Your Car – Is It Time For New Brakes?

Need New BrakesCommon Signs That Your Brakes Need Maintenance

According to Scott Welsh, owner of Brake Repair Tacoma, while you might not think about this too often, your vehicle’s brakes are a very important mechanism, and for your safety, you should always make sure that they’re working at their top condition. These tips will help you figuring out that you need new brakes.

Use Your Eyes And Ears

“Basically, you can tell there’s brake wear by listening and looking attentively,” says Welsh. By looking, you can examine your brake pads, looking through the spaces in between the wheel’s spokes. There will usually be at least a quarter of an inch of pad pressed against the metal rotor. If you notice there’s less than that, you should probably have the pads replaced or at least inspected.

If you ever hear a high-pitched screeching when applying your brakes, that’s a bad sign as well – it’s the indicator, a metal shim which is there for the purpose of warning that your pads should be replaced. The sound can be heard when you have the windows open, but may not be loud enough that you’ll be able to hear it over radio or the air conditioning, so be aware of it. If you hear this regularly, schedule an appointment with a mechanic as soon as you can.

An exception is if your vehicle has sat for a while after exposure to water, perhaps from washing it or from rain. The moisture might cause a layer of rust to develop on the rotors, which is normal. This thin layer of rust might cause a squeal for a while as the pads press on them. Don’t worry about it, though – this is not at all dangerous, and the rust should soon wear off, making the noise stop.

There are a few other signs of problems with your brakes. Make sure to look out for them when you drive, and should you notice any, it’s a good idea to pay you mechanic a visit just to make sure.

Fading or reduced responsiveness. If you have the impression that your brakes haven’t been responding as well as they should, or that the pedal tends to “sink” toward the floor, you might have a leak in your braking system. It might be a brake fluid leak or an air leak in the hose. A telltale sign of fluid leak is a puddle of fluid at the location you park your car. Brake fluid looks a lot like motor oil, but its texture is a bit less “slimy”.

Pulling. If you notice that your vehicle has been pulling to one side when you brake, your linings might have been wearing unevenly, or there might be some foreign mater in the fluid. You might need a brake adjustment, or to remove the braking fluid and replace it entirely.

Growling or grinding. If you hear a loud metallic sound, you probably have worn your pads down completely, probably beyond any sort of replacement. The noise is caused by the caliper and the disc rubbing together, which will scratch your rotors and create an uneven surface. If this is the case, your rotors will need to be turned, or replaced.

Vibration. If your brake pedal is vibrating or pulsating, you probably have warped rotors. It’s similar to the feedback you get in brake pedals when you do a panic stop and you have anti-lock brakes. This can also be an indicator that your vehicle is misaligned.

Do your brakes need repair or replacement?

If the vibration occurs when you’re braking and the anti-lock brakes aren’t engaged, you probably do have warped rotors, though. These are caused when you brake extensively through a long time, such when towing or driving down a mountain. These conditions create lots of friction, which in turn heats the rotors up, getting them to warp. This makes the brake pads unable to grip the surface evenly, which is the reason why you feel the vibration. When driving under these conditions, stop braking periodically, so you can let your brakes cool off.

Avoid overlooking your brakes’ maintenance, like many owners do. By keeping your brakes in good condition and calibrated well, you can prevent costly repairs on the long run, and even avoid a collision.

Disassembling Brake Pads For Replacement

Brake Pad SetupDisassembling Your Brake Pads For Replacement

1. Get the right brake pads for your car. You can get pads at a local dealership or any local auto parts store. Just tell the professionals your car’s year, make and model, then select a matching pad that fits your budget. Usually, the more expensive pads will last longer than the cheaper ones.

Most of the time, the less expensive pads will be a bit noisier than the “brand name” ones. Some very expensive ones, that have a very high metal content, are usually aimed at the ‘Rally’ market, to be used with specific performance rotors. Avoid these, since they will probably cause wear quickly if used with standard rotors.

2. Make sure your car’s parts are safe to touch before working with them. If you have driven recently, your vehicle likely hasn’t cooled down yet, so your rotors, calipers and pads will probably be really hot – just give it some time.

3. Loosen your lug nuts. Use the lug wrench that’s provided with the jack to loosen every single of the nuts that hold the wheels on the car approximately 2/3 of the way.

Make sure you don’t loosen all tires at the same time. Most of the time you’ll at least change the two pads at the front or the two at the back. It depends, however, on your vehicle and how evenly its brakes wear. In any case, start with the back or the front.

