Friday, August 20, 2010

It's Time For A Little Brake Action!

All week long we have been discussing car maintenance and we are now ending the week with important tips for checking your brakes.

We all pretty much know how important brakes are for your vehicle because without them running or running in tip top shape your car just simply won’t stop. If you have ever lost partial brake usage in the past you should learn to inspect your brakes at least twice a year for any wear and damage so that you can protect not only yourself but your passengers as well. By catching needed repairs on your brakes now will save you a lot because it is better to replace it now then wait until later when it could turn out to be a costly expense later on.  

On many cars today you can inspect your brakes without ever having to remove the wheel. If your car has alloy wheels with spaces in the middle you can get a pretty good assessment of them just by peeping thought the hole and looking at them directly. If you can get a good clear look at your brakes check the brake pads and the big shiny disc.

While inspecting the disc you will want to see whether it is shiny from the inside edge and it should be uniformed in its shape. If you see lines on it, it is not a need for panic it is simply normal wear and tear. If the disc has any rough spots or has pronounced type grooves in the disc then you should replace them. A warped brake disc can make even short car trips very irritating. Every time you apply the brakes you think you're going to lose a filling. It's fairly easy to replace your brake discs and not at all expensive. Combine this repair with brake pad replacement and you've had a very productive car repair day!

Before you begin to work in the wheel area be sure your car is safely supported on jack stands. You should never work on your car while it is supported only by a scissor or other emergency tire changing jack.

The first step in brake disc replacement is removing the brake caliper. Remove the brake caliper just like you were replacing your brake pads. Once the caliper is unbolted let it hang out of the way using a bungee cord or similar hanger. You should do this so you won’t have to unbolt the brake line.

Once you've removed the brake caliper, you have to remove the structure that is holding the caliper and pads in place this is called the carrier. Removing it is similar to removing the caliper two bolts on the back and it's off. Be sure to put all of the parts you remove in a safe place with the bolts that they go with it.

With everything out of the way, you can finally start removing the old brake disc. Your disc is held in place by one or two set screws on the front. This may seem like nothing to you but they have a tendency to really be stuck in there.

By using a large Phillips head screwdriver and remove the bolt or bolts holding the brake disc in place. Sometimes the screws will be stripped or otherwise damaged. In this case, you'll have to drill.
With the screws removed, slide the old brake disc off the hub. If it's stubborn, give it some taps with your dead blow hammer to loosen things up and with the old disc off  you can now slide your shiny new brake disc into place. Installation is the reverse of removal so don't forget to replace the brake disc screws.
Brake discs should always be replaced in pairs so that your car's drive ability and safety are not compromised.

The next thing you will need to look at are the brake pads. If you follow the surface of the disc to the top you will see the outside pad touching the disc. If there is 1/8 of an inch or less remaining on the pad it is time for some new ones. Brake pads are very cheap and you can easily replace them.

You will be taking the wheel off so be sure you have your car jacked up and resting securely on jack stands. Go ahead and lugs before you jack it up. It's much easier and safer with the wheel on the ground.

