HOW TO DO YOUR OWN BRAKE JOB (ROTORS/PADS)
The first time you do a brake job, it might seem a little confusing, but as you become more familiar with the procedures it will become second nature and can save you a lot of money in the long run. Having the ability to do your own work will also prevent you from being taken advantage by brake shops, not only in heavy labor fees but false statements about defective or worn out parts, which are actually in good condition.
These instructions are designed for disc brakes only. I could write a book on doing drum brakes and it still wouldn't go into everything you would encounter, so the best advice if your vehicle is equipped with drum brakes is to work with someone who has done them before and can show you how to do them. Luckily, drum brakes last a very long time and assuming you don't keep your truck until 200,000 miles or more, you should never need to replace them.
A few notes on doing your own brake jobs:
Typically your rotors will not need to be replaced nearly as often as your pads. If turned properly and consistently, you should go through at least two sets of pads before you need to replace the rotors. It is a good idea to get your rotors turned every time you replace your pads, this will keep them from warping and help them last longer and ride better. If you don't replace your pads in time and the metal of the pads starts wearing against the metal of the rotors, you will need to replace the rotors.
If one set of pads on one side of the vehicle is wearing much quicker then the other side, it could mean that a caliper is going out and will need to be replaced. This could also be a reason why a vehicle might pull to one direction or the other when braking.
If you are unfamiliar with brakes, here are a few terms you will need to know:
Rotors (A) are the biggest brake component you will see. They are a circular plate mounted to your axle, surrounding the hub (E). The rotor is what the brake pads clamp to in order to stop the vehicle.
Brake pads (D) are the actual pieces that clamp to the rotors to do the stopping.
Calipers (C) are the piece that the pads are attached to. The caliper is what does the "clamping" to tighten the pads against the rotors and stop the vehicle.
Tools needed for this job: Jack and jack stands, 5/16", 3/8”, 10mm, 1/2”, 3/4” or 7/8” (depending on lug nut size), 18mm sockets and socket wrench, a flat-head screwdriver (comes in handy for many different things!). You will also want a spare pint of brake fluid for when it comes time to flush the air out of the brake system. A rubber mallet is needed to whack off the rear rotors (and sometimes the fronts as well). You will also need a C-clamp or other clamp to compress the caliper pistons. Other various tools may be required for different vehicles and sometimes situations are more extreme then others and will require other tools.
The front rotors we used for this project are Brembo Sport cross-drilled rotors. These rotors are a relatively inexpensive, yet are a good rotor. These sport rotors can be ordered in slotted or cross-drilled version. Rotors with pads run approximately $400, much less then the $3000 kits that can be ordered, however they do not include components such as calipers, etc. and are not as high performance. The holes Brembo drills in the rotors are specially designed for each rotor to not wear pads prematurely or cause cracking of the rotor surface, as is seen with some other “cross-drilled” rotors. The slotting or cross-drilling allows for brake dust and gases to be removed from the rotor surface, increasing your stopping ability. You can see in the below picture the comparison of the stock rotor with the Brembo rotor. The Brembo’s are cadmium plated for rust prevention, they also look better! Brembo is the original equipment in many high-end sports cars, such as Ferrari’s, BMW’s, Porsche’s, etc. so you know they have a good reputation!
Comparison of stock rotor with Brembo’s cross-drilled sport rotor
1. Start off by parking your truck on a level surface, and jack the front end up so the tires are off the ground. As with any work I do on my truck, I always disconnect the negative brake cable. Even if its not electrical, a dropped wrench that hits something electrical plus the body or frame and you’ll see some sparks flying! Place jack stands along the frame or under the axle. Never rely on the jack to support the vehicle, especially when working under your truck! Take the lug nuts off the wheels are remove the wheels and set them aside. Be sure you remember which one is the driver side and which is the passenger side, you don't want to rotate the tires side to side!
Top view of front rotor. (A) caliper bolt, (B) caliper bracket bolt, (C) Bleeder valve”.
Angling the caliper away from the rotor for easy removal
2. You will notice that the caliper is held on to the rotor with two bolts (A in above picture). Both caliper bolts need to be removed with the 1/2” socket, after which the caliper can be "angled out" away from the rotor. Place the caliper against the axle or somewhere where it won't be left dangling. A good spot for it is to place the caliper around the upper control arm. A dangling caliper can put extra stress on the brake lines, possibly adding to the hassle and cost of the brake job. The two pads should still be sitting next to the rotor as they aren't actually attached to the calipers. Take note of their position as you will need to reinstall your new pads later in the same position. Once you note their position, remove the pads and set them aside, they should just slide out to one side or the other. If you plan on removing the rotors to replace them or have them turned, proceed to step 3. If you are just replacing your pads and don’t plan on turning/replacing your rotors, proceed to step 7.
3. The bracket that the caliper was attached to (the caliper bracket) needs to be removed in order to remove the rotor. This bracket should be held on to the axle assembly with two 18mm bolts (B in above picture), which are behind the rotor. These bolts are often very tight, so a breaker bar might come in handy for these. These bolts can be removed and the caliper bracket removed.
