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Toyota Highlander Front Brake Pads Replacement Guide
How to change the front disc brake pads on a second generation 2008 to 2013 Toyota Highlander SUV with pictures.

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2013 Highlander Front Wheel
Slightly Loosen 5 Lug Nuts
Raise Front of Vehicle
This automotive maintenance tutorial was specifically written to assist owners of the second generation (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013) Toyota Highlander in changing the front disc brake pads and lubricating the caliper slider pins.

Owners of other Toyota or Scion vehicles such as the Tacoma, Corolla, Yaris, Prius, Camry, RAV4, Tundra, Sienna, FJ Cruiser, Venza, Avalon, 4Runner, Sequoia, xB, xD, tC, iQ and FR-S may also find these DIY instructions to be helpful.

The items needed to complete this procedure include a lug nut wrench, a floor jack, two jack stands, a 14mm socket with a 3/8" drive ratcheting wrench, a 17mm wrench (to hold the slider pins), a "C" or "F" clamp and a tube of brake parts lubricant grease.

A few compatible replacement sets of new front brake pads include the following with their part numbers: Wagner QC1324, Akebono ACT1324, Monroe DX1324, Bosch BP1324, Bendix D1324, ACDelco 17D1324CH, Centric Parts 105.13240, Power Stop 16-1324, ProAct ACT1324, Wearever Ceramic PNAD1324 and Toyota 04465-0E010.

Spin Off Lug Nuts
5 Lug Nuts Removed
Rotor, Bracket, Caliper
The first few steps are to park the SUV on a level surface, engage the emergency / parking brake and chock the rear wheels to prevent it from moving.

Slightly loosen the 5 lug nuts on the front wheel in the counterclockwise direction with the tire iron.

Then raise the front of the vehicle with the floor jack and securely support it with the two jack stands.

I prefer to work on one side of the vehicle at a time to keep three wheels on the ground for extra safety.

Spin off the 5 lug nuts and set them aside in a safe place.

Remove the front wheel to reveal the rotor, caliper, bracket and suspension.

Front Brake Caliper
Loosen Upper Caliper Bolt
Hold Slider Pin With 17mm
The front brake caliper is held in place to the bracket by two 14mm bolts located on the back side with the bolt heads facing towards the engine bay.

Loosen the upper caliper bolt by turning it clockwise (as seen from the outside of the vehicle) with the 14mm socket and ratcheting wrench.

If the caliper slider pin spins as you are trying to loosen the caliper bolt, hold it in place with a thin 17mm cone spanner wrench.

You may also be able to use a standard 17mm hand wrench or an adjustable crescent wrench.

Loosen Lower 14mm Bolt
Spin Out Upper 14mm Bolt
Remove Lower 14mm Bolt
Then loosen the lower caliper bolt by turning it clockwise (as seen from the outside of the vehicle) with the 14mm socket and ratcheting wrench.

Spin out the two caliper bolts by hand and set them aside in a safe place.

Pull Off Brake Caliper
Rest On Suspension
Brake Pad "V" Springs
Carefully pull the brake caliper off the old pads and out of the bracket.

Gently rest the caliper on the suspension or suspend it from the spring with a bungee cord.

Make a mental note of how the metal "V" springs are installed on the old pads with the narrow part of each "V" facing each other.

"V" Springs Removed
Remove Old Brake Pads
Wear Bar - Top Both Pads
Gently pull the metal "V" springs off the old brake pads and set them aside in a safe place.

Pull the old brake pads out of the caliper bracket and make a mental note of how the wear indicator or "squeal" bars were situated.

On this 2013 Highlander, the wear indicator bars were located at the top of each brake pad.

I recommend buying the Wagner QC1324 "ThermoQuiet" brake pads since they have excellent reviews on Amazon. I also like how they don't require any backing plates, shims or disc brake quiet gel due to the built in insulators.

Replace Pad Abutment Clips
Pull Out Caliper Slider Pin
Lubricate & Replace Pins
If your new set of front brake pads included replacement brake hardware, pull out the old metal pad abutment or "anti-rattle" clips out of the top and bottom of the caliper bracket.

Apply a thin layer of brake parts grease to both sides of the pad abutment clips. Avoid getting any grease on the friction surfaces of the rotor.

Install the new pad abutment clips in to the caliper bracket.

In order for the brake caliper to operate smoothly, the two caliper slider pins or "caliper guide bolts" need to be well lubricated.

Gently pull the two caliper slider pins out of their rubber dust boots and apply a thin layer of brake parts grease to each before re-inserting them in to the bracket.


Attach "F" Clamp
Twist Off Brake Fluid Cap
Compress Caliper Piston
In order for the caliper to fit over the thicker new brake pads, the two caliper pistons will need to be compressed back.

Attach the "C" or "F" clamp to the caliper using the back of an old brake pad to evenly distribute the pressure across the two pistons.

Move to the right rear area of the engine bay, closest to the driver's seat, and twist off the brake fluid reservoir cap in the counterclockwise direction.

Removing the brake fluid reservoir cap will allow the fluid to more easily travel backwards through the brake line when you compress the caliper pistons.

Slowly turn the "F" clamp handle while repeatedly checking the brake fluid level in the reservoir to prevent it from overflowing.

