How to Replace the Front Brakes on Cars

by Contributing Writer

The Nissan car 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.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a 2005 Grand Caravan

Apply the parking brake on the Grand Caravan and then open the hood. Remove at least one-half of the brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir, using a brake fluid syringe or suitable tool. Be sure the syringe has never been used on petroleum-based products such as oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze or power steering fluid, or you will contaminate the chemical properties of the brake fluid. Replace the cover to the master cylinder.

Pry loose the front wheel lug nuts with the tire iron no more than half a turn. Lift the front of the Grand Caravan with the service jack and then support it onto jack stands. Finish removing the wheel lug nuts and remove the tires.

Open the C-clamp to fit over the caliper housing. Place the top of the clamp on the inside housing and place the screw of the caliper onto the outer brake pad. Tighten the clamp slowly until the caliper piston is fully compressed into the bore of the caliper. Remove the clamp.

Remove the upper and lower caliper guide bolts with a box-end wrench.

Remove the caliper and hang it from a caliper hook onto the coil spring of the front strut in order not to stress the flexible brake hose attached to the caliper.

Remove the inner and outer front brake pads from the caliper bridge mount on Grand Caravan models that have rear drum brakes. On models with rear disc brakes, remove the front outer pad from the caliper bridge mount and then remove the inner pad clipped to the piston of the caliper.

Inspect the brake rotor. If you're replacing the rotors, continue on to Step 8. If you're just replacing the brake pads, proceed to Step 12.

Remove the caliper bridge mount bolts, using the 24-inch breaker bar and a socket. Remove the caliper bridge mount and clean off the mating surface of the brake pad clips with a stiff-bristled wire brush and then apply an even layer of brake silicone compound to the brake pad tabs mating surfaces on the clips.

Remove the brake rotor. Check on the lug studs to make sure a rotor retaining ring(s) is not present. If so, remove it with a screwdriver and discard it. If the rotor is hard to remove from the hub, apply some spray penetrating lubricant to the mating surface of the rotor hub and the hub itself. Allow a few minutes for the lubricant to soak in. Strike the plate of the rotor from behind with a dead-blow hammer and turn it one quarter-turn in between blows until the rotor breaks free from the hub.

Spray the new replacement rotor with a brake/parts cleaner spray to wash off the rust-preventative coating on them. Be sure to spray both sides, including the vents. Dry the rotor off with a clean shop rag as best you can and then install the new rotor onto the hub.

Replace the caliper bridge mount and retaining bolts. Tighten the bolts to 110 ft-lbs. with a torque wrench and a socket.

Install the replacement pads into the caliper bridge mount (models with drum brakes in the rear). On models with rear disc brakes, place the outer brake pad on the caliper bridge mount and place the inner pad retaining clip into the piston of the caliper. Lubricate the caliper bridge mount pad clips with brake silicone compound as indicated in Step 8 before installing the brake pads, if you did not replace the rotor.

Replace the caliper and the caliper guide bolts. Tighten the bolts to 35 ft-lbs. with the torque wrench and a socket.

Repeat the brake pad and or rotor replacement for both front wheels before replacing the wheels and wheel lug nuts. Tighten the nuts snugly with the front axle elevated and then lower the vehicle to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts with the torque wrench and socket to 100 ft-lbs.

Apply the brake pedal several times. It will drop to the floor until the caliper pistons that were compressed have extended back outward and seat the brake pads to the rotor. When the pedal feels normal or firm, check the brake fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir and top it off as needed with clean brake fluid and a clean funnel. Replace the master cylinder cover and close the hood. There should be no reason to bleed the brakes since air was not introduced into the hydraulic system.

Release the parking brake and test-drive the Grand Caravan for braking performance.

Items you will need

  • Brake fluid syringe

  • Tire iron

  • Service jack

  • Jack stands

  • 4-inch C-clamp (or larger)

  • Box-end wrench set

  • Caliper hook

  • 24-inch breaker bar and socket set

  • Stiff bristled wire brush

  • Brake silicone compound

  • Screwdriver

  • Spray penetrating lubricant

  • Dead-blow hammer

  • Brake/parts cleaner spray

  • Replacement rotors (optional)

  • Shop rags

  • Adjustable torque wrench

  • Replacement brake pad set

  • Brake fluid

  • Funnel

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a Dodge Dakota

Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels with a tire iron, 19 millimeter socket and breaker bar.

Place the jack beneath the frame of the truck and lift the Dakota.

Place jack stands beneath the frame to support the vehicle during the brake pad replacement.

