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Replacing Your Brake Pads
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing Your Brake Pads

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$200

Talent:

**

Tools:

7mm Allen bit, flathead screwdriver, brake piston compressor, set of sockets

Applicable Models:

BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)

Parts Required:

Front or rear brake pads, brake pad wear sensors, brake fluid, brake cleaner

Hot Tip:

Check your discs to make sure they haven't worn too thin

Performance Gain:

Proper brake function

Complementary Modification:

Flush brake fluid. Replace brake rotors

BMW E46 service brakes consist of hydraulic brake calipers and rotors, one at each wheel. When the brake pedal is pressed, brake fluid is forced out of the brake master cylinder and through the brake lines to each brake caliper. Pistons in the calipers push out and clamp the brake pads against the brake rotors (or discs), thus slowing down the vehicle. A vacuum assisted brake booster multiplies the braking force exerted by the driver at the brake pedal.  The parking or emergency brake uses an entirely separate braking system. A pair of mechanically operated cables attached to the parking brake handle actuates the parking brake shoes inside the rear wheel drums (which are integral with the rear brake rotors). I cover procedures for the parking brake cable adjustment and the brake shoe replacement in separate tech articles.

You should check your brake pads every time you service your BMW. Replace your brake pads if the thickness is 3 mm (0.12 in.) or below. There are brake pad wear sensors that trigger a warning light when the pads reach the minimum; however the sensor is only located on one brake pad per axle. This leaves three brake pads on each axle that are not monitored by the warning system. This is why periodic inspections are required. 

When replacing your brake pads, you can replace pads on one axle at a time. Have a new brake pad wear sensor handy. Even though the sensors may be reused, they become brittle and do not always fit tightly into the new pads when reused. 

In this article, I will show you how to replace the brake pads on the front axle of your E46. Replacing the rear brake pads is similar.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Never work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Our vehicle may vary slightly from yours as models do change and evolve, as they grow older. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Lift and support the axle of the vehicle you are replacing the brake pads on. See our Pelican Parts technical article on Jacking Up Your BMW. Next, remove the wheels on the axle you are replacing the brake pads on.

Using a flathead screwdriver, remove the brake caliper anti-rattle spring by prying it out while securing it by hand.
Figure 1

Using a flathead screwdriver, remove the brake caliper anti-rattle spring by prying it out while securing it by hand. The spring can pop off and go flying, be sure to hold it steady.

Using a flathead screwdriver, slowly press the brake caliper piston in.
Figure 2

Using a flathead screwdriver, slowly press the brake caliper piston in. This allows the brake caliper to be pulled off the brake rotor easily. I like to pry between the outer brake pad and brake rotor. This way there is less chance of damaging the caliper piston.

Remove the rubber plugs from the brake caliper mounting fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 3

Remove the rubber plugs from the brake caliper mounting fasteners (green arrows).

Next, using a 7mm Allen bit, remove the brake caliper mounting fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 4

Next, using a 7mm Allen bit, remove the brake caliper mounting fasteners (green arrows).

Working from behind the front strut (purple arrow), open the plastic door (green arrow) for the brake pad wear sensor electrical connector.
Figure 5

Working from behind the front strut (purple arrow), open the plastic door (green arrow) for the brake pad wear sensor electrical connector.

Disconnect the brake pad wear sensor electrical connector by pulling it apart.
Figure 6

Disconnect the brake pad wear sensor electrical connector by pulling it apart. Remove the brake caliper from the mounting bracket. Do not allow the brake caliper to hang from the brake hose. Secure it to vehicle using a Zip Tie or a metal coat hanger.

Remove the brake pads from brake caliper.
Figure 7

Remove the brake pads from brake caliper. Then press the piston back into the caliper using a brake caliper piston tool.

Remove the brake pad wear sensor from the old brake pad by it pulling out.
Figure 8

Remove the brake pad wear sensor from the old brake pad by it pulling out. Only perform this step if you are not replacing brake pad wear sensor. Install the brake pad wear sensor into the brake pad. Install the new brake pads into the caliper while feeding the pad wear sensor wires through the caliper opening.