4. After the caliper bracket is removed the rotor should simply slide off. If not, hit it from the back with a rubber mallet to break it loose. If you are having the rotors turned, use care with the rotor to not slide it along the ground, drop it, scratch it, etc. It's a good idea to spray some brake cleaner on both sides of the rotor, mainly to make it easier for those turning it to read the numbers printed on the inside of the rotor and make it a cleaner process for everyone.
5. With the rotor removed, take it to a shop that turns rotors. If you aren’t sure of who does rotor turning, you may want to call around. Many auto parts stores will turn your rotors for a nominal fee. The process of turning the rotor is basically leveling off the rotor surface, removing a fraction of an inch from the surface to make it smoother and prevent warping.
Placing the rotor back in place, followed by installation of caliper bracket
6. Once turned (or replaced if you are replacing your rotors), place the rotor back on the hub. This is also a good time to put the caliper bracket on to prevent the rotor from wiggling loose. This is done by putting it back in place and reinserting and tightening the two 18mm bolts holding the bracket to the axle assembly.
7. Because the new pads (and new rotor, if applicable) are thicker then your old worn down pads, you will need to make room in the caliper for the new pads. In order to do this, you will need to compress the caliper pistons. Before compressing you will have to slightly loosen the bleeder valve with your 3/8” socket, or you risk damaging the caliper piston. The bleeder valve may have a rubber dust guard over it, if so remove it and set it in a safe place. Using a 3/8” wrench or socket, twist the bleeder valve to loosen it. Using the C-clamp, compress the piston back into the caliper until it sets flush. If slight pressure with the c-clamp does not compress the piston, don't force it, open the bleeder valve some more and try again. Overcompressing, or forcing the caliper piston to compress may damage the piston or the caliper, which will result in rebuilding/replacing the caliper. Some fluid will spill out the bleeder valve when compressing the piston, don't worry this is normal. Once compressed tighten the bleeder valve so excess air won't enter in the tubes. Don't put the rubber stopper back on as you still need to bleed the air out of the system later.
An example of a compressed(B)/undercompressed(A) caliper piston.
8. Take the new pads and make sure they match up shape and size wise with the pads you removed. Place your new pads against the rotor in the caliper bracket. This is also a good time to apply some disc brake quiet, if you choose to do so. Disc brake quiet is a lubricant that can be applied to the backs of the pads that helps dampen vibration and prevent excess noise from the brakes. We didn’t have to do this for our pads, as Brembo pre-coats the backs of the pads. Make sure the pads are inserted exactly in the same position as the old ones were removed.
Reinstalling caliper bracket and caliper
9. Once the pads are in place against the rotor, place the caliper back over the pads, and insert the two caliper bolts back into the caliper. It may be a good idea to put some grease on the caliper bolts. Repeat this process for the other side. If you are doing your rear brakes as well, proceed to the next step. If you are only doing your front brakes, proceed to the section on bleeding your brakes. It is best to leave the wheels off at this point as it will allow you to bleed the brakes more efficiently.However, if you are limited to a number of jackstands, place the wheels back on and lower the front end.
REPLACING YOUR REAR BREAKS.
The rotors we used for our rear axle are from ART (Applied Rotor Technology). ART offers both front and rear kits for the F-150 and other Ford trucks, and specializes in cryogenically treated and slotted rotors/pads. Cryogenically treating better aligns the metallic components for a longer lasting/less warping rotor, and the slotting allows the rotors to clean themselves more efficiently and prevent the buildup of brake dust and gases on the rotor surface. ART testing has proven a 200% increase in pad and rotor wear as well as improved stopping distance.
Your rear rotors are the same concept as the front, but both the rotors and the calipers are slightly different. The rotor attaches to the axle differently and is held in place by the pressure of the parking brakes. Make sure your parking brake is not on when doing your rear brakes, or it will make it much more difficult to remove the rotors.
Comparison of the two rotors. Stock on the left, ART on the right
1. With the vehicle still on a level surface, jack up the rear axle and use jack stands to support the vehicle. Never rely on the jack, especially when working underneath the truck. Remove the lug nuts and place the wheels aside.
2. The rear calipers, much like the front ones, are held to the axle assembly with two bolts. The difference here is that the pads are held to the caliper with clips rather then sitting in a caliper bracket like the fronts. Prior to removing the caliper from the rotor, it is best to loosen the bleeder valve, then remove the two bolts holding it to the rotor, then remove the caliper from the rotor.
Angling the caliper out away from the rotor
3.Once the caliper is off of the rotor, you will need to compress the piston in order to remove the pads from the caliper. You can do this by grabbing the pad that is clamped into the piston, and compressing it. This may take a little bit of effort but don't force it. If the caliper piston doesn't compress, open the bleeder valve some more and try it again. If it still doesn’t compress, try using a c-clamp to compress it. Some fluid will spill out when compressing but don't worry it is normal. Once compressed, tighten the bleeder valve to prevent excess air from going in. Take note of the position of the pads as you will need to insert the new pads in the same position.