4. Jack the car up with care, until it can comfortably be removed. Check your car’s manual in order to find the right position for using the jack under your vehicle. Make sure you put something to block the other wheels in order to prevent the car from rolling in any direction.

Even though you should indeed place a jack stand under the vehicle’s frame, do not trust it alone. Do the same thing for the other side, so that both sides of your car are supported securely.

5. Finally, remove your car’s wheels. Only finish loosening the lugs and start removing them after the car is raised correctly. Simply pull the wheel straight out in toward yourself, and it should come off.

Should your wheel rims be alloy and on studs, you should clean everything: the stud holes, the studs, the rear mounting surface and the rotor mounting surface, by using a wire brush. Apply anti-seize compound before you refit the wheel.

Here’s a GREAT video about changing your car’s brake pads

6. Then, remove the caliper bolts, utilizing the ring-spanner or socket of the correct size.[1] The caliper should fit over the brake rotor similarly to a clamp, and its supposed to slow the wheel through the use of hydraulic pressure. When the brake pads and the rotors create friction, it will slow the vehicle to a stop. Generally, calipers come in two-piece or one-piece designs. They are secured mostly with two or four bolts inside the axle housing, which is where the tire and the axle fit together.[2] Use the PB Penetrating Catalyst or WD-40 in order to aid removing the bolts.

If the caliper pressure is correct, the caliper at rest should move back and forth a bit. If it doesn’t, it is under pressure, and might fly off as soon as the bolts are removed. Be careful when checking so that your body is not in caliper’s path, even when it’s loose.

Also, look for shims or performance washers in between the mounting bolts of the caliper and the mounting surface. If it’s the case, remove them, and pay attention so you can replace them later. You will have to refit your caliper without the pads, so measure the distance from the mounting surface to the pad, so you can replace them correctly.

Various Japanese cars utilize a two-piece sliding caliper. This caliper only requires that you remove two forward-facing bolts, with 12 to 14mm heads. If it’s the case, you will only have to slide them, and won’t need to remove the caliper.

7. Carefully, hang your caliper by using a small piece of wire at the wheel well. It’s still going to be connected to the brake line, so you should hang it up with a small piece of scrap metal such as a wire hanger, in order to prevent it from putting pressure on the flexible hose.

Brake Repair – Pad Replacement

Pad ReplacementThese are the necessary steps for changing your brake pads on your vehicle. These steps should be implemented after you have disassembled your brakes.

1. Remove your old brake pads. Make sure to note the way the brake pads are attached. They will usually snap in or clip in, and they are attached using metal clips. Remove each of the old brake pads. It may take a bit of effort to pop them out. Work carefully so you can avoid damaging the caliper or brake line as you are removing the pads.

Check your brake rotors for heat damage, cracks, or warps. Make sure to repair or replace them when it is necessary. It is recommended that you replace or resurface your rotors during the process of replacing your brake pads.

2. Put the new brake pads on. Once you reach this step, you can add anti-seize lubricant onto the contact edges and on the back of each brake pad. This lubricant will reduce squeaking. It is necessary to make sure that no lubricant reaches the insides of each brake pad. If lubricant comes into contact with that material, the brake cannot provide sufficient friction. This will make it useless. Once this is done, attach your new pads in the exact manner the old brake pads were attached.

3. Check your brake fluid. If your vehicle has a low level of brake fluid, this is the ideal time to add some. Just make sure you put the brake fluid reservoir cap back on when you are done.

4. Replace the caliper. Begin by slowly sliding the caliber back over the brake rotor. Do this with ease and caution to avoid causing any damage. Replace or tighten bolts that keep the caliper in it;s place.

5. Slide the wheel back on. You can put it into place, then hand tighten each individual lug nut prior to lowering your car.

6. Continue tightening the lug nuts. Once you put your car back onto the ground, use a “star” pattern to further tighten the lug nuts. Begin by tightening one lug not, then move to the one across from it. Repeat this process until each of them is completely tightened to meet torque specifications.

Review your owner’s manual to locate your vehicle’s unique torque specifications. This ensures that each lug nut is tightened properly, which will prevent over-tightening or stop the wheel from coming off.

7. Start your vehicle. Ensure that your vehicle is in ‘park’ or ‘neutral’ position. Pump your brakes about 15 to 20 times to ensure that your brake pads are effectively seated. Replace any brake fluid if needed or inspect the bleeding of brakes section to properly remove old fluid. Replace the old fluid with new fluid.

