Recently I was driving down the hills coming off of Dartmoor, after a successful bouldering trip, when the front brakes started to grind.

So the following day I whipped off a front wheel to inspect the pads, and sure enough, the pads were worn and needed changing. Luckily it is a fairly easy job with some basic tools, so I set about changing the brake pads.

This is how I did it.

Getting Started

The first job is to jack one side of the van up and remove the front wheel. The jacking point is easily spotted just behind the front wheel. I placed an axle stand here, and then backed it up with a bottle jack under the wishbone mounting - as you can see in the photo below.

Make sure everything is secure and stable before removing the wheel and starting work on your van!

NOTE: Its worth pointing out - never replace the brake pads on just one side! Always change a complete axle set at the same time!

Removing the brake pads

The photos on the right shows the location of two 13mm bolts that need to be undone in order to remove the brake pads. The whole caliper will slide off and allow you to remove the brake pads - they might even drop out as you remove the caliper.

You will see that the bolts you have removed hold a small bar in place that the caliper slides along ensuring both pads apply equal pressure to the opposite sides of the disc.

In my case the bolts came off easily enough, but the bar was not moving freely, so I tapped them out, cleaned them up and but them back in place with a liberal coating of copper slip grease. Be careful not to get the grease on your discs!

The photo on the right shows the difference between the brand new brake pads that I had sourced from GSF, and the very worn pads that I removed off the van. As you can see its a massive difference, so in order to fit the new pads you have to push the brake piston back into the caliper, in order to allow enough room for the new pads to be fitted.

Brake piston retraction

Usually there are couple of different types of brake caliper, with one you have to screw the piston back into the caliper using a brake rewind tool, and the other just pushes back in when you apply pressure to it.

I do have a brake rewind tool, but on my van this wasn't needed as the piston could just be pressed back into the caliper using a large G clamp and off cut of wood - as seen in the photo below.

To allow the brake fluid to flow back up the pipes, it is necessary to undo the lid to the brake fluid reservoir which is located under the bonnet. This allows air to escape the as the fluid is pushed back up the pipes to the reservoir by your action of pushing the piston back in at the caliper end. You can see the fluid reservoir in the photo on the right.

Fitting the new brake pads

With the piston pushed back into the caliper, you it should look something like the photo on the right. Its worth checking the dust seal around the piston and replacing if necessary.

You can now take the new brake pads and apply a small amount of copper grease to the back of the pads. This will stop any brake squeal as the piston pushes against the pad.

It is important to not get any grease on the actual friction surface of the pad, or the brake disc itself! The friction surface mounts against the brake disc and is what will be slowing you down - so you don't want grease here!

The photo above shows the new pads in place, with the copper grease on the back side of the pad. All that needs to be done is to replace the caliper and replace the two 13mm bolts that hold everything in place.

With everything back together, it should look like the photo on the right. Now it is just a case of double checking your work, and then replacing the wheel.

You can now move on to the other side of the van and repeat the process!

Bedding in

The new pads will take a while to bed in, and you might have increased stopping distances until this happens. It generally happens within the first 100 miles, so just take it easy while the pads bed in.

I took the van for a little 3 mile journey to check for any problems, and I am happy to report there were none. The pedal was noticeably firmer and the braking started further up the pedal travel, which gave a nice reassuring feeling. πŸ™‚

Another good job done, on to the next now...

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