In this guide, you will find step-by-step instructions on how to change the front brake pads and rotors on BMW vehicles. The pictures in this guide are from a BMW 5-series. Because BMW uses a similar front brake setup, these instructions should be helpful to owners of other models including 1-Series, 3-Series, 6-Series, 7-Series, X1, X3, X5, Z3, Z4 with the exception on the M series.
What you notice
- Brake Pad Warning Message on iDrive - A warning message reminding you that your BMW front brakes are worn below the minimum depth.
- Noise when breaking -Screeching, grinding, squealing, rubbing and other noises are common symptoms that your brake pads are worn. When the pads wear thin, it causes a metal-on-metal scenario as the brake pad wear indicator rubs against the rotor.
- Brake Pedal - You may need to press brake pedal harder or down farther to complete braking.
- Brake Light On- Another symptom of worn brake pads is the brake light coming on.
What you will need
- BMW Front Brake Pads - Some popular brands that make BMW brake pads and discs are BOSCH, STARK, SACHS, SKF, VAN WEZEL, VALEO, LuK, MAPCO, A.B.S., ATE. Ceramic brake pads are recommended for best performance, longer life, and low dust.
- BMW Front Rotors - Replace the rotors especially if they have created a lip on the outer edge or your BMW steering wheel shakes when braking.
- BMW jack adaptor - Prevent your BMW jack points from bending when using a jack to lift your car. For most late model BMW or Mini vehicles.
- BMW Brake Wear Sensor - You will need to replace the brake wear sensor in order to reset the brake warning light.
- Allen key set - Needed to remove caliper guide pins.
- Jack and Jack Stand - You will need these to raise the vehicle and secure it. Wheel chocks can be used as well to prevent the car from rolling back. Your car should have a jack in the trunk. You will need to buy jack stands.
- Lug wrench - A wheel lug wrench is needed to loosen the lug nuts. Your car should already have a lug wrench in the trunk.
- Gloves - You need to protect your hands.
- C - Clamp - Use a C clamp to press the piston into the caliper. You will not be able to fit the new brake pads without pressing the piston.
- Glasses - protect your eyes from flying metal pieces.
- Brake & Caliper Grease - Use it to prevent noise from brake pad vibrations. Can be used on shimmed disc brake pads, drum and ABS systems. Use only on metal to metal contact points. Do not use on the cotact surface between brake pad and rotor.
- Tool Box - A toolbox that has metric sockets from 6mm to 19mm and a 3/8 ratchet.
- Breaker Bar - In case you need to break loose a rusted bolt.
- Penetrating Oil - Break free rusted and corroded parts.
- Torque wrench - Make sure you use correct procedures and torque values.
Before you start
Jack up the car
Get the lug nuts loose but do not remove them yet. Next, raise the vehicle and secure it with jack stands. Place wheel chocks behind the rear wheels to prevent your BMW from rolling back. Ensure the parking brake is engaged.
Remove the wheel
With the car jacked up and secured by jack stands, you are now ready to get started on replacing front brake pads on your BMW.
Remove the brake wear sensor
Use a flat head screwdriver to pry out the wear sensor from the brake pad. If you don't notice a brake wear sensor, don't worry. It will be installed on the other side. BMW typically uses only one brake pad wear sensor per axle. If you need help with this step follow these instructions on how to replace BMW brake wear sensor.
Remove anti-rattle retainer
Use a prybar or a screwdriver to try out the anti-rattle retainer. This clip puts pressure on the brake caliper and prevents the brake pads from making squeaking noise. Insert the screwdriver and pry it out.
Loose two bolts on the rear of the caliper
Remove the two dust caps on the back of the brake caliper. The caps do not screw. You simply pry them out. Next, you need to loosen the brake caliper bolts (guide pins). Use a 7mm Allen wrench to remove the brake caliper bolts.
Remove caliper and brake pads
Remove the brake caliper from the wheel hub. If the caliper does not come off easily, use a flat screwdriver to pry one of the brake pads away from the rotor.
