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In the world of strange name games there are a lot of head-scratchers, but one by Pontiac may really make you wonder what exactly its naming department was thinking. When Pontiac decided to scrap its aging Sunbird prior to the 1995 model year and replace it with a sportier model based on the same platform as the new-for-1995 Cavalier, it decided that only four letters in its outgoing name needed replacement. This left us with the Sunfire replacing the Sunbird – the naming muse must have been on vacation. Fortunately, changing the brake pads on your 2001 Sunfire requires just about as much work as Pontiac spent developing its name.
Items you will need
- Breaker bar
- Wheel chocks
- Floor jack
- 3/8-inch Allen-key socket
- Bungee strap
- Drain pan
- 8-inch C-clamp
- Six-point box-end wrench
- New rotor (optional)
- Torque wrench
- Fresh DOT 3 brake fluid
Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels with a breaker bar and socket. Position wheel chocks behind the rear wheels and lift the front of your Sunfire with a floor jack. Position jack stands under the subframe, then lower the vehicle onto the jack stands. Lower the floor jack just enough so it is not bearing any weight and leave it in place. Remove the lug nuts from the front wheels and pull the wheels off.
Remove the two caliper bolts with a ratchet and a 3/8-inch Allen-key socket, then lift the caliper from the caliper bracket. Hang the caliper from the strut spring with a bungee strap or wire. Press the outer brake pad toward the inner pad to disengage the retaining tabs on the back of it, then lift the pad from the caliper.
Set a drain pan under the brake caliper. Place an 8-inch C-clamp over the caliper, so its fixed side contacts the rear of the caliper and its screw side contacts the inner brake pad. Find the bleeder valve on the rear of the caliper; it is a small metal valve near the top, rear of the caliper. Loosen the bleeder valve a half turn with a six-point box-end wrench to open it, then immediately tighten the C-clamp until the piston is fully compressed into the caliper. Immediately tighten the bleeder valve and remove the C-clamp.
Pull the inner brake pad outward until its metal retaining fingers completely exit the cavity in the caliper piston. Remove the pad from the caliper.
Run you thumb nail across the friction section of the rotor – the section the brake pads contact – and feel for any grooves that are deep enough to catch your nail. If there are any, pull the rotor from the hub and replace it. If the rotor does not pull off easily, lightly strike the rear of it with a rubber mallet to free it.
Repeat steps 2 through 5 to remove the brake pads from the other side of your Sunfire.
Slide the new rotor onto the hub, if applicable.
Align the metal fingers on the rear of the inner brake pad with the cavity in the caliper piston and press the brake pad onto the caliper piston until you insert the fingers fully. Align the outer brake pad retaining spring with the outer mounting point on the caliper, with the small metal tab – the wear indicator – toward the bottom of the caliper. Press the pad onto the caliper until the retaining tabs seat into the holes in the caliper body.
Remove the caliper from the bungee strap and lower the caliper onto the caliper bracket. Hand-thread the caliper bolts and tighten them to 38 foot-pounds with a torque wrench and Allen-key socket.
Repeat steps 1 through 3 to reinstall the brake pads on the other side of your Sunfire.
Reinstall the wheels on the front hubs and snug the lug nuts. Raise the car off the jack stands with the floor jack and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground and tighten the lug nuts in a crisscross pattern to 100 foot-pounds.
Press and release the brake pedal until it feels firm. Open the hood and check the brake fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir. If the fluid level is not at the “Max” line, then add fresh DOT 3 brake fluid until it reaches the “Max” line.
Take the old brake fluid to an automotive fluid recycling plant for disposal. Some auto parts stores take old fluids free of charge.
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