Clean up any spilled brake fluid immediately and flush the area with water since brake fluid can easily damage painted surfaces.

You may need to reposition the "F" clamp to fully compress both of the caliper pistons.

Compress the two pistons until they are flush with their rubber dust boots.

Try to avoid pinching or otherwise damaging the rubber dust boots surrounding the two pistons.

Replace Brake Fluid Cap
Install New Outer Brake Pad
Wear Bars - Top of Both Pads
Replace the brake fluid cap as soon as possible, by twisting it on in the clockwise direction, since brake fluid is hygroscopic (absorbs moisture).

Thoroughly clean off the brake rotor, caliper bracket, brake caliper assembly and the lug nut studs with brake parts cleaner spray. Do not use compressed air or blow with your mouth to clean off the brake parts since breathing in brake dust can be harmful to your health. Brake dust may be carcinogenic (causes cancer) if inhaled.

If your Highlander previously exhibited shuddering, pulsating, or vibrations in the front end during braking, you may need to have your rotors "turned" (A.K.A. resurfaced) or it may be easier and cheaper to just replace them with new rotors. If this is the SUV's first front brake job and the rotors appear to be in good condition, you should be able to just change the pads with great results.

To remove the existing rotors and install new ones, remove the two bolts on the rear of the caliper bracket that attach it to the steering knuckle. Then loosen the old rotor with a rubber mallet, pull it off, and slide the new one in its place.

If you have trouble removing old rotors that are stuck or "frozen" in place by rust, try beating them with a rubber mallet or tighten a 10mm bolt into one of the two holes on the outer face of the rotor. You can use the 10mm bolt from the front of the battery hold down clamp or any other relatively unimportant 10mm bolt in the engine bay.

Apply a thin layer of high temperature brake caliper lubricant grease to any area where there is metal to metal contact such as the outer lip of the caliper piston and the back of the new pads. Do not apply brake parts lubricant to the friction surface of the new pads or to the face of the rotor.

Install the new brake pads in to the caliper bracket with the wear bars situated at the top of both the inner and outer pads.

Push Pads Against Rotor
Re-Install "V" Springs
Replace Front Caliper
Push the pads together until they are flush against the rotor.

Re-install the two OEM metal "V" spring clips or install the new ones if they were included with your brake pads set.

Carefully lower the caliper down over the new brake pads and in to the bracket.

Spin In Upper Caliper Bolt
Replace Lower Caliper Bolt
Tighten Counterclockwise
Line up the bolt holes in the caliper with their corresponding bolt holes in the slider pins within the bracket.

Spin in the two caliper bolts a few turns by hand in the counterclockwise direction (as seen from the outside of the vehicle) to prevent them from becoming cross threaded.

Tighten the upper caliper bolt by turning it counterclockwise (as seen from the outside of the SUV) with the 14mm socket and 3/8" drive ratcheting wrench to just past hand tight or about 25 ft-lbs of torque.

If the slider pin turns as you are trying to tighten the caliper bolt, hold it in place with the 17mm cone spanner wrench.

Hold Pin With 17mm Wrench
Rubber Valve Cap
Brake Fluid Bleeder Valve
Tighten the lower 14mm caliper bolt in the counterclockwise direction (as seen from the outside of the vehicle) to just past hand tight or about 25 ft-lbs of torque.

Double check that both the upper and lower caliper bolts are tight before moving on to the next steps.

If your brake pedal previously felt soft or spongy, the brake fluid may be contaminated with water or the brake lines may contain a few small air bubbles.

It would be best to bleed the brake lines at this time in order to flush out the old fluid and replace it with fresh DOT 3 brake fluid.

For more on this topic, check out my Brake Line Fluid Bleeding With An Assistant DIY Guide or alternatively the Brake Line Fluid Bleeding With A Power Bleeder Guide.

The brake fluid bleeder valve is located underneath a rubber cap on the back side of the caliper just below the upper caliper bolt.

Replace Front Wheel
Spin On 5 Lug Nuts
Tighten Lug Nuts Clockwise
Replace the front wheel and spin on the 5 lug nuts by hand in the clockwise direction to prevent them from becoming cross threaded.

Slightly tighten the lug nuts in a "crisscross" or "star" pattern in the clockwise direction with the tire iron.

Lower SUV From Stands
Torque To 80 ft-lbs
Front Brake Pads Replaced
Lower the vehicle from the jack stands using the floor jack.

Continue progressively tightening the lug nuts in a crisscross or star pattern to about 1/8 to 1/4 turn past hand tight or about 80 ft-lbs of torque. It would be best to use a torque wrench or an impact wrench with a torque stick to properly tighten the lug nuts.

Sit in the driver's seat of the SUV and firmly press down the brake pedal a few times to restore the brake line pressure. Check the brake fluid in the reservoir and verify that it is at the proper level. If it is low, pour in some fresh DOT 3 fluid.

To break in your new brake pads, just drive normally for the first few hundred miles while trying to avoid any hard or "panic" stops which may glaze over the new pads and cause them to be noisy and/or not perform as well.

It's also a good idea to regularly check your driveway for drops of brake fluid which may indicate a leak, check the brake fluid level in the reservoir, and verify that the lug nuts are still tight after a short test drive.

For more, check out my other Toyota Highlander DIY Repair Guides.

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