When needing brake work done to your vehicle there are several things to take into consideration; the cost, the repair itself, and safety. The cost can obviously be a big expense no matter what shop you go to. The repair comes down to having the correct tools, a place to perform the repair and last but not least, your own safety, the most important part about working on brakes or any part of your vehicle.
This article will show you how to diagnose and replace front brake pads and rotors. I will also give recommendations on some little tricks here and there that will help with making the repair a long lasting repair.
If you know how to change your brakes already, and are just curious about how much money you can save by changing them yourself, jump to the end of this ‘Replace front brake pads and rotors’ post to see the price breakdown.
The repair begins here with the vehicle jacked up, supported on jack stands and the wheels removed. Don’t know anything about jacking up your car, check out our How to use a jack and jack stands tutorial.
This is a 2000 Mercury Villager front disc brake view with vented rotors
The reason for replacing the pads and rotors on this vehicle is because of a brake pulse or vibration when applying the brakes at highway speeds, and the pads have been on this vehicle for 72,000 miles, Wow!
This tool allows you to do a comparison of the brake pad thickness – From 8 to 12mm green or good , from 4 to 6mm yellow or caution! (breaks at or below 50%), and from 2 to 3mm red or warning!! (less than 20% remaining).
I’ve had customers ask, why would you replace brakes that have 20% remaining? I always answer their question with a question, would you drive your kids around with little to no brakes left on your car?
But I want to get my money’s worth!
Some people look at it as, when the brakes wear down into the metal then I’ll replace them, I want to get my money’s worth.
Here’s the difference between 3mm and 12mm pad thickness.
If you were to replace the pads between 4 and 6mm, chances are that you might save warping the rotors because the pads help to dissipate the heat form the rotor with thicker pads.
If the pads are 2 to 3mm, the heat transfers quicker into the metal backing of the pad which retains heat causing hot spots on the rotors causing them to warp. The brakes also take a longer time or distance to stop, which can increase the odds of having an accident when needing to stop in a hurry.
This is not a tool that most technicians use due to the fact that most people in this business have an eye for break wear and can make an estimate knowing “good from bad”. But it serves the illustration well and gives you an idea of what a safe brake pad thickness is.
Time to change the brake pads
The photo on the left is what a disc brake assembly looks like with the wheel removed. Notice the bolt holes used for removing the rotor from the hub.
The first part to remove is the brake caliper. There are two mounting bolts that take a T-35 torx socket to remove.
After removing the bolts pry the caliper off the rotor and secure out of the work area. (Use wire to tie onto the shock or lay on top of the rotor backing plate)
Note: Do not let the caliper hang from the brake hose, or damage to the hose may occur!!
The bolts used to remove the rotors are 8mm x 1.25mm.
Tighten down evenly until the rotor separates from the hub and remove the rotor.
Use a brake caliper compressor tool to compress the piston back into the caliper. ($15 or less at your local parts store)
Remove the caliper mounting bolts, clean and lube with a high temperature grease, and reinstall into caliper.
Install the new rotor, and brake pads onto the caliper. Make sure not to get grease onto the pads or rotor surface.
Apply a high temperature brake lube to all of the metal parts that need to slide. (Pad backing edges and caliper mount bracket)
Reinstall the caliper, bolts, and wheel.
Make sure to pump up the brake pedal several times before attempting to test drive. The new pads and rotors will need to be driven around 50 to 100 miles to set in.
Your cost comparison – Shop vs. Do it yourself
If you purchased the parts to repair yourself
Brake rotors $30 each(aftermarket), Pads $50 (factory original)
If you paid a repair shop
Labor time, 2 hours @ $80 per hour, plus 100% mark up on parts
Cost at a repair shop
$380 plus tax, 12 month warrantee
Cost to do it yourself
$110 plus tax, Lifetime pad warrantee
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