If you're hearing a nasty squeal when you press on the brake pedal, then it may be time to change your brake pads. Changing your brakes is a fairly simple process for the avid DIYer and we'd rate it a 2 out of 5 wrenches in difficulty. Depending on what vehicle you have, this project could take between 45-2 hours.

What tools are needed to change my brakes?

Here are some commonly used tools

  • Disposable mechanic's gloves to protect your hands and keep them clean (or a can of GUNK Degreasing Wipes)
  • Jack and jack stands
  • Lug wrench
  • C-clamp or length of wood to retract the piston
  • Wrench (choose a socket, open end or adjustable wrench) - Make sure you have deep sockets
  • A can of LIQUID WRENCH Penetrating Oil for parts that may be rusted together
  • A hammer or mallet to brake loose stuck parts
  • Plastic tie, bungee cord or piece of string to tie back brake hose
  • LIQUID WRENCH Anti-Seize Grease to put on the sides of brake pads during install
  • Some GUNK Brake Parts Cleaner to clean your new parts before and after the install
  • Blue thread locker for caliper bolts
  • Safety Glasses
  • Flat Head Screw Driver
  • Torque Wrench
  • Impact Wrench - if you want to get the job done faster

Materials Required

  • New brake pads. Since you are saving money by doing this yourself, you might want to consider splurging a bit by a higher quality brake pad. Your local parts store can make a good recommendation.
  • Brake Fluid — Watch this video to learn find out when to use DOT 3 and DOT 4 Brake Fluids


We filmed this how-to video a while back on a modified Jeep. There's a bunch of little tidbits of golden old man knowledge (AKA Pro tips) from "Hot Rob" in here.

How do I do my own brake job?

Changing your brakes yourself is a relatively simple process if you've got some DIY prowess. So let's jump right into it. Below is a step-by-step guide for changing brake pads and rotors. It's typically recommended to replace both brake pads and rotors at the same time.

Step 1 - Gather the appropriate tools for the job

You'll want to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools for changing your brakes yourself.

Step 2 - Buy Brake Pads & Rotors

You'll obviously need a new set of brake pads and rotors to get the job done. We recommend visiting your local auto parts store (i.e. AutoZone, Advance Auto, Oreily's, or NAPA). They'll need your vehicle make and model to pull up pads and rotors that are spec'd for your specific vehicle. Since you're saving a bit of cash doing this job yourself, then we recommend getting the higher quality parts - they'll last longer and provide better braking performance.

You'll need 2 boxes of brake pads and front and rear rotors. If your vehicle does not have rear rotors, then you'll have brake drums installed. Rear drums typically have longer maintenance intervals than disk brakes. The downside to drums are that they can have lower performance in some conditions. Find out more about the specific differences by reading this article.

Step 3 - Lift your Vehicle

Choke the tires so the vehicle doesn't roll on you. It's important that you use both a jack and jack stands when working under a lifted vehicle. Do NOT trust a jack only! You'll also only want to lift one corner of the vehicle at a time, since we'll be changing one wheels brakes at a time for the purposes of this instruction guide. You'll also want to make sure that the ground is completely level before lifting the vehicle and that the vehicle's transmission is securely in the "parked" position. (Note: If you engage your parking brake, then you may need to disengage when you get to the rear brakes in order to remove the old pads.)

Step 4 - Loosen your Lug Nuts and Remove Wheel

This is where an impact wrench will really help you out! With the wheels still touching the ground, loosen your lug nuts but don't completely remove them. Lift the vehicle up the rest of the way and secure it with Jack Stands before proceeding. When the jack stands are in place, you can continue to remove the lug nuts, followed by removing the wheel. If your vehicle has large tires, we've found that the easiest way to save your back is to sit on the ground. Then slide your legs around the base of the tire and lift firmly with your legs while guiding the top of the tire with your hands. Just kind of shimmy backwards and set the tire down. Stand up and roll it out of the way. Easy peezy!

If you run into lug nuts that are really stuck on there and you don't have an impact wrench to break them loose, then use a little LIQUID WRENCH Penetrating Oil on each lug nut. You can then use a wrench with a 'cheater bar' or long metal pipe to give your body a little more leverage to break those nuts loose.

Step 5 - Disassemble the Caliper and Remove the Old Brake Pads

Your caliper should have 2 bolts keeping it attached - a top bolt and a bottom bolt. These bolts typically require a good bit of torque to remove them because whoever assembled them last most likely used a thread locker to secure them. Once you've removed the bottom bolt, the caliper should be able to swing up. At this point in the process, you'll be able to visually asses the thickness of the old brake pads to confirm their wear. Once you've confirmed that the pads do in fact need to be replaced, then you can slide out the old pads and remove the top caliper bolt to completely disconnect the caliper from.

