A Step by Step Guide To Installing Your Car’s Brake Rotors

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  • Post last modified:September 11, 2021

The brake rotors are one of the most critical elements of your car. They consist of brake pads that squeeze against the rotor (that spins with the wheels) to get your vehicle to a halt. 

Car mechanics charge highly to install brake rotors or to replace them. However, with the right knowledge, you can do it yourself and save your hard-earned money. 

We have listed a step by step process for installing your car’s rotors yourself. Have a look. 

Follow This Step By Step Approach

  1. Make sure you have all the necessary parts and tools available and ready.
  2. Make sure you have thoroughly read and understood all the information included in this article.
  3. Make sure the vehicle is on solid, relatively level ground.
  4. Engage your vehicle’s parking brake/e-brake and make sure the vehicle is in gear or, in the park. Place wheel chocks under the set of wheels you are not working on. 
  5. Remove wheel cover/hub cap to gain access to the lug nuts.
  6. Slightly loosen all the lug nuts on the wheel before raising or “jacking” (if using an impact wrench or other air/electric powered tool, it is unnecessary to loosen the lug nuts). With a tire iron or other hand tool, turn each of the lug nuts counterclockwise — 1/2 to 1 full turn only.
  7. Place the jack under the factory designated lifting point or on another sturdy lift point.
  8. Carefully raise the vehicle until the tire is 1-3 inches off the ground.
  9. Place a jack stand under the frame of the vehicle or under a factory designated lifting point.
  10. Raise the stand’s head until it touches the car and is unable to extend any further (It should be locked in at this height).
  11. Slowly lower the car down until its full weight rests securely on the stand. The tire should not be touching the ground at this point.
  12. Remove jack and repeat steps 5-11 for the other side.
  13. Now that the vehicle is safely in the air and the jack stands are securely placed, you can remove the lug nuts completely using either a lug wrench or an impact wrench with the appropriately sized socket.
  14. Take the lug nuts and place them somewhere safe. If you have non-aesthetic steel wheels, carefully slide them under the vehicle next to the jack stands but out of the way.
  15. Place your hands at the left and right-most points on the tire (9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position), rock the tire left and right while pulling it away from the vehicle, until it falls from the threaded studs to the ground. Roll the tire out of the way.
  16. Now that the rotors are exposed, the first step is to depress the calipers.
  17. Using a large c-Clamp on the outside pad and the back of the caliper piston housing, compress the piston back into the caliper by tightening. If you don’t have a c clamp, take the big flat screwdriver and place it between the caliper and rotor and pry them apart.
  18. Now locate the two slide pins on the back of the caliper and remove them using the Allen wrench.

By following this step by step procedure, you will be able to install your car’s rotors properly. 

Tips To Keep in mind when Replacing Brake Pads and Rotors

Tip Number One: How You Lift Your Vehicle Matters

Whenever we’re lifting our vehicle to do brakes or anything else, we want to make sure that we’re using the proper lift points on our car and securing it on jack stands.

Regardless of what anyone else says, be sure that you’re lifting your car and securing it on jack stands properly. 

Another really quick tip is to take the wheel that we just removed and slide it underneath the vehicle. That way, if the jack and the jack stand fail, there’s one more thing to catch our car.

You can also slip some cardboard right underneath where you’re working to catch any dirt or any fluids that may spill while doing the brake job. 

Tip Number Two: Accessing Your Vehicle’s Wheels Easily

Turning your wheel is going to give you easy access to the bolts on the caliper. Oftentimes it’s tricky to get something like a breaker bar behind there without turning the wheel. 

Tip Number Three: Pay attention to the Calipers and Side Pins

Usually, your caliper slide pin gathers a good bit of dust buildup on it. This is the piece that the caliper actually slides back and forth on, so we want to make sure that we thoroughly clean the slide pins.

When it comes to these slide pins or any other brake parts, if anything is questionable, go ahead and replace it. This adds maybe a minute or two to the brake job and is super easy to do. 