Install the caliper to the mounting bracket and tighten the fasteners. Then install the rubber plugs. Connect the pad wear sensor electrical connector and route the wiring harness as before. Install the brake pad anti-rattle clip by pressing it into the caliper and pushing it down to confirm it is properly seated. Once the calipers are installed and fasteners are tight, press brake pedal to pump the brakes up. Once the brake pedal is hard to the push, install the wheels and take it for a drive.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Krystal808 Comments: Are the front brake pads the same size as the back brake pads
November 30, 2016
Bmwgirl Comments: Are the brakes the same for 325 xi and 328 xi ????
October 21, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mario Comments: hey. I want to if you have to change your rotors everytime to change your pads.
October 5, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not if they meet the thickness and run-out standards - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Billy-Bob Comments: You should never push the caliper piston back in with the bleeder closed as your pushing all that old dirty fluid which may contain dirt particles back through the anti-lock brake housing where clearances are in microns. Better to loosen the bleeder before removing caliper, then open it when you push the piston back in. it's cheaper to add some brake fluid than replace a jammed anti-lock brake module at $2K. And by the way you should replace brake fluid every 4 years as it's designed to absorb moisture, keeping the system corrosion free, but has a limit as to how much.
August 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Omira Comments: My bmw model is european 316 year 2002. I will be needed brakespad and the sensor. Can I have some info if you have it in stock
August 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Pelican Parts has it. Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
John S Comments: The 218i E46 brake pads have, on the pad adjacent to the hydraulic piston, three spring steel "clips" which must be carefully entered into the hydraulic piston bore as the new pad is installed.
What is the purpose of these "clips". The pad is located on the brake caliper via the tabs at each end of the steel backing on the pads, as is the adjacent pad that does not have the clips. I accidentally broke off these clips through not carefully centering them. Have I now compromised my brakes?
May 28, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The spring clips reduce noise and keep the pads secure in the piston. You will need new pads.

Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Clarck Comments: Can the brakewear sensor be reused or does it have to be replaced when the pads are replaced?
October 29, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It has to be replaced. They usually break when removed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Clarck Comments: I have a question are all e46 front brake pads the same or is it a different size for each model?
October 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: M3 models have different brakes. Some info here on sizes:

http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/BMW-3-Series-E46/96-BRAKES-Brake_Rotor_Specification_Checking/96-BRAKES-Brake_Rotor_Specification_Checking.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
13danaca58 Comments: The brake light came on after doing front brakes and rotors 2006 bmw 325i e90
September 9, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Still not sure if you mean brake warning light or brake light in the tail light. Assuming the warning light, check to see if the fluid level is ok. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
13danaca58 Comments: Thank u for getting back to me so fast so if my brake light stays on its not the brake pad sensor could it be something to do with the e-brake and when I shut my 2006 e90 off the light that looks like a car on a lift comes on any ideals what it could be my car is a 06 bmw 325i the e90
September 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am confused, you said brake warning light, now brake light. What light(s) is ON? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
13danaca58 Comments: If I changed my front brake on my e90 and didnt replace the sensors would my brake light be on
September 6, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The brake pad warning light could be. Not the brake warning light. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dave Comments: I am planning on changing the rear brake pads for my 2006 BMW 325i
Do I need to change the brake pad sensor all the time when u change pads.Or how can I tell if it's not working.
D.
November 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would plan on replacing it. The sensor on E90 models usually breaks when it is removed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rumburak Comments: Very well explained!
Just to add a comment, I let some brake fluid out of the caliper through bleeding screw just to make my work easier.. on step 7 I would mention that caliper's piston could be dirty when it's pushed back inside and not letting the potential dirt getting into the brake system. Anyway, almost every time happen to change all brake pads I changed the fluid as well! ;
April 21, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional info. I agree, it is a good idea to clean the brake components as they are serviced. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Mon 12/5/2016 02:19:34 AM