I replaced the brake pads, and the front calipers and rotors on my car this weekend. It ended up being a much longer and more tiring project than I thought, with some problems to deal with, but I made it. I’m glad I was able to with my health situation. I did struggle at times and thought I wouldn’t be able to make it, but I pushed on and did. I’m thankful my dad helped with much of it. My car is going and stopping much better now.
My car had a long standing issue where the wheels (front and one rear) would sometimes get really hot. I noticed an increase in drag sometimes via weaker acceleration and less braking needed stopping and going down hills. For some months, there was sometimes a fair amount of noise from the wheels, including the brake squeal sometimes. Also, the braking had slowly gotten less and less powerful until it felt like I needed extra distance to stop.
I knew the brakes needed looked at, but my health made it difficult to do it myself or to take it in. I had my dad take it in, but they wanted $1200, including to replace the rear rotors that I replaced last summer. My dad suggested he’d help me do the work.
I ordered the parts, excluding the rotors, from Rock Auto for $250. There’s a core charge on the calipers that I should be able to get some of that money back with. I got Raybestos remanufactured calipers and Power Stop pads. I already had front rotors because I bought the previously but the old ones had ended up being fine. I didn’t get the rear rotors because they weren’t that old. They shipped the parts much quicker than I would be able to make use of them and than they had expected.
The new calipers, looked nice, painted, good piston, assembled on the bracket with greased slide pins. We spent some time trying to put things together with them assembled, but ended up having to take off the caliper brackets. For one thing, they didn’t put the pad mount hardware in the one side, and it took me quite a while to figure out how to get it in without removing the bracket. Then, trying to get the pads in just wasn’t working. The squealer things seemingly had to be bent back to allow the pads to fit, which is what made us take off the caliper brackets. Much easier that way.
The hardest problem with the calipers was getting the old brackets off. The bolts were really stuck. It took us a while to realize we could turn the wheel for better access. One of the bolts broke though, so we had to get new ones. I wanted to just replace them all, but the place only had two. We also had to figure out what to do about the broken off bolt, but we realized that, since we weren’t reusing the old bracket and the knuckle it went through wasn’t threaded, we could just undo the other bolt and then pull off the rotor and bracket at the same time, sliding the broken bolt out of the knuckle. When we went to put it back together, we found that hole through the knuckle wouldn’t allow the bolt to fit, the corrosion had built up so much. We had to Dremel it to clean it out.
For some reason the caliper on one side had a lot more brake fluid than the other. The first side came off and didn’t drip too much. When I took the other side off, I pulled it out without thinking and a large amount of fluid poured all over my pants and the ground. Once we got to a stopping point, I changed my pants and washed off the fluid that soaked through.
My dad did the hard part of the line bleeding. I just pressed the brake pedal over and over at his direction.
Everything in the front together, I took it for a spin, but immediately noticed a scraping sound, and squeaking when braking. Having worked all day up to dinner time and being quite worn, I decided to handle that the next day. A shower, air conditioning, and dinner all felt really good.
The scraping ended up being the backing plate being bent over the bottom of the rotor. I used needle nose pliers to bend it back. The squealing was most likely from one of the pad mounting brackets being slid toward the rotor a bit. I used the pliers again to slide it over without having to remove the pads. The test drive in the rain showed success: No more noise and better stopping.
In the afternoon, after the rain let up, I started the rear pad replacement project. I expected it to be quick, but it was not. The pads on the one wheel had almost no wear. On the other side, the outer pad was worn all the way to metal, while the inner still had a fair amount left. That was the rear wheel that tended to get hot. I checked and greased the slides, but the pins seemed just fine and they slide well enough.
When I went to put in the new pads on that side though, they didn’t want to go in. Even hammering them, it took quite a bit to get them near into place. I brought my dad in for his opinion. It became clear the the surface of the caliper bracket that the pad hardware mates with must’ve corroded so much that it expanded larger than it was originally, making the pads and their brackets not fit properly. Our solution was to remove the brackets and file them down. That took quite a bit of time, but once done, the pads slide right in like they should.
With everything back together, I took it for a spin again. The drag I had been noticing was pretty much gone and it accelerated and coasted like it should. Braking was nice, solid and quick but not grabby. The instructions with the pads say to do a procedure to wear them in properly: Accelerate to 30 MPH and brake to 5 MPH 30 times, with 30 seconds between each braking. I did this some half dozen times, but it really takes a while, and isn’t easy to do on public roads. I will try to do it some more tomorrow.
I feel tired and my back hurts, but I’m glad I was able to get this done. With my health issues, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do that much. Some new meds I’m taking may have helped. It’s also good to have my car fully operational again, hopefully for a while. Well, it needs the exhaust mended, wheels rotated, and oil changed at some point, but those aren’t critical to be done right away. Here’s hoping that my brakes keep sliding as they should and no new issues crop up for a good while.