.

Removing the brake bracket is similar with removing the caliper.
Look behind the wheel and you will notice 2 other bolts (usually bigger in size).
Again, grab the appropriate wrench and remove these bolts. Hold on to the bracket - after the bolts are removed, it will most probably fall down on the ground.

At this step, what I would also recommend is to remove the anti-rattle clips (if your brake bracket has them) and clean the rust and dust with a wire brush - do the same for the brake bracket as well.

Step 3 - remove the brake disk

If your disk brakes are hold in place with 2 small bolts, try and carefully remove them! I say carefully, because if you damage them, your are ... screwed :).

Grab your impact screw driver, set it to rotate Contra-Clock-Wise, put it in place over one of the bolts and hit it with a hammer a couple of times. When the bolt starts to rotate, stop hitting it and remove it. Do the same for the other one.
Have patience at this step!

Once the small bolts are out, grab the disk brake and slide it off the lugs.
If you haven't replaced your disks for a while, you might need to give it a little bit of a nudge to free it. When you do that, make sure not to use excessive force or anything that might damage the disk (if you plan to use it again).

TADAAAA ... everything is off and now you are ready to put in the new parts :).

To put everything back in, just follow the same steps in reverse and you should be OK.
Then repeat on the other side :).

IMPORTANT!!!

Torque your lug nuts according to your car specifications!
DO NOT FORGET TO TIGHTEN THE BRAKE FLUID CAP RESERVOIR - once everything is done!!!
Press the paddle brake a couple of times BEFORE leaving with the car and AFTER you tighten the brake fluid cap!

Tips - going beyond and servicing your brake components

Here are some very good tips that are recommended to do from time to time.
Additional suggestions are more then welcome!

Tip 1 (this will require bleeding your brakes - don't do it if you are not comfortable with that)
"When pushing the piston(s) in the calipers back, I would recommend opening the bleeder screw first, this way you are not pushing any potential particulates such as rust or anything back up into the flex line/brake system. Instead the fluid you are pushing back out of the caliper will exit via the bleeder screw. You will need to bleed your brakes after this, but will avoid any damage to the lines and system itself."
(Originally Posted by ej1onblades - JDMRIDES.ca)

Tip 2
"After cleaning the bolts holding the caliper bracket to the spindle with a wire wheel, apply anti seize to them (can be gold or silver). When you clean the bolts that hold the caliper to the slider pins, I would suggest applying some blue loc-tite to the thread to prevent bolts from backing out. If you are not sure of the torque on either of these, check online and torque them to specification from the manufacturer"
(Originally Posted by ej1onblades - JDMRIDES.ca)

Tip 3
"I highly recommend wire wheeling the caliper brackets behind the anti-rattle clips, then applying anti-seize before re-installing the clips. With that being said, if you are not replacing the anti-rattle clips, wire wheel the surface on the inside and outside of them, and apply some anti-seize or brake grease to the clips before installation (this will allow the pads to slide freely and smoothly on the bracket."
(Originally Posted by ej1onblades - JDMRIDES.ca)

Tip 4
"Make sure you pull the slider pins out of the caliper brackets and clean them thoroughly to ensure full movement is capable. Before re-installing these into the bracket, apply some brake grease to them so they stay lubricated within the bracket/boot covering them."
(Originally Posted by ej1onblades - JDMRIDES.ca)

Tip 5
"Before installing the rotor onto the hub, clean the face and edge of the hub (be careful not to hit the studs) with some sort of die-grinder sanding disc, or a wire wheel, then apply anti-seize after so the new rotor doesn't seize up to the hub."
(Originally Posted by ej1onblades - JDMRIDES.ca)

Extra notes

The additional tips are not required to do it every single time (especially when you change the brake pads and disks before and after a track day), but it is recommended to follow them from time to time.
What it is strongly recommended AFTER a track day, is to bleed your brake lines - click here for the guide!

Those bolts that are holding the disk brakes in place are not that important.
If you want, and you are afraid you might damage them in time, you can leave them out and not use them. It might be a little tricky to put everything in place because the disk brakes will move around until you tighten the wheel on, but again, it is NOT required to put them back on. As a matter of fact, a lot of car models out there do not have these bolts.
Or, put them on, but don't tighten them. They won't fall or go anywhere because the wheel will keep them in place.

When placing the brake pads back in, some people recommend to apply brake grease on the back of the pad.
This is not really required. It is recommended, but if you don't have it, don't worry about it. You "might" (I never did so far) get a little bit of noise from the brakes, but that's about it.

If by any chance you loose/brake/damage one of your anti-rattle clips from your brake bracket, don't despair. You do not necessarily need them, however it is strongly recommended to have them - you will get A LOT of noise while braking.
So, until you get to buy new ones, you can drive without them.

When compressing the piston inside the caliper, is a good time to inspect the seals.
For those of you who are at the track more often, these seals will get damaged more often because of the heat.
If they are in really bad condition, see your mechanic and have him change the seals (this will cost a little).

It is a good habit to clean everything you touch when working on your car.
That being said, DO clean all the bolts you are removing.

DO NOT put anti-seize on the wheel lugs ... you just ask for trouble - especially when you have spacers on the car!

Disclaimer!
I am NOT a professional mechanic. Everything I do I gathered from my experience and from other car enthusiasts.
While what I advise and recommend is one way of doing things, please understand that you take your own chances following my DIYs and I cannot be held responsible if you damage your car or hurt yourself by not following the "proper procedures".