How I installed new brake pads on my 1999 528i with Sport Package (should be fine for other E39’s)


By Robert B.



Tools/Parts Needed

v     New Brake Pads (duh)

v     Brake pad shims and/or anti-squeal compound, if desired

v     Jack/Jack Stands/Floor Jack or Hydraulic Lift (if you have lots of money)

v     7mm Allen Wrench

v     Heavy-Duty C-clamp

v     Small, flat-head screwdriver to remove wheel caps

v     Larger flat-head screwdriver to remove the anti-rattle clip

v     Lug wrench

v     Brake Cleaner spray

v     Clean container for holding lug nuts and such

v     Brake fluid (you shouldn’t need it but you never know)

v     Rags

v     Optional:

Ø      Knee Pads!

Ø      GoJo or some similar product to clean your hands


Step 1 – Find a nice, roomy area to work on your car. 


Step 2 – Take a good look at your new pads if you have never seen brake pads before


Step 3 – Pop the hood and loosen the brake fluid reservoir cap.  You might want to put a rag around it as a little brake fluid may come out later. FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON ACCESSING MASTER CYLINDER CLICK HERE .

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Step 4 – Remove the wheel cap with the small flat head screwdriver (or by hand if you can) and loosen the lug nuts about ¼ turn each

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  Step 5 – Jack up the car with the BMW-provided jack.  Refer to the owner’s manual about where the jack touches the car body.  Place some jack stands under the frame, or if yours are too tall (like mine), use a floor jack to provide additional support.  I started with the left front wheel/side.  Jack the car just high enough so that you can barely turn the wheel.  The higher the car, the higher you have to lift the wheel to put it back on!  Chock the wheel on the other end (same side).  Since I have raised the left front, I chock the left rear.  Once your car is up in the air, try to avoid opening the doors.  Once my last 528 got to be 10 years old, you could tell a difference opening and closing the doors while the car was jacked up.  I’m guessing this was due to the frame flexing.

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Step 6 – Finish removing the lug nuts, wipe them clean, and store them in the clean container.  Remove the wheel and set aside.  Don’t clean the wheel yet, you’ll have time for that later.

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Step 7 – Locate the caliper assembly.  On the engine side of the assembly, you will find two, small, cylindrical, rubber boots about the size of half your thumb (one on the top, one on the bottom).  Each boot has a small plastic cap on the end.  Remove the caps, wipe them clean and store them in the clean container.  Do not use brake cleaner on the caps!   These boots and caps keep dirt away from the caliper bolts.  The caliper slides back and forth on the caliper bolts, so it is important to keep them clean.

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Step 8 – Inside each of these two boots is a single caliper bolt.  Use the 7mm allen wrench to loosen and remove the bolts.  The bolts may be stubborn, so remember: Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty.  Wipe the bolts clean and store them in the clean container.

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 Step 9 – Use the larger flat-head screwdriver to remove the anti-rattle clip.  If you put the blade of the screwdriver between the clip and the center of the rotor (the hub?), you can pry the clip away from the center and pop it out.  Be careful, it might go flying!  I keep one hand over the clip to stop any aerobatic maneuvers.  I value my eyes and my paint.  Clean it and store it in the clean container.

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Step 10 – Use the needle-nose pliers to gently disconnect the brake wear sensor from the caliper.  Be careful not to lose the little metal clip (see caliper bolt picture above)!  Do not work the connector “back and forth” or “side to side”.  These things are easy to break.    Wear sensors were only present on the left front and right rear of my car.  If you cannot find the little metal clip, it might be stuck on the brake pad.  We’ll get it later.

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Step 11 – Remove the caliper.  It may take some work.  Be careful not to put unnecessary strain on the brake line.   At this point, you should be able to see two pads: one inside the caliper, and one “on the wheel”, loosely held in place by the caliper housing (or whatever it’s called, caliper bracket?).  Note the orientation of the pads.  Remember that orientation when you put in the new pads!

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 Step 12 – Remove the pad that is still “on the wheel” in the caliper housing.  It should come right out/off.  Leave the other pad that is inside the caliper in place for the moment.

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  Step 13 – Find a way to support the caliper.  I simply rested mine on top of the rotor.  You don’t want to leave the caliper hanging by its brake line while you do the next steps!

 Step 14 - VERY IMPORTANT: Compare the size and shape of the old and new pads.  Everything should be almost exactly the same, except the thickness of the pads.  New pads should be thicker than old pads.  If they are not the same size and shape, you’ve got the wrong pads.  The pads I got appear to the same size below.

