One of your car’s most important features is its brakes and if you’re driving a modern vehicle, there’s a good chance it uses disc brakes.
Over time, these discs can wear down and need replacing, and if you’re handy enough and know a little about cars, you can replace them yourself.
How do you replace brake discs? To replace a car’s brake discs, the best method is to replace the pads, as these are the parts that go through the most wear.
To access them, you’ll need to open the calliper to remove the pad and replace it with a new one, then test out the brakes to make sure they’re working safely.
Keeping your brakes in good working order is essential to a safe driving experience, and this is one handy skill you can learn to do at home to make sure they are.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about brake discs, how to know it’s time to replace them, and the steps to get it done.
How Long Do Disc Brakes Last?
Disc brakes are a modern invention for cars, and you’ll find most cars manufactured today to feature them.
These brakes are found at the front of the car and are responsible for the majority of the braking power which is why they wear down faster than others.
The advantage of this type of brake system is that they tend to last longer, and will need to be replaced every 60,000kms or so.
Tougher driving conditions and more frequent use will require replacement sooner and those who don’t use their car as often may find they last longer, so it depends on the vehicle.
Signs You Need to Replace Them
Nobody wants to be caught out driving with bad brakes, and thankfully, your car will give you some hints when the disc brakes need replacing.
If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to check out the condition of your brake system and prepare yourself for replacing the pads sooner rather than later.
- Inspection: It’s easy enough to take a look at the brake pads of a car and see how worn down they are without waiting for troubling signs. Anything less than 6mm is a good indicator they’ve come down too far and need replacing but if see unusual or excessive wear on them, you can change them as required.
- Indicator turning on by itself: his might seem like a wiring issue but it usually means there’s a problem with the brakes. If you’re driving and the indicator is turning itself off, check out your brakes, because this is due to a sensor that was installed on the pads which is trying to alert you to the issue.
- Squealing sound: Squeaky brakes are hard to miss, but they don’t always indicate a problem. Hearing them once or twice is normal but if you find that every time you drive and use the brakes, they’re squeaking, it’s probably because they’ve worn down and need to be replaced.
- Grinding sound: A grinding sound is never a good sign in a car but it can be a helpful one that usually indicates your brakes are failing or in need of replacement. The metal grinding sound is heard loudly because it was designed to be thanks to small metal ridges, and they act as a warning sign that lets you know when the pads have worn down and need replacing.
- Vibrating brake pedal: When you push down on the brake, you don’t expect to feel it vibrate. If it does, you probably need to replace something in the system. This might also feel like it’s harder than usual to push down or as if the brakes are giving as much as they used to.
Step by Step Guide to Replacing Brake Discs
The most common parts of a disc brake system that needs replacing are the pads, and you’ll want to inspect these whenever you think there’s an issue, even if your car hasn’t clocked the recommended distance.
Follow these steps to do the job safely and easily, with just a little bit of mechanical knowledge.
- Park your car on a flat, level surface so you can work safely. Start by breaking loose the lug nuts of the wheel while it’s down on the ground.
- Elevate the vehicle up from the ground using a scissor jack or other recommended device. When the wheel is above the ground and safely in place, finish removing the lug nuts from it. Slide the wheel off from the hub and view the rotor and brake calliper.
- Open the calliper so you have easy access to the brake pads that need replacing. This is usually done by removing at least one of the bolts holding it in place and then rotating the calliper up so it stays open on its own.
- Once you have the calliper safely opened, remove the old brake pads from the rotor. While they’re off, inspect the rotors and look for signs of damage or excessive wear. If they need replacing, this is a separate but important job as well and should be tackled before the brake pads.
- Inspect the new pads before inserting them and make a note of where the notches and tabs are and how they correlate with the pad seats. Sometimes there will be different size or shape pads for the inside and outside pads, so keep note of this. Push the pad into place and match up the tabs with the notches as required. Repeat for all of the pads.
- If needed, apply a small amount of brake lubricant to the parts of the brake system like the piston, bolts, and calliper, but avoid the pads and rotors’ friction surface.
- Close the calliper by reversing the steps you took to open it and securing the cover back in place. There may be some tension as the new brake pads are thicker and the calliper is used to resting against worn ones.
- Put the wheel back on by lining it up and attaching the lug bolts that were removed. Once attached, remove the jack stand and lower the car back to the ground.
- Test the brakes before taking the car for a drive-by turning it on and leaving the parking brake on. Press down on the brake pedal so it reaches the floor and take note of the resistance. If it shows minimal resistance this is okay, and it just needs a few pumps to get the pressure back. Start the car as normal and test the brake without the hand brake on.
- As it takes some time for the brake pads to wear in, you may want to drive in a safe or slow area to do this and avoid driving in traffic. Because of this, you should avoid any hard or sudden braking while you have new pads, and if you think this isn’t possible, wear them down at home first in a controlled area.
Brakes You Can Rely On
The last thing you want to fail in your car is the brake system, so knowing how to replace the discs or tell when the pads are worn down is a handy skill to have.
With our help and the right tools, you can replace a disc brake that needs to go and ensure you have a reliable and safe system working for your car
The disc brake of your car is essential for keeping you safe and allowing the car to stop when it needs to.
If you’re still unsure about getting this job done or want to learn more about these types of brake systems, read on to see our answers to a few commonly asked questions.
Can I Change Brake Discs Without Changing Pads?
Although it is possible to change the brake discs without changing the pads, experts usually recommend replacing them at the same time.
This is to avoid uneven wearing and to ensure that the pads aren’t going to be damaged, given they are the most important part and most prone to exposure and friction.
How Long Does It Take to Change Discs and Pads?
Changing the brake discs and pads of a car is a relatively straightforward job and if you have the right tools, it can take as little as 30 minutes.
This is a job that can be performed at home by someone with intermediate car knowledge and should take no longer than an hour when done correctly.
Can You Drive With Worn Brake Pads?
Driving with worn brake pads is dangerous and should never be done knowingly.
Most cars have in-built features to notify drivers that their car’s brake pads are wearing down and if you notice squealing or metal grinding sounds when you attempt to brake, this is the most obvious sign they need to be replaced.