Press caliper piston in
With the caliper removed and the inner pad still connected to the brake caliper, use a C-clamp or any compression tool to push the piston back into the caliper. This is necessary otherwise the brake caliper will not fit on the rotor when you try to install the new BMW brake pads.
Install new brake pads
Remove the old brake pads. Install the new brake pads on the caliper. Tie the brake caliper to the strut. Do not allow your BMW brake caliper to hang by the brake hose. Also, make sure to inspect the brake hose for cracks. If brake hose shows signs of cracks follow this guide on how to replace BMW brake hose.
Remove brake caliper bracket
Now that you have removed the front brake caliper on your BMW, you will need to remove the brake caliper bracket or what is known as the caliper carrier. There are two 16 mm (sometimes 17mm or 18mm) bolts on the back that you need to remove. To break these bolts loose you may need to use a breaker bar.
With the brake caliper bracket removed from the steering knuckle, you are ready to remove the rotor. First, you need to remove the set screw. This will allow you to take off the rotor. If the rotor is rusted it will be difficult to remove your BMW rotor from the wheel hub. Spray some penetrating oil and wait 10 min. Next, grab a rubber hammer and hit the rotor on the back several times until the rotor gets loose.
Clean wheel hub
With the rotor removed, the wheel hub is exposed. Clean the wheel hub surface where the rotor sits with a clean rag or if rust is present scrub it with a wire brush. Apply a very thin coat of anti-seize to the face of the wheel hub to make it easier to remove the rotor next time.
Install new rotor
Install the rotor on the wheel hub and thread in the set screw. Don't need to over tighten the set screw. It is there to simply keep the rotor in place when the wheel is removed.
Install brake caliper carrier bracket
Next step is to install the brake caliper bracket. Clean any dust or debris from areas where the bracket contacts the brake caliper or brake pads. Install the two bolts that hold the carrier bracket in place. Torque the two bolts to 80 ft - lbs or as recommended by BMW for your particular model.
Install brake caliper
Install the brake pads on the brake caliper. Place the brake caliper and pads on the rotor and thread the guide pins. Rember to install the anti-rattle bracket.
Install the wheel and torque the lug nuts to 90 ft-lbs.
Check brake fluid level
Reset BMW brake service light
Once you replace both front brake pads on a BMW, you will need to reset the brake light. You can perform BMW brake pad reset via the ODO reset button on the dashboard. If you are not able to reset your BMW brake light, follow these instructions to figure how why you can't reset BMW brake light reminder.
Before driving off, start the engine and press the brake pedal a few times. At first, the brake pedal will feel soft and go all the way to the floor. After two to three pumps of the pedal, the brakes will feel normal again.
How much does it cost to replace brake pads on a BMW?
To change just the front brake pads on a BMW, expect to pay between $180-$250. That's for pads only. In many cases, the rotors need to be changed in addition to the brake pads. In such cases, the typical cost to change BMW front brake pads and rotors can vary from $380-$600. That would be for brake pads and rotors on both front wheels. Brake pads and rotors are usually changed as a set.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many miles can I drive a BMW after getting the brake pad warning?
- The range can vary, but typically you will be able to get another 300-500 miles. If brake pads wear to the point that the pad metal is contacting your brake rotor, you will damage the rotors. In such cases, the rotors must be replaced as well. If you’re the kind of driver who stops abruptly frequently, you’ll need to replace your brakes pads and rotors more often than drivers who slowly come to a stop.
This is a list of helpful resources that can further help you successfully change front brake pads on a BMW.
- BMW Brake Pads Replacement X3 E83 (2004-2010) Technical Articles - Pelican Parts
- When Should I Replace the Brakes on My BMW? - B and B Autohaus
- DIY: Change Brake Pads - BMW E90 (E91, E92, E93) - Team-BHP
- BMW Brake Replacement DIY - Doug's Domain
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