Automotive brake repair work can be one of the easiest do-it-yourself jobs for the home mechanic. If you can change your oil and perform other types of basic repair, you can probably handle a brake job. With brake repair costs so high, why not try to save some money by doing the work yourself? That being said, there are a few tips that can help turn a good brake job into a great brake job.
This article will focus on cars with disc brakes at all four wheels.
Once your car is safely lifted off the ground, and the wheels are removed, the brakes are easily accessible. The caliper is usually the first component that must be removed. Generally, there are two bolts that fasten the caliper to the carrier it’s mounted to. Once these have been removed, the caliper can be lifted off of the rotor. It is important not to twist or kink the brake hose as lift the caliper. Letting the caliper hang from the hose is also ill advised. One simple method to get it out of the way is to bend a wire coat hanger into a hook shape and hang the caliper from a nearby suspension component. Once the caliper is secured, remove the old brake pads.
The next step is to remove the brake rotor. Depending on the caliper’s design, it may be necessary to remove the caliper carrier to replace the brake rotor. If this is the case, do so and remove the rotor. If it is stubborn and does not want to come off, some light tapping with a hammer usually helps.
Once all the old components have been removed, it is a good idea to take a few minutes to clean any reusable parts. This includes removing any rust from the wheel hub, (where the rotor mounts) and adding a light coating of anti-seize compound. This will keep the rotor from fusing to the hub over time.
There are two types of brake calipers, each needing an application of grease to keep things moving freely. A floating caliper design moves the entire caliper to squeeze the rotor. A Fixed caliper uses a piston on each side of the rotor to move the pads inward to contact the rotor. All moving parts and tracks should be cleaned and lubricated before new pads are installed.
Since new pads and rotors are thicker than their used counterparts, the brake piston must be pressed back into the caliper before new parts can be added. A large set of adjustable pliers can sometimes be used for this task, but it is always a good idea to use the specific tools meant for this procedure. Since buying the needed kit isn’t always a useful move, casual mechanics will find many auto parts stores will rent a complete kit.
The procedure for rear disc brakes is very similar to the front, but some cars will require a special tool to turn the piston in a clockwise rotation as it is pressed back into the caliper. This tool should be included in any good brake service kit.
Once everything is back together make sure to pump the brake pedal a few times before driving the car. This will push the brake fluid back into the caliper, preparing the system for use. The pedal will feel quite spongy at first, but should become firm after a few pumps.
Every brake job should end with a test drive to check for any abnormal noise or vibration. If it’s your first time, the willingness to ride in a car with a fresh brake job is something that may take a little courage, but the satisfaction that comes with a finished job is worth any tense moments.