How to Change Brake Pads On A GMC Sierra 1500 : DIY Method!

You are on the road with your GMC Sierra 1500. You spot a fork in the road. Or maybe you are upcountry and you need to bring your car to a quick halt to avoid a falling branch.

Or worse off, you are in traffic and you need to withstand the trials of consistently having to bring your car to an unexpected stop.

So what do you do? You simply press the pedal and it does the trick over and over again.

Whichever the case, the brakes of your GMC Sierra 1500 need to be in excellent condition and perform at their best. This is essential for safe and confident driving all the time.

For this reason, ensuring your brake pads are in good shape and working properly is imperative. It will not only guarantee you safe driving but also eventually save you money.

So how can you change the brake pads on your GMC Sierra 1500?


How to Change Brake Pads on a GMC Sierra 1500?

How to Change Brake Pads on a GMC Sierra 1500

Changing your brake pads is quite a simple process that needs basic parts. All you need to have is some mechanical knowledge, standard tools, and about half an hour of your time.

It pinches to see how exorbitant some dealers can be for such a simple task that only takes an hour at the maximum.

Let us take a closer look at how you can replace the brake pads on your GMC Sierra 1500.

Tools you need:

  • New brake rotors and brake pads
  • Hydraulic Jack and jack stands
  • 18-22mm sockets and ratchets
  • Breaker bar or pipe for leverage
  • Bolts
  • Wire brush
  • Brake lubricant preferably grease
  • Large C-clamp
  • Flathead Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench / Lug nut wrench
  • Disposable mechanic’s gloves if you mind getting your hands dirty

Step 1

It goes without saying that the first thing you need to do is to park your car and put it on emergency brakes.

It would be pretty sad if your car fell off the jack during the process of changing the brake pads.

You can even add some tire blocks if you have them, after all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

You can start loosening the lug nuts before lifting it.

Step 2

Jack up your GMC Sierra 1500 using a hydraulic jack. Be sure to put the jack in the rightful spot indicated by the manual of the jack.

This will provide you with enough leverage to work on your front wheel.

Preferably use two jack stands and place them under the chest of the vehicle to provide extra support and prevent your car from falling.

MORE: How To Engage 4-Wheel Drive GMC Sierra

Step 3

Many people miss this step which can be detrimental to their efforts in the long run. Take the master cylinder cap off. The reason for doing this is that some master cylinders have flap seals instead of rubber holdings.

If you try to push back the pistons without taking the cap off, you are likely to damage the components of the master cylinder.

And before you even realize it, you’ll have damaged the brakes which will turn an easy job into an all-day job.

You will probably end up visiting your local mechanic or dealer for help which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

Step 4

Using the ratchet, remove the caps on your vehicle tire. This should give you access to the lug nuts. Using the lug nuts ratchet/wrench, remove the lug nuts and once all the lug nuts are out you can remove the tire.

Step 5

The GMC Sierra 1500 has a dual-piston caliper which means that it has two pistons.

To remove the old brake pads, the two pistons have to be pushed back. There are two ways of pushing back the pistons;

Using screwdriver:

Get your flat screwdriver and pry between the brake pads and the rotor. The aim is to wedge the screwdriver in between and slowly push the piston back.

Keep in mind that the piston is going back up through the master cylinder so you have to be careful.

Once you are done with one piston move to the next one and do the same.

Alternatively, you can use two screwdrivers to push back the two pistons simultaneously.

A long screwdriver will give you more leverage and enable you to push the pistons further and quicker.

If your screwdriver is short, you can mount a breaker bar/pipe to increase your leverage.

Once the pistons have moved to the back and they cannot move any further stop pushing and remove the screwdriver(s).

Try moving the caliper and make sure it can slide.

If it does not slide, it may indicate that the caliper is locking up which means that the piston pins have a problem.

Step 6

There are two bolts on the caliper but you do not have to remove both of them.

Using the ratchet take out one bolt and swing the caliper up.

Step 7

There are two brake pads; the inboard and the outboard. Slide the two old brake pads out. Clean the brake pad placement area using a wire brush.

This will help remove the dirt from the old brake pads which may clog the new brake pads.

Alternatively, you can use a rag to clean the area.

You should also clean the clips and wipe off the dirt in the grooves.

Luckily you don’t have to go through all the trouble of cleaning the clips if your new brake pads come with new clips.

Step 8

Apply grease lubricant on the contact points (clips) to ensure that the new brake pads slide in smoothly.

Be careful not to apply the grease lubricant on the rotor since it adversely affects braking.

Just an extra tip; when you get new brake pads, make sure they have an inbuilt anti-squeal shim in the back.

External anti-squeal shims may come off.

Step 9

Grab the new brake pads and make sure that they have the wear sensor on the same side.

You do this by comparing the old brake pads with the new ones. The brake pad with the wear sensor will be the inboard.

Take the inboard pad and make sure the pad is facing into the rotor.

Set the inboard pad in the groove. Take the other brake pad (outboard) and slide it in place.

Step 10

Slowly fold the caliper back down and slide it into position. Put the bolt and fasten it using a ratchet.

