How To Replace Brake Pads

Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step III

This guide captures ‘bygone’ advice on how to replace brake pads on Classic Cars that have disc brakes. It is part of my series Classic Car Maintenance DIY Guides.

However What To Do On A Classic Car Basic Service and How Do Brake Calipers Work are also great places to start.

Useful information for Classic Car and Retro Car enthusiasts, as many of these tasks are no longer required on modern day cars.

Remember folks these are ‘bygone guides’ … useful but the safety and personal protective equipment measures are reflective of bygone awareness. Stay safe.





Before You Begin

Before starting work remember that in no circumstances is it necessary to separate the two halves of the caliper. So do not disturb the securing bolts at any time.

  • When choosing your new pads take great care to see that they are of the correct type for your car.
  • Always buy and replace pads in sets do not change pads singly as this might lead to dangerously uneven braking.
  • You will need (as well as basic tools) a jack, axle supports, wheel brace, pliers, screwdriver, wire brush and some cleaning rag. You will also need a tin of brake fluid to top up the master cylinder after changing the pads (in nearly all situations it is safe to use a universal-type fluid, except for the D series and ‘later Citroens which use a mineral based fluid).

The procedure for checking and replacing pads is basically the same in all cases. But with each brake system there are a few extra points, and these are detailed below.


Examine The Brake Pads

To examine the pads for wear first remove the road wheel on which the brake is being checked. On front wheel drive cars leave the car in gear when servicing the rear wheels. On rear wheel drive cars leave the car in gear and also apply the handbrake when servicing the front wheels.

  • Always chock the wheels which are not being serviced.
  • Check both brakes on one axle at the same time so that you can see whether the pads are wearing at the same rate.
  • Check through the opening in the caliper, the thickness of the friction material remaining on the pad and at the same time examine the surface of fhe disc itself for signs of damage, cracks or corrosion.
  • If one side of the face of the disc is rusty then probably the piston on that side of the brake is seized. If this happens, the piston must be released and checked (see below).
  • To make sure that the pads are reassembled correctly remove the pads from only one side at a time as it lessens the risk of the pistons on the other side from corning out of their cylinders when the pistons in the caliper on which you are working are retracted.
  • Once the old pads are out use a wire brush and a dry rag to clean off all the dust and dirt from the recesses in the caliper where the pads are located.

TOP TIP: Never press the brake pedal while the pads are removed, as this will force the pistons right out of their cylinders. If this happens you will most likely be faced with the long and (in this situation) unnecessary job of replacing the pistons and their seals.

  • Take a close look at the condition of the rubber dust covers protecting the pistons, the pistons themselves and the caliper. Check also for any fluid leaks around the pistons or hydraulic hoses.
  • If there are any leaks or if the other components are excessively worn or damaged, they must be replaced. Badly scored, cracked, corroded or buckled discs should also be changed.
  • Use an old flat-bladed screwdriver supported on the caliper to remove all scale and rust from around the edge of the disc. Finish off the job with emery cloth.

Release The Brake Fluid

When changing disc pads the pistons in the caliper have to be retracted and to allow the brake fluid to be displaced you have several choices.

  • Undo the caliper bleed screw then slowly lever back the piston which in turn will dribble the displaced fluid through the bleed screw. Then when the piston is at the bottom of its cylinder you re­tighten the bleed screw firmly.
  • Another method is to use a syringe or syphon to remove two-thirds of the brake fluid from the brake master cylinder, taking care not to spill any on the bodywork of the car.
Protect Car Paintwork From Brake Fluid
Spilt fluid will damage paint work, so protect with an old rag or remove some from the container before going any further
  • Then you replace the cap of the master cylinder but arrange it so that there is enough room for any air to escape.
Release Brake Fluid on a Classic Car
Remove the master cylinder cap. As brake pistons are forced back into their housings, the fluid must be able to rise in the master cylinder

In this way when the pistons in the caliper are retracted the displaced fluid will simply run into the master cylinder.

Of the two methods using a syringe or syphon is the safest and simplest. It dodges the problem of a bleed screw which is rusted or hard to move and averts the possibility of air entering the brake system and of getting brake fluid on the friction surfaces of the brake pads.

