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DIY: Brake Pad Replacement, Brake Flush, and Brake Bedding

304928 Views 170 Replies 81 Participants Last post by  Wiscoutback87
There have been varied and assorted threads talking about doing brake jobs, bedding in brakes, and flushing brake systems, so I thought I would finally sit down and do an all in one comprehensive write up.

I didn’t really need to do a brake job right now, but I am leaving on a 3000 mile trip in a week, and wanted to get it taken care of before I left, and this was the first nice day I have had this spring, so it seemed to just make sense

For my install, I installed PBR Metal Master Pads front and rear, Speedbleeders to make bleeding the brakes a snap, and DOT4 brake fluid. I installed these on a 2004 Subaru Outback Wagon, the rear calipers uses a 7mm X 1.0 pitch bleeder and the front used a 10mm x 1.0 pitch bleeder. The Speed Bleeder model numbers were SB7100 and SB1010 respectively.

I have also created a PDF of the install, so go here if you would like something you can download and print: (2.66 MB)

Here is a list of things I think you need for this job:


Brake Pads
1 qt of DOT3 or DOT4 fluid (NO Silicone or DOT 5)
Anti-squeal Lube
Speed Bleeders (SB1010, SB7100)
Brake Parts Cleaner Spray


Jack Stands
Lug Wrench
14mm Wrench/Ractchet
10mm Wrench
8mm Wrench
Turkey Baster
Catch Container (at least 1 qt)
3/16" ID rubber tube

To prevent air bubbles in the system, it is best to start from the point furthest from the master cylinder, in our case it is the passengers side rear wheel, then drivers side rear, then passengers side front, and the last wheel you should do is the drivers side front wheel.

First off, set your parking brake, the get your lug wrench out, and go to the passengers side rear wheel and loosen up all the lug nuts. Do not remove the lug nuts, just loosen them 2-3 turns. You want to do this while the wheel is on the ground, it is much easier that way.

Now that you have the lug nuts loosened up, place the jack (I used the factroy jack) under the rocker panel just forward of the rear wheel. With the factory jack you will want make sure you lined the slot in the jack up with the pinch weld. It also helps to have a 2X6 or something under the jack, it will be a lot easier lift the car if you do.

Jack the car up, so that there is atleast a couple of inches of space under the wheel. Now place the your jack stand under the rocker panel, right up next to the pinch weld as seen in the picture below, and as close to the rear wheel as possible. Once the jack stand is in place, lower the jack so that all the weight is on the jack stand.

Place the jack stands

Now that you have the weight off the wheel, finish removing the lug nuts and remove the wheel from the car. I like to keep the wheel close because it makes a nice seat while you are working on the brakes. Once you have the wheel off, spray down the brake components you are going to be working on with the Brake Parts Cleaner, I usually spray down the two caliper bolts and the brake bleeder screw.

Spray with Brake Cleaner

Bolts and Bleeder

The picture above shows you the location of the bleeder screw and the two caliper bolts. The bleeder screws on the rear calipers use an 8mm wrench, the front calipers use a 10mm. The caliper bolts are 14mm front and rear.

Now, if you are replacing the bleeder screws with Speed Bleeders like I did, this where you want to take your 8mm wrench and remove the bleeder screw. Once you have the bleeder screw out, thread the speed bleeder in as far as you can by hand, then use your wrench to screw it in the rest of the way, and just snug it up, DON'T OVERTIGHTEN.

Remove the old bleeder.

The old bleeder

The new Speed Bleeder

Once you have the Speed Bleeder in, take your ratchet and remove the 14mm bolts top and bottom. You can also just remove the bottom bolt and then pivot the brake caliper up on the top bolt, but I prefer to remove both bolts and take the caliper off completely.

Remove the Caliper Bolt

DO NOT let the caliper hang on the brake line. In the rear you can rest the caliper on the control arm. In the front you can rest it on the caliper mounting braket and dust shield.

Caliper Rest, Rear

Caliper Rest, Front.

So, now that you have the calipers off, you can remove the brake pads. You will notice that the brake pads in the rear have 1 shim on the them, and the pads in the front have 2 shims. Remove these shims from the pads, because you will want to reuse them on the new pads.

