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Holiday Gift Guide

Whether you tear up track days or drive down to the shops, your vehicle’s brakes need to be taken care of. With the regularity that BMW E30s see some type of motorsport, the condition of their brakes is especially important. A change of brake pad compound can offer an increase in braking performance, but shorten the life of the brakes, making the need for a replacement that much more important. Thankfully, like most jobs on the E30, a rear brake pad and rotor change is very straight forward. 

The disc brake system has been around since the ’50s and comes standard, in some form, on every car available today. Looking after your brakes is as simple as checking to see how they look, every-so-often. For those wanting to learn how to work on their cars, a brake job is a great place to start. Watch along below as Mike Hidalgo shows you how to tackle a brake job on the rear of his BMW E30.


BMW Models and Years Applicable

  • 1991-1992 BMW 318i
  • 1991 BMW 318is
  • 1986-1988 BMW 325
  • 1987-1993 BMW 325i
  • 1987-1991 BMW 325is
  • 1998-1991 BMW 325iX
  • 1984-1987 BMW 325e
  • 1986-1987 BMW 325es 


What are the symptoms of bad rear brakes on a BMW E30?

  • A grinding coming from the rear, under braking
  • Juddering or a vibration coming from the rear, under braking
  • Deep grooves on the rotor surface
  • Dark-colored deposits on the rotor surface

With a general knowledge of how the brakes work, potential problems will make themselves apparent. The two parts replaced during this brake job, the pad and rotor, are wear items. They are designed to wear down over time leading to the need for replacement. Along with checking your oil, and tire pressure, keeping tabs on the condition of your brakes is an essential part of being a responsible car owner.


How long will it take to replace the rear brakes on a BMW E30?

The answer to this lies in the condition of the parts being removed. If rust is not an issue where you live, the job could take around an hour. If rust is an issue, it’s a safe estimate to double that time. Using a rust penetrant during removal and anti-seize during installation will make the current and future jobs easier.


How much will it cost to replace the rear brakes on a BMW E30?

If you were looking to get it done professionally, figure the job to cost $300 at maximum. The parts aren’t expensive, but the labor can be. There is also a good chance you’ll be sold on a front brake job too. 

To do the job yourself, it’ll cost under $100 in parts. There aren’t any special tools needed to do the job, just a few hand tools, making it a no-brainer for a DIY.


Tools required to replace the rear brakes on a BMW E30


Parts required to replace the rear brakes on a BMW E30


Steps required to replace the rear brakes on a BMW E30

Step 1: Jack up the car and remove the wheels 

With the car still on the ground, break the lug bolts free using the breaker bar and 17mm impact socket. Do not remove the lug bolts fully while the car is on the ground.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes removing wheel

Next, locate the jack point on the bottom of the rocker panel. This can be located by looking for the reinforced section with the two hex bolts in it. Place the jack under this point and lift the car until the wheel is off the ground. You can now fully remove the lug bolts and the wheel.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes jack point

BMW E30 Rear Brakes car lifted up


Step 2: Remove the caliper guide pins and caliper

Start by using the screwdriver to pry out the caliper spring clip. Put the screwdriver where it is shown in the photo below and pry out.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes prying clip

At the back of the caliper, the two guide pins are sealed by small caps, use the screwdriver or your fingers to pop them off. Next, take the 7mm hex bit socket insert it into the back of the guide pin. Unbolt the pin and use the socket to help pull it out of the sleeve.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes guide pin location

BMW E30 Rear Brakes guide pin removal

If they’re still there, remove the brake pad sensor from the pad by simply pulling it off. You can now grab the caliper by the pads and pull it off of the rotor. When it comes off, the front pad will fall out of the caliper. While the old backside pad is still in the caliper, use the piston compressor tool to push the caliper’s piston back into the caliper. This will allow the new pads to fit around the new rotor once they’re installed. 

BMW E30 Rear Brakes compressor tool

BMW E30 Rear Brakes compressed caliper

When you can’t compress the tool any further, the piston will be fully compressed. Remove the tool and the remaining brake pad. Do not let the caliper hang on the brake hose. Use a zip tie, bungee cord or anything else to support the caliper out of the way.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes hanging caliper


Step 3: Remove the rotor’s set screw

Because these BMWs don’t have wheel studs, the rotor is held in place with a small screw. You will need a 5mm Hex bit socket or Allen key to remove the screw. Hex head bolts and screws can round out very easily, so it’s a good idea to give the socket or Allen key a few taps with a hammer to make sure it is seated in the screw. 

BMW E30 Rear Brakes set screw

Once the set screw is removed, grab the rotor and see if it moves free from the hub. If not, give it a few love taps with a hammer to break it free. The caliper bracket is still in place and will prevent the rotor from coming off completely, but will allow enough space to break free. 

Read the BMW E30 Buyer's Guide


Step 4: Remove the caliper bracket

There are two 17mm bolts holding the caliper bracket to the hub, behind the rotor. Use your 17mm socket and remove these bolts. Once removed, the bracket will fall, so be sure to keep one hand on the bracket when removing the second bolt. Now that the bracket is out of the way, the rotor can be removed.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes bracket bolt removal


Step 5: Reverse steps and reinstall

The brakes are now halfway to being replaced. For those living in areas affected by rust, using anti-squeal brake grease where the rotor sits and on the back of the pads will help prevent everything from getting too stuck together. 

When installing the brake pads, sit the front side pad in the bracket and snap the backside pad into the caliper’s piston. This is the easiest way to make sure they will line up and go in properly.

BMW E30 Rear Brakes front side pad

BMW E30 Rear Brakes backside pad


BMW E30 Rear Brake Torque Specs

  • BMW Rotor Set Screw = 12.2 N m or 9 lb-ft of torque
  • BMW Caliper Bracket Bolts = 108.5 N m or 80 lb-ft of torque
  • BMW Caliper Guide Pins = 27 N m or 20 lb-ft of torque
  • BMW Lug Bolts = 119 N m or 88 lb-ft of torque

If you made it this far, you’ll have completed a brake job on the rear of your E30! This is a great beginner DIY for anyone you might know who is looking to start working on their car. If you're interested in more DIYs for your BMW, you can visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel. 

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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Owner of a flat-six swapped 1998 Impreza 2.5RS and a 1973 Porsche 914. Horizontally opposed views, only.

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