  • To prevent the brake pads from sticking in their calipers and to facilitate the job of removing them next time it is a good idea to file a small amount of the pad backing away.
  • You can give the newly-filed edges a thin coating of a brake grease such as Coparslip. Making sure that no grease gets on the pad linings and smear both sides of the new shims and the back of the new pads with a squeal deterrent grease such as Disc Brake Silencer which is available from most motor accessory stores.
  • Once the new pads are in position and all the retaining clips and springs are reassembled. Do not forget to give the brake pedal several pumps to move the pistons and pads up to the disc. While the pads are bedding in the brake pedal might feel slightly soft and spongy but this will last only a short while.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Replacing Brake Pads On A Ford Cortina

There are many types of brake caliper however the general principles of changing brake pads are very similar to the Ford Cortina example below.

Other calipers and their particular considerations are detailed further on in this post.

Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 1
With the road wheel removed. the brake is revealed. This is a fixed caliper unit on a Ford Cortina
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 2
Two retaining pins hold the pads. They may be split and bent over at the ends or. as in this case, held in place by clips
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step III
Remove the split or clip-held pins. If there is an anti-rattle plate over both pads. this must be removed as well
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 5
The brake pads and any anti-squeal shims should pull out easily now
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 6
Both these pads have been used, although only the one on the left is badly worn. To be safe, both pads must be changed
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 7
Use a makeshift tool to push the pistons back evenly into the caliper body to fit the new pads
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 8
Fit the new pads. In this case a new type has been used with a central groove for gathering harmful carbon deposits
Changing Brake Pads on a Classic Ford Step 9
Refit the retaining pins (these will centralize the pads), shims and anti-rattle plates

Changing Brake Pads On Girling Fixed Calipers

The Girling fixed caliper brake is shown below.

Fixed Caliper Brakes
  • After cleaning the exterior of the caliper with a wire brush and a dry rag see whether anti-squeal shims are already fitted.
  • If so note their positions before removing the pad retaining clips and pins.
  • Then gently lever the pads away from the disc with a metal lever and pull out the shims and worn pads using pliers if necessary.
  • Temporarily refit one of the old pads in the caliper to retain the piston in position while the other piston is being pressed back.
  • Lever back the other piston, ensuring that it goes slowly and evenly to prevent the piston cross-binding.
  • Insert the new shim and pad.
  • Now remove the old pad from the caliper, press back that piston, fit the second new shim and pad and secure them with the retaining clips.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Break Pads On Girling Sliding Calipers (Front)

The Austin Maxi and Allegro and the Peugeot 504 are among those that use the Girling sliding caliper (as shown below).

Sliding Caliper Brakes

On this disc brake the cylinder assembly is bolted rigidly to the axle and a steel yoke straddles the disc and slides in grooves in the cylinder body.

Hydraulic pressure actuates both pistons, one of which acts directly on to the adjacent pad. The opposite (indirect) piston acts against the yoke which slides in the cylinder grooves to bring the indirect pad into contact with the disc.

  • To change the pads remove the anti-rattle springs, the electrical pad warning wire (if fitted) and the retaining pins.
  • Then extract the worn pads.
  • If the disc is worn on one side only then one of the pistons may be seized or the yoke may not be sliding on the cylinder.
  • If the yoke is not sliding properly use a hammer to gently tap the side of the yoke backwards and forwards until it moves more freely. A few drops of Coparslip and WD 40 will probably aid this.
  • Lever back the piston and yoke, then fit the new pads.
  • If one of the pads has an electrical cable attached, this pad should be fitted nearer the cylinder and the cable reconnect­ed.
  • Repeat the procedure with the other caliper.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Break Pads On Girling Sliding Calipers (Rear)

The Girling sliding yoke caliper works in basically the same way as the sliding caliper fitted to the front of various cars. But only the Peugeot 504 saloon has this design of caliper fitted to the rear brakes.

This caliper incorporates a handbrake mechanism and because of this certain steps must be taken when changing the pads.

  • To fit new pads remove the pad retaining clip and the pad wear warning lead.
  • Unscrew the nut and bolt and remove the pad guide. Always remove the outer pad first and then the inner one.
  • To disengage the handbrake mechanism the piston acting on the inner pad must now be rotated through a set angle. There is a special tool to do this but so long as you note the exact position of the piston slot into which the pad fits then a screwdriver can be used.
  • Slide the screwdriver into the slot in the piston and turn the piston until the screwdriver rests against the bottom edge of the caliper.
  • Then having made sure that the sliding yoke does in fact slide push the piston back with a suitable retraction tool.
  • Next push the yoke as far out from the disc as it will go and then insert the new outer pad. Use your screwdriver again to turn the piston back clockwise to its original position
  • Then insert the new inner pad, making sure that the pad backplate settles in the groove in the piston.
  • Reconnect the pad electrical wear indicator, fit the pad guide and tighten the nut and bolt.
  • Do not forget the pad retaining spring. Repeat for the other caliper.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Break Pads On Girling Swinging Calipers

The Rover 2000, 2200 and 3500 and the Ford Zephyr and Zodiac Mk. IV models all use the Girling swinging caliper (as shown below) which incorporates a complex handbrake arrangement.

