How To: Replace Brakes
Replacing brakes is surprisingly easy... unless rust gets in the way. Basically all you need is this 500-word guide, a set of wrenches, a car jack, some fresh brake fluid and a good friend.
Jack the car up and remove one of the front wheels before sliding it under the car. This will serve as a safeguard in the event that your jack fails.
Squeeze the hose to avoid emptying the hydraulic system as you dismount the brake calliper. The bleeding process will also be easier this way. Use a C-clamp instead of locking pliers (vise-grip) that will most likely damage the hose and affect the flow.
Furthermore, make sure to keep the brake fluid away from painted surfaces. This liquid is highly corrosive and can ruin your car's bodywork. Your garage's concrete floor won't like it, either.
To dismount the calliper, first loosen and remove the two bolts at the end of the sliding arm. The part of the calliper that houses the piston is also fixed by two bolts on the back. Pay attention to the position of the brake pads to ensure the new ones fit the same way. Take a picture if necessary.
Don't need to replace the calliper? Loosen the bolts on the massive section only and leave the entire assembly attached to the hose.
Simple clips hold the brake pads in place. Proceed one clip at a time and make sure you use the right clip when you install the new pads and press firmly to ensure a tight fit.
Loosen and remove the screws on the disc. Once again, when you mount the new disc, tighten the screws for a secure fit. Also, avoid contamination with the brake fluid to prevent improper braking performance the next time you hit the road.
If the screws are too rusted, you can still mount the disc without using screws. Once the wheel is in place and all the tightening and torquing is done, the wheel bolts will hold the disc. There shouldn't even be any vibration.
Now comes the tricky part: bleeding the brakes. That's when you need a friend - and air is your worst enemy. Lift the hood and open the brake fluid reservoir.
As a general rule, start with the brake that's farthest away from the steering wheel. There's a bleeder valve or nipple on the calliper that you can open and close using a hex wrench. Place a pan right underneath and ask your friend who's behind the wheel to take a few jabs at the brake pedal before holding it all the way down. Open the valve and let the air and fluid bleed out. Then close it and tell your buddy to slowly pump the brakes three times and hold the pedal down. At that point, re-open the valve until the brake is maxed out. Continue for as long as air bubbles and dirty fluid keeps coming out.
Check the level of brake fluid and repeat the process on the other side. Once the bleeding is complete at all four corners, the brake pedal should feel firm. If not, start over. This is critical: too little fluid means not enough braking power.