Monday, November 21, 2016

How to replace front brake pads and rotors on a 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G6

This post covers a front end brake job an Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G6 made from 2005-2010. There are likely more GM models that have the same or very similar set-up. Shown is a 2006 Cobalt.

                                                          The job at a glance
  • Tools: 19 and 15, 14mm sockets, breaker bar, ratchet, large (5") C-clamp, wire brush, rasp
  • Materials: Caliper grease, brake parts cleaner, lacquer thinner, rags, wire, dust mask. 
  • Parts: Set of brake pads and rotors.   
  • Cost of parts: ceramic pads: $24 (Car Quest)  Rotors: 35ea
  • Time: 2 hours


1) Break the lug nuts on the front wheels (19mm), Jack up the front and remove the wheels. I like to use a floor jack on the middle of the front cross member with a 2 x 4 to spread the weight. Set down on jack stands or other supports. 

2) Clean the brake calipers and rotors with brake parts cleaner. Wear a dust mask during this part.

3) Remove the two caliper bolts with a 14mm socket and ratchet. I like to use a 3/8" socket with an adapter up to 1/2" and a half inch ratchet.

4) Remove the caliper. This one does not hold the brake pads so it will slip right off.

off comes the pad-less caliper

5) Support the caliper out of the way, by hanging it with a wire from the strut spring,

6) Retract the piston. Use the large c-clamp, with one end on the brake pad and the other on the outside of the caliper, to force the piston all the back into it's bore. Then remove the clamp and the old inboard brake pad. Check the level of the brake reservoir as you do this to prevent a messy overflow.

7) Check out the caliper pins. If they do not move freely they should be removed, cleaned and re-lubed or replaced. Check the caliper pin boots for wear and tear and replace if necessary.

Check the caliper pins for free movement and boot integrity

8) Remove the pad holders (aka the caliper mounting bracket) by removing two 15mm bolts. Be ready to apply some muscle or a large breaker bar. These are torqued pretty good.

This bracket is torqued!

9) Remove the rotor. It may be necessary to tap it loose with a hammer. If so, use a dust mask.

10) Clean the contact surface of the hub with the rotor. Use a wire brush and file to remove any rust build up. Wipe clean and lightly lube with general purpose grease to ease in future disassembly.

Take some time to clean up the surface of the hub


1) Load the caliper holder with new hardware (if desired) and pads. My pads came with new hardware so I used it. Pry off the old clips and apply some caliper grease to all contact surfaces of the new hardware for ease of assembly and quiet operation. Install hardware. Install the new pads. Again, apply caliper grease or anti-squeal compound to the part of the backing plates on the pads that will contact the face of the piston (inboard side) and the ears of the caliper (outboard side). It doesn't hurt to also apply some to the piston face and the parts of the caliper that will contact the outboard shoe. Snap the two pads into place. It may be necessary to tap them in with a few taps from a hammer and big straight blade screwdriver.

2) Check the separation of the calipers now by slipping them over the rotor. Widen the gap if necessary to fit over the rotor.

3) Mount the new or re-ground rotor. But first clean up the surface of the wheel hub with a wire brush and solvent such as lacquer thinner. A little grease on these surfaces isn't a bad idea. You may need to take the rotors off again someday! Holding the rotor in place with one lug nut sometimes is helpful during installation of the caliper.

4) Mount the now loaded pad holder. Bolt it in place with the two 15mm bolts. Snug them up evenly and alternately and torque to a sizable 80 ftlbs.

5) Bolt the caliper into place with the two 14mm caliper bolts. If you didn't retract the piston all the way earlier, do it now. A bit of fresh grease on the piston contact surface is a good idea. Torque to 25 ft lbs.

6) Repeat all steps on the passenger side.

7) Test the brake operation. I like to have a helper apply the brakes as I try to turn the hub with a screwdriver. This is also a good way to check caliper release with brakes off.

8) Jack it up and mount the wheels.

9) Test drive. 



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