You’re driving along, hit the brakes, and all of sudden you hear a scraping sound you haven’t heard before. Or, maybe that brake pad wear indicator light in your instrument cluster comes on for the first time. Either way, this means one thing – it’s time to replace your brake pads (and most likely rotors, too). Failing to do so can lead to further damage down the road. At this point, your car will still stop, but you’re not far off from wearing completely through the friction material on the brake pads. Once you’re through it, you’ll be running the brake pad backing plates directly on the rotors, which will wear through the rotors. So, it’s best not to hold off on this repair.

There are more choices than ever in the aftermarket for brake pads and rotors. Do your research. There’s everything available from cheap parts all the way up to race-grade items. Thankfully, competition and choice have made it so that even decent quality items are available at decent prices.

The first thing to do, as would be expected, is to determine whether you need to replace pads and rotors at the front, rear, or both. An experienced ear can tell on the road which will need to be replaced. If you can’t tell from the sound, you’ll need to investigate visually. Usually, this means raising the appropriate end of the car and removing the wheel. You can usually get a good enough look in the caliper to see how worn the brake pads are. You can certainly get a good look at the condition of the rotors this way, too.

Once you’ve determined whether your problem is in the front, rear, or both, and have ordered parts, it’s time to do the work. Once again, you’re going to want to raise the appropriate end of the car, support it on jack stands, and chock the wheels on the opposite end of the car. From there, you dismount the wheel and set it aside. Once that’s done, you remove the old brake pads. Usually, this involves unbolting the caliper lock pin, pivoting up the caliper body, and pulling the brake pads out. If you’re replacing the rotors, too (which is always a good idea – most modern rotors aren’t manufactured with enough thickness to allow for resurfacing), you then unbolt the caliper body and bracket and hang them out of the way with a stiff piece of wire (never hang it from the brake hose). There may be a small, countersunk set screw, but otherwise, the rotor will just pull off the hub. From there, reassembly is the reverse of the process.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that brakes are done front and/or rear, and NEVER left or right. Brakes must be done on the left and right at whichever axle you’re working on.

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