Brake pad maintenance is key to ensuring that your brakes will work properly while operating your vehicle. Faulty brakes can do serious damage to your vehicle and put you at risk of being involved in an accident. The first sign of bad brakes is a high-pitched squealing sound when applying them. This sound lets you know that the pad has reached the wear indicator at the end of the brake material on the pad. The vehicle can pull to one side while braking or vibrate from the rubbing of the brakes. These are all telltale signs that you need new brakes.
Before beginning any of the work underneath the vehicle, make sure the parking brake is set and the tires are chocked. This ensures the vehicle does not roll off the jack stand while you are working. Using a hand siphon pump, remove half the brake fluid from the master brake cylinder. Remove the hub cap from the tire and loosen the lug nuts before raising the vehicle. Do not take off the lug nuts completely. Once the lug nuts are loose, raise the vehicle with a jack and rest the frame on a jack stand. With the vehicle in the air, remove the lug nuts and slide off the tire.
Behind the tire, you will see the round brake rotor with the brake caliper resting on it. The caliper houses the brake pads which are held in place by clips on each side. In most vehicles, the caliper is bolted in place. Unbolt the caliper from the backside of the hub and rest it where the hose line cannot be damaged. You can rest it on a box or suspend it from the vehicle with bungee cords. Pull out the old pads and retaining clips. Using one of the old pads and a C-clamp, compress the piston by tightening the C-clamp over the caliper and the old pad covering the piston.
Place the new pads and clips in place on each side of the caliper. Before replacing the caliper, you may want to clean the rotor with a brake parts cleaner. Place the caliper back in its place over the rotor and bolt it down. Replace the tire and lug nuts and lower the vehicle. Tighten the lug nuts and replace the hub cap. Refill the master brake cylinder with new brake fluid. Be sure to remove the chocks from the wheels and take off the parking brake. Before driving the vehicle, pump the brakes until the pressure feels normal in the pedal again.
How long do brake pads last? It depends on a lot of factors, from the composition of your brake pads to your driving habits.
Changing front disc brake pads is a complicated operation, but with a little gumption and knowledge, you can handle it yourself.