How to Replace the Front Brakes on Chevrolet Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Replacing brakes is a common maintenance job for any type of vehicle. The brakes contain two major parts that will likely have to be changed at some point throughout the vehicle's life. These are the pads and the rotor (also known as the disc). This job can be done at home with only a few basic tools that can be bought at most auto parts stores.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace the Front Brakes on a Chevrolet S-10

Remove the wheel to expose the brakes. Loosen the nuts with the tire iron, then jack up the wheel and remove it completely. There will be a rotor visible, with the caliper holding the pads off to one side.

Remove the brake caliper's bolts with the sized socket. They are located on the rear of the caliper, one on each end. Once they are removed, slide the caliper halfway off of the rotor and attach a C-clamp so that the pad does not come off and the caliper is not allowed to expand. The other pad can also be held this way, but only one is required to prevent the caliper from expanding.

Remove the caliper by sliding it off of the rotor. The caliper can be positioned onto the control arm so that it does not dangle from the rubber brake lines, which could damage them.

Remove the rotor by pulling it away from the hub. Without the wheel and caliper holding it in place, it is free to slide out. On some models it is necessary to remove the wheel bearing cap before the rotor will be completely freed.

Replace the rotor by sliding it back over the hub assembly and replacing the wheel bearing cap. This is a good time to check the wheel bearing grease level, if applicable.

Replace the brake pads on the caliper. Unfasten the clamps and quickly swap out the pads, placing the caliper with new pads onto the rotor before the caliper expands. It pushes out slowly, but after about 10 or 15 seconds, it will be too tight to fit onto the rotor, taking considerable effort to press back in.

Bolt the caliper into place, then apply brake squeal spray onto the back side of each brake pad. Do not apply this spray to the rotor; apply it only to the rear of the pads where they meet the caliper.

Bleed the brake line. Uncap the master cylinder and pour DOT-3 fluid into it as someone pushes on the brakes with the bleeder nipple unscrewed. This will clear the brake line of air and replace bad fluid as well.

Replace the wheel and tighten the lug nuts with the tire iron.

Items you will need

  • Socket set and driver

  • Screwdriver

  • Brake caliper bolt socket

  • New brake rotor, caliper and pads

  • Floor jack

  • Tire iron

  • Medium sized C-clamp

  • Brake squeal eliminator spray

  • DOT-3 brake fluid

 How to Change the Front Brakes on a Tahoe

Lift up the front of the vehicle using the jack and secure it on jack stands. The vehicle must be completely secure on the jack stands before you crawl underneath it. Remove the front wheels using a tire iron and place them to the side, out of the workspace.

Unbolt the brake caliper from the steering knuckle at the brake caliper bracket using a 3/8-inch ratchet and socket. Hang the metal hook on a hole in the frame and place the caliper on the hook to support its weight. Pull the rotors off of the wheel hub using your hands and place it to the side.

Slide the replacement rotor onto the wheel hub. Put the brake caliper press in the center of the brake caliper and use it to depress the brake caliper piston by pumping the handle. Pull off the old brake pads and clips, install the clips on the new pads and then put the pads in the caliper, clipping them in place.

Slide the brake caliper onto the steering knuckle and bolt it into the caliper bracket using the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket.

Reinstall the front tires using the tire iron. Raise the vehicle off of the jack stands using the jack and place it back on the ground.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Tire iron

  • 3/8-inch ratchet and socket set

  • Metal hook

  • Replacement rotor

  • Replacement brake pads

  • Brake caliper press

 How to Change Front Brakes on a 2001 Chevy Malibu

Jack up the car by using a car jack to raise the wheel you will be working on. Place a jack stand underneath the vehicle and lower the jack until the vehicle is resting on the jack stand after the wheel has been raised enough for you to work on. Place wheel chocks underneath the other wheels still on the ground to ensure that the vehicle will not roll if anything should go wrong.

Remove the wheel. You may or may not have to remove the hub cap to access the wheel's lug nuts. Use a torque wrench to remove the lug nuts from the wheel and then remove the wheel. Place the lug nuts somewhere safe so they do not get lost.

Remove the brake caliper. There are two bolts that must be removed before the brake caliper will come off. These bolts are located at the top and bottom of the caliper, facing the inside of the vehicle. The bolts may be rusted and hard to remove. If so, spray rust remover on them to make them easier to remove.

Place the brake caliper on top of the wheel hub after the bolts have been removed. Do not let the caliper hang from the brake line as this could damage the brake system. Use a wire coat hanger or bungee cord to fasten the caliper so that it does not fall.

Remove the caliper from its bracket now that the bolts are out.

Remove the old brake pads and disc by sliding them out of the caliper bracket. The old brake disc should also slide off. The brake calliper is what holds it in place. If the brake disc does not slide off, it may be rusted. Spray rust remover and use a rubber mallet to hit the disc and loosen it.

Install the new brake pads and disc. There is a film coating that comes on new brake discs that must be removed before installation. Therefore, you must clean the new brake disc with brake cleaner spray before installing. Spray the new disc with the brake cleaner and wipe it off with a paper towel.

Slide the new brake disc into place and apply brake lubricant to the backs of the new brake pads.

