How To Replace Brake Pads and Rotors [Complete guide]

Replacing the brakes on your car doesn’t need to be a big expensive job, In fact, you could replace the brake pads and rotors yourself for less than $100 by following along with this step-by-step guide.

Tools Needed to Replace Brake pads and Rotors:

  • A car jack
  • Axle stands
  • Breaker bar
  • 1/2 drive socket set
  • Pry bar or big screwdriver
  • Brake piston wind back tool

The first thing you need to do is loosen the wheel nuts using your car’s wheel brace that comes with your spare wheel. If your car didn’t come with a wheel brace you’re going to need a 17mm socket and breaker bar.

Always remember the golden rule when opening nuts or bolts, Lefty Loosey Righty Tighty.

Once you have the wheels loosened a little, you now need to safely jack the car up as high as possible and remove the wheels to give you access to the brake assembly. Be sure to use axle stands under the car and don’t rely on just the jack. You also need to make sure to use the correct jacking points on the car.

Jacked up racecar

To remove the front brake caliper and carrier you’re going to need to open the two 14mm bolts at the back of the caliper that is holding the caliper to the brake carrier. These bolts will be tight so you’re going to need to use the breaker bar and 14mm socket or a good ratchet and socket.

Now the caliper should be loose and will pull off the rotor. If the caliper is difficult to pull off you can use a pry bar or strong screwdriver to lever it off by wedging it in between the caliper and rotor. You can now remove the brake pads from the carriers by pulling them out.

To remove the brake rotor you first need to remove the brake carrier by opening the two 17mm bolts holding the carrier to the wheel hub. These bolts will also be tight so a breaker bar (Amazon link) is recommended.

1/2 inch drive breaker bar

Once the carrier is off you will then need to open the Philips head screw in the front of the rotor and then the rotor will come off.

Sometimes the head is worn off this screw making it a pain to open, a trick I always use is to cut a slot in the top of the screw using a small grinder, you can then turn the screw with a flat head screwdriver, this always works, if you have a grinder that is.

Removing the rear brake caliper and rotor is basically the same as the front. The only difference is the two bolts holding the brake caliper are 12mm instead of 14mm.

Before you fit the new rotors you’re going to need to clean the oil off the surface of the rotors. The oil is put there to protect the rotors from oxidization in the package. If you don’t clean new rotors before you install them the new brake pads won’t bed into the rotors properly resulting in poor braking.

The easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to clean new rotors, without brake cleaner, is by using warm soapy water and a scrubber. Once the surface of the rotor is thoroughly cleaned and free from oil you then dry the disc using a clean microfiber cloth, or by air drying the rotor using compressed air.

Once you’re happy the rotors are clean, you will now need to wind the piston back into the rear calipers to allow the caliper to fit over the new rotors and pads.

This will ensure there is no oil or contaminants left on the surface of the rotor, plus it will save you the expense of buying brake cleaner. But if you would feel more confident using brake cleaner Id recommend using 3M Brake Cleaner (Amazon link), personally I would go for the aerosol over the liquid cleaner, it’s a lot less mess and every bit as good.

3m brake cleaner

To get the piston back into the rear brake caliper you will need to turn the piston clockwise using a brake wind back tool, or you can use a vice grip, although a wind back tool is recommended because the piston is tight to turn and can be difficult without the correct tool.

Orion brake piston wind back tool

For the sake of a couple of dollars purchasing a wind back tool (Amazon link), you will save yourself a lot of time and bloody knuckles trust me.

If you decide to use a vice grip be careful not to pinch or tear the rubber dust seal around the piston.

Once the rear is done you’re going to need to do the front calipers as well. The front is done a little differently than the back.

To get the piston back into the front brake calipers, you need to compress the piston back into the caliper. This can be done by using a piston wind back tool, a clamp or you can use the handle of a hammer by putting the handle into the piston and the head against your shoulder and a lot of pushing.

