Although rear brake assemblies aren't responsible for providing the majority of your car's stopping power, they're still susceptible to requiring repair or replacement before your front brake assemblies. This is an issue that's particularly common with Volkswagen passenger vehicles, as well as other vehicles that incorporate a rear braking bias. If your rear brakes are starting to squeal or cause other issues associated with worn brake pads, then replace them by following these steps.
Remove Your Hubcaps and Tires
To begin the brake pad and rotor replacement process, use a flat screwdriver to pry the edges of your hubcaps out of your wheel assemblies. If your lug nuts secure your hubcaps to your wheels, then suspend your vehicle on jack stands and remove your tire lug nuts prior to removing your hubcaps.
With your hubcaps removed, you can pull your rear tires off your wheels and reveal your brake assemblies. Take note of where each tire belongs—to ensure proper tire wear, you'll need to reinstall your tires in their previous locations.
Disassemble Your Brake Calipers
Your brake calipers are held in place by a few bolts. The first bolts that must be removed from your calipers are your two slide bolts (located on the interior side of your calipers). Depending on your caliper's design, you may need to attach a wrench to each side of your slide bolts as you remove them. With the slide bolts removed, you can pull your brake calipers and worn pads out of your brake assemblies.
Next, you must remove the large bolts that secure your brake caliper mounting brackets to your wheel assemblies. Just like your slide bolts, your mounting bracket's bolts will be located on the interior side of your wheel assemblies. The tool you must use to remove these bolts will vary by vehicle make and model. For Volkswagen vehicles, the rear mounting bolts are typically removed with a torx head.
Remove Your Worn Rotors
To avoid uneven wear on your new brake pads, you'll need to replace your rotors before you install your new pads. To do so, remove the bolts or screws on the exterior face of your rotors that secures each rotor to its corresponding wheel assembly. Tap the surface of the rotor with a rubber mallet a few times to break your rotor loose from your wheel hub.
Compress Your Brake Pistons
Your brake pistons will prevent you from installing new pads into your brake assemblies if they aren't compressed. To compress your pistons, use a piston compression tool specific to your vehicle's make and model. These tools will either clamp to posts on your piston or fit inside your brake assembly. In either case, the compression tool must be tightened against your piston's head to compress the piston and create space for your new pads.
Install Your New Rotors and Pads
Take your replacement brake rotors and pads out of their packaging and clean them with brake cleaner. Inspect these components for any manufacturing flaws before proceeding—if your rotor or pad surfaces are damaged, they'll cause problems for your brake assemblies upon installation.
Slide your replacement rotors onto your wheel assemblies and reinstall the screws or bolts on the rotor heads to secure them.
Next, grab your brake calipers and pull out the slides (the shafts covered by rubber gaskets). Clean the slides with brake cleaner and apply silicone lubricant to the slides before you reinstall them into your caliper. Use a flat screwdriver to pry the thin, metal clips out from your calipers and press the new clips that came with your brake pads into your calipers.
Reinstall your brake calipers into your brake assemblies and tighten the bolts you removed from your brake assembly mounting brackets to manufacturer specifications (found in your vehicle's service manual). Once this step has been completed, you can slide your new pads into their respective locations on the interior and exterior sides of your rotors. To finish the job, reinstall your slide bolts, tires, and hubcaps.
To decompress your brake piston activate and deactivate your parking brake and brake pedal several times prior to starting your vehicle. Once your brake pedal is stiff and pressurized, you can take your vehicle for a test drive.
If you encounter any problems throughout the replacement process, then stop immediately—if you don't know exactly what you're doing, you can cause serious damage to your brake assemblies and increase your repair costs. Have a certified mechanic finish the brake replacement job for you or give you more info to avoid unnecessary damage and ensure proper operation.