Rear Pad

Rear Pad and Shim

Front Pad with Shims

Once you have the pads out and you have removed the shims from the old pads, spray the shims down with the Brake Parts Cleaners, and then wipe them down front and back with a paper towel. I don't worry too much about really scrubbing them down, I just like to knock the big chunks off.

Now that you have the shims clean, you will want to put some anti-squeal grease on them. You want to use this grease sparingly, it is very sticky when it is at room temperature, but once it gets hot it can run, and if you use too much, it could flow out and get on your pads or rotors, ruining the pads. So just smear a thin film front and back onto the shims, and the put the shims back on the rotor.

Lubed up Shim

Once you have the pads back onto the rotor, your need to retract the brake piston within the caliper so that there caliper can clear the pads when you put the caliper back on. I do this by placing one of the old brake pads into the caliper, and then using a C-Clamp to compress the brake piston.

Brake Pad in Caliper

Use C-Clamp to compress piston.

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Once you have the piston in the caliper compressed, slip the caliper back over the new pads, and reinstall the caliper bolts and snug them up. If you have problems getting the caliper back on, make sure that the new pads are tight up againsts the rotor, make sure that the piston is retracted all the way, and check the pins that the calipers bolts to and make sure they are pushed back far enough for the caliper to clear them.

Bleeding the Brakes

Now, if you have installed speed bleeders, it is very easy to bleed the brakes. All you need to do is open the brake bleeder a quarter turn, attach your rubber hose to the bleeder, and then run that hose to your catch can. Next go and pump the brakes 4-5 times, which should purge all the air out of the system. Then tighten the speed bleeders back up.

If you are going to be flushing your brake system (I usually do this every time I change my pads), then you will need to do a couple more things. First off you will want to go to the brake Master Cylinder. Take the cap off, and remove the screen filter, use the turkey baster to suck as much of the fluid out of the master cylinder as you can. I was only able to get half out, because the float in the Master Cylinder prevents you from going any deeper. Reinstall the filter and top the Master Cylinder off with new fluid.

Remove old Fluid

Top off Master Cylinder

Once you have the Master Cylinder topped off, you would go through to each wheel and do what you normally do to bleed your brakes at each wheel, but you will continue pumping the brake petal till you see the new lighter colored fluid coming out. This flushing process is easy to do in the process of replacing pads.

So of course you will repeat all of these procedures on each wheel. Once you have all of the wheels done, go back through and double check that all of your lugnuts are tight one last time before you take the car out to bed in the brakes.

Bedding in the brakes

I decided to update my bedding technique to use on that Stop-Tech recommends for their performance brake pads. This has you performing a much more intensive (10 Partial Stops ---> Cooling Period ---> 10 Stops ---> Cooling Period) bedding process than I originally recommended. But it appears that this is necessary to properly drive off the binding resins, and assure even wear of the friction material.

For a typical performance brake system using street-performance pads, a series of ten partial braking events, from 60mph down to 10mph, will typically raise the temperature of the brake components sufficiently to be considered one bed-in set. Each of the ten partial braking events should achieve moderate-to-high deceleration (about 80 to 90% of the deceleration required to lock up the brakes and/or to engage the ABS), and they should be made one after the other, without allowing the brakes to cool in between.

Depending on the make-up of the pad material, the brake friction will seem to gain slightly in performance, and will then lose or fade somewhat by around the fifth stop (also about the time that a friction smell will be detectable in the passenger compartment). This does not indicate that the brakes are bedded-in. This phenomenon is known as a green fade, as it is characteristic of immature or ‘green' pads, in which the resins still need to be driven out of the pad material, at the point where the pads meet the rotors. In this circumstance, the upper temperature limit of the friction material will not yet have been reached.

As when bedding-in any set of brakes, care should be taken regarding the longer stopping distance necessary with incompletely bedded pads. This first set of stops in the bed-in process is only complete when all ten stops have been performed - not before. The system should then be allowed to cool, by driving the vehicle at the highest safe speed for the circumstances, without bringing it to a complete stop with the brakes still applied. After cooling the vehicle, a second set of ten partial braking events should be performed, followed by another cooling exercise. In some situations, a third set is beneficial, but two are normally sufficient.

