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Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing Brake Pads


2 hr






Screwdriver, isopropyl alcohol, wooden block

Applicable Models:

Porsche 911 (1965-74)
Porsche 911 Carrera (1974-89)
Porsche 911E (1969-73)
Porsche 911L (1968)
Porsche 911S (1967-77)
Porsche 911SC (1978-83)
Porsche 911T (1969-73)
Porsche 912 (1965-69)
Porsche 930 Turbo (1986-89)

Parts Required:

Brake pads, retaining kit

Hot Tip:

Check your brake discs when replacing your pads in case they have worn too thin

Performance Gain:

Better braking

Complementary Modification:

Caliper rebuild, brake disc replacement, install stainless steel brake lines
101 Projects for Your Porsche 911

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.

Replacing your brake pads is one of the easiest jobs to perform on the 911. In general, you should inspect your brake pads about every 10,000 miles, and replace them if the material lining of the pad reaches 2mm (0.08") or less. In reality, most people don't inspect their pads very often, and usually wait until they hear that 'scraping' sound of metal on metal that means the pads are worn out. New pads have about 15mm (0.6") of material on them when installed.

If you indeed get to the point of metal on metal contact, I advise you to replace your pads immediately. Using the brakes during this condition will not only give you inadequate braking, but will also begin to wear grooves in your brake discs. Once the discs are grooved, they are damaged, and there is almost no way to repair them. Resurfacing will sometimes work, but often the groove cut will be deeper than is allowed by the Porsche specifications. The smart thing to do is to replace your pads right away. On some of the later 911s, there are brake pad sensors that indicate to you when the pads are getting low.

Brake pads should only be replaced in pairs: replace both front pads or both rear pads at a time. The same rule applies to the brake discs that should be checked each time you replace your brake pads.

The procedure for replacing pads on all the wheels is basically the same. There are slight configuration differences between front and rear brakes, but in general the procedure for replacement is similar. The first step is to jack up the car and remove the road wheel. This will expose the brake caliper that presses the pads against the disc. Make sure that the parking brake is off when you start to work on the pads.

The pads are held within the caliper by two retaining pins. There are also small retaining clips that hold these two retaining pins in the caliper. Start by removing the small retaining clips, and then tap out the retaining pins using a small screwdriver and a hammer. When the two retaining pins are removed, the cross spring which holds the pads in place will fall out.

Now, the pads can be pried out with a screwdriver. Use the small holes on the pads that normally surround the retaining pin as a leverage point for removing them. They may require some wiggling to remove, as it is sometimes a tight fit. It is important to keep in mind that the caliper piston is also probably pressing against the pads slightly, and will add to the difficulty in removing them.

Once you have the pads removed, inspect the inside of the caliper. You should clean this area with some compressed air and isopropyl alcohol. Make sure that the dust boots and the clamping rings inside the caliper are not ripped or damaged. If they are, then the caliper may need to be rebuilt.

At this point, you should inspect the brake discs carefully. Using a micrometer, take a measurement of the disc thickness. If the disc is worn beyond its specifications, then it's time to replace it along with the one on the other side. See Project 47 for more information.

The installation of the new brake pads is quite easy. You will need to take a small piece of wood or plastic and push the caliper piston back into the caliper. This is because the new pads are going to be quite a bit thicker than the old ones, and the piston is set in the old pad's position. Pry back the piston using the wood, being careful not to use too much force. Using a screwdriver here can accidentally damage the dust boots and seals inside the caliper, and is not recommended. Make sure that you push both pistons (inside and outside) back in the caliper.

Be aware that as you push back the pistons in the calipers, you will cause the level of the brake reservoir to rise. Make sure that you don't have too much fluid in your reservoir. If the level is high, you may have to siphon out a bit from the reservoir to prevent it from overflowing. Also make sure that you have the cap securely fastened to the top of reservoir. Failure to do this may result in brake fluid accidentally getting on your paint.

When the piston is pushed all the way back, you should then be able to insert the pad into the caliper. If you encounter resistance, double check to make sure that the inside of the caliper is clean. You can use a small hammer to tap it in, but don't use too much force. When the pads are in place, insert the retaining pins and spring clip back into place. It's wise to use a new set of pins and clips when replacing your pads. Make sure that you replace the pin retaining clips inside the small holes in the retaining pins.

Tom Woodford of Factory Tour recommends removing and replacing the brake pads one at a time. When the piston is pushed back into the caliper, it will try to push out the piston on the opposite side of the caliper. Leaving the brake pad installed on one side keeps the piston from being pushed out too far.

You also may want to spray the back of the brake pads with some anti-squeal glue. This glue basically keeps the pads and the pistons glued together, and prevents noisy vibration. Anti-squeal pads can also be purchased as sheets that are peeled off and placed on the rear of the pads.

When finished with both sides, press on the brake pedal repeatedly to make sure that the pads and the pistons seat properly. Also make sure that you top off the master cylinder brake fluid reservoir if necessary. Brake pads typically take between 100 and 200 miles to completely break in. It's typical for braking performance to suffer slightly as the pads begin their wear-in period. Make sure that you avoid any heavy braking during this period.

