How to Replace the Front Brakes on a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire

by Justin Cupler

    In 1998, the Pontiac Sunfire came in two trim levels: SE and GT. Within the SE trim level, you could opt for a coupe, sedan or convetrible model, whereas the GT was only offered as a coupe. All of these body styles had front ventilated disc brakes and rear drum brakes – yes, even the “high-performance” GT trim level. Replacing the front pads on your 1998 Sunfire is something that you can accomplish in your driveway. You always want to check and replace your rotors, if needed, when you replace the pads.

    Items you will need

    • Breaker bar
    • Socket set
    • Floor jack
    • Jack stands
    • Drain pan
    • 8-inch C-clamp
    • Box-end wrench set
    • Ratchet
    • Bungee cord
    • Flat-head screwdriver
    • Rubber mallet
    • Lint-free cloth
    • Brake parts cleaner
    • New rotor (optional)
    • Disc brake grease
    • Torque wrench
    • New DOT 3 brake fluid
    Step 1

    Loosen the front lug nuts, using a breaker bar and socket, and lift the front end of your Sunfire with a floor jack. Set jack stands directly under the subframe and lower the vehicle until only the jack stands support the Sunfire. Remove the lug nuts and pull off the front wheels.

    Step 2

    Set a drain pan under the brake caliper. Place an 8-inch C-clamp over the caliper so its fixed side contacts the inner side of the caliper and its screw-press contacts the outboard brake pad. Open the bleeder valve on the top, inner part of the caliper by turning it a half turn counterclockwise with a six-point, box-end wrench. Tighten the C-clamp until the caliper piston bottoms out in the caliper. Immediately tighten the bleeder valve.

    Step 3

    Loosen and remove the C-clamp. Remove the two caliper bolts, using a ratchet and socket, and pull the caliper up and off of its bracket. Hang the caliper from the front strut spring, using a bungee cord.

    Step 4

    Pry one side of the outer brake pad toward the inner brake pad with a flat-head screwdriver until the positioning button on the rear of the brake pad is clear of the positioning hole in the caliper body. Pivot the free side of the pad out of the caliper. Pry the other side of the brake pad in the same fashion and remove the pad from the caliper.

    Step 5

    Pull the inner brake pad away from the caliper piston until its retaining fingers are free of the cavity in the piston. Remove the inner brake pad.

    Step 6

    Run your thumbnail across the face of the brake rotor. If the rotor feels smooth, proceed to Step 7. If you feel any grooves that are deep enough to catch your thumbnail, replace the rotor. Pull the rotor off of the hub. If the rotor doesn’t pull off easily, lightly tap the inner face of the rotor with a rubber mallet to free it from the hub, then remove it.

    Step 7

    Repeat steps 2 through 6 to remove the brake pads on the other side of the Sunfire.

    Step 1

    Proceed directly to Step 2 if you did not remove the rotor. Clean the anti-rust coating from the new rotor, using a clean, lint-free cloth and spray brake parts cleaner. Slide the new rotor onto the front hub.

    Step 2

    Align the finger on the rear of the new inner brake pad with the cavity in the caliper piston. Position the outer brake pad so the wear indicator – the metal tab on one end of the brake pad – is facing the bottom of the caliper. Press the outer brake pad onto the caliper until the positioning buttons on the rear of the pad click into the positioning holes on the caliper.

    Step 3

    Wipe away any old grease from the smooth section of the caliper bolts and liberally apply new disc brake grease onto the smooth section of the bolts. Lower the caliper onto the bracket and hand-thread the caliper bolts. Tighten the caliper bolts to 38 foot-pounds, using a torque wrench and socket.

    Step 4

    Repeat steps 1 through 3 to install the brakes on the other side of the Sunfire.

    Step 5

    Reinstall the front wheels on the front hubs and snug the lug nuts. Lower the Sunfire to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts, in a crisscross pattern, to 100 foot-pounds.

    Step 6

    Press and release the brake pedal until the pedal feels firm. Check the brake fluid level in the master cylinder. Add new DOT 3 brake fluid to the master cylinder, if needed, to bring the fluid level to the “Max” line.

    Step 7

    Take any old brake fluid to a local auto parts store for recycling or to a local automotive fluid recycler.

    Warning

    • Bleeder valves have a tendency to “freeze” in the caliper and can break easily. If the bleeder valve is difficult to turn at first, spray it with penetrating oil and let the oil set in for a few minutes, then open the valve.