Now you'll want to use some sort of cordage to secure the caliper up so it doesn't hang and damage any of your brake lines. You do NOT want to disassemble any of the brake lines!

Step 6 - Remove the Old Rotor

Once you've secured the caliper where it will not hang freely, you can remove the old rotor. Some rotors have a small screw a little off center of the center of the drum. This is used to hold the rotor flush. Remove that screw. Sometimes rotors can get rusted to the vehicle, so at this point you can use a little LIQUID WRENCH Penetrating Oil and a rubber mallet to remove the rotor from the vehicle.

Step 7 - Install New Rotor

Alright, we're on the up swing now! It's time to start putting stuff back together now. Spray down the wheel hub and the New Rotor with GUNK Brake Cleaner to make sure the surface is clean before putting on the new rotor. New rotors come from the factory with a rust inhibiting oil on them that you'll want to clean off before your brake pads touch them. Once you're sure the surface is clean and no dirt will be between the new rotor and the wheel hub, you can line up the holes on the rotor and put it on.

Some makes of vehicles will have a small set screw to hold the rotor onto the wheel hub. If your vehicle has this, then put the screw back into hold the rotor in place. If not, then you can use a single lug nut to hold the rotor in place while you assemble the caliper.

Step 8 - Re-install the Caliper

Because your old brake pads where thinner, your brake caliper's piston will be extended further - making it impossible to slide in the new brake pads. So you will want to compress the brake caliper piston with a C-clamp or specialized caliper compression tool for your vehicle before proceeding. Note: Some vehicles may need special tools to spread the caliper. Refer to vehicle shop manual for proper tools.

Alright, you've taken the caliper off at this point, so you can basically follow the same steps in reverse to re-attach it to the vehicle. There are a few areas that are good to grease up before tightening everything down. Apply a thin layer of LIQUID WRENCH Multi-Purpose Grease to the caliper slide bolts and slide them in and out of the caliper bolt holes to allow the grease to penetrate the hole. When it effectively greased up, you can place the caliper back into place and put the bolts in one at a time - starting with the top bolt. The bolts should be torqued to your vehicles specifications - typically in the 25-50 lbs range.

You'll want to only attach the top slide bolts and leave the caliper swung in the upward position for the next step.

Step 9 - Install New Brake Pads

We're on the home stretch! You can do it!

Clean your new pads with a GUNK Brake Cleaner before proceeding. Your new Brake Pads should have come with small clips that attach to the sides of each pad. Attach the clips to the new brake pads, then apply a thin layer of LIQUID WRENCH Multi Purpose Grease to the back of each pad. This will help keep down squeaking noises later on.

Next you can place the new pads into the caliper. Some performance vehicles will have extra large brake pads or will use 4 pads per wheel instead of the standard 2 pads.

Once you have all of the brake pads in place, swing the caliper down into place and put back in the bottom caliper slide bolt. Again torque to vehicle specs.

Step 10 - Inspect Your Work

You'll want to take a quick minute to inspect your work here before proceeding. Rotate the rotor and make sure that it spins freely. Listen for any grinding sounds as well. If you hear any excessive grinding sounds, you may have some dirt caught between the brake pad and caliper which will need to be removed.

Step 11 - Put Back on the Wheel

Reminder: You do NOT need to bleed any of your brake lines when changing rotors and brake pads only. You will only need to bleed your lines if you had to replace the Caliper itself.

If you're using a lug nut to hold the Rotor in place, then remove it before proceeding.

Put back on the wheel, then hand tighten all of the lug nuts into place. Use an impact wrench to tighten in a counter clockwise star pattern (skipping every other lug nut) until all lug nuts are tight.

Lower the vehicle to the ground and tighten the lug nuts one more time.

Step 12 - Repeat all Steps 3 More Times

Now repeat this process for the rest of the wheels.

Step 13 - Test Drive

Get into the vehicle and start it up. Before driving, press the brake pedal several times until it fills firm. It will fill loose at first because you compressed the caliper piston. Next, you'll want to pop the hood and check the brake fluid levels. Fill as needed. Watch this video to learn the difference between DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluids.

Now you can take the vehicle for a short test drive to make sure the brakes are working properly. When you return, tighten all of lug nuts one more time.


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