How to Replace the Front Brakes on a Pontiac Sunfire

by Jody L. CampbellUpdated November 07, 2017
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Items you will need

  • Brake fluid siphon

  • Tire iron

  • Vehicle jack

  • Jack stands

  • Large C-clamp

  • 3/8-inch hex-head male socket

  • Metal hook

  • Ratchet and socket set

  • Hammer

  • Anti-seize compound

  • Replacement pads

  • Replacement rotors

  • Brake cleaner spray

  • Shop rags

  • Torque wrench

  • DOT 3 brake fluid

Replacing front brakes on a Pontiac Sunfire will occur more often than replacing the rear brakes. The front-wheel drive version of the Sunfire integrates front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. The front disc brakes compensate for 75 percent of the braking power for the vehicle. Because the front brakes work harder, the pads wear down more quickly than the rear brake shoes.

Move the car to a hard, flat surface, apply the parking brake then remove 2/3 of the brake fluid from the master cylinder using a brake fluid siphon.

Loosen the front wheel lug nuts with a tire iron prior to lifting the vehicle. Only loosen them 1/4 turn so you don't damage the lug studs.

Lift the Sunfire with the vehicle jack and then support the car on jack stands. Place them under the front frame rails. Do not use the vehicle jack as a support for the car. Finish removing the wheel lug nuts and then remove the wheels.

Place the C-clamp of the caliper so the top of the clamp is braced against the inboard housing of the caliper and the driving bore of the clamp is braced against the backing plate of the outboard pad. Tighten the C-clamp to compress the caliper piston until it's fully seated in the piston bore. The outboard pad uses metal wing clips that attach to the caliper and will most likely bend; but since you're replacing them, this will not be an issue.

Use the 3/8-inch hex head male socket and a ratchet to remove the two caliper mounting bolts and sleeves.

Remove the caliper and then hang it on a metal hook to the front coil spring suspension. This will help prevent damage from occurring to the rubber brake hose attached to the caliper.

Remove the outboard pad from the caliper first and then unclip the inboard pad from the caliper piston.

Remove the rotor from the hub bearing flange (if replacing). Use a hammer to break the rotor free from the hub bearing flange if it's stuck to the hub due to rust. Spray the replacement rotor with brake cleaner spray and then wipe it dry with a shop rag before placing it back onto the hub bearing.

Install the inboard replacement pad into the caliper piston bore first and then clip the outboard pad to the caliper housing.

Use anti-seize to lubricate the edges of the caliper mount on the wheel knuckle where the caliper contacts and then lubricate the caliper sleeves and sleeve bores in the caliper.

Replace the caliper over the new rotor and then align the sleeves and mounting bolts into the caliper sleeve bores and tighten using the ratchet and 3/8-inch hex head male socket.

Replace the opposite side brake pads (and rotor) applying the same procedure.

Replace the wheels and lug nuts and tighten them snugly with the wheels suspended. Lower the Sunfire and then re-tighten the lug nuts with the torque wrench set at 100 foot-pounds.

Pump the foot brake pedal several times until it feels firm. Check the master cylinder and add new DOT 3 brake fluid to top it off. Release the parking brake and test-drive the Sunfire.

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