How to Replace Honda Brake Pads
Avoid making costly mistakes when you're replacing brake pads on your Honda. Brake jobs seem easy enough: remove a couple of bolts, spray some cleaner, and replace the worn-out pads, right? Not quite: I will explain some important steps and precautions that the average backyard mechanic neglects, not just on Hondas, but on any vehicle.
Removing the Wheels
Power tools are useful, but if you're replacing your brake pads in your driveway, you're probably using all hand tools.
Your first task is to loosen the lug nuts while the car is on the ground. Just crack them free. If the car is off the ground when you are trying to break the lug nuts free, the tire will just spin and you will waste valuable time. Once you have the car in the air—on jack stands, I hope—you can remove the lug nuts completely and remove the tires.
Please use jack stands for your own safety. Do not work on a vehicle that is supported by a hydraulic or screw jack only. People get crushed every year because of this.
If the wheel is stuck on the vehicle and doesn't want to come off, kick it hard with your heel, like a mule or a horse would. Wheels can become frozen on the car from corrosion between the rim and the hub. If the wheel was stuck, clean off the corrosion with a wire brush before reinstalling it. Corrosion can stop the rim from sitting flush on the hub and cause an uneven torque on the lug nuts, which could cause the wheel to come loose when driving down the road.
Removing the Caliper and Brake Pads for Inspection
Next, you need to remove the caliper from the knuckle assemble. There are four bolts on most Honda calipers: two bolts connect the caliper to the car, and two bolts connecting the two parts of the caliper. I recommend removing all four bolts so you can clean the caliper properly.
Inspect the caliper bracket (the part that holds the pads in place), and remove the pads. Notice where the spring clips are mounted: there are upper clips and lower clips. These clips are important; they stop the pads from shifting and vibrating. Remove the clips from the caliper bracket and look under them. Most Hondas build up rust under these clips, which causes the pads to freeze in the caliper and wear unevenly.
If your brake pads come out of the calipers hard or you have to beat them out, chances are the rust has in fact built up under these clips. You can use a dremel or coarse sandpaper to remove the rust, add a bit of high-temp grease to the metal surface after sanding, and then reinstall the clips and set the caliper brackets aside.
Squeezing the Piston Back Into the Caliper
When you start to replace the brake pads, you will notice the piston in the caliper is extended out because the old pads had less brake material on them than the new ones do. The piston's job is to push the pads against the rotors: the thinner the brake pad material, the more the piston has to extend itself.
Remove the cover on the master cylinder and place a shop towel or rag over the top of the master cylinder: this will prevent brake fluid from spraying out of the master cylinder on to the cars paint while you are squeezing the piston back into the brake caliper. You can use a set of channel lock pliers or a C-clamp (an adjustable clamp in the shape of a C) to squeeze the piston slowly until it bottoms out in the brake caliper.
A Tip About Brake Fluid
Brake fluid will remove the finish on your car's paint. If left on the paint for long enough, it will remove the paint completely.
Checking the Caliper Slide Pins for Easy Movement
The slide pins of the caliper need to move freely. Some pins can freeze up and cause premature wear of the brake pads. Remove the pins and use high-temperature grease to lube them up. Check to insure you reinstall the pins properly and place the slide pin boots back over the pins to keep out the elements.
If the pins have rust on them, or you have a hard time removing them from the brake caliper, you can use a fine sandpaper to remove the debris and rust, and then clean the pins thoroughly with brake cleaner and lube well.
Deciding Whether to Resurface or Replace the Brake Rotors
All brake rotors have a spec for minimum thickness needed for resurfacing (as opposed to replacing) them. This spec is usually stamped on the rotor, or if not you can find it by searching Google. Measure the rotor thickness with a micrometer or vernier caliper to determine whether or not it can be resurfaced. If the rotors have thick, flaky rust where the pads hit the rotor, I recommend replacing them.
If you're just going to resurface the rotors at the machine shop, I recommend checking the back side where the rotor rests on the hub. This is another place rust will build up, and if it's not cleaned off completely before machining, you could create a brake pulsation (which causes the steering wheel to shake when braking) or even a tire wobble.
Removing brake rotors on a Honda is not easy. They are held on by two small screws. These screws can be removed with a tool called an impact driver. If it's possible, heat the screws up with a torch, which will help removal process. Once the rotors are off you can either replace or resurface them.
How to Remove a Broken Brake Rotor Screw
Reinstalling the Brake Pads and Rotors
Now it's time to reinstall everything. I highly recommend using genuine Honda OEM brake parts to insure the best possible brake job with no squealing. Aftermarket pads always seem to cause a squeal when braking.
Be sure the caliper shims are installed correctly and the brake pads are installed properly. Two of the brake pads wiill have a metal tab called a wear indicator. When the pads wear down to a certain point, the wear indicator rubs on the rotor, causing a high pitched squeal indicating it's time to change the pads again. The pad with this tab will be the inside brake pad, and the wear indicator will be on the top part of the pad when the pad is installed in the brake caliper.
Honda brake pads come with a small packet of anti-squeal lube called Molykote. Use this paste on all contact points of the pad and caliper (where the caliper and pads touch). You can also add a little to the threads of your bolts for easy installation. Torque all bolts to spec, and check to make sure you did not twist the rubber brake line during installation.
Don't Open the Brake Line
Never open any brake lines while performing a brake job. This is a closed system. If any air enters the system it could cause a soft brake pedal, or worse, brake failure.
Reinstall your tires, lower the vehicle to the ground, and torque the wheels to spec. Reinstall the cover on the master cylinder and pump the brake till the pedal feels hard. Set the emergency brake, put the car in park, and start the engine. Pump the brake pedal while the engine is running; the brake booster will add more pressure to the pads and seat them against the rotors.
Always road-test your work to insure a job well done.
If you think I may have left something out, drop me a line and I will add it to the article.
Scraping Noise After Replacing the Brakes? This May Be the Problem!
How NOT to Replace Pads
The video below shows the wrong way to do this job: what's called a "pad slap."
Avoid Doing Brakes This Way
There's more to this job than what you see in the video above!
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