Remove the lug nuts and pull the wheels from the vehicle.

To work on the front right wheel, turn the steering wheel to the left–and vice versa.

Remove the two caliper bolts on the left side of the caliper with a 10 millimeter socket and ratchet.

Pull the caliper from the rotor.

Pry the metal clips on the brake pads away from the caliper with a flat screwdriver. Pull the pads from the caliper.

Squeeze the caliper piston–the cylinder that extends from one side of the caliper–with a C-clamp.

Place the new pads onto the caliper and press them into place; the metal clips will snap onto the caliper sides.

Place the caliper onto the rotor and replace the bolts.

Turn the steering wheel so it's facing forward. Return the front wheel to the lug nut bolts and screw on the lug nuts.

Change the pads on the opposite brake. Turn the steering wheel to the right to access the caliper bolts once the wheel is off.

Remove the jack stands and lower the Dodge to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts with a tire iron or 19 millimeter socket, ratchet and breaker bar.

Items you will need

  • 19 millimeter socket

  • Ratchet

  • Breaker bar (1/2 inch)

  • Tire blocks

  • C-clamp

  • Flat screwdriver

  • 10 millimeter socket

  • Lifting jack

  • Jack stands

  • Tire iron

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a Pontiac Sunfire

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.

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

 How to Replace Front Brakes in a Nissan Altima

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.

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

 How to Change the Front Brakes on a Nissan Titan

Lift the Nissan Titan with the jack and place the vehicle on jack stands.

Remove the wheels with a lug-nut wrench and set them aside.

Remove the caliper with a ratchet and use a bungee cord to hang the caliper. Do not let the caliper hang from the brake hose, as the hose might break and cause fluid to leak.

Remove the brake rotor from the hub. The rotor might require force to be removed; if it does, use a hammer to hit the rotor in the center, where the lug studs are located. Take care not to hit the studs.

Remove the new rotor from its packaging and use brake cleaner to remove the grease from the rotor. Grease is applied to the rotor in the factory to inhibit rust during storage.

Install the new rotor onto the hub.

Install the caliper bracket onto the steering knuckle. The knuckle is the component that the strut and hub is attached to. Then slide the brake pads into the caliper bracket.

Open the master cylinder reservoir so you don't break a seal while compressing the brake caliper. The master cylinder is located at the front right of the engine bay when you are looking at the front of the engine.

Compress the brake caliper with a C-clamp so that the caliper can fit over the new brake pads. Install the caliper by securing it to the brake caliper bracket with a ratchet.

Items you will need

  • Eye protection

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Lug-nut wrench

  • Ratchet

  • Sockets

  • Bungee cord

  • Hammer (optional)

  • New rotors

  • Brake cleaner

  • New brake pads

  • C-clamp

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a 2002 Honda Civic

Place your Civic in “Park” and pull the emergency brake. Of course, you must also remove your jack and lug wrench from the trunk. Also, open your hood.

Remove the cap from your brake master cylinder. The master cylinder is the small canister on the driver’s side, near the back of the engine compartment (refer to your owner’s manual if necessary). The master cylinder contains the car’s brake fluid.

Place the jack at the proper lifting point behind the wheel and jack the car up just high enough so that the tire is off the ground. Place jack stands under the Civic to ensure that the car is stable and that it won’t fall on you while you’re working. Then loosen and remove the lug nuts using your lug wrench and remove the tire.

Loosen and remove the bolts which hold the caliper in place. These are the two bolts on the back side of the caliper, one on the top and one on the bottom. Use a metric socket and ratchet to remove the bolts. After you’ve taken the bolts out, pull the caliper off the rotor and carefully place it on top of the rotor. Make sure the caliper won’t fall, as it may damage the brake line.

Remove both the front and back brake pads from the rotor. Take note how the pads are positioned so that when you insert the new ones, they are positioned correctly. If you didn’t get shims (thin metal pieces that attach to the pad) with the new pads, you will have to remove the old shims and attach them to the new pads. Spray some brake cleaner on the rotor after you’ve removed everything.

Insert the new pads in their correct position, both on the front and back of the rotor. Remember how the old pads were positioned and ensure that you install the new ones in exactly the same manner.

Retract the caliper’s piston using your C-clamp and an old brake pad. Place an old pad between the clamp and the piston to prevent damage to the piston. Tighten the clamp until the piston is pushed all of the way in. Then remove your C-clamp and slide the caliper back into place over the new brake pads.