8. Test out the new brake pads. Drive 5 MPH or less on a noiseless residential street, and then brake as you normally would. If your vehicle comes to a stop normally, continue the test while going about 10 MPH. Continue repeating this test multiple times, but gradually increase your speed to 35-40 MPH (56 KM/H or 64 KM/H). Also perform this test in the reverse position. Performing these tests will ensure that you eliminate any issues with the installation of your brake pads. This helps you confidently drive down main streets and effectively “seats” the brake pads into their proper position.

Keep your ears open to detect any possible problems. Your new brake pads might squeak to some extent. However, if you hear a grinding sound that sounds like metal scraping against metal, you may have your brake pads on incorrectly. If your brake pads are improperly facing out, you should correct them immediately.

Replacing Your Brake Pads – Bleeding The System

Bleeding Braking SystemBleeding the braking system is the last step when changing brake pads.

1. Take the cap off of the brake master cylinder. Brake fluid becomes tainted with dirt and other airborne contaminants or due to the mechanics of your car. The fluid may also draw in moisture from the air, and this will lower the fluid’s boiling point. Prior to changing your brake pads and calipers, you need to bleed brake fluid from the car’s system. However, you need to ensure that your brake fluid is topped off prior to doing this. Inspect the fill line to determine if you need to top off the fluid. Make sure the cap is left off as you bleed the system.

It is necessary to add fluid because you are bleeding the fluid that is trapped in the line – the fluid from the calipers – so it is crucial to maintain a consistent supply in your car’s master cylinder.

2. Determine the bleeding sequence. In most cases, you should start out by bleeding the brakes that are farthest from your car’s master cylinder. Review your owner’s manual prior to doing so. Every car varies in the exact order that this should be done. If you do not have a copy of your car’s owner’s manual, contact a local auto parts store for assistance.

3. Connect a small plastic hose onto the car’s bleeder nipple. Inexpensive aquarium tubes are ideal for this step. Attach the other end of the plastic hose to a pan or small bottle, as this will safely catch the removed fluid. To prevent air from getting back into your car’s system, you should make sure the bottle is held or hung above the calipers. Make sure that gravity is assisting you.

Bleeding your brakes video:

4. Seek help from an assistant who will pump the brakes for you. When the engine is turned off, have this person repeatedly pump your brakes until they are resistant. They should make significant noise to show you that they are resistant. When you reach this point, you should slightly unscrew the bleeder screw. Then ask your assistant to hold down the brakes.

The fluid should start to be drawn out of the hose and into the pan or bottle. When your assistant’s foot reaches the floor, properly screw the bleeder screw back on. Continue repeating this process until you determine that there are no air bubbles left in the plastic tube.

5. Perform a second check to ensure the system is free of air bubbles. If you hear fluid gurgling in your car’s master cylinder while compressing brakes, this indicates that air bubbles are still present. Bleed them again prior to doing anything else.

Auto Repair at Home – Essential Tools

Home Auto Repair ToolsIn some cases, the journey to being a reputable and experienced mechanic starts with a small tool box that has just a few tools. However, with years comes experience that enough time to master which tools are needed to handle various automotive repairs. Nevertheless, as mentioned, every journey start with a small step; likewise, a novice mechanic should have the following essential tools.

While it may be viewed as an obvious choice, it is not something that every beginning mechanic will have more so in respect to quality. The best set would be those from Craftsman; the wrenches have a long life and long-term warranty. I have been using the Craftsman wrenches since I was 17. Personally, I prefer using the metric rather than the standard US size.

The Three Most Common Sizes of Ratchets
The common sizes of ratchets are the small (1/4”), the medium (3/8”), and the large (1/2”). The three sizes have various and extensive usage. Often, a Craftsman starter kit is inclusive of all the three sizes.

Sockets also come in three basic sizes and are available in the short (shallow) or the long types. Each type is a necessary tool for various basic repairs. Just like with the wrenches, the metric will be an ideal choice for all three sizes and length types.