Once you finish with the bedding process your new brake job is all finished.
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Thanks for the guide & pictures, rockhop. I did mine this afternoon and the whole job was a snap. Glad I caught what looks like the last warm Saturday afternoon of the Fall to do the work :)

The pads I bought came pre-shimmed, so I didn't need any of the Disc Brake Quiet.

Also, anyone who's going shopping for this project, you will need a 4" C-clamp (or larger) I stood there at the shelf and thought about getting the 3", but it's a good thing I didn't, because the 4" is just the right fit.

The whole job cost me $90 (including clamp & brake cleaner) and 2 hours (would have been one hour, but it was my first time).
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Awesome write up.

I recently performed this service including the speed bleeders.

FYI: My 2005 Outback uses SB1010 both rear and front. I didn't think the 05 would be different from the 2004 or others who have done this....but it is. Hope this helps others with Gen 3 OBs
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Thanks! I have to do this work this weekend. I'm just going to do the front right now, money is a tad tight unfortunately. I'll do the back when it's needed (unless it's needed now, then I guess I'm doing them).

I was going to do a post on what tools I'll need, but did a search first. Glad I did, this is perfect.
Bleeding & Rotors Questions

I have changed brakes on many cars in the past. I never bleed the brakes. Do I NEED to on an Outback??

Also, how hard/easy is it to replace the front rotors? Do I have to repack anything to install the new ones?
Do you mean you've never flushed your brake fluid, or that you've never bled brakes after pad replacement? If you've pushed the piston back into the caliper by opening the bleeder value, you need to bleed the brakes in case you've gotten any air in the line.

As for the rotors, it's as simple as taking off the caliper, sliding off the old rotor, then sliding the new one on.
I push the capliber back, put new pads on, and reassemble. I don't bleed them.

I have had the blake fluid replaced once on my OB (currently 58K miles).
Sure you can get away with never putting new fluid in, but all-in-all, a new bottle of fluid isn't that much, and you know that you've gotten rid of any junk that has gotten into your brake fluid. Primarily you want to get rid of it because of water, which has a much lower boiling point than brake fluid. And air, air tends to build up as well.
on the agenda for me soon, thanks
I am new here but have been maintaining my vehicles for many years and there are a few more steps that should always be done when replacing brake pads.

1. Clean the top and bottom clips the pads rest on in the caliper bracket. These always get gunked up and and keep the pads from sliding properly and this reduces brake power. You need to spray them with brake cleaner, remove the clips (they snap right out) and scrub them with a brush, a stiff wire brush may be needed, until shiny again. Be sure the area on the caliper bracket where they sit is also brushed to clean it up so they sit in properly. You can put a tiny amount of brake grease on them to help the pads slide. Use Permatex synthetic brake grease or similar product. This is different from brake quiet. I have rarely used brake quiet and usually coat pad shims with brake grease and have never had any squeal problems. Even pads without shims should get a coat of brake grease on the back to prevent squeaking, squealing and reduce vibrations.

2. Remove, clean and regrease the slider pins for the calipers. These pins often seize up due to lack of maintenance as the grease dries up, water can get in thru worn seals and corrosion can form They are sometimes stuck but can often be pulled out, cleaned and re-used. Be sure to clean the pin hole in the caliper. Grease with a light coat of synthetic brake grease. Too much will interfere with the pin and it may not go in all the way. Caliper bolt torque is about 25 foot pounds.

3. Use lots of spray brake cleaner to clean everything and be sure you do not have any grease on the pad surfaces or rotors.

