Replace The Front Brake Pads on a Chevrolet HHR

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You're on your way to work and coming up to the next red light. You start to apply your brakes to slow down when suddenly a loud squeal begins to drown out your favorite radio station. That's your brake pads giving you the sign that it's time to change them! The Chevy HHR shares the same braking system as the Cobalt. LS and LT model HHR's use a conventional vacuum boosted brake system in both ABS and non-ABS equipped models. This article covers how to change the brake pads on a 2011 Chevy HHR LT.

The most common sign of knowing when to change your pads is hearing the squealing noise coming from the wear indicator built into the brake pads when applying the brakes to stop or slow down. Dont ignore this noise! Other indicators can be grooves worn into the brake rotor, pulsation in the brake pedal, the pedal sinking lower to the floor than normal, and taking a longer distance to stop than normal. There is no set schedule on when to change your brake pads, so keep an open ear and physically look at your brake system on occasion.

Removing the Wheel


With your HHR set in park and the parking brake applied, take your 3/4" socket and socket wrench and loosen the hubcap lugnut caps to remove the hubcap from the wheel. It should pull straight off once the lugnut caps are loose enough (they do not fully come off the hubcap).


With the hubcap removed, the actual lugnuts that hold on the wheel should now be exposed. The car should still be on the ground. Again using your 3/4" socket, use the breaker bar to loosen each lug nut 1-2 turns. DO NOT FULLY REMOVE THE LUGNUT! The goal here is just to break loose the lugnut.

Image 1137 from Replace the Front Brake Pads on a Chevrolet HHR

At this point, position your jack at the correct jacking point (the HHR has an indicator arrow imprinted into the lower rocker to signify the jacking point) and begin to life your vehicle until the tire is lifted off the ground.


With the tire off the ground, continue to loosen and remove each lugnut from the wheel. Once all lugnuts have been removed, the wheel can be pulled off and set aside.

Removing the Brake Pads


In order to remove the brake pads, you must remove the brake caliper. Using a 9/16" socket, remove the 2 caliper bolt pins on either side of the caliper. Once both bolts are out, you can slide the caliper up and out. DO NOT let it hang by the brake hose (you can cause the hose to break), rather you can let it sit on the lower control arm.


With the caliper out of the way, you can now slide the brake pads out of the carrier. Just grab each pad and pull them out.

Image 1143 from Replace the Front Brake Pads on a Chevrolet HHR

Installing the New Brake Pads


With the old pads removed from the carrier, you can now slide in the new brake pads into the carrier.


Before you can install the caliper back on, you must depress the caliper piston in order for caliper to slide back over the new pads. This is done by taking a c-clamp and a small piece of wood (a wrench has always worked for me) and placing your wood (or wrench) over the piston and then cradling the clamp around it and the back of the caliper. Slowly close the c-clamp until the piston has been seated fully back into the caliper.


Slide the caliper back onto the carrier and retighten the caliper bolts.


You can now put the wheel back on. When retightening the lugnuts, finger tighten each lugnut until the tire is fully seated onto the rotor/hub assembly. Once finger tight, you can now take your torque wrench and apply some torque to the lugnuts. Be sure to follow the chart below on the correct method on tightening down lugnuts on a 5 lug pattern! At this point, you are not going to be applying full torque to the lugs, rather getting them semi-tight.

Image 1146 from Replace the Front Brake Pads on a Chevrolet HHR

With all 5 lugnuts snug, you can now lower the vehicle off the jack. Once the vehicle is back on the ground, you can now go back and apply the correct amount of torque to each lugnut again using the same tightening pattern as the previous step. According to the HHR manual, 100 ft.lbs. is the correct torque setting.


Reinstall your hubcap by placing it back on the wheel (make sure to align it with the air valve hole) and retighten the lug nut caps. You dont need to overtighten!


Sit in the vehicle and apply a few pumps of the brake pedal to ensure that your pads are seating correct onto the rotor. You can now take a slow drive and apply your brakes a few times to make sure everything is working correctly.

Changing your brake pads is not only a necessity of routine maintenance, but it will also revive the braking power of your vehicle that is was lacking before the change. You should feel less brake fade and your stopping distance should decrease back to stock performance levels.

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