By   March 11, 2016

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Boxster (986)

Early Porsche Boxsters (986) are now extremely affordable. Just how affordable? You can find plenty of early Boxsters for as low as $5,000 for a car in good condition.

With the mid-engined sports car being such a cheap Porsche many owners with lower budgets will be purchasing the vehicles (while they are less expensive to buy, they still have somewhat higher repair costs). In an effort to help keep more of these Boxsters on the road we will detail common maintenance procedures on the car over the coming months. This will show how easy (or hard in some cases) maintenance can be completed by an owner for a fraction of the cost.

Today we are going to give a detailed step by step guide about how to change the front brake pads on a 986 Boxster. The procedure will be similar on newer Boxsters, Caymans and 911s with some small changes depending on the model and year.

If you are going to change just your front brake pads make sure to measure your brake rotors and make sure they are within specifications. We’ll cover that in a future article about brake rotor replacement.

1. Loosen Lug Nuts

Loosening Lug Nuts on a Porsche Boxster

With the car on the ground loosen the lug nuts on the wheel that you will replace the brake pads. On a 986 Boxster like this one you’ll need to use the special socket to loosen the locknut, but the rest of the lug nuts do not need the special socket that works with a lug nut wrench (one is included in the toolkit that is in the spare tire). Make sure not to loosen them all the way, just enough so that you are able to loosen them the rest of the way by hand.

2. Jack Up Your Car

Jack Options for the Porsche Boxster

Us a jack to raise the car. A jack comes with the 986, but you may choose to use a more powerful hydraulic unit. You’ll find a jack point just behind each front wheel as you look towards the rear wheel. If you use the Porsche jack you’ll notice that there is a hole in the jack point that allows you to insert the top of the Jack to help make sure it is in securely. Once you raise the car the use of jack stands is always good practice as well as chocking the rear wheels to help prevent the car from rolling. Setting the parking brake is another good idea.

3. Remove The Wheel

Porsche Boxster Brake Disk and Caliper

Next fully loosen the lug nuts, remove them and place them to the side. Now you can remove the wheel and place it out of the way.

4. Remove Retaining Clip

Porsche Boxster Brake Retaining Clip

Using some needle nose pliers remove the retaining clip located on the retaining pin.

5. Loosen The Retaining Pin

Loosening the Retaining Pin on a Brake Caliper on a Porsche Boxster

Using a Philips screw driver and a hammer begin to tap out the retaining pin. Loosen it about half way.

6. Remove Top Brake Pad Wear Warning Sensor Wire

Removing the brake pad wear warning wire on a Porsche Boxster

Using needle nose pliers gently remove the brake sensor wire closes to you and then remove it from the lower wire retaining clip.

7. Remove The Retaining Pin

Remove the retaining pin from a Porsche Boxster

Again using the Philips screw driver and hammer tap out the retaining pin until it falls out of the brake caliper. Make sure to place the pin to the side for later. The metal retaining piece will also fall off, so make sure to put that off to the side.

8. Remove Bottom Brake Pad Wear Warning Sensor Wire

Removing the bottom brake pad wear warning wire for a Porsche Boxster

Using needle nose pliers gently remove the bottom brake pad wear sensor wire.

9. Open the Brake Calipers

Moving the brake calipers to the fully open position on a Porsche Boxster

Before removing the brake pads use a clamp to fully open the caliper. Make sure to use a rag or old screwdriver handle to help protect the brake caliper. Make sure to do this on both the front and back brake pads. This step is very important as otherwise you won’t be able to insert the new brake pads.

10. Remove the Brake Pads

Removing the brake pads from the Porsche Boxster

Now we remove the brake pads. If they are difficult to grab pliers can help to make it easier.

11. Remove Small Retaining Pins on Brake Pads

Remove the small retaining pins on the old brake pads of the Porsche Boxster

Depending on the brake pads you purchase the small retaining pins may not come with the pads. If this is the case you will need to use a small screwdriver and hammer to tap out the old retaining pins from the old pads. It may take a bit of force to get the pins to come out of the old pads.

12. Add Retaining Pins To New Brake Pads

Retaining pins to new brake pads

You now need to insert the retaining pins in the new brake pads. We found that using a clamp helps to make it easier to insert into the small holes in the new brake pads.

13. Insert the Brake Pads

Installing new brake pads on a Porsche Boxster

Insert the new brake pads into the caliper. You may choose to add brake noise glue to help reduce the squeaking sound of the brakes. Some pads also have noise canceling backing. With the retaining pins installed in the new pads you are only able to install the front and back brake pads in the position that they belong.

14. Install New Brake Pad Wear Sensor Wire

If the brake pad wear sensor wire needs to be replaced, which is the case if the brake pad warning light is showing on the dash. Replacing the wire is not needed if you are tracking the car regularly as you will be checking your brakes often.

If you don’t want to use the brake pad wear sensor you can attach the wire to the brake line behind the wheel using zip ties and electrical tape on each sensor wire end. You can also adjust the wire to be a completed loop which is a populate option for folks that race their Boxsters. If you choose to disable the sensors make sure you check the pad wear often (at least every 10,000 miles on a road car and before every track day).

