Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to Change Brake Pads

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When you catch a flying Frisbee, you probably pinch it between your thumb and your fingers. The pads of skin on your finger and thumb immediately stop the Frisbee from rotating. 

disk brakes in automobiles work in a similar way, clamping two pads together onto either side of a spinning metal disk. Each wheel of a car has two brake pads set up to give it a squeeze when you press on the brake pedal. New pads are about as thick as Twix bar, but after 12 thousand miles or so, the pads get worn down to the stump.

When the pads get worn down, they have a cheap, built-in alarm system. A little tab of metal begins to make contact with the disk brake every time you stop, creating a high-pitched squeal. This squealing sound is your signal that it is time to replace the brake pads. If you ignore this sound, your brakes will grind through the final layers of brake pad material, and start to press steel plates against your iron disk brakes whenever you apply the brakes. You will probably keep stopping the car, but each time you stop, you will be crushing, etching, scarring, warping, marring, twisting and grinding up an expensive little clockwork of machinery that surrounds your wheels.

When you hear the squealing brakes, you have about three weeks to take care of it, or the price of repair will climb from about $200 to about $800.

Changing the pads is pretty easy, but toying with your brake system can certainly be a little unnerving. 

When I changed Stacy's brake pads last summer, I took a bunch of photos to help illustrate the process. I hope these help people who are having trouble changing their brake pads, and I hope that they inspire people to try the repair themselves. 

Stacy's Hyundai Elantra 

First, go buy the parts. I went to Kragen and asked at the service desk for brake pads. They asked about the year, make and model of the car. They had a few price options, so I asked for the cheapest box. I think it was $35.

The box came with four brake pads, four metal shims (anti-squeal shims) and a tiny packet of lubricating powder. These four pads were what I needed to replace the brakes on the two front tires. Sometimes these four-pad boxes are called "axle packs". 

This, or any operation is easier if you have access to another car, so that you can get back to the store when your car is up on jack-stands and you need to get back to the store for that odd tool I forgot to mention at the start of this article.

Once you have bought the brake pads, got the car jacked up and pulled the front wheel off, the job is 2/3rds finished. 






































Please continue reading page 2 of Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to change brake pads.

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September 6, 2006 

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