Tip Number Four: Taking Care of The Brake Caliper

When we remove the caliper to replace the pads and rotors, don’t let the caliper just hang from the brake line. This causes extra stress on that brake line and can lead to failure. 

You can use bungee cords. Simply slide the bungee cord through the caliper. If your bungee cord is too long, you can knot up the end of it.

Then go ahead and hang it from the suspension. This keeps a caliper out of the way, and you don’t have to worry about damaging the brake line. 

Tip Number Five: Taking care of the Rotor Mounting Surface and Hub 

If there is rust buildup on the wheel hub where the rotor mounts, this can cause the rotor to not sit properly. This can actually increase rotor run out and cause a brake vibration on your brand new brakes in extreme cases.

You can use either a wire brush or, if it’s a really severe case, then spray it with some brake parts cleaner and wipe it down. 

If you’re in an area with a lot of rust, it’s a good idea to apply a little bit of anti-seize to the hub. A little bit of anti-seize will make removing the rotor next time quite a bit easier. Just remember here that a little bit of this does go a really long way. 

Tip Number Six: Clean your Brake Rotors 

Most rotors will come with an anti-corrosion treatment to prevent rusting while they’re sitting on the shelves. Grab your brake parts cleaner, spray down the rotor and wipe it off. 

If it’s really stubborn or has a lot of oil on it, spray it down with brake parts cleaner, then use a scouring pad to clean it and wipe it down again. be sure to flip it over and do the other side. 

Tip number seven: Secure the rotor while you’re Working 

If your vehicle uses lug nuts, slide your rotor on and then spin an open-end lug nut to hold the rotor. If your car uses lug bolts, you can use an old drain plug to hold the rotor in place.

So it’s not flopping around while you’re trying to work. Even if the rotor has a securing screw, this will help seat the rotor properly. 

Tip Number Eight: Make sure you’re flushing the Brake Fluid 

Most manufacturers recommend doing a brake fluid service every two years. The fluid that we use in our brake system is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts and holds moisture.

This is a good thing because we don’t want that moisture in our brake lines. 

But as the brake fluid holds more and more moisture, this can change our fluid’s boiling point and negatively impact our brakes’ performance. 

There’s a lot of overlap between replacing your pads and rotors and doing a brake fluid service, so you can actually save some time by doing them together. 

Tip Number Nine: Pumping of Brakes is Important

Because we’ve installed new pads and push that caliper piston back, we need to pump our brakes. Pumping our brakes will push the caliper piston back up against the pad and the pad into the rotor. 

Until you pump that brake pedal a few times after doing your brake job, you’re not going to have brakes that function properly. 

You can also hold that pedal for about five to ten seconds, then go around the car and make sure that you don’t have any leaks. 

Tip Number Ten: Bed in Those New Brake Pads

After installing new brakes, especially high-performance ones, it’s so tempting to just get started with driving. But it’s advisable to be sure that you properly installed the new pad and the new rotor. 

This process can vary depending on the brake manufacturer for the pads. You can go with the following bed-in procedure: 

A series of light braking followed by letting the brakes cool down slightly, increasing to moderate braking then increasing to heavy braking. 

Things People Overlook During a Brake Job

  • Most auto parts houses will help you choose which brake pads and rotors will best suit your needs and vehicle. So make sure to consult a good one. 
  • When removing the lug nuts, it is handy to have a small bucket or another container to put the lug nuts in so they don’t get lost. People usually skip this part. 
  • Most people with vehicles with alloy wheels do not pay attention and end up scratching or damaging them when taking them off and place them safely off to the side.
  • Most people do not inspect the area where the vehicle will be worked upon. During the hot summer months, asphalt is significantly softer than in colder months. It may result in an unstable surface for jacks and jack stands. Consider placing thick, wide hardwood or plywood under the jack/jack stands to redistribute the weight before lifting or supporting the vehicle.

Final Word

Installing your car’s brake rotors isn’t a big deal. All it takes the right information and the will to do it. The same tips are applicable if you want to install powerstop brakes in your car. 

We hope that the tips discussed in this article will eliminate the need for the mechanic.