Properly compressed caliper. (A) Bleeder valve, (B) piston, which is properly compressed into the caliper, (C) Slots to use to help remove pad (step 4)
4. The outside brake pad is removed by inserting a flat-head screwdriver into the channel on either side of the caliper (C in above picture), and sliding the pad up and out. You should be able to pry the pad away from the caliper and remove it without having to touch the metal clips.
5. Once the outer pad is removed you can remove the inner pad (the one that is attached to the piston) by prying it away from the piston. If the piston is loose, you may have to hold the piston with one hand and pry the pad away with the other. This pad is held in with three pronged clips (see your new pad if you want to know what it will look like ahead of time). If you are replacing or having the rotor turned, proceed to step 6. If you are just replacing the pads, proceed to step 8.
6. Once the pads are removed, place the caliper out of the way (be sure to rest on something so it isn't dangling by the brake cable – B in below picture) and remove the rotor. Unlike the front rotors, your rear rotors aren't held in by a bracket of any sort. They are held in place by the emergency brake pads (located underneath the rotor attached to the axle). To break the rotors loose, use a rubber mallet to hit the rotor from behind (A in below picture). Placing the transmission in neutral is required, so you can rotate the rotor. You will probably have to rotate the rotor and hit repeatedly before it will come loose, as you only have a small window you can hit the rotor through (where the caliper was mounted).
Removal of rear rotors. (A) Location to hit the rotor with a mallet, from behind. (B) Caliper, positioned out of the way on the rear spring
7. After replacing or having the rotor turned, you can simply place it back up to the axle assembly and make sure it fits snug. You may use the rubber mallet to “convince” it back on if needed.The ART’s and other slotted rotors are labeled left or right side, so the slotting can work efficiently.
Installing new ART rear rotor
8. Affix the new pads to the caliper in the same positions in which you removed the old pads. Same with the fronts, if you plan on using some disc brake quiet, this would be a good time to put this on. Start with the inner pad (the one that is held on to the piston) and then do the outer pad.
9.Place the caliper over the rotor, making sure that it is held snugly and that it fits exactly as it did before. You will have to “angle on” the rotor. For some F-150’s, this is angled from the top down, and on others it is angled from the bottom up. Insert the two bolts that hold the caliper to the axle assembly.As with the front, its is a good idea to clean this bolt and apply a small amount of grease to the bolt.
Angling on the caliper with the new pads
10. Continue with the same procedure on the other side of the vehicle. Once finished it is time to bleed the brake system of any air that may have entered when we were compressing the pistons.
BLEEDING THE BRAKE SYSTEM
Some brake shops will tell you that you need to bleed all the brake fluid out and put in all new fluid. I've done several brake jobs and I've never once replaced all the brake fluid, I find it unnecessary and more of a pain then it would ever be worth. However, some mechanics and auto sources tell you to do this at least once a year, so if you feel the need, please do so.
There are several different techniques and tools you can use to bleed the brake system. There are some devices (power bleeders) which you hook up to a vacuum source and the fluid and the air are sucked out of the line until you stop it. These come in handy but you may end up sucking up too much fluid. The method I personally prefer requires two people. One person works on the bleeder valve and shouts out commands while one person operates the brake pedal.
It is best to start the furthest away from the brake fluid reservoir and work your way towards it (for example, start at the rear passengers side, then do the rear drivers side, then the front passenger side, then the front drivers side).
Rear caliper top view. (A) Bleeder valve, (B) Caliper bolts
Whoever operates the bleeder valve (A in above picture) will want to open
the valve (loosen it) as the brake operator pushes down on the brakes, forcing
out any excess air. When fluid starts to slow down and the person
operating the brakes has it floored, before the brake operator releases the
pedal, close (tighten) the valve. You may need to do this procedure
several times. As you are the person working the bleeder valve, you
should be able to hear air bubbling out of the bleeder valve. When you
can longer hear air coming out, you are done bleeding.
Make sure to keep your eye on the brake fluid reservoir and make sure there is always plenty of fluid in it. If you use up all the fluid in the reservoir you will suck air into the system and will have to bleed the entire system. As long as you prevent air from getting in at the reservoir level you should just be able to bleed out the small amount that might have gotten in near the calipers.
Once all four corners are bled completely, you can put the rubber stoppers back over the bleeder valves, put your tires back on and lower off of the jack stands.
BREAKING IN YOUR BRAKES
There is a good procedure for breaking in your braking system.First, try to avoid heavy braking at first, try speeding up to 55 mph or so, then slowing to 10 mph by pumping the brakes 15-20 times. This will properly mate the pads with the rotors. The brakes might feel a bit mushy at first but will firm up in a few miles. You may also notice a weird odor at first but it is just burning the protective coating off the pads/rotors and will go away in a few miles as well.Vask in the fact that you just saved yourself a TON of labor money!
Applied Rotor Technology (ART)
2642 Gates Place
Simi Valley, CA 93065