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How to Install Brake Pads on a Toyota Tacoma

by Jody L. Campbell

The front brake pads on a Toyota Tacoma will eventually wear down. If you have the proper amount of tools and tenacity, you can install the front brake pads and save yourself an expensive labor charge from your local service station. An OEM pad from Toyota or a premium quality aftermarket brake pad set is recommended, keeping in mind that you get what you pay for. Tacomas have a quad piston set up inside the calipers and will burn through a cheap set of pads rather quickly.

How to Install Brake Pads in a Toyota Tacoma

Park the truck on a level surface and place in gear or park. Turn the ignition key on one click to unlock the steering wheel. Apply the parking brake.

Place the wheel chocks in front and rear of one of the rear tires.

Crack loose the lug nuts on both front tires using the 1/2-inch drive breaking bar and a deep 1/2-inch drive 21 millimeter socket. Do not remove. Just crack them loose.

Lift one side of the truck with the floor jack and place a jack stand beneath the lower control arm and repeat the procedure for the other side. This will elevate the front axle with the steering wheel unlocked so you can manipulate the position of the wheel for proper angles and working space when needed.

Remove lug nuts and take the tires off.

Turn the wheel so the caliper is extended past the wheel well.

Remove the locking pin/wire on the outside of the caliper. This pin simply pops out, but you may need to use a set of channel locks or pliers to convince it. Try not to damage it if the replacement pads did not come with new hardware.

Using a small to medium punch and hammer, tap on flat side of the pad upper holding pin. This may be the most challenging aspect of this job, next to squeezing in the four pistons of the caliper. This task may take a while and if your replacement pads did not come with a new set of pins, it is important not to damage these or mushroom the edge of the pin in the tapping process. The easiest way to work this is to tap and get it to move just a little bit and then tap it back into place and tap it out a little more and tap it back into place. Each time it moves it will clean off a little bit of rust and corrosion. If these pins do not move you could try to grab onto them from the outside of the caliper with channel locks and turn them. If they come out, continue the same procedure for the bottom holding pin. It is recommended that if you're reusing these pins to clean them off thoroughly with a wire brush wheel on a bench grinder.

Remove caliber bolts with 3/8-inch drive ratchet and 14-millimeter 3/8-inch drive socket. Using a medium angle pry bar, pry off the top and then the bottom of the caliper. Do not let it hang from the brake hose. The pads will fall out, or may need to be tapped out gently and rest the caliper on top of the upper control arm.

Squeeze the pistons of the caliper in using an old pad as a surface to rest the drive of the C-clamp with. This is going to be the next most challenging task of this job. The Tacomas have four pistons, two on each side, and when you squeeze in one side, the other side wants to bulge out. Squeeze one side all the way in and then the other. You may have to go back again to the other side again, but sooner or later, diligence will pay off. Another common side effect of Tacomas is a frozen piston on the caliper. If you find you cannot convince the pistons to squeeze in under duress, this may be indicative of why the pads wore down, and you may need to replace the caliper. If they press in fine, continue on.

Apply a liberal coat of anti-seize or brake lubricant to the holding pins. Place the pads into the caliper and lock them in with the holding pins. You will have to thread them into the caliper with the pins in the same position in which they they came out: the inboard pad first with the backing plate facing the inside of the wheel well, thread the upper pin, then place the outboard pad facing inwards and thread the holding pin through that. The upper holding pin will hold the pads in place and you can thread the bottom holding pin in a little more easily. Spread the pads apart by hand so you can fit the caliper now loaded with pads over the rotor. Do not force. If it does not fit, the pistons of the caliper are not in far enough and you'll have to go back to the C-clamp procedure until you're successful.

Reinsert and tighten caliper bolts with the 3/8-inch drive ratchet and 14-millimeter socket.

Reinsert locking pin/wire into the holes of the holding pins. You made need the pliers or channel locks to manipulate the pins in order to align the small holes for the clip wire.

Place wheel on and tighten lug nuts as tight as you can get them with wheel elevated.

Repeat brake pad replacement steps for the other side.

Raise vehicle enough to extract the jack stands and then torque the lug nuts to 80 foot pounds using the adjustable torque wrench and the 1/2-inch drive 21-millimeter socket in an alternating fashion.

Pump the brake pedal inside the truck to purge the hydraulic pistons of the calipers back out. Pump until the pedal feels normal. Release the parking brake.

Pop the hood open and check the level of brake fluid in the master cylinder. You may need to adjust it.

Remove the wheel chocks and test drive.

Tip

  • Depending on your geography, corrosion and rust build-up can take this seemingly benign task and turn it into a logistical nightmare. If the pins holding pins are seized badly into the caliper, you may want to consider whether you're up to the task. You could remove the caliper and unbolt the brake hose in order to place the caliper on a bench vise for more room, but you'd need to be able to bleed the brake system properly afterward. If the pistons of the caliper are seized and do not want to press in, you will not be able to install new brake pads because they simply will not fit. If at any point during this process you feel it's more of a job than you're willing to put into it, it's okay to throw in the towel and put everything back together and bring it to a professional. Trying to save money is one thing, but performing as important job as brake pads incorrectly can result in hazardous results. Also, even under ideal conditions, it is recommended that you use a premium brake pad replacement and also throw in a couple extra bucks and get a new holding pin replacement while you're at it.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

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