How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Regardless of whether you have cheap brake pads on your Ford car or the so-called lifetime brakes, there will be some point in time where you will have to change the front disc brakes. Brakes have a built-in piece of metal that is there to warn you when the brakes are nearing the end of their useful life by emitting a squealing sound. However, you should not depend on that to tell you when they need to be changed. Your brakes should be inspected on a regular basis, such as every two to three months.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Mercury Villager

Park the vehicle on a flat and level surface. Apply the parking brake. Secure the vehicle by wedging something behind the wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling. Slowly jack the vehicle up, secure it and support it using jackstands.

Disengage the master cylinder reservoir cap. siphon brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir until it is approximately one third full by using a syringe, like a turkey baster. Throw away the old fluid, it will not be reused.

Remove the wheel. Using a Torx® ® T-40 bit, remove the bottom guide bolt. Pivot the caliper cylinder body, moving it up to allow access to the brake pads. Using mechanic's wire suspend the caliper cylinder body from the frame. Using a screwdriver, release the outboard brake pad retainers and with another screwdriver disengage the pads. Compress the caliper piston until it is fully seated. This can be completed by using a C-clamp or similar tool and placing it on the inboard brake pad.

Compress the caliper piston until it is fully seated using a C-clamp or similar tool place on the inboard brake pad. Install the brake pads. Install the brake caliper assembly. Using a torque wrench, torque the guide pin to 23 to 30 foot/pounds. Reinstall the wheel.

Apply the brake pedal 3 to 4 to seat the brake pads. Check the master cylinder reservoir to ensure that the fluid is at the appropriate level. If necessary, add brake fluid. Bleed the brakes. Test drive the Mercury Villager at slow to moderate speeds to ensure that the maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • 2 Flathead screwdrivers

  • C-clamp

  • Brake pads

  • Brake fluid

  • Fyringe or turkey baster

  • Torx® ® T-40 bit

  • Mechanic's wire

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Lincoln Navigator

Use a suction device to remove the brake fluid in the master cylinder reservoir until it's down to half full. Jack up the Lincoln Navigator, remove the wheels and the anchor housing spring.

Release the lower portion of the anchor housing spring on the left-hand brake caliper. Apply force at the center of the anchor housing spring and pull outward at the bottom to remove it from the lower brake caliber cavity. Next, rotate the spring upward and then remove it from the brake caliper.

Disengage the upper portion of the anchor housing spring for the RH brake. Remove the anchor housing spring from the upper brake caliper cavity by applying force at the center and pulling outward at the top of the anchor housing spring. Next, rotate the spring downward and then remove it from the brake caliper.

Remove the brake caliper by taking off the zero drag string, anchor plate bolts, guide pins and boots. Throw away the guide pins. Disengage the brake pads from the brake caliper. Compress the brake caliper pistons using a C-clamp or similar tool.

Clean the inner surfaces of the brake caliper where the brake pads attach. Install new brake hardware by installing the guide pin bushings into the caliper bores, applying grease to the inside of the guide pin bushings and pushing the guide pins into the bushing. Don't apply grease to the guide pin threads.

Install the Lincoln Navigator's inboard pad into the brake caliper and then the outboard pad. Put the brake caliper onto the brake disc. Tighten the guide pins and install the dust caps and zero drag spring.

Insert the tab of the anchor housing spring into the brake caliper cavity. Next, on the left-hand side, twist the tab into the upper brake caliper cavity. On the right-hand side, twist the tab into the lower brake caliper cavity.

Rotate the anchor housing spring and position the upper portion onto the anchor plate. Push down and inward until the upper and lower ends of the anchor housing spring are latched and seated, resting in the brake caliper cavities.

Ensure that the anchor housing spring latched correctly. Bleed the brake system and fill the brake master cylinder reservoir, as required. Reattach the wheels and lower the Lincoln Navigator. Prior to operating the SUV, depress the brake pedal a few times until the brake pads are seated against the rotor.

Items you will need

  • C-clamp

  • Brake fluid

  • Brake pads

  • Guide pins and boots

  • Brake caliper-to-anchor plate bolts

 How to Replace the Front Disc Brakes on a Pontiac Montana

Remove 2/3 of the brake fluid from the master cylinder with a brake fluid siphon and then discard the fluid. Replace the cap securely onto the cylinder.

Lift and support the Montana with a jack and jack stands after applying the parking brake.

Remove the front wheels with a tire iron or suitable tool.

Place the C-clamp over the caliper so the drive of the clamp is seated on the plate of the outboard pad and the top of the clamp is on the inboard caliper housing. Tighten the clamp until the caliper piston is fully compressed.

Remove the two caliper bolts with a suitable hand wrench. Hang the caliper to the chassis with a caliper hook.