The tool is definitely recommended but not necessary, I have changed hundreds of brakes and used the hammer every time, but it’s not easy

However, if your changing the brake fluid at the same time you can open the bleed screw on the caliper and the piston will go back in easily with little pressure.

Once you have this done you can reassemble everything in the reverse order you took them off and wallah, you have just installed new brakes.

Once the brakes are reassembled you need to check the brake fluid reservoir to check if it needs to be topped up.

brake fluid reservoir
Brake fluid reservoir

Next thing to do is check your parking brake to make sure it isn’t too tight or still too slack after installing new rotors and pads.

How To Adjust the Parking Brake on a Honda Civic

Adjusting the parking brake in a Honda is a basic easy-to-do job, and it’s an essential job after replacing the pads and rotors, to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

There are two different methods depending on the type of brake assembly fitted on your car. If your car has rotors on the back you only need to adjust the handbrake cables, but if you have drums on the back you may also have to remove the brake drums.

The first thing to do is jack up the rear of the car until the back wheels are slightly off the ground. If your car has brake drums, slightly loosen the rear wheels before you jack the car off the ground to make it easier to remove the wheels later.

To adjust the parking brake cable start by removing the plastic console from around the parking brake, then pull the parking brake up until it you hear it click twice. Now turn the adjustment nut that is connected to the brake cables at the back of the parking brake clockwise, until the rear wheels begin to drag evenly.

Once both wheels are locked evenly, release the parking brake to make sure the brakes release the wheels to turn freely. If the wheels feel stiff to turn you need to loosen off the adjustment nut slightly.

Parking brake mechanism
Parking brake mechanism

If your car has drum brakes you may notice that the adjustment nut is either not pulling the parking brake tight or the rear wheels aren’t locking as well as they should when you try to turn them. If this is the case, you need to remove the rear wheels and brake drums to adjust the brake shoes.

Once the wheels are off and the parking brake is released, the next thing to do is remove the drum. The easiest way to do this is by hitting the brake drum with a hammer, this may sound scary but it’s the only way.

Rear brake drum
Rear brake drum

Over time the drum and the wheel hub will bind together due to corrosion, heat, and friction, making it very difficult to remove the brake drum. The vibration from hitting the brake drum with a hammer will dislodge the brake drum from the hub making it easier to remove.

First, hit the front of the brake drum twice with a hammer, this will dislodge the drum from the wheel hub. Now you will need to tap the drum all around the outer edge repeatedly in order to tap the drum out over the brake shoes.

The drum can become stuck due to a lip being left inside the drum due to wear from the brake shoes.

Once the drum is off you will see an adjustment nut that sits between both brake shoes as shown in the picture below. This adjustment nut spreads the brake shoes further apart resulting in tighter more responsive rear brakes.

brake shoe adjustment nut

Turn the adjustment nut clockwise three turns (make sure shoes are spreading apart) then try to replace the brake drum. If the drum doesn’t fit on over the brake shoes turn the adjustment nut anti-clockwise half a turn and try to fit the brake drum again. If the drum still doesn’t fit repeat the process until the drum fits on over the shoes.

The drum should feel tight going on over the brake shoes but it should not need to be bet on with a hammer or feel stuck in any way. Once the drum is back on give it a turn to make sure the drum can turn freely with little resistance.

Now pull up the parking brake and ensure the back wheels are locking up evenly and the parking brake is tight. Once you are satisfied everything is working as it should you can replace the wheels, remove the axle stands and lower the jack.

Once you’re finished you should check out this article iv recently wrote, giving a simple-to-follow guide on how to make your brakes more responsive with a few simple steps.

In general, the time it takes an inexperienced, do-it-yourself kind of person to complete this job from start to finish on average takes between two to three hours, once they have the correct tools to work with. It would take an experienced mechanic about 45 minutes to an hour.

But if you are not confident in what you are doing, you are best to take the car to a registered mechanic and have them do it, peace of mind is worth the money it will cost.


With over twenty years worth of experience in the motorsport industry and many happy customers you can rest assured that the information you get here on is 100% free, reliable and without the fluff.

Recent Posts