Keeping the Ability to Stop

In preparation for LibertyCon, I had to do some work on the Explorer.  It’s a seven hour drive to Chattanooga from Indianapolis and in the middle of it would be a bad time for something to break down.  Earlier this month I did the oil change and checked coolant and other fluid levels.  Today I did some desperately needed work on the brakes.

Just before the Eclipse this past August I replaced the front rotors and pads.  I didn’t even bother seeing about having the rotors turned–the amount of wear and rust on the rotors suggested they weren’t a good candidate for that.  But more than that, with some shopping around I found that it’s frankly, cheaper to get new rotors than it is to have a machine shop turn them.

Since the front brakes do the lion’s share of the work in stopping the car, I was able to put off doing the rear brakes for a while.    I decided, however, that we had reached the point where it was no longer viable to wait.  I did some shopping again and bought a kit with both rear brake pads and new rotors.  They arrived a few days ago and today I got the rear end of the Explorer up on jackstands (if you’re ever going to work under a car use jackstands–the ribcage or skull that doesn’t get crushed if the jack fails will thank you).  I get the wheels off easy peasy (Helps if you loosen the lugnuts before you jack up the car).

First problem.  You know that cliche about never being able to find the 10 mm socket?  Well guess what?  The bolts that hold the calipers are 10 mm.  And what can’t I find?  Neither a 10 mm socket nor a 10 mm combination wrench.  I have to use an adjustable crescent wrench.  I hate using the adjustable crescent wrench.  Too easy to have it not quite snug enough and round off the bolt head.  However, loosening about half a turn each with the wrench gets it loose enough to spin the bolts out by hand.  From that point a little bit of prying gets the caliper free.

Next comes the rotor.  A few taps with the mallet “breaks” it loose and so I start to pull it off.  It moves a few millimeters and won’t come off any more.

So, problem number two.  Rust on the inner drum of the rotor has created a “lip” which catches on the shoes for the emergency brake.  To get it off requires a combination of a lot of pounding, prying, and application of muscle.

Eventually the rotor comes off.  I spray down the new rotor with brake cleaner then slip it on over the studs figuring given the years of wear and how tight the e-brake shoes were the probably won’t quite fit over the  shoes and I’ll have to look up how to loosen them but to my surprise it slides right on.

I start to put the new pads into the caliper and… problem number three.  I forgot to compress the piston back into the cylinder before removing the old pads.  So I put the old pads back on place as a spacer and cranked it down with a c-clamp.  After that, installation went smoothly.  The hardest part is getting the caliper aligned with the mounting holes so the bolts go in smoothly.  Then back to that damn adjustable crescent wrench to tighten the bolts down and on to the other side.

The other (driver’s) side proved to be a bit easier.  The odd part was that the rotor was significantly thinner than the one on the passenger side.  In any case, it came off easier.  This time I remembered to compress the piston back into place before removing the old pads.

After that it’s a matter of putting the wheels back on, getting the car off the jackstands and onto its wheels, and a short test drive to make sure everything was working smoothly.

Oh, and a nice long shower because all that working on the car and crawling on the ground had me quite filthy.

All was well and it cost me a small fraction of what a shop would have charged.

I just need to replace my missing 10 mm socket and combination wrenches.

One thought on “Keeping the Ability to Stop”

  1. You know that cliche about never being able to find the 10 mm socket?

    I hadn’t heard of it, but now I know why the set I inherited has that one socket “upside down” in the case. “Here I am!”


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