Remove the pads and pad clips from the caliper carriage. Remove the two caliper carriage bolts with a hand wrench. Remove the carriage.

Remove the rotor from the hub flange. Use a die grinder and a reconditioning disc to remove any rust or other corrosion from the hub flange face and edges.

Clean the entire surface of the new rotor, both sides, with brake cleaner spray and wipe it dry with a shop rag. Place the new rotor onto the hub flange and use a lug nut on one of the lug studs to hold the rotor in place.

Apply a light coat of brake silicone lubricant to the mating surface of the pad clips. Install the pad clips to the carriage and then apply another coat on top of the clips. Replace the carriage and bolts. Tighten the bolts to 120-foot pounds with the torque wrench and a suitable socket.

Install the new pads (and shims supplied with the pad set) into the caliper carriage and then remove the caliper from the hook and align it over the new pads and rotor. Replace the caliper bolts and tighten them to 25-foot pounds with the torque wrench and suitable socket.

Replace the tires and lug nuts and tighten the nuts to 100-foot pounds with the torque wrench and suitable socket.

Lower the Montana and pump the foot brake pedal several times until it feels firm. Add brake fluid to the master cylinder to the full mark and then replace the cap. Close the hood and then test drive the minivan for proper braking operation.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Tire iron

  • Torque wrench

  • Sockets

  • Hand wrenches

  • Brake fluid siphon

  • 6-inch C-clamp

  • Caliper hook

  • Die grinder with reconditioning discs

  • Replacement pads

  • Replacement rotors

  • Brake silicone lubricant

  • Brake fluid

  • Brake cleaner spray

  • Shop rags

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Chevy Impala

Disconnect the negative battery cable from the battery. Drain two thirds of the brake fluid from the master cylinder. Remove the wheel and tire assembly. Install and hand tighten two lug nuts to secure the rotor in place when the rotor is removed

Install a C-clamp or similar tool, over the top of the caliper assembly. Place it against the back of the outboard pad shoe. Ttighten the C-clamp making sure that the caliper pistons are positioned into the caliper bore. The positioning should allow ample room for the caliper assembly to slide off of the rotor. Avoid over tightening. Remove the mounting bolts. Disconnect the brake caliper from the mounting bracket.

Suspend the caliper from the frame using mechanic's wire. Make sure that the caliper does not hang from the brake hose. This may damage the hose. Remove the outboard disc brake pad from the caliper. Slide the brake pad off the caliper. Using a C-clamp compress the caliper piston into the bore.

Remove the inboard disc brake pad. Clean the parts well. Taking care not to damage the pistons or caliper boots, use a C-clamp and clamp both pistons at the same time with a metal plate or wooden block across the face of both pistons.

Lubricate the caliber mating surface and the machined abutment surfaces with multi purpose lubricant. Coat the outer backing plate surface of the new brake pads with the disc brake pad anti squeal lubricant. Install the new inboard disc brake pad. Press the pad firmly into the cavity of the caliper piston. The new inboard pad must be seated squarely against brake caliper piston.

Place the caliper assembly back into position over the brake rotor. Install the caliper guide pin bolts. Using a torque wrench, torque the lug nuts to 80 ft lbs. Add brake fluid to the master cylinder.

Bleed the brakes. Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery. Start the engine and pump the brakes 3 to 4 times to seat the brake pads. Reinstall the wheels. Test drive the Chevy Impala at slow to moderate speeds to ensure that the maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • Mechanic's wire

  • Silicone grease

  • Torque wrench

  • C-clamp or similar tool

  • Brake fluid

  • Brake pads

  • Turkey baster, syringe or similar tool

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Chevy Cobalt

Disconnect the negative battery cable from the battery. Using a syringe or similar tool, siphon two thirds of the brake fluid from the master cylinder auxiliary reservoir. Jack the Cobalt up and secure it on jackstands. Remove the tire and wheel assembly leaving 2 lug nuts on to secure the rotor, temporarily, to the hub.

Compress the caliper piston into the bore using a C-clamp. The caliper needs to be compressed to the point where the caliper slides easily past the brake rotor. Disconnect the C-clamp and then slowly remove it from the caliper. Locate the brake caliper lower guide point pin and remove it.

Rotate the caliper without disconnecting the hydraulic brake flexible hose. Once the caliper is pivoted, using the mechanics wire secure it to the frame of the Cobalt. Disengage the brake pads that are attached to the caliper bracket. Ensure that the piston is compressed fully in it's bore.

Clean the areas where the brake pads connect to meet the caliper. Review the rotor and inspect it for corrosion. If there is corrosion, then replace the rotor. Review the brake caliper guide pins and boots for corrosion. If applicable, replace them at this time.

