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Brake job tools — Ricks Free Auto Repair Advice Ricks Free Auto Repair Advice

by Bobby MooreJanuary 12, 2023


Brake job tools for the DIYer

Buy brake tools and still save money doing your own brake job

Having the right tools make a brake job go much smoother. With brake jobs running over $600 these days, you can buy all the tools and still save money. In addition to normal tools like a socket set, wrenches and ratchets, you’ll also need these specialty tools.

I’ve divided the tools into those needed for disc brakes and drum brakes

brake caliper tools

Caliper removal tools

Remove caliper bolts

Calipers are mounted to the caliper bracket using hex bolts, internal hex bolts or internal Torx bolts. You can use a wrench or socket/ratchet to remove hex bolts, but you’ll need hex or Torx sockets to remove those types of bolts. Don’t think you can get by with hex or Torx keys; they don’t give you enough leverage.

Compress caliper piston(s)

The caliper pistons must be pushed back into the caliper bore. Front disc brakes don’t have integral parking brakes so you just need a tool to push the piston back into the bore.

The JMMRRR 360° Brake Caliper Press Tool with Double Caliper Hangers, Ratchet Piston Spreader (top left) is $19 at amazon.com. It comes with two “J” hooks to hold the caliper while you’re working on the hub and rotor. 

The Lisle 25750 Dual Piston Brake Caliper Compressor is a piston grip compressor that’s a bit easier to use than the ratcheting type listed above. It’s a bit more at $44 at amazon.com, but it’s worth the price.

The OEMTOOLS 25265 Disc Brake Pad Spreader is the lowest priced unit at just $12, but it only works on single piston calipers.

For calipers with integral parking brake mechanisms, you’ll have to wind the piston back into place. Well, actually you have push the piston into the bore while you wind, making this an awkward procedure without the proper tool. This Orion Motor Tech 24pcs Heavy Duty Disc Brake Piston Caliper Compressor Rewind Tool Set cost just $25 and includes everything you need to wind the piston back into the bore.

Wheel hub cleaning kit

Not cleaning rust off the hub is the single most common cause of brake pedal pulsation. Leaving as little as .002″ of rust on the hub can cause lateral runout which results in disc thickness variation and brake pedal pulsation. You can use a wire wheel to remove rust, but a hub cleaning kit is much easier and faster. This one from OEMTOOLS 25265 is just $16 at amazon.

Caliper hangers

You never want to let calipers dangle by their brake hoses. These hooks attach to the coil spring and the caliper and hold it out of the way. You can also use mechanics wire to fashion your own hooks. Either way, just make sure they’re not putting stress on the brake hoses.

Caliper bracket removal tool

In most vehicles, you have to remove the caliper bracket in order to replace the rotor. The brake caliper bracket is secured to the steering knuckle with large bolts that are often held in place with thread locker. So you’ll need a lot of leverage to remove those bolts. This Tekton 1/2″ drive x 24 Inch Comfort Grip Breaker Bar SBH01224 ($39 at amazon) will give you enough leverage to remove those bit bolts. You’ll also need a 1/2″ to 3/8″ adapter to fit your 3/8″ drive socket (unless you also own 1/2″ drive sockets.

Drum brake tools

Drum brakes have lots of springs and they’re next to impossible to remove and install without the proper tools. So you’ll need a retraction spring remover/installer, a hold-down spring remover/installer, and you’ll need brake star wheel adjuster tools (also called brake spoons).

drum brake tools
Brake job supplies

You can’t do a proper brake job without these supplies. Before reinstalling the caliper bracket bolts, use a wire brush to remove any old threadlocker. Then apply new thread locker and torque the bolts to spec.

You’ll also need new caliper slide pin boots and anti-rattle rubber stoppers. Lubricate the slide pins with a high quality high temperature synthetic brake grease. Apply a light film of the synthetic brake grease to the face of the caliper piston. Clean the rust off the caliper bracket and apply a light film of synthetic brake UNDER the new anti-rattle clips. Synthetic brake grease is dielectric, so it slows rust formation under the clips. Next, apply a light film of moly grease to the top of the anti-rattle clips where the pad “T-heads” fit. That’ll improve retraction (but don’t go overboard on the grease; too much will attract dust and dirt). Lastly, apply moly grease to the outboard noise reduction shim where it contacts the caliper. That will dampen noise vibration.

brake job supplies
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