How to Change the Rear Brake Pads on a 1989 Pontiac Trans Am GTA

Changing the rear brake pads in your 1989 Pontiac Trans Am GTA is a job that should not take more than a few hours to complete, if you are a beginner. The 1989 GTA comes with four-wheel disc brakes, equipped with single-piston calipers. Calipers are the part of your brake system that squeeze the pads and rotors together when you step on the brake pedal. The friction created causes your vehicle to stop. The GTA comes with two different, powerful V-8 engine options. Keeping the brakes in good working condition is essential to stopping this icon in Trans Am history.

Tools Used: New set of rear brake pads, Ratchet and socket set, 2-ton jack, 2 jack stands, Tub of caliper grease and applicator brush, Aerosol brake parts cleaner, Tire iron with 19 mm wheel nut head, 2 wheel chocks, 4-inch or larger C-clamp, Small pry bar or large screwdriver, Small cup or container

Change the Rear Brake Pads

Loosen the wheel nuts one-half a turn. You are not trying to remove the wheel nuts. Rather, you are releasing the torque for easier removal, once the wheels are in the air.

Set the wheel chocks in the front of the front tires. Raise the rear of the vehicle with the jack. Place the jack stands under or near the lower control arms for support. Remove both rear wheels, so you can use the second side of the car for visual reference during reassembly.

Place two of the wheel nuts back onto their studs, and finger-tighten. This will keep the rotor in its place, while you change the brake pads.

Use a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket to remove the caliper bolts from the rear of the caliper. The caliper is the part that is covering both the brake rotor and the brake pads. Place the caliper bolts in your cup.

Set the caliper on the lower control arm, out of the way of the rest of the assembly. Do not let the caliper hang freely, so it won't ruin the attached brake line. Remove the two caliper bolt hole pins from their rubber boots and set them in your cup.

Remove and replace the brake pads. Replace any shims or backing plates that may be damaged or missing. Lightly lubricate the rear of both brake pads (the side not facing the rotor), with the caliper grease.

Use your C-clamp and one old brake pad to compress the caliper piston back into its housing. This is done by placing the open end of the clamp on the back of the caliper. Place an old pad inside the caliper so it is flush with the caliper piston (cylindrical tube protruding from inside the caliper). Set the screw spline end against the old brake pad, and gently turn the C-clamp tight, until the piston is flush with the piston housing. Do not over tighten the C-clamp or turn it too quickly. This can cause the piston seal to rupture or the piston itself to break.

Generously lubricate the caliper bolt holes or caliper slides. Push them into their housing with your finger, making sure that they seat properly to the rubber boot on the caliper.

Lightly lubricate the caliper bolts, and tighten them back onto the caliper. Use 55 to 60 ft-lbs. of torque to tighten the caliper bolts. Spray the entire assembly thoroughly, with the aerosol brake parts cleaner. You need to remove all of the dirt, grease and debris from the rotors, prior to driving.

Repeat steps 1 through 10 on the other side of the vehicle. Replace the wheels and wheel nuts and lower the vehicle. Torque the wheel nuts to 90 to 110 ft-lbs.

Pump the brakes from inside the car, prior to driving. You want to have a solid pedal, prior to starting the car. Failure to pump the brakes can cause brake malfunction or an accident.

Tips & Warnings

Add style and flare to your '89 GTA by using zinc-dipped, drilled and slotted rotors, with a set of ceramic brake pads. The look of these rotors is shiny, like chrome, and they do not rust nearly as easily as conventional rotors. Using full ceramic pads will allow for better braking and heat dissipation throughout the entire brake system.

Failure to remove dirt, grease and debris from rotors prior to driving can cause the rotors to warp prematurely. This, in turn, will cause unnecessary wear and tear on your new brake pads and shorten their life span.

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