Shown here are some of the parts that you need to replace and refurbish your rear brakes.
Figure 1

Shown here are some of the parts that you need to replace and refurbish your rear brakes. At the top is a pair of emergency brake shoes. These usually don't need replacing unless someone has been driving great distances with the emergency brake engaged. You need to remove the brake rotor in order to replace these shoes (see Pelican Technical Article: Parking Brake Shoe Replacement). The brake pads featured here are a complete set of rear pads shown with their accompanying retainer kit. The kit includes two new retainer springs and four pins that are used to hold the pads into the caliper.

To remove the old pads, pull out the small pin retainers, and tap out the retaining pins with a screwdriver and a small hammer.
Figure 2

To remove the old pads, pull out the small pin retainers, and tap out the retaining pins with a screwdriver and a small hammer. They should slide out pretty easily, as there is usually no load on them. If there is much difficulty encountered during the removal process, then tap on the pads slightly to remove pressure from the pins.

Pulling out the pads usually involves the use of a screwdriver for leverage.
Figure 3

Pulling out the pads usually involves the use of a screwdriver for leverage. The pads are loose in the caliper, but it's a pretty tight fit, and there is usually lots of dust and debris in the caliper. Wiggle the pads back and forth in order to pry them free.

When you are ready to install the pads back into the caliper, use a wooden or plastic handle to push back the caliper pistons.
Figure 4

When you are ready to install the pads back into the caliper, use a wooden or plastic handle to push back the caliper pistons. Don't use a screwdriver, as you might damage some of the piston seals. Keep your eye on the fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir: it can overflow when you push back on the pistons.

Don't forget to reinstall the small retaining clips for the pad retaining pins.
Figure 5

Don't forget to reinstall the small retaining clips for the pad retaining pins. The completed assembly should be carefully tested before you do any performance driving. Brake pads can also take several hundred miles to full break themselves in. Exercise care when driving with brand new brake pads.

Comments and Suggestions:
David Comments: Nick, I followed your advice and opened the line ahead of the caliper and determined there is no fluid flowing through when the brake pedal is pumped. I guess I need to go up to the master cylinder, detach the line and see if there's any flow from it.

Your advice is really appreciated. Thank you.
October 1, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Move up from the caliper, find the next connection in the system. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
David Comments: Nick, thank you for your incredibly quick reply. Clarifying my question: Since the caliper is not releasing the disc, I cannot use your normal procedure for removing pads and calipers. Therefore, I'm asking if I can disassemble the caliper without first removing it? If so, that would release the pressure and then I should be able to remove the pads and the calipers. Is this a feasible approach? If so, are the torx bolts what I need to remove?
September 25, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can loosen a line upstream of the caliper, then try to lever pistons in to remove it. Be prepared for something to get damaged.

The Torx bolts will allow the caliper to be split.- Nick at Pelican Parts
David Comments: On my '74 Carrera I have low brake pedal and it is a bit spongy. I decided to bleed the brakes. I jacked the right rear and removed the wheel. A friend pressed the pedal for me while I bled the line. No fluid came out. I also found that the disc will not turn be hand. The brake seems to be locked-up. I removed the bleeder valve to clean and tried pressing the brake pedal with no valve installed. Still no flow.

Question:: Can I disassemble the caliper to rebuild it? Is there more to doing so than simply removing the torx screws? Your advice will be appreciated.
September 24, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The caliper can be rebuilt. First open the line ahead of the caliper to confirm you have flow. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
thataintworking Comments: Is there a difference between the pads for the front and rear? Some brands seem to be listed with front or back in the title, others don't.
October 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: On most vehicles, yes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
rick Comments: Hey there.. Can I replace rotors and calipers on '89 911 with 930 rotors and calipers without any other changes and is there any difference in calipers??
September 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am not 100% sure. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
matt Comments: I'm having an issue with my 1978 911SC the rear caliper inside piston is not retracting, the outer piston works fine.I did push the pedal w/o the inner pad to see if it worked at all. It did push out, so I thought it should go back in. Am I wrong? Should the caliper be replaced?
August 12, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If it is seized, replace the caliper. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Parry Comments: I knew it was easy but it's been a long time. Bought my 86 in 91. At about 83,000 miles. Fresh 3.4 liter big bore rebuild. Case bolts...... My summer daily driver for the past 3 years. Thanks for the reminder.
May 28, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Jes Brieden Comments: What size/thread pitch are the bolts that hold the calipers on the front struts.
May 28, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 10mm bolts usually have either a 1.0 (coarse thread) or 1.5 (fine pitch thread) depending on the exact year make and model - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mayhem Comments: on my '87 911, I replaced the front pads with Green Stuff pads.
Green Stuff does not have wear sensors slots flat.
my wear sensor light is on.
any thoughts on how to fool it.
I like the pads.
September 24, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: See if the sensors are available separately, plug in just the sensors and tie-wrap them so they will not hit any rotating parts.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Vin Comments: I ordered front and rear rotors for my 1986 Porsche 911. I read your article and had no difficulty replaacing the back rotors. Thanks for wonderful article. I am having difficulty taking out the front rotors. I am at a loss and would need your help
December 28, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Without knowing exactly what the problem is I can only assume you cannot get the retaining screw out because it is seized or the center of the rotor is seized onto the hub. Use penetrating oil and let is soak for a few hours then tap them off with a hammer. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Fri 2/23/2018 02:01:20 AM