How rear brake pads work

Rear Brake Pads Image

Brake pads are designed to work with a car’s brake discs, to slow it down. They are installed in the brake callipers and are pushed against the discs by pistons, which are in turn moved by brake fluid that is pressurised via the master cylinder.

Some cars have brake pad wear indicators, which illuminate a light on the dashboard when the pads have worn down to a set limit. Most pads don’t, though, so the only way of telling how worn a pad is is to examine the level of fluid in the brake fluid reservoir (which drops as the pad wears) or to take the wheel off and inspect the pad.


Take a look at the brake fluid level in the reservoir, which drops as the pads wear

When to change your brake pads

“Take a look at the brake fluid level in the reservoir, which drops as the pads wear”

It’s important that your rear brake pads are examined whenever the car is serviced and replaced when necessary. Your pads may have a sensor that activates a dashboard warning light when the pad has worn down, but not all models have sensors, so take a look at the brake fluid level in the reservoir, which drops as the pads wear. Or jack up the car, remove a rear wheel and examine the pads directly.

Always check the rest of the brake system when replacing the pads - if the discs are in a poor condition consider replacing them.

All cars are slightly different, so if it is time to change your rear brake pads, use our before you begin checklist, and find your car for specific instructions.

How to change your rear brake pads

Here's an example of how it's done

A very brief summary of the task:

  1. Support the car on jackstands and remove the wheel
  2. Clean the brakes and remove the caliper
  3. Remove the pads from the caliper and examine the disc and brake line(s)
  4. Insert the new pads and replace the caliper and any necessary clips. Check the brake fluid

Why you should change your brake pads

Brake pads are critical components for the safe operation of your car, and should be maintained correctly to avoid a potential disaster. If the pads wear down completely you’ll not only be unable to stop the car in time but you’ll damage the discs, which will need to be replaced.

Each wheel has at least two pads and it’s important to change the pads on both rear wheels at the same time, to ensure an even brake force. At the same time you should examine the discs and skim or replace them if needed.

Tools you will need

Only basic tools are required for this job, although you’ll also need a C-clamp or piston retraction tool and you’ll need to raise the car to work on one wheel at a time.

  • Brake system cleaner aerosol
  • Floor jack (if necessary). Not your car’s emergency jack
  • Flat-bladed screwdriver
  • Allen key set
  • G-clamp or piston retraction tool
  • Wire brush
  • Ruler to measure pad thickness
  • Ratchet and socket set
  • Torque wrench
  • Pliers

Parts you may need

  • Brake pads
  • Pad clips/springs
  • Copper grease
  • New caliper (only if faulty)

How much do new brake pads cost?

Pads £10-£150
Pad clips/springs £5-£20
Copper grease £3-£10
New caliper  £50-£200
Garage fee savings  £100-£300