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Often taken for granted, your brakes are one of the most important components in any vehicle, and are the only thing standing between you and the car in front of you. Unlike a simple oil change, defining a timeline for changing brakes is slightly more difficult, as it varies from driver to driver. An aggressive city driver may need to look into changing their brake pads on a yearly bases, whereas a more casual rural driver could wait three years before needing to have them looked at. Whatever the case, changing this part is fairly simple if you have the right tools; below is a helpful guide to changing your pads at home.

To Start

Before you begin, you’ll want to loosen the lug nuts on the wheel you’re going to be working with; this makes it much easier to start the process once the car is lifted. After this, you can insert your jack and lift the car enough to get your jack stands beneath it. Don’t try to rely only on your jack, as it could tip over or fall, leaving you injured if you’re working beneath the vehicle. Once the car is resting properly the jack may be removed and the lug nuts may be taken completely off, followed by the wheel.

Step Two

Finding the pins that hold your caliper is the next step; the bottom bolt must be removed to gain access to this part. Be very careful that you don’t disconnect the small hose attached to this piece of equipment, as it controls the hydraulic fluid, and if damaged, will need to be replaced by a mechanic. The caliper should rotate open at this point and you can easily remove the old pad.

Replacing the Pads

You’ll notice that your pads, both old and new, have retaining clips on them. There’s no need to keep the old ones, so remove them and use the ones that have come with your new brakes to reassemble the pad. If you have problems sliding the new pad back into place, try applying a small amount of grease to ease the tension.

Piston Problems

Before your calipers can be placed back over your brake pad, you’ll need to find the pistons and retract them so that they fit over the thicker pad; they have squeezed tighter over time to fit the old pads, which have thinned out. Both pistons must be slowly pressed at the same time; you can do this using the flat side of a C-clamp.

Finishing Up

The brake pad should be easy to slide in now that the pistons have been reset. Replace and tighten the pins, put your wheel back on, tighten the bolts, and get the jack back in there to remove the stand and lower your vehicle.

Signs your brakes need changing include squealing or whining and grinding sounds coming from your wheels. Be especially wary if grinding occurs, as this usually means your pads have worn so thin that your rotors are being damaged.

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