Your brake pads are in place.

Using C-Clamp:

Using C-Clamp

If you do not have a screwdriver or maybe you do not prefer using it, you can use a C- clamp.

Take off the bottom bolt using the ratchet and swing the caliper up.

Clean the shim to remove the dirt. Pop-out one of the old brake pads and put it up against the pistons.

It doesn’t matter which way you set it.

Set the c-clamp up and ensure it has opened up wide enough to across the whole caliper and the piston.

Make sure the old brake pad makes great contact with the pistons so that it can push them back at the same time.

Slowly turn the c-clamp to tighten it up. The force generated by tightening the c-clap will push the pistons back. Make adjustments to the position of the c-clamp as you continue pushing the pistons back.

Once the pistons are retracted, loosen the c-clamp and put the brake pad aside.

Remove the inboard and put it aside. Clean by wiping out the point which the brake pad slides because if the buildup is too much, it causes the brakes to make noise.

Apply the lubricant grease on the four points of contact.

Compare the old brake pads with the new ones and identify the inboard and outboard. The inboard is the one with the markings showing where the pistons. Put the side with the wear sensors on the inside.

Put the outboard on the other groove.

Slowly bring the caliper back down and make sure it lined up with the bolt.

If it is not lined up, you can wiggle it up a bit to make sure it falls in line. Tighten the bolt using a ratchet.

Congratulations. You have successfully changed the brake pads.

Here is a breakdown of the key steps in a nutshell;

  • Remove the center cap by prying with a screwdriver. Remove the lug nuts. Once you have removed all the lug nuts, remove the tire.
  • You can manually turn the caliper using your hand. alternatively, you can use the steering wheel. This will allow you to access the back of the caliper.
  • Check for any abnormal wear and make sure that the inside and outside pads are worn out about the same amount. You should also make sure that the rotor does not have deep grooves or uneven wear. Uneven wearing and presence of deep grooves can indicate other problems with the brake system of your GMC Sierra 1500.
  • Some bolts hold the caliper on. Use the socket and ratchet to remove those bolts. Once the bolts are up, put the caliper up to remove it out of the way.
  • Use a screwdriver to pry the brake pads out. The outer brake pad comes out fairly easily compared to the inner one. If you find it hard removing the inner one, you can switch to a larger screwdriver and hopefully, that will do the trick. If you are stuck with one screwdriver, more prying and just a little more force should see you through.
  • Remove the stainless-steel slides from the caliper bracket. There are several bolts that hold the caliper bracket to the steering knuckle. Using the socket and ratchet, remove the bolts. To provide some extra leverage and make it easier to remove the bolts, use a pipe to loosen the bolts.

MORE: How To Unlock A GMC Sierra Without Keys

Step 11

Put the tire back on and put the lug nuts on by hand first and then tighten them up primarily and with the vehicle back down on the ground and secure, tighten the lug nuts some more using the torque.

Step 12

This is the most important stage that will help you know if you have done everything right.

Pump up your breaks up and do test stops using different speeds.  We suggest accelerating to a speed of 35 mph and then applying moderate pressure to the brakes and reducing the speed to 10 mph.

Repeat this road test for up to 4 times in order for the brake pads to get considerable heat. You can graduate the test ride by increasing the speed and then braking.

Coast for about 15 minutes and then allow the brakes to cool off.

How can you know that your car’s brake pads need to be replaced?

How can you know that your car’s brake pads need to be replaced

Grinding noises and squealing

Grinding noises and metallic squealing are an indication that the brake pads may be worn out.

Low brake-pedal height

This shows that the brake pads are worn out and require maintenance of other components.

Car veering to either side during braking

The car veering to the right or left during application of the brakes is an indication that caliper pins have been seized or your car’s suspension needs to be aligned.

Chirping noise and growling

When stopping, there may be a chirping sound and growling from the brake which is an indication that the friction material of the brake pad is worn out.

This is a clear indication that the brake pads need to be replaced. It may also indicate that calipers and the brake disks are in contact.

Brake-pedal pulsation

This may be a sign that the rotors need resurfacing and complete replacement.

Long stopping distance

This shows that the brakes are not working efficiently which causes the car to take a long time before stopping.

This is an indication that the rotors or brake pads need to be replaced.

Brake-pedal have a spongy feel

This is an indication that the brake fluid or the bleed line needs to be replaced.

Indicator lights

Some cars have an extra feature on the dashboard that shows when you should replace the brake pads.

Check to see whether your car comes with a low-pad warning system.


These signs are not the best indicators that your brake pads have a problem. They may not tell the whole story so it is better to anticipate when the brake pads need to be changed.

You can do this by periodically conducting an inspection of your car’s brake pads to determine their thickness.

It is important to note that sometimes problems with the brake pads may be a manifestation of deep-rooted problems with your braking system.

Special attention should be paid to the brake rotors which are usually the root cause of the majority of the problems in the braking system.

Paying constant attention and forethought is all you need to realize when to replace change the brake pads in your car. They directly influence the level of safety of your car.

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