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 Step 15 – If you’ve got the right pads, now is the time to apply the anti-squeal compound.  The stuff I used was a thick liquid (about like Elmer’s glue) that dried to a gooey/tacky semi-solid.  Apply a thin coating of the compound to the BACK of your pads.  Do not get any on the front (the part which makes contact with the rotor).  I applied mine to about the thickness of a piece of cellophane tape.  Also – do not put any on the spring clips.  You probably want to go ahead and do this to all of the new pads at the same time.  KEEP THE PADS CLEAN!

 If you are using shims instead of compound, go ahead and put the shims on.  They usually have an adhesive that sticks them to the brake pad.  Be sure all parts are clean before you try and stick them together.  If your shims do not have an adhesive, I SUPPOSE you could you a VERY thin layer of anti-squeal compound.  It sorta gets tacky like rubber cement.


Step 16 – While the compound is drying, clean your wheel.


Step 17 – While the compound is still drying, use the C-clamp to push the brake piston out.  You need to do this to make room for the new pads.  Put one part of the clamp up against the old brake pad that you left in place (this protects the piston itself), put the other part of the clamp on the back side of the caliper, being careful not to clamp the brake line.  Tighten the clamp to work the piston out as far as it will go, but don’t over-do it.

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 Step 18 – With the piston moved out, remove the inside brake pad and clean the caliper assembly.  If you could not find the little metal clip earlier, look for it in the u-shaped notch on the metal plate of the brake pad.

 NOTE: At this point, some people recommend using some fine-grit sandpaper to “score” the surface of the rotor.  Start from the center and move out to the edge (like slicing a cake).  This scoring supposedly helps the new pads mate to the rotor.

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Step 19 – Insert the new pads being careful to orient them properly.  The pad with the clips on the back goes in the caliper.  The clips should fit snugly inside the piston.  I had to spread the clips a little to get a snug fit.

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 Step 20 – Replace the caliper.  It should slide into place pretty easily, unless you did not get the brake piston pushed back far enough.

 Step 21 – Replace and tighten the caliper bolts.  If you can’t get the bolts in, then you don’t have the caliper fully in place.  I don’t know the torque setting for these bolts, but I don’t have a torque wrench anyways.  Remember how hard they were to get off, tighten them up that much!

 Step 22 – Re-insert the plastic caps into the caliper bolt boots.

 Step 23 – Reconnect the brake wear sensor (CAREFULLY).  The sensor goes into the groove of the metal plate of the pad that is in the caliper (the pad closest to the engine, the pad with the clips).  You can’t connect it to the wrong pad, but you can put clip the sensor in the wrong place.  Fortunately, if you get it in the wrong place, it will come out very easily.  Check to make sure the sensor does not come out easily!  The picture below shows the (wrong) pad outside of the caliper to illustrate where the wear sensor connects.  At this point in the process, the pad should be snug inside the caliper, though, not sitting in your hand. 

Step 24 – Replace the anti-rattle clip.  I can’t recommend how to do it.  Have fun with that on your own.

 Step 25 – Reinstall the wheel and lug nuts.  Tighten them with the lug wrench, but DO NOT try to fully tighten the lug nuts while you have the car jacked up.  You’ll rock the car off the jacks.  Wait until the wheel is on the ground to fully tighten the nuts.

 Step 26 – Lower the car, tighten the nuts, replace the wheel cap.  There is a definite “system” for properly tightening lug nuts.  If you sequentially number the lug nuts around the wheel, you would tighten then in 1-3-5-2-4 order (in effect, drawing a star).  Then re-tighten 1and 3.

 Remove and replace the other pads following the same steps and then tighten the brake fluid reservoir cap. 

 It took me three hours the first time I did this.

 Once you have the pads replaced and the car back together, you should try to “bed” the pads.  Consult your parts dealer for the pad manufacturer’s recommended procedure for bedding.  I remember that Raybestos recommends 8 to 10 medium-pressure stops from 40 MPH.  I have seen other recommendations that require a whole series of stop from progressively faster speeds.  It is best to do this where you can drive for a few minutes at a constant speed (no stopping) after you have done this.  This will allow the brakes a chance to cool off.  Deserted highways/back roads are great for this.

 In either case, when you are first driving, BE VERY CAREFUL.  You may have done something wrong, and/or some foreign material may be on the surface of the pads that keeps them from working well initially.  Don’t drive aggressively, and leave yourself plenty of room to stop.

 Also – when you first start the car after replacing the pads, pump the brake pedal a few times until it feels “normal”.  The pedal may go all the way to the floor the first couple of times you press it.  This is normal.

 Questions I have about all of this:

v     Should you lightly grease the non-threaded areas of the caliper bolts before you re-install?

v     Do you need shims?

v     Do you need anti-squeal compound?

v     Does anything else need lubricating?

v     What do you do with the old pads that is environmentally friendly?