Replace both caliper bolts and tighten them using your ratchet and socket. After you’re sure you’ve tightened the caliper, you can put the wheel back on your Civic and tighten the lug nuts. Remove your jack stands and lower the car.

Repeat the exact same process for the other side. Remember, you must change both the left and right front brakes. After you’ve installed the pads on the other side and lowered the Civic, check your master cylinder. If any fluid has been pushed out, due to retracting the caliper pistons, top the master cylinder off with brake fluid.

Start your Honda Civic and pump the brake pedal a few times to build up pressure in the braking system.

Items you will need

  • Metric sockets and ratchet

  • C-clamp

  • Can of brake cleaner

  • Brake fluid (if necessary)

  • Jack stands

  • New set of brake pads

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a Honda Passport

Remove the Brake Pads

Siphon 1/2 the fluid from the brake master cylinder using a hand pump.

Loosen the front wheel lugs one turn using a lug wrench.

Jack up the front of your Honda vehicle using a floor jack and support it on two jack stands.

Remove the wheel lugs and the front tires off the wheel/hub assemblies.

Unscrew the two mounting bolts from the back of the brake caliper using a wrench or ratchet and socket. On some Honda Passport models, the upper mounting bolt serves as a pivot bolt. So you can remove the lower mounting bolt and turn out the caliper.

Secure the caliper to the car's body with a piece of wire if you had to remove the caliper completely. Letting the caliper hanging loose may damage the brake hose connected to it.

Remove the brake pads, shims and indicator plates from the caliper-mounting bracket.

Install the New Brake Pads

Set one of the old brake pads over the caliper cylinder and push the cylinder into its bore using a C-clamp. This will give you enough room to seat the caliper over the mounting bracket with the new pads in place.

Apply a light coat of brake grease to the back of the new pads. Make sure not to get any grease on the friction material of the pads or rotor.

Seat the shims on the back of the brake pads and install them on the caliper-mounting bracket along with the indicator plates.

Set the caliper over the brake pads and mounting bracket and tighten the two mounting bolts using the wrench or ratchet and socket. Or rotate the caliper in place and tighten the lower mounting bolt.

Mount the tire and install the wheel lugs using the lug wrench.

Replace the brake pads on the other wheel assembly following steps 5 from the previous section through step 5 of this section.

Lower the vehicle and finish tightening the wheel lugs on both front tires using the lug wrench.

Depress the brake pedal several times to seat the new brake pads properly.

Add new brake fluid to the brake master cylinder to bring the level between the low and full marks.

Items you will need

  • Hand pump

  • Lug wrench

  • Floor jack

  • 2 jack stands

  • Wrench set

  • Ratchet and socket set

  • C-clamp

  • Bake grease

  • New brake fluid

 How to Change the Front Brakes on a '92 Toyota Pickup

Loosen all the lug nuts one full rotation counterclockwise with the tire iron.

Place the floor jack underneath the vehicle frame behind the driver-side front tire. Raise that side of the front of the pickup until the front tire is 2 inches off the ground. Set the jack stand under the frame and lower the pickup onto the jack stand. Remove the loosened lug nuts and remove the tire. Repeat the process for the opposite side of the front of the pickup.

Loosen the bolt on the bottom of the brake caliper mounting bracket with the socket wrench. The mounting bracket is the bracket that is attached to the rotor behind the wheel.

Pull the brake pads out of the bracket while you lift the bracket bottom into the air. The pads will simply pull out.

Compress the brake caliper cylinder in the center of the bracket by pressing it in with your fingers or thumbs. If the caliper does not compress by hand, compress it with the C-clamp by setting the stationary end of the clamp against the rear of the bracket and the movable end against the cylinder, then tightening the clamp until the caliper cylinder is flush with the bracket.

Place the new brake pads in to the slots the old ones were in. They will fit easily now that the caliper is pressed in.

Bolt the caliper bracket back down to the rotor and set the tire on the rotor. Finger tighten all of the lug nuts and lower the vehicle. Tighten all of the lug nuts with the tire iron.

Items you will need

  • Tire iron

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Socket wrench

  • C-clamp

 How to Change the Front Brakes on a Ford F150

How to Change the Front Brakes on a Ford F150

Jack up the vehicle. At this time, break free all the lug nuts just enough so they will spin without brute force on the tire iron. You do this before raising the vehicle because you will not be able to do so when the wheel is off the ground and can spin. This is done by placing the tire iron on the lug nuts and turning them counterclockwise until the lug nuts break free. Place the jack under the coil spring bucket and begin to raise the vehicle. Raise the vehicle until the tire is off the ground enough to spin.

