Replacing rear brake pads on Ford Escape Hybrid

New Pads Installed

My Escape hybrid has been one of the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned. I have no issues other than regular maintenance since I bought it. Recently I noticed a very slight “grinding” sound when braking- especially when it is in electric mode and quiet. I inspected the rear brakes and it looked as though the pads were getting thin. (I have just under 80,000 miles on the car) So I grabbed a set of pads from the local Napa (under 50 bucks) and decided to tackle the job last weekend.

Because the Escape uses “regenerative braking” (basically turning the motor into a generator during braking- and not using the disc brakes to slow the car) servicing the brakes is slightly different that on a standard car. An unusual feature of this type of brake system is that the car regularly “self tests” the brake system, pressurizing the system- up to every 5 minutes. You don’t want this to happen while you are trying to replace the brake pads!

So after looking online for tips I found that prior to servicing the brakes you need to put the Escape into “Safe Brake Service Mode” (SBSM):


  1. Put the vehicle in park with the ignition on.
  2. Step on the brake pedal.
  3. With your foot on the brake pedal, turn the key OFF then ON 3 times. Then release the brake pedal. This must be completed in less than 3 seconds.
  4. If you have performed this correctly, the brake warning lamp will flash as the stored hydraulic pressure is released. It will stay on once the pressure is released.
  • You may now safely service the brakes. After the repair you will have to activate the regenerative brakes once more by turning the ignition key off then on. Leave the key in the on position. When you are done you will need to exit SBSM. To do this, step on the brake pedal and hold it while you turn the ignition off then on. This develops pressure in the system. The brake warning light should now go off.

At this point servicing the brakes is no different that any other disc brake equipped vehicle. Did the project in my driveway in about 30 minutes.

The old pads were not shot but getting very thin:


The front pads still look great- they are the original Ford pads. The front brakes rarely get used in normal driving conditions, mainly the rears combined with the regenerative braking system. Easy weekend project.

© 2011 – 2012, Bill Gillam. All rights reserved.

19 Responses to Replacing rear brake pads on Ford Escape Hybrid

  1. Sorry, I’ve read this post and apparently a copy of it on another website, and am left confused. The details of this “BSM” procedure are of use only to someone ready to service their brakes, but online to find things like this. No one will be ready or able to begin to put their Escape into brake safe mode until they’re in their car in a good place to jack it up and work on it. They’ll have to drive it there, put it in Park, shut it off, and climb out to work on it, right?

    So, from reading the post, I’m left thinking that I’ll need to leave the key “in the ignition” and in the “run” or “on” position for as long as I’m working on the brakes,,,, and be sure not to run the battery dead or disconnect a battery cable.

    You’re not the engineer that came up with this shit, so I’m certainly not irritated with you, but leaving the key in and on while doing a 4-wheel brake job including bringing the rotors to a shop to have them resurfaced is absolutely idiotic. Isn’t it! Leaving the key in and “on” in order to leave a brake system UNPRESSURIZED is also idiotic. With the key out, and thereby the ignition in the off position, would the vehicle initiate a brake system pressurization cycle, even after this little key-cycling ritual has been performed? If so, would removing the cables from the 12V battery, or disconnecting the traction battery, or both, keep the vehicle from pressurizing the brakes (or doing other things) while service is being performed?

    • I agree the procedure is a little unclear, the procedure I wrote up for the blog was my best interpretation of the method from reading info online.

      I would think if you did the procedure and disconnected the battery it would isolate the the brake system and prevent it from pressurizing, but I can’t confirm that is the case.

      I only did the pads and did the job in about 20 minutes, so no issue with the battery going out.

      Sorry I don’t have better information for you.

  2. i read on another site that someone pulled 2 fuses, but they didn’t publish which 2

  3. I replaced my 2005 FEH rear disk brakes today. Took a few hours. I tried to put it in “SBSM” several times but it did not seem to work, so I took off the battery cable and went ahead without hydraulic troubles. Mostly it was like other disk brake jobs. I had never owned rear disk brakes before, and always wondered why they still put drum brakes on anything, as front disks were cheaper and easier to service than the rear drums I’ve owned. Now I know…at least on this car they still have drum brakes, for the emergency/parking brake which doesn’t operate the disk. Pulling off the rear rotor, there’s the cable-operated drum brakes inside. So rear drums are cheaper to make than rear drums plus rear disks. Here are my other notes, posted here mostly so I can find them myself 50 or 60k kM from now when I have to do it again….
    Jacking and wheel removal — nominal
    Remove plastic caps over caliper bolts inside rubber protection cup
    Use 7mm Allen wrench to remove bolts — excellent to have 7mm allen to 3/8 socket, slow and hard with just allen, needed to extend it for leverage with 7mm deep socket and extension.
    Note the inside and outside pads are slightly different…inside will fit on outside but not vice versa. The pattern of three metal fingers is bigger on outside pads.
    Getting the disk off on driver’s side was difficult. Needed to heat it up with a propane torch to break rust/sticktion and then it hung up on drum parking brake inside. Needed to tap parking brake cable attachment point toward back to relax parking brake enough to get disk off.
    The plastic caps over the caliper bolts were missing on driver’s side and also one stud and lug nut should be replaced next time. Did not cause any brake fluid overflow at reservoir. Having the battery cable off reset the diagnostic light for the bad EGR valve but reset the radio stations, though not the time, curiously.