Screwdrivers are the most common repair tools and every mechanic should invest in a Phillips and Flat screwdrivers. The screwdrivers should in an assortment of gauges and lengths. For instance:

a) Stubbed screwdrivers: Are ideal for working in tight space. They are particularly efficient in removing sensors.

b) Normal length screwdrivers: Are often for general use and are mostly placed in the first sections of the screwdriver shelves.

c) Long, skinny screwdrivers: While the standard type of screwdriver is prone to breakages, these screwdrivers are very handy especially when working on those hard to reach jobs.

d) Thick, sturdy flathead screwdriver: It is important to add a sturdy flathead in your screwdriver collection. It is a hammer that you can hit with a hammer and can also be an effective pry-bar for certain small jobs.

e) A small flathead screwdriver: Sometimes, some shops offer these screwdrivers as a free offer; but these screwdrivers are a bit costly. Flathead screwdriver can come in handy when you want something to keep the intake throttle open while doing tune-ups.

f) Torx Screwdrivers: Torx are star-head screwdrivers and are often found on sensors. Such usage will differ among different manufacturers, with some have a more general usage of the Torx screwdrivers than others.

Changing hoses, opening or tightening stubborn connectors are just some of the jobs that mechanics handle using a pair of pliers. The following are the common types of pliers that a mechanic should have:

a) Regular Pliers: It is common to find mechanics having several sets of regular pliers. However, the Vise Grips, and the Needle Nose are a better choice than the regular pair of pliers.

b) Vise Grips: They are an ideal choice for working on coolant hoses and other clamps. Vice Grips are also a handy pair for holding trunks or hoods up in the case where the hydraulic rods are not working.

c) Long and Short Needle Nose: The commonly used pair of pliers in the mechanic shop is the Long Needle Nose pair. However, the short version is also an effective toll for certain repairs.

Here’s a great video about tools for the home mechanic:

A hammer comes in handy when a stuck components needs a proper whack- such as in the case of a stuck rotor. Some of the hammer options to have include:

a) Ball-peen hammer: It is an ideal tool for brake work and other standard purposes.

b) Rubber Mallet: It is the perfect tool for working on surfaces that need a proper whacking yet causing limited changes to the surface (leaving it dent free).

Breaker Bar
Torque has no equal or substitute. Power tools are relatively had to come by for most novice mechanics. However, the Breaker Bar is an ideal tool for working on those tough to loosen bolts.

Pry Bar (assorted sizes)
Just like torque, leverage has no substitute. A pry bar is the tool you need to break apart components that just to do not want to part ways after thousands of miles together.

LED Flashlight and/or Headlamp
Diagnostics and scoping the various elements in the engines will need adequate lighting hence the need to have a headlamp or LED flashlight. The Headlamp will come in handy when you have to work late into the night especially when you have to go underneath the car and need both your hands free for work.

You can find a cheap and expensive version of this tool, but ensure that you buy a Multimeter that actually works without any flaws (can read amperage). The cheap version might lack the capacity to do efficient readings. You can click on the Multimeter picture below to go to activate a link to a good model.

A good number of bolts are never an easy reach. Having different extension will make it easier to handle the job, be it tearing out a transmission or taking off a part that is deep in the engine bay. Extensions are an important option for a good number of jobs.

On the other hand, some bolts might be within plain sight yet hard to reach. Swivels, which bring in flexibility when reaching those bolts will make the work easier.

Whether you are working on the brakes or the wheels, you will need an automotive jack to get the car offer the ground. The most important thing to remember when using the jack is placing in on a stable ground and ensuring that the jack will support the car.

As mentioned the jack needs adequate support and this is why you need to get a good jack-stand. Jack-stands are mechanical tools used to support the weight of a vehicle.

As you perfect your skills over the years, you will discover that your tool collection and understanding of the different uses of the various tools will increase. Just keep in mind that your tools support your craft thus pay for themselves. Each new tool you buy for each job translates to thousands of dollars saved over the years.

Fixing Your Car… And This Site!

Here’s hoping you’re here to join the team at Long Lost Cars as we transition to a new model for helping folks with their auto repair questions. Before we dive right into the specialized car repair and technical info, we wanted to take a little time and invite you to become a regular reader of our content. The posts, articles, and information you will eventually find here are all designed to do one thing… help you fix your own foreign or domestic car or light truck, or help you find a mechanic or automotive technician to fix it for you.

That being said, if you are unfamiliar with the format of a car repair tips website, this one just might be unique in your experience. We’re going to include short posts, full-length articles, ideas, and even videos.

Our editorial philosophy will be fluid, so that we are better able tom adapt to what you, the reader, are actually looking for at any given time when it comes to questions you may have about repairs, maintenance, and upkeep of your own vehicle. Check back frequently for new material.

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