Slide the new brake pads into the caliper bracket. The brake pad that has a wear indicator on it that goes on the side of the caliper bracket facing the inside of the vehicle. Use a C-clamp to push the piston in slightly so that the caliper will fit over the new rotor and pads. If you need to push the piston in a lot, then you may need to remove some of the vehicle's brake fluid first by syphoning it out of the reservoir under the hood. Pushing in the piston too much will make the brake fluid level rise about the maximum level.

Put the brake caliper and wheel back on. Once the brake caliper is put back in place, use a torque wrench to replace the bolts that were removed. The top bolt must be torqued to 80-foot pounds and the bottom one must be torqued to 23-foot pounds.

Put the wheel back on and tighten the lug nuts. The lug nuts must be torqued to 100-foot pounds. When tightening lug nuts, tighten them in a star pattern so that the wheel will be evenly tightened all around. For example, tighten the top left lug nut, then tighten the bottom right, then bottom left.

Lower the vehicle and repeat this process on the other side. Raise the vehicle slightly so that the jack stand can be removed. Remove the wheel chocks and lower the jack slowly until the vehicle is on the ground before you remove the jack. If you had to syphon brake fluid, replace it with new fluid after the other side of the vehicle has been finished.

Items you will need

  • Car jack

  • Jack stand

  • Wheel chocks

  • Torque wrench

  • Socket set

  • Medium to large sized C-clamp

  • Brake cleaner spray

  • Rust removal spray

  • Rubber mallet

  • Syphon

  • Liquid storage container

  • New brake fluid

 How to Change the Front Brakes on a Corsica

Remove half of the brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir in the engine compartment using a clean brake fluid baster. Dispose of the fluid safely--it's highly toxic.

Apply the parking brake of the Corsica, which should be on a flat, hard surface.

Loosen the front lug nuts with a breaker bar and lug socket and then lift the vehicle with a lifting jack. Support the Corsica onto jack stands, placed on the front frame rails.

Remove the lug nuts and then remove the tires.

Compress the caliper piston on one side. On 1988-1991 Corsicas, use a 12-inch pair of adjustable channel locks. Adjust the pliers over the inboard brake shoe tab and the inboard caliper housing so that the caliper piston bottoms in its bore. On 1992-1996 models, install a large C-clamp over the top of the caliper housing and against the back of the outboard shoe. Slowly tighten the C-clamp until the piston is fully compressed inside the caliper bore.

Remove the caliper mounting bolts and sleeve assemblies using the ratchet with a 3/8-inch male hex-head socket. Remove the caliper and hang it from the coil spring with a wire hook. A metal coat hanger can be bent to make a makeshift hook to support the caliper. On 1988 to 1991 models, the outboard pad will drop from the caliper upon removal.

Remove the outboard pad from the caliper on 1992 to 1996 models by prying off the metal retaining clips with a small pry bar. On all year models, pull the inboard pad out of the caliper piston. It is retained by a metal clip on the backing plate of the pad pressed inside the piston.

Remove the rotor if you're replacing the rotors. A couple of stiff whacks from behind with a hammer will remove a stubborn rotor stuck to the wheel hub, if necessary.

With a stiff-bristled wire brush, clean the upper and lower flat surfaces of the knuckle that mate with the caliper. After they are cleaned, apply a light coat of anti-seize compound on them.

Spray the replacement rotor with brake cleaner spray to remove the anti-rust coating. Spray front and back and, with a clean shop rag, wipe off the coating and spray. Place the rotor onto the hub and apply a lug nut onto one of the studs farthest away from the caliper placement. This will hold the rotor in place.

Insert the inboard pad into the caliper piston by pushing it into the piston until the retaining clip holds it in place. Place the outboard pad onto the caliper and hold it in place on the first generation Corsica. On the second generation Corsica, hook the metal retaining clips onto the outboard caliper housing and align the clips to the indents on the housing.

Unhook the caliper and place over the rotor, making sure you have not twisted the brake hose. Apply a liberal coat of anti-seize compound to the smooth sleeves of the caliper bolt and sleeve assemblies. Align them into their respective holes in the rubber bushings and tighten them with the ratchet and hex-head socket.

Replace the tire and lug nuts and tighten the nuts as snugly as you can with the vehicle suspended. Repeat Steps 5-13 for the other front brakes.

Lower the Corsica to the ground and then torque the lug nuts at 100-foot pounds with the torque wrench and the lug nut socket.

Be sure the master cylinder cap snapped in place securely and then pump the brake pedal of the Corsica until it feels firm. Remove the master cylinder cover again and add brake fluid if necessary. Only add new brake fluid.

Release the parking brake and test drive.

Items you will need

  • Clean brake fluid baster

  • Breaker bar with lug nut socket

  • Vehicle lifting jack

  • Jack stands

  • 6-inch C-clamp

  • 12-inch adjustable channels locks

  • Ratchet with a 3/8-inch hex-head male socket

  • Wire hook (or metal coat hanger)

  • Small pry bar

  • Hammer

  • Stiff-bristled wire brush

  • Anti-seize compound

  • Replacement rotors (if applicable)

  • Brake cleaner spray and shop rag (if applicable)

  • Replacement pads

  • Torque wrench (adjustable)

  • Brake fluid

About the Author

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