How to Change Brake Pads and Rotors

Learn how to change brake pads and rotors on a car with this step by step picture guide written by a real mechanic.

Is it hard to change brake pads and rotors? Anyone can do this job if they are able to follow instructions well and have the tools. Have some technicial experience would help but it's optional.

Having replaced brake pads and rotors for hundreds of vehicles, I will reveal all the tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years. In this guide, you will not only learn how to replace brake pads, but also how to change brake rotors too.

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Tools Needed to Change Brake Pads and Rotors

Tools Needed for Brake Job

1. Position Floor Jack and Jack Stands

Park your vehicle on a level surface, preferably on concrete or asphalt, put the car in “park”, set the emergency brake and put blocks under the rear wheels. Grab your floor jack and jack stands before finding an appropriate place to jack up the vehicle.

If you are changing brake pads for the first time, then you should look up your owner's manual to confirm where to jack up your vehicle. I sometimes will just jack it up using the lower control arm. You can see my jack setup in the picture. DO NOT JACK UP THE VEHICLE YET!

Where to Put The Jack

2. Remove Wheel Cover and Tires

Sometimes there is a wheel cover that needs to be taken off. Most of the time you can just use a pry bar to pry it off of the rim. Using a large socket wrench and the correct sized socket, loosen the lugnuts in a criss cross pattern. Be sure not to loosen them all the way as the weight of the vehicle is still on the tires. Be sure to loosen both sides.

Remove Wheel Cover
Removing Lug Nuts

3. Jack Up Vehicle and Insert Jack Stands

After the lug nuts are loose you can then jack up the car. Be sure to go slowly and not any higher then necessary to get the tires off the ground and the jack stands under it for support.

When I first learned how to change brake pads I would just skip the jack stands, but they are very important because the jack might fail and you will probably be sitting right under the brake rotor!

Tire Removed

4. Remove Lug Nuts

Remove the lug nuts with a socket wrench then remove the tire and set it aside. Sometimes I will place the tire near the brakes so I can use it as a stool to sit on. This makes the job more enjoyable and makes it easier to see what I’m working on.

Now that the tire is removed you can closely inspect the brake pads and rotor. Be sure to make mental notes of how everything is arranged so it will be easier to get it back together. If you are just learning how to change brake pads and rotors then you might even want to snap some pictures for reference in case you forget or don’t have a repair manual to use.

Brake Pads, Rotor & Caliper

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