Using high temperature silicone lubricant for brakes, apply a very thin coating to the outer pad outside surface. Attach the brake pad retainers, installing them on the bracket caliper bracket. Remove the mechanic's wire and place the caliper over the brake pads to the caliper mounting bracket. Put the brake pads guide pin bolt in place.

Using a torque wrench, torque the brake pads guide pin bolt to 25-ft. lbs. Remove the lug nuts and reinstall the tire and wheel assembly. Apply the brake pedal two thirds of the way to the floor. Release the brake. Repeat this step 2 to 3 times to seat the brake pads. Add brake fluid.

Reconnect the negative battery cable. Test drive the Cobalt at a slow to moderate speed to ensure that the maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • Brake pads

  • Brake fluid

  • Torque wrench

  • High-temperature silicone brake lubricant

  • Syringe

  • C-clamp

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Saturn VUE

Disconnect the negative battery cable. Check the master cylinder reservoir to determine the brake fluid level. If the reservoir is more than half way full then drain two thirds of the brake fluid from the master cylinder using a syringe, turkey baster or similar tool. If the master cylinder reservoir is less than half way full then no fluid needs to be removed.

Raise the vehicle and secure it on jackstands. Remove the wheel. Remove the caliper lower block pin. Pivot the caliper upward and suspend it from the frame using mechanic's wire. Avoid allowing the caliper to dangle or hang from the brake line or the brake line will be damaged. Remove the brake pads and the pad clips.

Inspect the pin boots, caliper pins and the piston boot for corrosion, or damage. Replace these parts if they are severely damaged. Bottom the piston into the caliper bore using a C-clamp. Release any trapped air from the piston boot by lifting the inner edge of the piston boot by hand.

Install pad clips into the caliper support. Install the inner brake pads into the caliper support. Install the outer brake pads into the caliper support. Remove the mechanics wire.

Place the caliper body onto the support. Install the upper guide pin into position. As the caliper is being positioned, compress the boots using your hand. Using silicone grease, lubricate the smooth ends of the pins that were removed. Reinsert the pins and using torque wrench, torque the pins to 32-ft. lbs. The pin threads do not need to be greased.

Reinstall the wheel and secure the lug nuts. Once the Saturn Vue has been lowered to the ground use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery.

Start the engine and pump the brakes 3 to 4 times to seat the brake pads. Reinstall the wheels. Test drive the Saturn Vue at slow to moderate speeds to ensure that the maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • Brake pads

  • Brake fluids

  • Torque wrench

  • Silicone grease

  • Syringe, turkey baster or similar tool

  • C-clamp or similar tool

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Nissan Sentra

Park the vehicle on a flat and level surface. Apply the parking brake. Secure the vehicle by wedging something behind the wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling. Loosen the lug nuts. Jack the Sentra up and support the front of the vehicle securely on jackstands.

Remove the brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir until it is approximately 1/3 full by siphoning it out using a syringe, turkey baster or similar tool. The old fluid will not be reused so throw it away properly. Disconnect and remove the wheel and tire assembly.

Remove the bottom guide pin from the caliper and swing the caliper cylinder body up and out of the way. Using mechanic's wire, suspend the caliper cylinder body from the Altima frame. Do not disconnect the brake hose. Do not allow the caliper cylinder body to dangle from the brake hose or it will damage the brake hose. Remove the brake pad retainers and the pads.

Compress the piston of the disc brake caliper. Install the brake pads. Put anti-squeaking on the outside of the pad. Do not put it on the inside of the brake pad. Reinstall the brake pad retainers and the reconnect the caliper cylinder body. Using a torque wrench, torque the guide pin to 16-23 ft./lbs. Reconnect the wheel and tire assembly. Using a torque wrench, torque the lug nuts to 62 ft./lbs.

Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery. Add brake fluid. Start the engine and pump the brakes 3-4 times. Test drive the Sentra at slow to moderate speeds to ensure that the maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • Wheel blocks

  • Jack

  • Jackstands

  • Syringe, turkey baster or similar tool

  • Mechanics wire

  • Brake pads

  • Anti-squeak lubricant

  • Torque wrench

  • Brake fluid

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Nissan Pathfinder

Park the Nissan Pathfinder on a flat surface. Place the parking brake on. Using a syringe, turkey baster or similar tool, siphon the fluid out of the master cylinder reservoir. Drain two thirds of the fluid out of the cylinder. If the level is less than half way full no fluid needs to be drained. Place wood wedges or similar tools behind the wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling.

Jack the vehicle up and secure it on jackstands. Remove the wheel assemblies. Remove the lower pin bolt from the brake caliper. Rotate the caliper up, allowing access to the torque member. Suspend the caliper from the frame using mechanics wire.