Remove the wheel. Now that the vehicle's tire is off the ground, place the tire iron back on the lug nuts and remove them by turning counterclockwise until they are all off. Once this is done, grasp the tire firmly with both hands and pull the wheel off the rotor; place it out of the way to avoid falling over it.

Remove the brake caliper and pads. Use the appropriate Allen wrench to remove the caliper's slide bolts. To do this, insert the Allen wrench in the bolt and turn it counterclockwise until you can pull the bolt out. There are two of these bolts; one on the top of the caliper, and one on the bottom. Once the bolts are out, remove the brake caliper by pulling upward until it comes off. At this time, use your large channel lock pliers to squeeze the caliper pistons in all the way to make room for the new pads. To do this, simply place the pliers on the old pad and outside the caliper and squeeze. You are now ready to remove the old brake pads. To do this, simply pull the pads out of the caliper.

Install the new brake pads and replace the caliper. Install the new brake pads by placing them on the proper sides in the caliper. Once this is done, you may replace the caliper. To do this, place the caliper back on the rotor and put the slide bolts back in the holes. Use the appropriate Allen wrench to tighten the slide bolts by turning them clockwise until they are tight.

Mount the wheel. Grasp the wheel with both hands and set it back on the wheel studs. Start the lug nuts on the studs with your fingers turning them clockwise. When all lug nuts are back on the wheel studs, tighten them with the tire iron by turning clockwise until they are tight. Once this is done, you can let the jack down, lowering the vehicle to the ground. When the vehicle is back on the ground, check the lug nuts again to be sure they are tight. Repeat all steps for the remaining side of the vehicle.

Items you will need

  • Set of Allen Wrenches

  • Jack

  • Tire iron

  • Large channel lock pliers

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a Buick

Removing the Brake Pads

Park your Buick on a level surface and shift the transmission to Neutral.

Open the hood and draw enough brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir to bring the level down midway between the Full and Add marks if necessary. Use a new or clean turkey baster and a proper container. Then replace the reservoir cap but do not tighten.

Loosen the wheel lug nuts on both front tires using a lug wrench.

Raise the front of your vehicle using a floor jack and support it on jack stands.

Secure the rear wheels with chocks.

Finish removing the front wheel/tire assemblies.

Reinstall two wheel lug nuts, hand tight, on the hub assembly you will be working on first. This will prevent the rotor from sliding off the hub.

Force the brake caliper piston partially into its bore using a large C-clamp, just enough to allow it to clear the rotor when removing the caliper.

Unscrew and remove the lower caliper pin bolt using a Torx bit socket and ratchet.

Rotate the brake caliper upwards and secure it to the coil spring with a piece of wire.

Remove the inner brake pad from the brake caliper bracket and place it against the caliper piston.

Seat the caliper piston into its bore with the large C-clamp by pushing the inner pad with the clamp screw. Then remove the inner pad from the caliper.

Remove the outer brake pad and brake pad retainers from the brake caliper bracket.

Installing the Brake Pads

Clean the brake assembly of brake dust using brake parts cleaner spray and a clean, lint-free cloth or towel.

Install the brake pad retainers on the caliper bracket.

Inspect the boot around the caliper piston and make sure it is laying flat. If necessary, use a blunt plastic stick or suitable tool to set the inner edge of the boot flat while avoiding damage to the boot.

Set the new brake pads on the brake caliper bracket.

Untie the brake caliper and rotate it back into position over the brake pads and bracket.

Start the caliper lower-pin bolt by hand. Then tighten it with the Torx bit socket and ratchet.

Climb in behind the steering wheel and depress the brake pedal only about 2/3 of its normal travel distance. Release the pedal and wait for about 15 seconds before depressing the pedal again. Repeat this procedure until you feel a firm brake pedal.

Remove the two wheel lug nuts from the brake assembly.

Replace the brake pads on the other front wheel starting with Step 7, from the previous section, through Step 8 of this section.

Reinstall the wheel/tire assemblies.

Lower the vehicle and remove the chocks.

Add new brake fluid to the master cylinder reservoir to bring the level up to the Full mark if necessary. Then tighten the cap.

Items you will need

  • Clean turkey baster

  • Container

  • Lug wrench

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Chocks

  • Large C-clamp

  • Torx-bit socket

  • Ratchet

  • Piece of wire

  • Brake parts cleaner spray

  • Lint-free cloth or towel

  • Wooden or plastic tool (if necessary)

  • New brake fluid (if necessary)