4. To replace the rotors you need to remove the caliper brackets with are held on with 14 mm bolts in front and I think 12 mm bolts in the rear. Torque is 52-60 foot pounds. The front rotors should come right off, the rears may be held on with the parking brake. The parking brake then needs to be released by rotating the adjuster that you get at thru the rubber plug on the rear of the caliper. Then rotate the adjuster down to make room to pull the rotor. There are a couple of holes in each rotor that bolts fit into that will push the rotor off the hub. I think they are size M8 1.5 bolts and that one of the radiator retention bolts works for this.
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clutchless said:
1. Clean the top and bottom clips the pads rest on in the caliper bracket. [snip]

2. Remove, clean and regrease the slider pins for the calipers. [snip]

I had to change the a caliper bracket because the slider pins corroded in. :mad:

As for the pads, I've had trouble getting the pads back in without taking a very small amount of material off of the edges of the backing material, and I mean a small amount, with a rotating metal brush. Like you can use in a power drill. And a lot of cleaning, of course.
This is great info on brake replacement. I ran into one problem while doing the brake job. While I was bleeding the brakes (left rear) it seemed like half the fluid was coming out compared to the right rear I had just done. After a few pumps the pedal was lower to the floor but not too the floor. I continued to complete the bleeding and the pedal distance remained low and mushy. I had the master cylinder cap off with plenty of fluid in it. I continued with the front and then did the rear's again. The pedal still felt mushy. the next day I took into service where they bleed the brakes. The pedal still was lower and felt mushy but I could pump the brakes and it felt better. The service guy didn't know what the problem was...maybe a master cylinder or caliper?????
I redid the bleeding and checked the calipers and everything went as planed and while the car was off the brakes felt great but when I started it, the pedal was mushy and lower.

Anyone have this problem or know what the problem might be? I would be gratefull to any response/info.

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Your brake power booster could be bad. There are a few tests that I think are on this site if you do a little searching. I think this is the same problem with my buddie's 99 Legacy Outback. One basic test is to remove the vacuum hose to the booster and see if there is a sound like vacuum being released. With the motor off of course. A bad master cylinder will usually go to the floor and sometimes can get pumped up and then work better temporarily.
Thanks for the info. I looked in the manual and did the booster pump test to check....Didn't seem like it was bad so I bled the brakes again pulling out about 10 oz. of fluid and that seemed to do the trick. Apparently the vacuum bleeding left some air in the line or perhaps doing it this third time and leaving the reservoir cap on may have helped.

Again, thanks for the response.

Cheers :)
I have a 2006 OBXT and I am going to do the front brakes in a couple of weeks but I have a few questions.

Should be use DOT3 or DOT4 fluid ? Seems both are acceptable but which "should" I use ?

Do folks recommend the metal or ceramic pads ?

Which speed bleeders should I use for the 06OBXT ?
FYI, I have updated my brake bedding technique to the Stop-Tech's bedding process, which I think will be even more effective.

mhyne said:
I have a 2006 OBXT and I am going to do the front brakes in a couple of weeks but I have a few questions.

Should be use DOT3 or DOT4 fluid ? Seems both are acceptable but which "should" I use ?

Do folks recommend the metal or ceramic pads ?

Which speed bleeders should I use for the 06OBXT ?
As for fluids, I don't think it makes two cents worth of difference. They are pretty much spec'ed out the same, just don't go to DOT5 Silicone based stuff.

As for Pads, if you like longer life with lower dusting Ceramics are good, they are also a bit better at transferring heat. If you are looking for lower cost, and a bit better performance and don't mind moderate to heavy dusting, then a semi-metallic is a good option.

I am not sure what you need in terms of Speed Bleeders. I would imagine it is the same as my car, (10mm in the front 7mm in the rear), but that is pure speculation.
If I may add one more suggestion to this. The step where you use the c-clamp to push the pistons back in, just crack open the speed bleeder 1/4 turn, attach a hose/catch bottle to it, and push the piston back in.

You will find two things. No nasty, old fluid gets pushed back up the brake line and into your master cylinder (you're going to push it back out when you bleed them anyway, but keeping dirt out of the MC is always a good idea) and you can usually push the piston back in with your hand rather than using a clamp.

Just make sure that you close the bleeder and fill the master with fluid before pressing the brake pedal.
Rotor removal?

I wanted to resurface my rotors today. I took off the entire caliper, and the rotor didn't want to come off - and I didn't want to force it. I have an 05 OBWXT.

Is there a trick?
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