The new wire attaches to the connector on the other side of the shock absorber. We will attach the sensor wire to the brake pads in a later step.

15. Install Lower Brake Pad Wear Sensor Wire

Now you’ll need to insert the wear sensor wire into the hole in the brake pads by pushing the end into the opening. If the hole is too small you may need to carefully drill a hole in the pads to make it larger. Use the old pads to help let you know how large the hole should be when choosing the proper drill bit. If you need to help the holes get to a larger diameter by drilling remember that going slower is better and you don’t want to make them further into the pad. Doing this tends to kick up some brake dust, so a face mask and safety glasses are recommended.

16. Place Retaining Bracket

To help hold the brake pads in place in the brake caliper you’ll need to reinstall the retaining bracket that puts pressure against the pads as well as the large retaining pin.

17. Tap In Large Retaining Pin Part Way

tap in the large retaining pin part way in a Porsche Boxster

Using a hammer tap in the large retaining pin through the back side of the caliper and brake pad hole. You’ll need to make sure that the small holes on the pin for the retaining clip are towards the inside of the wheel well.

18. Insert Upper Brake Pad Wear Sensor Wire

Inserting the Upper Brake Pad Wear Sensor Wire on a Porsche Boxster

If you will be installing the brake pad wear sensor warning wire then insert the remaining end into the hole in the brake pad. As with the lower opening, you may need to drill the hole to be slightly larger. Again take your time doing the job and be careful while drilling.

19. Tap In Large Retaining Pin The Rest Of The Way

Taping in the Large Retaining Pin The Rest Of The Way on the Porsche Boxster

Use the hammer to tap the large retaining pin the rest of the way hitting it from the back side of the wheel hub. You may need to use a screw driver to help the pin into place by pushing in the retaining clip.

20. Insert Retaining Clip

Inserting Retaining Clip on the Porsche Boxster Brake Caliper

Insert the small retaining clip into the hole of the large retaining pin. You may find that needle nose pliers or inserting it by hand help it insert easier.

21. Install Tire

Put the tire back on and tighten all of the lug nuts. Since the tire is still in the air the tire will spin once each lug nut is tight. You’ll need to use the special locknut adaptor on the one locknut.

22. Lower Vehicle

Remove any jack stands and the lower the vehicle to the floor. Once it is lowered you can remove the jack.

23. Tighten Lug Nuts

Tighten Lug Nuts on Porsche Boxster wheel

With the car back on the ground you can do a final tightening of the lug nuts. You’ll want to tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern to make sure that the tightness is even. The easiest way to accomplish this is to tighten one lug nut and then skip a lug nut going clockwise and tighten the lug nut clockwise of the nut that will be skipped. Keep doing this all the way around a few times until all lug nuts are tight. Make sure they are very tight but also make sure not to over tighten them as it can cause quite a mess. As with removing the tire you’ll need to use the locknut adaptor when tightening that one special lug nut.


Changing front brake pads is a fairly simple job that any automotive enthusiast can tackle themselves. Brakes are one of the most important components on any car, so keeping them in good working order is vital to your safety. Upgrading to higher performance brake pads is also a good way to improve your Porsche’s stopping ability and it can make quite a difference on the track or when running Autocross.

  • ThePorscheGuy

    And that, is how you do a brake job the wrong way ladies and gentlemen. That is what we call, “the backyard mechanic” way to do things.

    • David

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

      The idea of this article was to show how to do the brake job at home. What part or parts are “wrong”? Pointing out how things can be done better would be more helpful to folks and if we got something off we can update the article to show a better way of doing the job for folks in the future.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      • ThePorscheGuy

        The work was fine, but what you should never do is install new pads without either machining the rotors (as long as they are still within minimum thickness after) or replacing them. This is the only way brakes should be done. I am a Red Seal Lisenced Automotive Technician in Canada. The level of certification and training we get in Canada is mandatory to be a technician up here. In the US there is no required certification to be a tech so this type of info could only be known if you were taught by someone that knows this. Didn’t mean to come across too brash, the work was good. But this is a crucial part of a proper brake job. And when you do replace or machine the rotors, the caliper bolts that hold the caliper on should also be replaced. As well as the wear sensors as they are very hard to remove without damage due to how brittle they become. Keep up the great work, love the articles you guys post :)

        • David

          Thanks very much for going into more detail. We’ll add that information to this article and as we are planning a separate article on replacing the rotors, we’ll make sure to include that the caliper bolts should be replaced.

          Thanks again for commenting and for the additional information.

          • ThePorscheGuy

            You’re very welcome. The reason you always should either machine to resurface the rotors, or replace them is that you should always have a fresh mating surface to the new pads so they wear in together. Glazed over used rotors are hardened along with the pads and will or provide the same stopping capabilities and will be more likely to squeak when applied. ALL brake jobs should follow these two rules when replacing those items. Some cars will also require the wheel bearings to be repacked (and the seal be replaced). This then requires proper wheel bearing pre-load to be applied. Some require servicing of sliding contact areas or sliding pins (this MUST ALWAYS be done with silicone grease as ALL brake parts are made of natural rubber which swells under contact with petroleum products). Brakes are not always as easy to do properly as people think. Anyone can take things apart, putting them together properly is the part not everyone knows how to do.