Today we are looking at how to replace the front brake pads on a Ford Falcon. The vehicle that we are using for this article is a 1999 model AU, however if my memory serves me correctly the same front brake setup is used from the EA up to the last of AU’s, as well as the Fairlane and LTD variants of these models.
Before we get started a word of caution – although this job is a relatively simple one, we are dealing with brakes here so it is vitally important that all steps are followed correctly and the job is done with care. You don’t want to find out the hard way what can happen if you don’t tighten a bolt or something like that! Please read all of the steps outlined before starting and only proceed if you are confident that you can handle the job.
Obviously the first step is to raise the vehicle, support it with chassis stands and remove the wheels. Before starting with the brake pad replacement it is a good idea to give the brake rotors (discs) a once-over to ensure that they are in a serviceable condition. If the rotors have a ‘lip’ around the outside or inside where the brake pad doesn’t run or you have noticed a shudder in the brake pedal or steering wheel, particularly under light braking, you will either need to replace the rotors or have them machined. Keep in mind that disc rotors have a minimum thickness that must not be exceeded and if they are too thin they can’t be machined and must be replaced. More on Brake Machining Here.
Assuming that you have the rotors under control the next step is to remove the two 13mm bolts that secure the caliper to the stub axle.
In the above picture you can see that I have fitted a brake line clamp and tube from the bleeder screw. The reason for this is that I always crack open the bleeder before I push the piston back into the caliper so that the old brake fluid in the caliper is pushed out and can be replaced with newer fluid from the master cylinder when the pedal is pumped up after fitting the new pads. This is not a necessity, more of a personal choice than anything. It is ok to leave the bleeder closed and have the fluid travel back up through the brake lines when pushing the piston back, I just like to get rid of the fluid that has usually been in the caliper for some time.
If you do decide to clamp the brake line and open the bleeder you might find that the pedal is a bit ‘spongy’ when you’re finished, in this case you will have to Bleed The Brakes (just the fronts). Also, if you go the other way and leave the bleeder closed you might find that the master cylinder reservoir overfills with fluid – if this happens grab some water as quick as you can and wash down the area to avoid paint damage.
Ok, let’s keep going! With both 13mm caliper bolts out you can now remove the brake caliper from the rotor and stub axle. The caliper has to come up evenly and it may take some levering, particularly if there is a lip on the outside edge of the rotor. Once the caliper is most of the way off you will probably notice the top brake pad shim fall out, more on those in a minute.
With the caliper completely removed it is a good idea to ensure that the slides are free in the caliper. Slides that are stuck or don’t move freely can greatly contribute to uneven brake pad wear.
If they are stuck or difficult to move a little gently persuasion with a hammer should get them moving and a smear of anti-seize or grease on the bottom slide and a smear of rubber grease on the top one (this one runs through a rubber sleeve) should free them up.
The next step is to push the piston back to allow for the new thicker brake pads. I use a large set of multi-grips to do this, once again just a personal choice (or a bad habit, I don’t know!) but there are plenty of tools on the market for doing this such as the one pictured below from Super Cheap. They sell for about $25.00 I believe.
Once the piston is pushed all the way back into the caliper (and it may take some pushing!), the new brake pads can be fitted. If you have chosen to open the bleeder now is the time to tighten it up and remove the brake line clamp.
Before refitting the caliper the brake pad shims need to fitted and the top one held in place until the brake pads and caliper are all the way on. You should be able to work out how they fit by looking at the marks left by the brake pads.
With the top and bottom shims in place the caliper can be refitted and the two caliper bolts fitted (the larger diameter bolt goes through the top slide) and tightened. You might find that you have to move the caliper around a bit to be able to get the bolts to start in the threads. If you find that the rotor is moving around all over the place and stopping the caliper from going all the way on, grab a wheel nut and fit it backwards to one of the studs. Just remember to remove it or you will have a hell of a time getting the wheel back on!
That’s one side done! Once you have both sides completed and before you move the car be sure to pump the brake pedal half a dozen times to bring the brake pads in contact with the rotors and finally check the brake fluid level and top it up if need be. A quick note on brake fluid – only use brake fluid from a sealed container as it absorbs moisture very well and moisture is not something you want floating around the brake system.