Workin’ on the Weekend…

June 1, 2010

So with the weekend and the beautiful weather comes a list of project to do around the house.  Vesta, naturally, has her list, which is usually centered around digging in the dirt or hanging bracket for curtains or something.  This past weekend, my list was but a single project:  Brakes on Maximus.

 Maximus is our ’99 Jeep Grand Cherokee, so named because I have pulled a 10,000+ lb trailer over 100 miles several times with him without incident.  (His I-6 engine should only be good for ~half that, but necessity being the mother of stupidity…)  I have Maximus set up pretty decently for towing, with a transmission cooler, PowerStop blank (as in smooth, no slots or cross-drills) rotors and R1 Concepts Posi Quiet ceramic pads.

 The problem with those ceramic pads is they tend to wear out a little quicker than semi-metallics.  And they go from stop-on-a-dime great to stop-somewhere-in-that-field –over-there sucky in oh, a week.  Or less.  And they get LOUD – not the hey-its-time-to-do-your-brakes squeal, but the your-pads-gone-and-your-pressing-the-steel-pad-backer-into-the-rotor chatter.  So new pads and rotors in hand, I set out on Saturday to get this done.

 Did I mention that Saturday was the hottest day of the year that far?

 Normally, this would be a five or six hour job for me (I’m not the fastest turner of wrenches) but as always, there were complications.  My chief problem was that every bolt on every caliper was seized.  Every.  Damned.  Bolt.  How do I define seized, you ask?  Easy.  If after torching and soaking with penetrating oil and the impact wrench turned up to 130 PSI and all of my 350 pounds standing and jumping on a breaker bar with a 6-foot steel pipe extension on it, ½” 20 TPI 1 ¼” long bolt won’t budge, that is what I call seized.  At least one like that on each caliper.  And one of the wheel lugs, just for good measure.  After cutting two bolts off with the angle grinder and drilling out the shafts, at the end of the day, I had two wheels done, and a small pile of broken sockets and ratchets.  Go me.  Go me straight on to continue this on Sunday.

 Did I mention that Sunday was even hotter than Saturday?

 The last two wheels went faster than the first, even through the front passenger caliper didn’t want to compress fully.  More on this shortly.  I got everything back together and Vesta and I went on a little test drive to bed the brakes.  Or I should say, we tried to go for a little test drive.  After about 2 miles, when the little lady in the Accord pulled up next to us at a stop light and yelled out “your wheel is smoking, and it smells funny,” I turned around and sulked home.  Being after 9:00 PM on a Sunday, I knew I’d have to wait until the next day to finally get that seized caliper fixed.

 The next day being Memorial Day.  And hot.  And Stormy.  Did I mention that I can’t do any of this in my garage because there’s only a dirt floor in there?

 So apparently the parts stores are clairvoyant, or I got exceedingly lucky, because not only did I find a parts store that was open, but they had my caliper in stock.  More money into this project, but at least I can get my $20 core charge back on the old part…  I also swung by Sears to swap out my two freshly non-ratcheting ratchets for new ones.  They are suckers with that Gaurantee Forever thing.  Oh well, back to work.

 Did you know that when a caliper is seized closed, that no matter how much anti-seize you used on the bolts, it ain’t coming off?  I didn’t, but I do now.  I had to dust off one of my favorite Tools of Mass Destruction, Mjöllnir.  (Yes, we tend to name things.  Keeps our lives…  colorful.)  So after wailing on this caliper for a half hour with a three pound hammer, I gave up and retrieved Mr. Authoritay, Mjöllnir’s BIG eight pound brother.  And with that, the offending caliper finally broke free.  Hooked up the new caliper, put the pads and rotor back and bled the brakes.  Finally done, wasn’t that fun?.  Did I mention it was storming off and on through all this?  Yeah, that fun.

 So what did we learn from all this?  If I’d have had this done by a professional mechanic, I’d be looking at the neighborhood of a cool grand, easily.  The girl at the parts counter said more like $1200, and that was before the caliper.  My cost for parts was about $300, which would have been a lot less except for that caliper.  So I guess I’m ahead, even if I did lose the entire weekend and have to replace a few tools in the process.

 So how did you spend your weekend?



  1. Mainly, listening to an annoyed German wailing on the innermost parts of his car.

    Just when I think I’ve hit the limit of profanity – you start a new project and show me I’m wrong. Oh well, when upset you swear – I rhyme. It all works out in the end.

  2. […] a house, even if you take away his favorite hammer.  A mechanic can still fix your car even his tools break (that was not fun, incidentally.)  In the same vein, self defense is not about carrying a […]

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