On Wednesday I was taking my neighbor Colin to the airport for a trip. On the way we noticed a noise from up front, probably the brakes. Of course, Colin is the auto guy, not that I can’t find my way around under the hood. Still, I bounce questions off him, even if I think I know the answer.
I pulled into Costco which was close to the airport and could see that the rotor on the front passenger side was damaged. On cars with disc brakes, the rotor looks like a flat smooth disc. The brake pads push against the front and back of this and create friction to slow you down and stop. This one rotor looked like Saturn with its rings. The pad on that side had worn down and scored the surface badly. The wear indicator is a piece of metal attached to the brake pad that usually hovers over the rotor. As the pad wears, that indicator moves closer to the rotor and finally starts scraping the outside on the rotor. That noise is a warning that you need to replace the pads. For some reason the wear indicator didn’t work this time.
I pulled into O’Reillys Auto and they didn’t have the rotor in stock and it would be there tomorrow, being sent over on the daily delivery truck from the store in Hilo. The clerk also mentioned that I should measure the brake pads because there are two sizes.
On the way home I tried my best not to use the brakes. I did that by downshifting into a lower gear before stepping on the brakes. The brakes were stopping the truck anyway however I was trying to mitigate damage.
By the time I got home it has started to rain so a closer investigation was out of the question.
In a perfect world I would have a concrete pad or driveway to work on the car. In my world there is a semi-flat area somewhat near the house on top of lava rock. It takes all I can to pull the jack along and get it situated under the truck. This jack has 4 wheels and works best when it can move slightly to balance itself as it raises the vehicle. I have to preposition things if it does not go up smoothly.
I just got new tires all around and these are a bit larger than the last set. I noticed that there is a spot where the tire rubs against the wheel well and have to remember not to twist the wheel all the way when turning.
I got the brake caliper pulled away from the rotor and popped out a pad. I had forgotten to ask which measurement I needed so I took a photo of the pad along with a ruler. I probably should have had my glasses handy. Then I reassembled the brakes. Soon I got a call that my parts were in. Again playing the downshift game I headed to town. Turns out I have the larger pads in my truck. I could have paid for both types and returned the ones that were wrong, but by taking the assembly apart at home I assured myself that there was nothing else I needed, save for a C clamp. These are used for compressing the pistons so the thicker new brake pads fit. When you step on the brake pedal the fluid presses these pistons which push the pads against the rotor. Next time I’ll buy the brake clamp that works betetr than C clamp I got.
As I was leaving O’Reillys parking lot I got a call from Costco saying that I had left a set of keys there when I got new tires a while back. With trepidation (and squealing brake noise) I decided to get the keys even though it was a mile the wrong direction. I also picked up some meat and break for the Friday pot luck get-together the next night.
As I neared the house it started raining hard enough that I knew I wasn’t going to get any brake wok done.
So this morning I put the truck in position, lugged the jack over and again disassembled the passenger side wheel. The caliper came off easily but I had to hand the assembly out of the way because I didn’t want to have to remove any hoses.The pads came out and I set them aside. The rotor did not want to come off. I headed inside to look up a video on Youtube. Because my truck has 4-wheel drive, there may be a different procedure I need to follow. It turns out that the non 4-wheel drive rotor has a nut you need to remove but with my vehicle one just needs to bang the back of the rotor to loosen any rust that may be holding it. Since I was not planning upon reusing the rotors, I could bang. It came off in just a minute or two.
The new rotor slips back on the lugs and I used a lug nut to hold it in place. After a bit of finagling I compressed the pistons, got the new pads in and got the caliper assembly back on. It took almost as long to find one clip that I misplaced to finish that side.
Getting all the equipment and tools together and tackling that one side took a couple hours. I started the engine and tested the brakes. All seemed fine. Because of a pain in my hip, I opted to go inside and watch a bit of TV.
I headed back out and jacked the drivers side up. It is a mirror image of the other side as you might have guessed. It went a lot faster and I was done on that side in less than an hour.
A bit more TV and then I made sandwiches for the pot luck. I headed down to the park but with a couple of the neighbors on trips, I was the only one there and left just before sunset. Now I have a plate full of sandwiches to eat. Some will go to the trash as I can only eat so much.
So how much did the brake job cost me?
I got the pair of heavy duty rotors for $170. The brake pads cost $44 but I got $20 off because I turned in 2 car batteries I found for a gift card. So out of pocket was less than $200 for parts and if I had to do the job again today would have taken just a couple hours of work. Once you do a brake job like this you find that it can be pretty easy. Granted there can always be unexpected issues that crop up and hidden problems not anticipated, but someone handy with tools and a view of the proper Youtube video could have done this.
Online forums suggest $350 to $400 or more for replacing the front pads and not including new rotors. I think this would have been a $600 job with the better rotors at a dealer.
A video showing how easy it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpH8LVcAlxw
That clip he removes at 4 minutes in is the one I misplaced but finally found.
The video makes it look pretty easy doesn’t it? It really can be that easy! I am not a mechanic but have worked on various vehicles over the years. I guess my first time was changing spark plugs in 1969 or so. I also worked at a service station and did repairs. The gasoline was about 29 cents a gallon at the time! I did oil changes, tire repairs, replaced a radiator and so on back then. Over the years I have replaced brakes, belts, alternators, radiators, hoses and sensors for speed, oil pressure and so on.
I once had a disagreement with a dealership. My Honda Passport would not stay in cruise when the cruise control was on and the speedometer was erratic. The shop mechanic at the dealer said I needed to have the dashboard replaced because the speedometer was an integral part of the system. I told him bull, it sounds like the speed sensor to me. I could not get him to relent, so I went to the parts department and had them order me a speed sensor. In this vehicle, there is a sensor that it attached to the transmission. As the vehicle moves, it sends pulses to the computer. The computer changes that pulse to a voltage which moves the meter on the dashboard. In older cars they had a cable that as the vehicle moved, the cable twisted and moved the needle on the dash. Now the computer doe that electronically.
Had I not had the cruise control and the computer, I probably would have gone with the suggestion to replace the dashboard speedometer. However, in this vehicle the computer looks at the pulses coming from the sensor and notes the voltage it produces. Then as the vehicle moves, it adjusts the amount of fuel going to the engine to keep that voltage at the same level, thus essentially making the vehicle move at the same speed.
Having a bit of electronics background can help you quite a bit these days with vehicles. I never thought that I would ever get in a disagreement with an expert in cars and be right. Stranger things have happened!