Swinging Caliper Brakes

The caliper has two friction pads, one moving and one fixed. When pressure is applied to the moving pad, the caliper reacts so that the force is equalized on both sides of the disc. The caliper is pivoted on a mounting to allow the necessary movement.

The moving pad is operated by a cup assembly containing an adjustable push rod, which contacts and is moved by the cam face of the lever, which in turn is operated by either the hydraulic piston or the handbrake tappet.

  • To change the pads, unscrew the bolt and remove the plate and spring from the top of the brake pad holder.
  • Swing the top of the inner pad forward and withdraw it, then pull the caliper on to the disc and remove the outer pad from the drag pins.
  • After removing the old pads check that the handbrake lever operates smoothly and the caliper pivots easily on the pivot pin.
  • If necessary, lubricate the bearing surfaces with Girling special grease No. 64932047 or similar.
  • A special tool (Girling tool No. 64932048) is now required to fit the projecting cup. (As a last resort a screw­driver can be used instead of the tool.)
  • The tool is operated by pushing the handle inwards to engage on the serrations and then it is turned anti-clockwise one complete turn only. On some vehicles it is necessary to disturb the brake linkage temporarily to operate the tool.
  • Remove the tool and clean the projecting area of the cup before smearing it with the special grease mentioned above. Refit the tool and turn the cup clockwise until it is right back and the clicking of the ratchet can be heard, or there is room to fit the new pads. Make sure the lever is vertical. If not unscrew it until it is.
  • To prevent binding, pivot the caliper to keep a small gap between disc and tool. Before removing the tool, turn the cup until the red spot on the tool and the projecting cup tab are at 90° to each other. If the pads have been allowed to wear exceptionally thin, it may not be possible to fit the tool on the cup because of insufficient clearance between the cup and the disc. In this case, press back the cup to take up any free play and follqw the procedure described-except that, in this case, the cup will have to be turned by hand until there is sufficient clearance to fit the tool.
  • Examine the drag pins and fit new ones if distorted.
  • Fit the new pads in reverse order to their removal, refit the retaining plate and spring ( dome uppermost), secure the tab washer.
  • Operate the brake 20 to 30 times to settle the pads.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Brake Pads On Lockheed Swinging Calipers

The Lockheed swinging caliper brake as fitted to British Leyland’s 1100 and 1300 uses disc pads that are wedge­-shaped when new but which eventually wear flat.

  • To change the pads depress the pad retaining spring or springs where fitted and withdraw the split pins.
  • Rotate the pads slightly and lift them out together with the shims if fitted (some pads lift straight out of the caliper). If the pads have two pieces of offset friction material then note their position in the caliper and also the location of any shims. If the shims are clean and undamaged there is no need to renew them.
  • With the piston retracted, place the new pads with shims if fitted into the caliper.
  • Fit the pad-retaining spring and split pins and secure the pins by opening out their ends.
  • Finally slacken the pivot pin locking screw and ask a friend to press lightly on the pedal, to bring the pads into contact with the disc. Then re-tighten the bolt firmly.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Brake Pads On Lockheed Fixed Callipers

The Lockheed two-piston caliper were fitted to several British cars, the MGB, Triumph 2000 and the Hillman Minx among others.

The job of replacing the pads is much the same as with the Girling two-piston caliper but with one important exception.

The pistons both have cut-away portions which must face a certain way but exactly which positions they adopt varies from car to car.

The cut-away portion in an MGB, for example, faces towards the inner edge of the caliper, while that in a Mini Cooper faces upwards.

Over the space of 10,000 km, the pistons will rotate slightly, and if they become too far out of alignment then brake squeal and judder will certainly result.

If your car has this type of Lockheed caliper and you do not know the correct position for the cut-away portion your car’s handbook is unlikely to give this information. Contact a reputable garage or the brake manufacturer for the correct position.

Another type of heavy-duty caliper made by Lockheed was fitted to several makes of cars in the 1960s, for example the Wolseley 6/99, and is similar in principle to the DBA (Bendix) brake.

