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How to Replace the Rotor on a Chevrolet Malibu

by Jody L. Campbell

Replacing the brake rotor on your Chevy Malibu can be performed in the comfort of your own yard. There are certain factors to consider to perform the job correctly and certain special tools needed as well to ensure no unintended side effects arise from the project. Determine if you have the skills and the right tools before attempting to perform the task.

Park the Chevy Malibu on a level and paved surface. Apply the parking brake and release the hood latch. Place a wheel chock behind on of the rear tires.

Open the hood, remove the master cylinder cap, and suck out half of the brake fluid in the reservoir using the turkey baster. Discard the fluid appropriately and replace the master cylinder cap securely.

Put on the safety glasses and break the lug nuts loose on the front tires using the breaker bar and a socket (unless the air compressor you have supplies enough power to the 1/2-inch gun, in which case skip this step and proceed to Step 4).

Lift the left front quarter of the Malibu with the floor jack and place the jack stand under the front left frame rail. You can lift the right side as well or choose to complete one side at a time.

Remove the lug nuts and the left front wheel. (Use the pneumatic gun if it is powerful enough combined with the air compressor.)

Place the large C-clamp over the entire caliper housing to compress the caliper piston inward. If you're replacing the pads as well, you're better off removing the top of the caliper first to extract the pads, but if you're replacing just the rotor, remove the caliper and anchor with the pads as an assembly to save time. Once the caliper piston is bottomed out, remove the C-clamp, locate the two caliper anchor bolts and remove them with the ratchet and a socket. (Again, you could use the pneumatic gun if it has enough power, but it might be hard to get the socket on the anchor bolt head.)

Remove the caliper assembly and support it to the coil spring with a bungee cord. Remove the rotor. If the rotor is stuck to the hub by rust or corrosion, strike the flat plated fin if the rotor from behind with the hammer with blunt force.

Clean the surface of the hub flange thoroughly with the die grinder and reconditioning discs. If you did not do this, excessive lateral run out could occur and warp the new front rotors. Clean the face of the hub flange and the ends where the rotor hub sits against.

Wash new rotor with canned brake clean spray. Clean both sides thoroughly to remove the rust preventative coating. Wipe the rotor dry with a shop rag. Place the new rotor on the hub and replace the caliper assembly over it while holding the rotor in place. Replace and tighten the caliper anchor bolts. Replace the wheel and tighten the lug nuts flush to the hub to hold the tire secure. Lower the Malibu and re-tighten the lug nuts using the adjustable torque wrench (set at 100 foot pounds) and a socket.

Repeat Steps 4 through 9 for the right side (or 5 through 9 if you lifted the right side already). Once the Malibu is complete and back on level ground it is extremely important to restore hydraulic pressure back to the compressed caliper pistons. To do so, pump the foot brake pedal several times until it feels normal and no longer drops to the floor. Check the level of the brake fluid in the master cylinder only after you've restored the hydraulic pressure back to the pistons and only add new DOT 3 brake fluid. Release the parking brake and remove the wheel chock. Test drive the Malibu.

Tip

  • In the event you're removing a rear rotor instead of a front, the procedure would be the same with the exception of applying the parking brake (which is integrated with the rear caliper) and the placement of the wheel chock (would go in front of a front tire instead).

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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