Remove the brake pads by lifting out of the torque member. Remove the hims and the retainers if they are not engaged onto the pads. Install the new pads. Reinstall the shims by engaging them on the torque member. Engage and enstall pad liners to each pad.

Compress the caliper pistons back into the housing using a C-clamp or similar tool. Remove the mechanic's wire and pivot the caliper back into position. Make sure that it is over the torque plate and that the dust boot is not pinched. Install the caliper pin.

Using a torque wrench, torque the bolts to 24 to 31 ft. lbs. Remove any trapped air by pulling, gently on the pin boot. Reinstall the wheel. Lower the vehicle. Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery and start the engine. Fill the master cylinder reservoir with brake fluid and put the cap on.

Start the engine and apply the brake pedal 3 to 4 times seating the brake pads. Test Drive the Pathfinder at slow-to-moderate speeds to ensure that maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • Brake pads

  • Syringe, turkey baster or similar tool

  • Brake fluid

  • Wood wedges or similar tools

  • Torque wrench

  • C-clamp or similar tool

  • Mechanic's wire

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Honda CRV

Select a level or flat location to perform this maintenance. Park the Honda CRV on a flat surface. Put the emergency brake on and put wedges behind the wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling. Drain two thirds of the brake fluid from the master cylinder using a syringe, turkey baster or similar tool. Raise the vehicle and secure it on jackstands. Remove the wheel and the tire assemblies.

Remove both caliper, but don't disconnect the brake line. Using mechanic's wire suspend the caliper from the CRV frame. Ensure that the caliper is not hanging from the brake hose. This may damage the hose.

Remove the brake pads from the caliper. Remove the shims. Inspect the brake rotor for damage. Replace if necessary. Use a C-clamp to push the caliper piston into it's bore.

Apply a layer of anti-squeal lubricant to the rear face of the brake pad and then install the shim. Reinstall the brake pads. Install the calipers and lubricate the caliper bolts and the boots using break fluid. Using a torque wrench, tighten the caliper mounting bolts to 24-ft. lbs. Reinstall the wheel and the tire assembly.

Add brake fluid to the master cylinder. Bleed the brakes. Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery. Start the engine and pump the brakes 3 to 4 times to seat the brake pads. Reinstall the wheels. Test drive the vehicle at slow to moderate speeds to ensure that the maintenance was performed correctly.

Items you will need

  • C-clamp

  • Brake fluid

  • Brake pads

  • Anti-squeal lubricant

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace the Front Disc Brakes on a Ford E-250

Park the van on a level surface and place wheel chocks behind the rear wheels.

Raise the front of the van on the side that you will start on first with a jack.

Remove the wheel then place a jack stand under the frame near the jacking point. Position the jack stand as close to the frame as possible.

Detach the caliper with the proper-sized socket and ratchet. The guide pins are located on the backside of the caliper.

Remove the brake pads from the caliper by sliding them out of the front of the caliper.

Push the caliper piston back into the caliper housing using one of the old brake pads as a surface and twist the screw into the C-clamp until the piston seats itself.

Install the new brake pads by sliding them into the front of the caliper, locking them into place with the clips attached to the pad.

Place the caliper back into the caliper support and lock it into place by tightening the caliper guide pins with the proper-sized socket and ratchet.

Remount the wheel and remove the jack stand.

Lower the van to the ground and repeat the process on the other wheel.

Depress the brake pedal five to six times before you drive the van to be sure the piston seats itself properly against the brake pads.

Items you will need

  • Replacement brake pads

  • Wire ties

  • C-clamp

  • Automobile jack

  • Jack stand

  • Metric socket set

  • Wheel chocks

 How to Replace Front Disc Brakes in a Saturn Ion

Remove the fluid from the master cylinder until it is 1/2-full using a turkey baster or similar device. Remove the front wheel. To prevent the rotor from falling off, tighten the stud nuts. Install the C-clamp over the body of the caliper with the clamp ends against the rear of the caliper body and against the outboard pad.

Tighten the clamp until the caliper piston is compressed enough to allow the caliper to be removed. Remove the caliper lower bolt. Remove the 2 brake pads and the pad clips from the caliper support. Throw away the old pad clips. Closely check the caliper pins, pin boots and the piston boot for damage.

Install the new brake pads and clips to the caliper bracket. Using silicone grease, lubricate the pin boots and guide pins. Reinstall the pin boots. Reconnect the caliper over the brake pads. Reinstall the caliper lower bolt through the caliper. Using a torque wrench, torque the bolt to 27-foot/lbs.

Ensure that the brake line is properly routed with the loop to the rear and that the hose is not twisted. Reinstall the wheel. Depress the brake pedal a few times until the brake pads are seated against the rotor.

Items you will need

  • Turkey baster or similar device

  • Brake pads

  • New pad clips

  • Silicone grease

  • Torque wrench

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.