How front brake pads work

Front Brake Pad Replacement 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 pressurized via the master cylinder.

Some cars have brake pad wear indicators, which activate 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.

This task requires some experience, but uses basic tools, and will take up to an hour per wheel, depending on your model.

Every car is different, so before you view the full instructions, find yours…

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 front 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 front wheel and examine the pads directly. Always check the rest of the brake system when replacing the pads - if the discs/rotors are in a poor condition consider replacing them. All cars are slightly different, so if it is time to change your front brake pads, use our before you begin checklist, and find your car for specific instructions.

How to change your brake pads

This is a clip from a sample video. Find the full step-by-step task for your model.

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

Rear Brake Pads Change

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 front 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.

Before you begin

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
  • C-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)

Every car is different, so before you view the full instructions, find yours…