  4. These procedure is obviously for someone that has a full shop at their disposal, and can complete the task in an hour or less, which would not cause serious discharge in the battery. Remember the 12 volt battery is kept charged by the traction battery, and with the system not running, there is very little load on the traction battery. If one was that concerned they could always start the engine. That way the engine would cycle on and off to keep the traction battery from discharging. In my experience though, you can run for hours with the key on, but the engine not started. Very little power is drawn by the inverter to keep the 12 systems alive when the engine isn’t going.

    • Hardly- this was done with little more than a floor jack and a socket set.

      If you are not comfortable doing a brake job take it to a shop and pay for what is a very,very basic procedure.

  5. Hi bill,
    What if that procedure of SBSM was not made before going on with changing of brakes?
    I left my 2006 escape hybrid to the shop yesterday without knowing all of that. They didn’t know either. So after they changed the brake, they couldn’t bleed the brake because the self test was done by the car.
    Is there any way of fixing things at this point?
    Thanks for your help

  6. hello fellas,
    i read all posts on this page before changing my rear brakes on my 07 ford escape hybrid. wanted to see if there were any tips or tricks for the job. i just cant understand why a car manufacturer would check brake pressure every 5 min when the car is in park and the doors are locked. so i removed my ford factory car jack and lug wrench from their stowed position, blocked the front tires because my driveway has a minute amount of incline. locked the car and put my keys in my pocket where they always go and proceeded with my rear brake replacement. first jacked up the drivers side per the jacking instructions that came with the ford factory jack, basically to use the proper jack point. after the tire was clear of the ground approximately 1″ i removed tire and exposed the brake caliper and worn brake pads. i then proceeded to remove caliper from assy. after first pushing brake cylinder piston in its full retracted position and then removing the two caliper hex bolts. once caliper was ready to come off i was noticing there was no movement at the caliper from a mystery pump that pressurizes the brakes every 5 minutes during the whole procedure up to this point. sooooo i removed the caliper completely and worn pads. installed new pads and the caliper reinstalled with plenty of clearance by the brake disk. reinstalled hex bolts, and tightened. once the tire went back on and secured i lowered off jack and checked brake fluid level for the other side. easiest brakes ever replaced. on top of that my 6 year old son got his first lesson in car maintenance. after we finished we tested the brakes on the way to ice cream. like i said, easiest brake job ever. about an hour and a half start to finish.

    • Glad it worked for you- I felt that taking 30 seconds to put the brakes into SBSM was prudent after hearing the brakes cycle themselves when the car was off and key out of the ignition several times. As I said in the blog post, it’s a simple job, took 30 minutes in my driveway.

  7. Bill, I have a 2010 Mercury Mariner 4×4 Hybrid
    Even though I only have just over 50K on it now, I’ve been hearing some slight rattling on the bumpy, potholed roads after this hard 2013-2014 winter we had here in the Capital District region of NY State. I’m thinking it may be my brake pads. I only hear it when driving on rough roads.

    But at the time when I’m ready to do this work, will what you described above apply to my vehicle as well? Thanks!

    • Rear brakes: not only are there the disks and calipers back there; there are also drum brakes built inside the disk rotors which are used for the emergency / parking brake. I wound up needing those, too on my 2005 FEH last year with about 60K kM on the clock.

    • Thomas Hollingsworth

      I have replaced the front stabilizer bars on my 2008 Mariner Hybrid. Was making a clunking sound when I would hit bumps. Looks like they need to be replaced somewhat regularly – 30,000 miles later and they need to be replaced again.

  8. 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid (front disc, rear drum, 2WD)
    I tried every combination of key position, number ON/OFF cycles, brake pressing and unpressing and still could not get it into ‘pad service mode’ or ‘safe brake service mode’. I also did not pull any fuses or disconnect any battery terminals, but I got the pads replaced. The fuse terminals I’ve read to pull correspond to the horn relay and transmission module? How that stops the brakes from testing I have no clue.
    I simply changed them like every other car I’ve ever done. I just had the car in park and the key off and out.
    I took my time and had the calipers removed for at least an hour each.
    The braking system never tested itself nor actuated. The piston stayed put.
    Maybe this is a difference with the 2009 and up models. I have no idea why any automotive engineer would want to ‘test’ the brake system at 5-10 min intervals while the car is off and in park…

  9. Bill, what year is yours? Is yours a 2WD, AND, 4WD? I’m curious about all the model years of the different posts.
    I’ve now got an ’08 and ’09.

  10. 2005 2wd Hybrid –
    The floating pin heads are not allen head, they are TorX like other Fords.
    I couldn’t get mine into SBSM so I went ahead as if a normal disk system.
    The brake system DID pressurize itself (key off/out, battery still connected) after a door was opened. Not enough to cause a problem but something to be aware of.
    On mine I had to loosen the lower shock mount bolt/nut to allow working room for the ratchet and TorX bit.
    I’ve done front and rear disks on a number of different Fords and other than the above notes, these were as straightforward as any others.

  11. Alright, so I just changed front and rear pads on 2008 FEH. I put it in SBSM as the above instructions state. The brake job itself took some time and killed the battery before finishing the front pads, but had no problems once the battery died. Jumped it when finished, no problem. Same scenario for the back set. Jumped it again and is hasn’t had any issues with starting since. I needed a 9mm hex wrench for the front, which was the biggest problem of the day since most sets don’t have that size, but your year model may not require that. The brakes pad change like typical escape pads so youtube that rather than looking for hybrid specific. I wish I had know that because I could not find any video specific to FEH models.

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