Volvo XC90 – Rear Brake Pad Replacement How-to

Vehicle: 2007 Volvo XC90 3.2 AWD

ATTENTION: You can be killed by an improperly lifted vehicle. Please use caution when jacking your vehicle; use wheel chocks and jack stands. If you don’t know where to jack your vehicle, please whip out your iPhone and search for “XC90 jack points”. This do-it-yourself article is presented merely as a guide and I assume no liability for any outcomes that you may experience.

Replacing the brake pads is quite easy on this vehicle, but I will detail some of the specific findings from my own adventures in brake land. I chose not to replace/resurface the rear rotors and instead simply installed new pads. While some consider skipping this step akin to sacrilege, I beg to differ if the circumstances are within certain limits.

  1. The rotors were not warped and the thickness was well within-spec.
  2. The rotors were not grooved or damaged.
  3. The existing pads still had 2mm thickness all around, thus the backplate never contacted the  rotor.

Given that this “formula” has worked well many times in the past, I simply installed new pads. If I were dealing with the front brakes, I would have installed new rotors along with them.



Required tools:

  • Regular metric socket set with 3/8″ ratchet (a thinner ratchet is better)
  • Breaker bar and/or torque wrench is handy
  • Flat-head medium screwdrivers
  • 7mm allen key or bit
  • bungee cord or wire coat hanger
  • Brake piston compressor or C-clamp
  • Brake pad set, I chose Bosch QuietCast BP980
  • Brake anti-rattle lubricant
  • Brake parts cleaner/rags
  • Floor jack
  • Jack stand(s)

First, I released the parking brake. The wheel lugs were on tight, so I loosened each bolt about a half-turn while the wheel was still contacting the ground; they should be torqued to 65-70lb-ft. I used a 3-ton floor jack (from Harbor Freight) and lifted at the jack point on the body of the vehicle. Once the tire was off the ground and the wheel lugs were removed, I found the wheel was stuck to the hub. I placed a jack stand underneath the rear control arm, close to where the rear shock bolts on. I left this and the jack in place for safety/redundancy, and proceeded to climb underneath the car to kick the wheel off.

Once the wheel was off, I pried off the anti-rattle clip. The most important thing is really just to see how it inserts into the caliper, then to remove it. I located the caliper guide bolt covers, which are plastic, and popped them off with a flat screwdriver. I used a 3/8″ ratchet with a 7mm hex bit to remove the upper and lower caliper bolts (there are two and they are identical). Getting the ratchet into position was VERY tight and I was unable to use my larger torque wrench. The caliper bolts are NOT torqued down very tightly, though, and can be reinstalled correctly with a basic 3/8″ ratchet.

When the caliper bolts were removed, I had to jiggle the brake pad carrier around to loosen it up. The whole  carrier/piston/pad assembly came off. This is when the old pads were removed. The outer pad slides out and the inner pad it clipped into the piston. I had to pry this pad out by wiggling it back and forth with my hands. This is a good time to clean up the areas where the pads will contact the caliper. I used rags and brake parts cleaner. The brake piston must be compressed back into the caliper to fit the obviously thicker new pads and still fit over the rotor. I utilized a free rental tool from my local parts store, but a C-clamp ought to be sufficient. I did not experience any brake fluid spillage from the reservoir while compressing the piston, but please note that this is possible.

Old pad on the bottom and new pad on the top for comparison:


There is a note in the Volvo literature specific to the XC90 stating that the rear pads are marked left and right. Perhaps this was for OEM pads only, as I was unable to ascertain any symmetry differences with the Bosch pads. I prepared the new pads by applying anti-rattle lubricant to the  BACKPLATE (NOT THE CONTACT SURFACE) of each brake pad, as well as to the guides on the calipers where the pads seat. It is imperative not to get any of this lubricant on the brake pad contact surface or the rotor. There are no “brake pad warning” sensors to replace on this vehicle.

At this time I inserted each brake pad into its appropriate slot. The inner pad clearly clips into the piston. The caliper assembly was lowered back into place over the rotor, with the new pads installed. I hand-tightened and then mildly torqued down the caliper guide bolts. Then I inserted the caps over them and reinserted the anti-rattle clip (kind of a pain to do, I used a couple of screwdrivers as leverage).

Look around and make sure you’ve reinstalled all the miscellaneous parts! When you’re ready to reinstall the wheel, tighten the lugs by hand in a star pattern (if this is gibberish, then Google is your friend here) and snug them down. Once you remove the jack stand and lower the wheel, torque the bolts to approx. 70 ft-lbs.

Repeat with the other side of the vehicle. Follow the break-in procedure that is included with the instructions for the brake parts (in my case, a series of quick stops from 50 MPH). Enjoy your new brakes!