Cars, Computers, & Random Thoughts
Mazda 3 – Front & Rear Brakes
Mazda 3 – Front & Rear Brakes

Mazda 3 – Front & Rear Brakes

Apologies are in order! Our internet was down yesterday and the day before, the estimated fix time was 4:45am. I went to bed instead. Thus, I am once again late with a post. So I shall have multiple posts this week about some of the repairs I’ve done on our Mazda 3. Let’s begin!

Our daily driver for the past year has been a 2004 Mazda 3s that we picked up with a bit of rust and some dings for a great price. This is our go-to car when I’m not driving the Benz, or when we’re car pooling or need to save on gas money. The previous owner had a nice stack of receipts for repairs that had been performed, which gave me a good starting point as to what hadn’t already been gone through. After the obligatory oil change and some other issues I knew about before buying, I turned my eye to the brakes. Seeing as there wasn’t any history of them being done, I hit up Rockauto and ordered new rotors and pads all the way around. Thanks to my immense skill in performing such maintenance at the wrong time, there was already snow on the ground and plenty of crud coating our beauty.

As with any other repair or maintenance the first thing I did was research. Brakes are a pretty easy job, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything weird or different about the Mazda system or the parts provided by Ford. Assured that they weren’t anything out of the ordinary, I jacked the car up and pulled the wheels off.


Good thing to, the rotors were looking pretty beat up. But first things first, removing the caliper. Like most setups I’ve worked on, there are two bolts on the back (17mm in this case) that hold the caliper to the knuckle. With those out, it’s as easy as sliding the caliper off. Make sure to support the caliper instead of letting it hang, I do this by pulling a second jack over and letting the caliper rest on it. If you let the caliper hang you may well destroy the hydraulic line that attaches to it.


Next you pull off the rotor. Since this was in February (planned so well!) and these rotors had been there a while, they had to be persuaded a bit. Since I had both driven wheels off the ground I was able to work the rotor clockwise while hammering a single spot to ease the rusty bits apart. You can see there is a nice groove worked into the rotor from the use, it wasn’t bad enough that they needed to be replaced, but the parts were cheap and I won’t have to mess with any of this for a while now.


I went with Ultra brake rotors, a brand I’ve never seen before but that my research told me was as good as most other budget parts. I also went for the cooler looking slotted rotors. I doubt these ones offer a large performance boost over others, but they were priced well and look cool. Racecar!


You can see that the top rotor is solid and the bottom rotor is vented. This is because brake systems are usually biased towards the front brakes. As such, they need additional cooling capacity for all that track city driving. They are also larger in diameter to offer more surface area for clamping.
One thing to note here, some rotors come oiled or with a rust-prohibitive coating on them. It’s a good idea to wipe those down with brake cleaner and remove that, it’s definitely not going to help you stop. It’s also a good idea not to get grime or finger prints all over the rotor like I did.

Anyway, time to change some brake pads! My pads were actually pretty bad and made me glad I was changing them. The pad attached to the caliper is just a push clip style, and the outside pad is held in by a fiction clip of sorts. You have to pry this clip out and off the chunk of metal that holds the pad in place.


After working the old pads out, and finagling the new pads in, I installed the new rotor by slipping it on over the wheel studs and then reinstalled the caliper. The new pads are bulky, and you have to make sure the caliper is bottomed in place or you’ll have loads of fun trying to get the pads over the rotor. I used a big c-clamp to squeeze the caliper pistons back into place before installing the pads, being careful not to destroy the rubber around the piston.


Now onto the back brakes! These ones are a bit different, as they also serve as the emergency brakes. This means the piston is a twist design rather than a straight actuation style, you’ll see what I mean in a minute. This also means you have to use a wrench on the caliper bolts instead of a socket, not enough space!


I also figured out a much easier way to swap out the brake pads, this will also work for the front as well. There are two slides that allow the pads to engage or disengage via sliding into or away from the rotor. By loosening the bolts that hold the two caliper halves together you can slide that apart. This makes it much easier to get the pads out and reinstalled.


Just like with the front calipers, you need to bottom the piston out before you start installing the new pads. As I mentioned, these are a twist style in the rear. There is a special tool you can buy that locks into the holes on the piston and makes it easy to twist and push back in. I just used a needle nose pliers, works just as well as cost me nothing!


With the piston back in place, load up the caliper half that’s still attached to the car. On the Mazda, they switched to a newer brake pad style with a spring on it to hold it in place, after many complaints from customers. They had previously used a clip on the back, which made it pretty tough to reinstall (clipping it to the piston was nearly impossible!) and was apparently noisy as well. Luckily I came across that in my research, otherwise I probably would have sent the pads back since they didn’t look like what I was taking off. I also made sure to clean those caliper slides with a wire brush and then put some anti seize on them, definitely want them to allow movement.


And just like that, new brake pads and rotors all the way around! I’ll try and get another post in this week to make up for my late posts, I’ve got a thermostat to change out (for a second time, some parts should not be bought cheap) and I’ve just done a wheel hub, so I’ve got plenty to post about. See you then!


Bonus: I had a little off road excursion at one point, which led to a tire being separated from the wheel. After putting everything back together, I noticed it was leaking air. It turns out some water had melted off the wheel, seeped into the bead, and separated the tire and wheel just enough to leak. I already had the wheel off, I was already dirty, and I was already cold, so I decided this was the perfect time to address that issue with some tire sealant.
I pried the tire off the bead, cleaned that up with a wire wheel, applied some sealant and inflated the tire. Worked a charm! You can also see I’ve got a bit of a flat spot in one of my wheels, must have been a heck of a pot hole.


Bonus tip for actually reading this far (who does that?): whenever you’ve got a wheel off your car, apply some anti seize to the wheel hub or wheel where they meet. No more trying to kick tires off, they’ll separate easily when they aren’t rusted together.

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