How to Repair the Brakes on a 2008 Nissan Altima

by Justin Cupler

    When the Altima arrived in 1993 to replace the Stanza, its rounded body lines and modern look was revolutionary for the aging Nissan lineup. The 2008 model, just a year after the fourth-generation Altima debuted, came in four trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL – and for the first time ever for the model, the Altima 2.5 S and 3.5 SE came in a two-door-coupe configuration. Replacing worn out front brakes on your Altima is a fairly straightforward task and a great way to save money.

    Items you will need

    • Breaker bar
    • Socket
    • Floor jack
    • Jack stands
    • Ratchet
    • Socket set
    • Bungee strap
    • Flat-head screwdriver
    • Rubber mallet
    • Brake cleaner
    • Clean, lint-free cloth
    • New rotors (optional)
    • Disc brake grease
    • Drain pan
    • C-clamp
    • Six-point, box-end wrench set
    • Torque wrench
    • New DOT 3 brake fluid

    Removal

    Step 1

    Park your Nissan Altima on a flat and level surface and loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels with a breaker bar and socket. Position a floor jack under the driver-side engine cradle arm under the car and lift this side of the vehicle off of the ground, then slide a jack stand under the pinch weld just behind the front wheel. Repeat this lifting and securing procedure on the passenger side of the vehicle.

    Step 2

    Remove the lug nuts and pull the wheels off of the front hubs. Remove the caliper bolts with a ratchet and socket, and lift the caliper from its bracket and hang it from the front suspension spring, using a bungee strap. Pull the brake pads from the caliper bracket and pry the pad retainers – the small, metal shims that go between the pads and the caliper bracket – out with a flat-head screwdriver.

    Step 3

    Pull your thumbnail across the friction surface of the rotor and feel for any grooves deep enough to catch your nail. If the rotor is smooth, proceed to the section titled “Installation.”
    If the rotor has deep grooves, remove the two caliper bracket bolts with a breaker bar and socket, pull the bracket off and pull the rotor from the front hub. If the rotor does not pull off easily, hit it with a rubber mallet to free it.

    Installation

    Step 1

    Skip to Step 2 if you did not remove the old rotor. Always replace rotors in pairs.
    Spray brake cleaner onto the new rotor and wipe it clean with a clean, lint-free cloth. Guide the rotor onto the front hub, reinstall the caliper bracket and torque its bolts to 98 foot-pounds with a torque wrench and socket.

    Step 2

    Remove the adhesive cover from the thin brake pad shim – included with the new pads – align the shim with the new inner brake pad and press the shim onto the pad’s backing plate. Apply a thin coat of disc brake grease to the shim. Align the ears of the shim cover over the inner brake pad backing plate, then press the shim cover onto the brake pad backing plate until it clicks into place. Remove the adhesive cover from the multilayer shim, align it with the outer brake pad and press it onto the brake pad. Apply a thin coat of disc brake grease on to the outer brake pad shim.

    Step 3

    Coat the cutouts for the pad retainers on the caliper bracket with disc brake grease and press the pad retainers back into their respective cutouts in the bracket – each retainer is cut a certain way, so you cannot install them incorrectly. Slide the new brake pads into the caliper bracket.

    Step 4

    Position a drain pan under the caliper. Set the old inner brake pad inside the caliper, so it contacts the caliper piston. Install a C-clamp over the caliper, so its screw side contacts the brake pad and its fixed side touches the rear of the caliper body. Open the caliper bleeder valve – the small metal valve on the rear of the caliper – by turning it a full turn counterclockwise with a six-point, box-end wrench. Immediately tighten the C-clamp until the piston fully retracts into the caliper, then immediately tighten the bleeder valve.

    Step 5

    Wipe off any spilled brake fluid, then lower the caliper onto its bracket and tighten the caliper bolts to 20 foot-pounds.

    Step 6

    Repeat the removal and installation process on the other side of the vehicle. Reinstall the front wheels and snug the lug nuts. Lift the Altima from each jack stand, remove the jack stand and lower each side to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts, in a crisscross pattern to 90 foot-pounds.

    Step 7

    Press and release the brake pad until the pedal feels firm. Check the fluid level in the master cylinder and refill it to the “Max” level, if needed, with new DOT 3 brake fluid.

    Step 8

    Drive your Altima to a flat and smooth road, and perform 20 stops from 25 mph, with two-minute-long breaks between repetitions for cooling. This burnishes the pads and rotors, which helps extend pad life and reduce brake noise.