How to Install Brake Pads in a 2004 Saturn Ion

by Justin Cupler Google

    Like the SC before it, the 2004 Ion Coupe was available as a three-door model.

    Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Heading into the 21st century, the Saturn S-Series models were getting rather long in the tooth, so Saturn chose to replace the SC and SL with the Ion Coupe and Ion Sedan, respectively. In 2004, the Ion came standard with a relatively powerful 2.2-liter Ecotec engine that produced 140 horsepower. Also standard were front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. Installing new front pads on the 2004 Ion is an excellent way to save money and gain a little more understanding of your car’s mechanics.

    Items you will need

    • Breaker bar
    • Socket set
    • Floor jack
    • Jack stands
    • 8-inch C-clamp
    • Drain pan
    • Six-point, box-end wrench set
    • Ratchet
    • Bungee strap
    • Rubber mallet
    • New rotors (optional)
    • Aerosol brake cleaner
    • Clean, lint-free cloths
    • Torque wrench
    • Wire brush
    • Disc brake grease


    Step 1

    Loosen the lug nuts slightly, using a breaker bar and socket, and lift the front of the Ion with a floor jack. Position a set of jack stands under either side of the subframe and lower the vehicle until just the jack stands support it. Remove the lug nuts the rest of the way, then remove the front wheels.

    Step 2

    Install an 8-inch C-clamp over the caliper with the C-clamp’s fixed side contacting the rear of the caliper and its screw side contacting the outer brake pad backing plate. Tighten the clamp slightly to hold it in place. Position a drain pan under the caliper and open the bleeder valve – the metal valve on the top, rear of the caliper – by rotating it counterclockwise a full turn with a six-point, box-end wrench. Immediately tighten the C-clamp until the caliper piston is fully pressed into the caliper body. Tighten the bleeder valve immediately and remove the C-clamp.

    Step 3

    Remove the upper and lower caliper bolts with a ratchet and socket, and raise the caliper from the bracket. Hang the caliper from the front strut spring with a bungee cord or coat hanger. Don't let it hang from the hose, and do not disconnect the hose. Pull the inner and outer brake pads out of the caliper bracket.

    Step 4

    Drag your thumbnail over the face of the rotor and feel for grooves deep enough to catch your nail. If the rotor is free of these grooves, then proceed to the “Installation” section. If the rotor does have these grooves, then replace them as a pair. Remove the caliper bracket bolts with a breaker bar and socket, remove the caliper bracket and pull the rotor from the front hub. If the rotor sticks, use a rubber mallet to tap it free.


    Step 1

    Go directly to Step 2 if you are not replacing the rotor. Clean the dirt and anti-corrosive coating from the new rotor, using aerosol brake cleaner and a clean, lint-free cloth. Guide the new rotor onto the hub and install the caliper bracket, tightening its bolts to 85 foot-pounds with a torque wrench and socket.

    Step 2

    Scrub the brake pad retainers – the metal shims that go above the pads in the caliper bracket – with a wire brush to rid them of rust and debris. Apply a thin coat of disc brake grease to the brake pad retainers and slide the brake pads into the caliper bracket. Remove the caliper from the bungee strap and install it on the bracket. Tighten the caliper bolts to 25 foot-pounds.

    Step 3

    Replace the brakes on the other side of the Ion.

    Step 4

    Install the front wheels and hand-tighten the lug nuts. Lower the vehicle to the ground and torque the lug nuts, in a crisscross pattern, to 100 foot pounds.

    Step 5

    Press the pedal down about two-thirds of its total travel and slowly release it. Wait about 15 seconds. Repeat this step until the brake pedal feels firm.

    Step 6

    Check the fluid level in the master cylinder and add new DOT 3 brake fluid until the level reaches the “Max” line, as needed.

    Step 7

    Drive the Ion to a road or parking lot that is smooth and has little or no traffic. Accelerate to 30 mph, then bring the car to a stop, using moderate brake pedal pressure. Allow the brakes to cool for about a minute. Repeat this step 20 times to burnish the pads and rotors, for maximum service life. Take the old brake fluid to a used automotive fluid recycler or a local parts store for disposal.


    Photo Credits

    • Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images