When and how should you change your disc brakes?
Proper and regular upkeep of your vehicle’s brakes is critical to their continued efficiency, as well as to your roadway safety. Thankfully, brake maintenance and repair can be easily performed from the comfort of your own home.
Modern disc brakes are broadly divided into two primary components: the brake discs themselves (also known as rotors), and the brake pads and callipers that provide friction to the rotors, allowing your vehicle to stop. Steady wear of the brake pads is unavoidable and regular inspections are recommended.
For the average driver, brake pads will require replacement every 6-12 months. In this article, however, we will be focusing on the condition, inspection and replacement of your vehicle’s brake discs, which suffer from wear and tear much slower than pads, and generally require a visual inspection before replacement should be considered.
One tell-tale sign of warped or damaged brake discs is a noticeable vibration when braking. Of course, a lack of vibration does not guarantee that your brake rotors are undamaged. The only way to ensure that your brakes are in good repair is to inspect them visually.
To access your brakes, you will require some basic automotive tools, including a car jack and jack stands, a lug wrench, an adjustable wrench or ratchet set, a hammer and a screwdriver. Loosen the lug nuts on the wheel covering the brake system you plan to inspect, then jack up the car and secure it safely in place with the jack stands. Remove the tire to expose the braking system.
From here, you should be able to inspect both the brake pads (within the calliper attached to the rotor) and the brake disc itself. Inspect the disc for uneven wear, grooves, or other visible damage. Any obvious deformation of the disc is likely cause for replacement, or at the very least refinishing by a professional mechanic.
Even without visible cues, the width of the disc should be measured with a micrometer, and the results compared with the minimum standards recorded in your vehicle’s owners’ manual. If the disc is below recommended thickness, the rotor should be replaced.
Replacing your brake discs
Start by extracting the brake pad calliper from the rotor by loosening and removing the two attachment bolts on the rear side of the calliper. Hang the calliper somewhere out of the way by a wire or hangar (do not hang it by the brake fluid line), to fully expose the rotor.
he brake rotor is attached to your vehicle’s drive system by two screws that can be loosened from the front of the rotor with a screwdriver. Once they are removed, the rotor may require some firm but gentle jostling with a hammer to be separated from the vehicle.
Now that the rotor is removed, you can easily replace it with your newly purchased hardware, and reverse the above steps to reassemble your brake system.