When I got new front brake rotors and pads
for the Rolling Steel Tent back in November, they told me my rear brake pads should be replaced sometime in the near future. The rear brakes aren't as critical because the front brakes do most of the stopping. But you still need rear brakes to keep the back end from coming around. And the rear brakes are your emergency/parking brakes.
With my limited gearhead knowledge I suspected replacing the brake pads wasn't rocket science. So I went on YouTube and, voila, an instructional video
about replacing brake pads on 3/4- and 1-ton Chevy Express vans. Oh yeah, piece of cake. One wrench and a big C-clamp. Though it would be easier and faster if I had a better jack than the one the Rolling Steel Tent came with. And an air wrench. So I waited until I got to Forrest's place.
Forrest said I could get name brand, American-made brake pads online
for a fraction of what a Chevy dealer or auto parts store would charge. So that's what I did.
You've seen this view before if you've ever changed a flat rear tire. The caliper looks all complicated and mysterious (which is what mechanics would like you to keep thinking) but it's actually rather simple.
As explained in the video I linked to above, there are two bolts on the back of the caliper that need to be removed (with a 17mm wrench in the case of the Express).
The bottom bolt on its way out
But, really, you can change the pads by removing just one bolt (the bottom one is easier to get to) and loosening the other so the center of the caliper swings away. That means you don't need to worry about the brake line. Then the pads just slip out to the sides.
Here's a comparison of the old and new pads. The old ones would still work a while longer, but now I won't need to think about them for the remaining life of the van.
Since the new pads are thicker, the pistons that press the pads against the rotor need to be pushed back into the caliper. That's what the afore-mentioned C-clamp is for. Unless you're Superman.
Just hold an old pad against the piston then crank the C-clamp as far as it will go. This is also easier to do with one end of the caliper still bolted in place. And with an extra hand to hold the caliper up. Thanks, Forrest.
Slide the new pair of pads into place, swing the caliper over them (which might require a little jiggling), replace and tighten the bolts, and there you go.
You don't need to take the old pads out to see how worn they are. And, hopefully, you don't find out by being unable to stop. With the wheel off (and maybe with it still on, depending on the vehicle) you can see the pads through the inspection window on the caliper. Here's the view with my new pads in place.
There you have it. It would've taken longer with the jack and tools I have, but I still could've done it, even out in the boonies. You probably could, too.