Monday, March 3, 2008

Putting on the Brakes

Right before Christmas, I had taken my truck in for routine maintenance. They had told me that my brakes were down to 20% and that it was about time to get them done. Well, it was Christmas time and I'd already spent quite a bit that month, so I decided to wait a month or two to gather up the cash and get it done then. They had quoted me $300 to get them done. I had them done before at another place but wasn't really too happy with the work. My brakes would squeak and every once in a while I'd get a squeaking noise from the front passenger wheel when not braking at all. Well, end of February hits and I start to hear the tell tale sign squeaking noise that tells you "it's time to do your brakes before we start doing some damage." It just so happens around the same time I'm looking at an article on about making a super water gun from PVC pipe, and I see a link to doing your own brakes. This inspires me.

I remember doing my own brakes when I was 17 with a friend, and as I was doing it with him and he'd done it a couple times before, I was fine doing it. 17 was a long time ago and these are brakes after all. If I do something wrong, that could mean crashing. So I'm a little hesitant. I do a little searching and find a site that podcasts weekend One Beer Projects and one happened to be about doing your own brakes. They admittedly state that doing your brakes will take longer then one beer as it's a most of the afternoon kind of thing. It still looks quite straight forward, but a little time consuming. After hearing this and reading the instructables site walk through, I was inspired more.

This weekend was perfect (well as stated before, most weekends during the winter in AZ are perfect) it was 75 out and I had nothing to do. I went to the local auto parts store and picked up some brake pads and other accessories, the day before. I hadn't driven the truck all day so I knew everything was nice and cool. I pull out the jack for my truck and this was the first time I've had to use it, and found out it was a pain in the ass to use. It's a scissor type, which isn't all bad but the way they have this one set up to hook up the arm and winder was very poorly designed. I've used a scissor type jack before, and on that one you had a hook that went into an eye on the jack and then the winder piece plugged into the other end of the hooked shaft. Easy and worked quite well. On the one that came with my truck the shaft had a "T" on the end that attached to the jack. You were suppose to feed one end of the "T" into an eye, while resting the other into a "U". You can kind of see it in this picture:
Basically what happens is the "T" keeps falling out. So using this type of jack is impossible. As it falls out, I notice that on the "U" side of the inlet, one of the legs of the "U" is bending. After about an hour of fighting with the jack to lift my truck, I finally call a buddy who has a quick hydraulic trolley jock. I bribe him to come over with the jack by offering pizza and beer for his efforts. While I'm waiting, I take off the front tire and find getting the pads out a breeze. I check out the rotors and they are in great shape. There are no gouges and there is plenty of metal left. I decide that I don't need to get them turned. I grab the box of new pads only to find out that they aren't he right pads. So my buddy coming over now serves two purposes, bringing the much easier to use jack and drive me back to the auto parts store to get new correct pads. We go back and the computer shows it's the right pads, and we look at other years and it's all the same issue. So I go to another auto parts store and find that I can get ceramic pads for the same price I paid for the wrong semi-metallic. This makes me happy and I get back home, now with the right pads and a very easy to use jack. I pop on the new pads, and put everything back together. Pop off the other wheel and put on the new pads and and the wheel, and have everything done and cleaned up in the time it took me messing with the original jack.

All said and done, doing my own brakes cost me $65, and about 3 hours of my time, including traveling back and forth from the auto parts store, and messing with that horrible jack. I'd say that 3 hours of my time is worth $225. Plus I have the satisfaction that I did it myself. Oh and the new brakes work great.