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How to Replace Front Brakes in a Nissan Altima

by Rex Molder; Updated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Lug wrench

  • Brake cleaner

  • Pliers

  • Drain pan

  • Molykote AS-880N grease

  • C-clamp

  • Tubing

  • Wrench

  • Socket set

  • Torque wrench

  • Brake fluid

The Nissan Altima is equipped with disc-type front brakes. The brake functions by using friction created by two brake pads pressing against a circular brake rotor. In most cases, maintaining the front brakes is a simple matter of replacing the pads. However, it may be necessary to also change the rotor and the caliper. If you need to replace the entire front brake assembly, set aside at least two hours to complete the job. You can replace both sets of front pads in about an hour.

Pad Replacement

Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels. Raise the front of the car with a jack and support both sides with a jack stand. Remove the lug nuts with a lug wrench and take off both wheels.

Clean the brake assembly with brake cleaner. Place a drip pan below the assembly to catch the dripping cleaner.

Use a pair of pliers to remove the lower sliding pin bolt from the caliper. Pull the bolt out from the back of the caliper.

Rotate the caliper out of the torque member and off the rotor. Secure it to the car's body with a piece of wire.

Use your thumb to lift the pad retainer spring off the pad. Remove the pad, shim and shim cover, noting their placement.

Coat the back of the new pad and the back of the shim with Molykote AS-880N grease or its equivalent. Assemble the pad, shim and shim cover, and place them into the torque member. Replace the retainer spring.

Rotate the caliper back down into position. Use a large C-clamp to press the piston back into the caliper to make room for it to fit over the new pads since the new pads are thicker than the old ones.

Insert the lower sliding pin bolt. Remount the wheel and reinstall the lug nuts. Lower the vehicle off the jack stands with the jack then tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench.

Caliper and Rotor Replacement

Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels. Raise the front of the car with a jack and support both sides with a jack stand. Remove the lug nuts with a lug wrench and take off both wheels.

Clean the brake assembly with brake cleaner. Place a drip pan below the assembly to catch the dripping cleaner.

Drain the brake fluid. Take the cap off the bleeder valve on the caliper and attach a piece of tubing to the valve. Place the other end of the tubing into a container. Use a wrench to turn the bleed valve counterclockwise to open it. Have an assistant slowly depress the brake pedal. Continue until no more fluid comes out of the valve. Remove the tubing and close the valve.

Remove the union bolt that attaches the brake line to the caliper and detach the brake line. Pay attention to how the brake line is arranged and the order of the copper washers. Discard the old copper washers. Use a socket wrench to remove both torque member bolts from the back of the caliper. Pull the caliper off the rotor.

Pull the rotor off off the lug bolts. With the caliper removed, nothing holds the rotor in place. If you intend to reuse the rotor, before you remove it, place alignment marks on the rotor and the wheel hub assembly.

Place the new rotor onto the lug bolts. Install the new caliper assembly and insert the torque member bolts. Tighten them to 98 ft.-lbs. of torque with a torque wrench.

Place new copper washers over the brake line fitting and insert the brake line. Make sure the tab on the brake line is between the two protrusions on the caliper. Tighten the union bolt to 13 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Follow the procedure in Section 1 to install new brake pads into the caliper. Repeat the procedure on the opposite side.

Open the hood and remove the cap from the master cylinder, located on the driver's side near the firewall. Fill the cylinder to the "Full" mark. Leave the cap off. Open the bleeder valve on the caliper. Tell an assistant to depress the brake pedal slowly to the floorboard then release it slowly. Repeat this until brake fluid begins to come out the bleeder valve. Close the valve and tighten it to 69 ft.-lbs. of torque. Repeat on the opposite caliper. Refill the master cylinder to the "Full" mark and close the cap.

Remount the front wheels, reinstall the lug nuts then lower the vehicle off the jack stands with the jack. Tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench.

Attach a tube to the bleeder valve on the passenger's side rear wheel. Instruct your assistant to pump the brake pedal several times until it feels firm. While your assistant holds down the pedal, open the bleeder valve to let air escape and then quickly close it. Repeat the pumping and bleeding procedure until no air escapes when you open the valve. Tighten the valve to 73 ft.-lbs. of torque. Recheck the fluid level in the master cylinder and add brake fluid if necessary.

Tips

Removing the right rear wheel will make bleeding the system easier but is not necessary.

Work on one side of the car at a time. That way you will have an intact guide if you need an example during reassembly.

Warnings

Do not allow brake fluid or grease to come into contact with the front of the pads or the surface of the rotors. If this happens, thoroughly clean the parts with brake cleaner.

About the Author

Rex Molder began writing professionally in 1999 and specializes in automotive, technology and travel articles. His articles have appeared at iPad- and SEO-related websites. Rex holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian studies from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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