  • With this brake the caliper must be removed from the disc to change the pads and should then be supported to avoid straining the flexible hose.
  • To make sure that the caliper is mounted centrally over its disc when in position, a certain number of shims are fitted between the caliper and the mounting bracket. So you must count the shims and note their position for reference when reassembling.
  • Clean up the disc with a screwdriver and a piece of emery cloth, replace the pads and then bolt the caliper to the stub axle using the number of shims removed when dismantling.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Brake Pads on Akebono Swinging Calipers

The Akebono swinging caliper is a Japanese version of the British Lockheed swinging caliper made under licence in Japan.

This caliper is fitted to the Datsun 140J (among others). The pad thickness can be checked by removing the anti-rattle clips.

The pads, which are held in place by small recesses in their backs, locate in the caliper plate. Like their British counterparts the pads are tapered when new.

  • Start by removing the anti-rattle clips and then lift out the outer pad, noting its location. Remove the shim from the pad.
  • Next, push the caliper plate inwards (towards the chassis) and remove the inner pad-again noting its location. Remove the shim from the pad.
  • Press the piston to the bottom of the cylinder bore, and fit the shims to the new pads, making sure they are located correctly.
  • Fit the inner pad into the caliper in the position from which the old one was removed.
  • Swing the caliper outwards on the pivot and fit the outer pad into the caliper.
  • Finally, replace the anti-rattle clip, ensuring the direction is as indicated by the label on the clip.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Brake Pads On Tokico Sliding Calipers

Another Japanese sliding caliper that is similar to a British design is the Tokico floating caliper, fitted to the Datsun 120Y Sunny and the S2 Sunny.

This caliper is similar to the Girling sliding caliper.

  • To change the pads remove the wire clips from the retaining pins and then lift out the pins and the coil spring.
  • Unhook the anti-rattle clips and withdraw the pads together with the anti-squeal shims.
  • Press the piston to the bottom of the cylinder bore then fit the new pads and anti-squeal shims into position.
  • Fit the anti-rattle springs and retaining pins afld secure them with the wire clip.
  • Finally, fit the coil spring to the retaining pin furthest away from the bleed screw.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Changing Brake Pads on DBA Bendix Calipers

Series I and II

The Renault R8 and RIO are among the cars that are fitted with the series I DBA (Bendix) caliper although no subsequent cars use this type.

Cars that use the series II caliper include the Renault 16 (up to 1969) and the Fiat 850 sport coupe.

The calipers are of the single-piston type. The rear caliper (where fitted) incorporates an automatic handbrake adjustment mechanism.

  • Begin by removing the spring clip and split pin and swing the retaining blocks or clip away from the caliper, also removing the anti-rattle pads (if fitted). The caliper can now be withdrawn from the mounting bracket.
  • Remove the pads, together with any leaf springs, but note the pad position since in some cases there is a flange at one end. Note also the position of the leaf spring.
  • Press the front caliper to the bottom of the cylinder bore. Where the brake is fitted to a rear wheel, a slot is provided in the centre of the caliper piston enabling the piston to be turned in a clockwise direction to retract it. When fully retracted, the slot in the piston must be positioned to accept the pad assembly.

Some versions of the Fiat 850 sport coupe also have datum marks on the piston which must be aligned correctly.

  • Re-fit the new pads in the position from which they were removed, together with any leaf springs and replace the caliper in the mounting bracket, ensuring that the pad remains correctly located.
  • Fit new anti-rattle pads if necessary, replace the retaining blocks or clips, and secure with spring clips or split pins.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Series III

The series III Bendix caliper is fitted to several different cars including the Fiat 124, 125 and 127, while the Mazda 1500 uses the Akebono caliper.

Changing the pads is fairly straightforward.

  • Remove the fastening pins and the stoppers from above and below the caliper.
  • Remove the caliper and anti-rattle clip.
  • Press the piston to the bottom of the cylinder bore and remove the pads from the carrier.
  • Fit the new pads into the carrier.
  • Next fit the anti-rattle clips centrally over the pads, replace the caliper over the pads, and insert the two stoppers into their respective gaps.
  • Finally replace the fastening pins.
  • Finally top up the master cylinder and replace the road wheels. Tighten the nuts and remove the axle supports. Once the car is on the ground again re-check the tightness of the wheel nuts and then give the car a brief road test.

Final Checks

Once everything has been refitted, pump the brake pedal a few times to bring the pads up to the disc, and check the brake fluid level.


Most Watched Classic Calipers on eBay


About this site

Visit SCOTTYS Supplier Library for Classic Car Parts Suppliers.

Visit SCOTTYS Technical Library for Guides and Parts Manuals.

Visit SCOTTYS Artisan Library to find a specialist company.

Regards SCOTTY