Since you broke the lugs while the car was still on the ground they should be pretty easy to remove. Remove them from the bottom up, leaving the top lug nut to be removed last. This helps in keeping the wheel in one place while you remove the rest of them and makes it easier to safely catch the wheel once you remove the last nut.
If you remove the lugs and still can't get the wheel off, the good old fashioned way and you do this  is reinstall the lug nuts leaving about 5 turns before they start to get snug. Now lower the car to the ground, get in and start it up. Drive back and forth 4 or 5 feet a few times. Now jack the car up and test the wheel. It should be nice and loose now and you are now ready to replace with your spare so you can move on down the road.
On most cars, the next step is to remove the brake caliper so the pads will slide out through the top. On a few cars the pads will come out without removing the caliper, but not many. You'll see the brake caliper in the 12 o'clock position just above the lug bolts and riding atop that shiny brake disc.
On the back of the caliper you'll find a bolt on either side. It will either be a hex bolt of an Allen bolt. Remove these two bolts and put them aside.
Hold the caliper from the top and pull upward, wiggling it around to loosen it up. If it's stubborn, give it a few taps but don’t beat the heck out of them with an upward tap to loosen it a bit. Pull it up and slightly away however be sure not to put any stress on the brake line.
If there is a place to safely set the caliper back there you will need to do it. If not, you'll need to take your bungee cord and hang the caliper from something, the giant coil spring staring at you is a good spot. Don't let the caliper hang by the brake line because it can cause damage and lead to brake failure and that’s not a good thing!
Before you pull out the old brake pads take a second to observe how everything is in installed. If there are little metal clips around the brake pads you should remember how they are in there so you can get it right when you put things back together. It might help to remember if you take a digital picture of the whole assembly.
With the caliper out of the way the brake pads should slide right out. I said should because in a new car they probably would. Since our cars our cars are not always new you may need to coax them out with a little tap of the hammer to loosen them up. If your car has little metal tabs holding onto the brake pads, put them to the side because you'll need them in a minute. Put the new pads in the slots with any metal clips you removed. Go ahead and slide the new pads into place now, making sure you don't forget any of the little retaining clips you removed earlier.
As your brake pads wear out the caliper adjusts itself so that you will have strong brakes throughout the life of the pads. If you look on the inside of the caliper you'll see a round piston coming out. This is what pushes on the brake pads from the back. The problem with this is, it has adjusted itself to match your worn out pads. It’s nearly impossible to get it over the new pads. You can do it but the damage level will be pretty high. Instead of destroying your new pads just push the piston back to the starting point.
Take your c-clamp and place the end with the screw on it against the piston with the other end of the clamp around on the back of the caliper assembly. Now slowly tighten the clamp until the piston has moved far enough in that you can easily plop the caliper assembly over the new pads.

With the piston compressed you should be able to easily slide the caliper assembly over the new pads. Once you have it on there, replace the bolts you removed and tighten them snugly. Press the brake pedal a few times to make sure you have solid brake pressure. The first pump or two will be soft as the piston finds its new starting point on the back of the pad.
Now it’s time to put your wheel back on and to make sure that you tighten all of the lug bolts. Now double check your lug bolts just for an added safety measure. 

Last but definitely not least  take a look at your brake lines. Rubber coated lines should be soft and supple, not cracked and rigid. If you see cracks in flexible brake lines they will need to be replaced.  Also be sure to inspect the hard metal lines. These can become corroded, especially in snowy regions where chemicals are used on the roads.

Your brakes are very important. Brakes are no place to get skimpy. If you need to replace a broken and brittle or leaking brake line you will want to do it sooner rather than later.

Before you begin, be sure your car is safely supported on jack stands. Remove the wheel and you're ready to get busy. The rubber brake line attaches to sturdier metal parts, usually connecting two metal parts at a point that needs to be flexible.
The connection consists of two halves with hex-shaped fittings. In other words, you need two wrenches to get them apart. Put a wrench on each fitting, and loosen the connection. have a rag handy to catch the brake fluid as it leaks out. Installing the new brake line is the reverse of removal. Carefully hand thread the connection together and once it's hand tight you just use two wrenches to finish the job.

With the new brake line installed, you'll need to add brake fluid to the system and bleed the brakes. It is a good idea to replace brake lines in pairs because if one line goes bad the other one isn't far behind. If you're really lucky, you have two flexible lines at each axle. That means twice the work. so don't skimp on your brakes.

We hope you’ve enjoyed Car Maintenance chat this week! We want you to come back and visit us often!

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5 comments:

  1. This is PERFECT...I love the way you added some humor to it!

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  2. Very detailed! But one word of warning make sure you have the right tools!

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  3. Sounds to hard for me to do but great tips for those that are into do it yourself car repairs

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  4. wow great topic and good detailed information

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