Car Brake Repair

Disc brakes used replaceable brake pads to stop your car.

Disc brakes used replaceable brake pads to stop your car.

The Fix-It Club includes many free Car Repair Fix-It Guides. One of the most popular do-it-yourself car repair jobs is brake repair. Brake repair means replacing components that have failed or are about to fail.

Brake repair is easy. Hopefully, brake repair for you means replacing brake components before they wear out. Frankly, it’s cheaper to replace brake parts 5,000 miles before needed than 5,000 miles after. If before, the brake pads (right) or brake shoes (below) won’t cost that much. Replacing damaged discs or drums, however, can be very expensive in both parts and labor.

Car Words

Brake pads are the replaceable components of disc brakes, most often used on the front axle of a car. Brake shoes are the replaceable components of drum brakes, most often used on the rear axle of a car. Older cars used brake drums and shoes on all wheels.

Disc Brake Replacement

In a nutshell, here’s how disc brake pads are replaced:

1. Safely jack up the car and place stands under the axles.

2. Remove the wheel covers, if any, then remove the wheel as you would when changing a tire.

3. Inspect the brake caliper, brake pads, wear indicator, disc, and other brake components. If brake pads are worn (most have a wear indicator) or are 1/16-inch or less thick, replace them with new pads. If the brake disc (rotor) has grooves init, take it to a brake shop for resurfacing or replace it with a new disc.

4. To replace brake pads, use a C-clamp (from an auto parts or hardware store) to push the piston back in the caliper. Remove the bolt(s) holding the caliper and move it aside. Don’t disconnect the caliper from the brake line.

5. Reinstall the disc and hub assembly. If the manufacturer suggests so, also repack the wheel bearings with grease (see the service manual), and reassemble the caliper and other components.

6. Refill the master cylinder with brake fluid and remove any air from (bleed) the brake system if needed. The service manual will show you how.

Replaceable brake shoes are used on the rear axle of cars with drum brakes.

Replaceable brake shoes are used on the rear axle of cars with drum brakes.

Drum Brake Replacement

Drum brakes are repaired in a similar way. Only the parts are different. The two brake shoes press outward on the inside of the drum to stop the car. Remove the wheel, remove the drum, and you will see the brake shoes and other components. Take a photo of the brakes to make reassembly easier.

Most brake repair and other car repair jobs can be done with a service manual purchased at your favorite auto parts store