How to Repair ABS Brakes


Vehicles equipped with antilock brakes, or ABS, rely on a system consisting of brake pads and rotors working in conjunction to slow and eventually stop the vehicle. Brake components found in disrepair should be replaced immediately to ensure proper functioning brakes. During routine brake maintenance, check the brake pads, rotor and brake fluid levels. Choose to have the brakes repaired by a professional brake mechanic or save money and time by doing it yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Turkey baster
  • Shop rag
  • Lug wrench
  • Jack
  • Jack stands
  • Wrench or socket and ratchet
  • Bungee cord
  • Flat screwdriver
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Rotors
  • Brake cleaner
  • Wire brush
  • Cloth towel
  • Brake pads
  • Brake grease (anti-squeal, copper-based)
  • Funnel
  • Brake fluid
  • Pop the hood and move to the front of the vehicle. Lift the hood and remove the master cylinder cap. The cap sits commonly just to the left or right of the vehicle's engine. Siphon half to three-quarters of the brake fluid from the reservoir with a turkey baster or syringe. Place a shop rag over the master cylinder.

  • Loosen the lug nuts on the wheels of the brakes set for repair with the lug wrench. Place the jack beneath the frame near the wheel and lift the vehicle's tires off the ground. Place jack stands under the axles and lower the vehicle onto the stands.

  • Remove the lug nuts and take the wheel/tire off.

  • Locate the caliper pins on the back side of the caliper. The pins are commonly located near the upper edge of the calipers inward side. Remove the pins with a wrench or socket and ratchet. Consult the vehicle repair manual for specific socket size.

  • Lift the caliper from the brake rotor. Remove the brake pads from the sides of the caliper. Pry the clips on the back of the pads with a flat screwdriver. Suspend the caliper above the wheel hub by a bungee cord or rest it on top of the steering arm. Do not allow the caliper to hang by the brake line.

  • Remove the rotor retaining pin on the outside of the brake rotor (if present on your vehicle). Grab the sides of the rotor and pull the disc straight from the wheel hub. Clean the area behind the rotor with brake cleaner and wire brush.

  • Remove the new brake rotor from its packaging and clean the disc thoroughly with brake parts cleaner and a clean cloth towel. Slide the rotor onto the vehicle's wheel bolts and replace the retaining pins (if present on your vehicle).

  • Force the brake caliper piston into the side of the caliper with a pair of channel lock pliers. The piston is the ring that extends from the inside of the caliper. The piston is responsible for forcing the brake pads against the rotor during braking and needs to be fully depressed within the side of the caliper to make room for the thicker brake pads and rotor.

  • Apply anti-squeal brake compound (copper-based) to the back sides of the new brake pads. Slide the new brake pads onto the sides of the caliper. Return the caliper onto the rotor and screw in the caliper pins by hand before tightening them with the wrench or socket and ratchet.

  • Replace the wheel onto the vehicle's wheel bolts and screw on the lug nuts by hand. Lift the vehicle with the jack and remove the jack stands. Lower the tires to the ground and tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench.

  • Repeat steps 3 through 10 for each additional brake that requires repair. Move to the inside of the vehicle.

  • Start the vehicle's engine. Press the brake pedal to the floor and release the pedal slowly. Repeat the depressions until the brake pedal response returns to normal stiffness. Move back to the vehicle's engine compartment.

  • Remove the shop rag from the master cylinder and insert a funnel into the reservoir. Add brake fluid to the master cylinder as necessary. Remove the funnel and replace the master cylinder cap. Close the hood.

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