Brake Repair 2014   Leave a comment

I’m having car problems again.

This probably sounds like it’s not significant, or like I’m talking about a problem that everyone has. And, to an extent, it is. It falls into that special type of things that happen to everyone that feels like it comes up an awful lot for me, though. Plus I need something to talk about on the ol’ blog today, and I’d be a fool to pass up such an obvious topic.

I was having a brake problem on both sides of my car, with the front-left brake grinding a bit and the front-right brake seizing a bit. These problems were more pronounced for people who weren’t as feather footed as I am, but they were steadily getting worse even with the lightest of touches (and there’s no getting around coming to a full stop at a red light.) After some deliberation with my father, we settled on working on the front-left brake first since it’s possible that the seizing might be caused by the right tire having to work more to compensate for the left tire.

Sidenote about my dad: he’s a real wizard where cars are concerned (in the pinball sense, not the eldritch powers from ancient grimoires sense.) He has no formal training in automotive repair, but he’s picked up so much practical experience over the years due to making his own repairs. This may be related to why I feel like we have car problems so often: he wouldn’t just drop a car off at a mechanic’s shop to pick up the next day, that was always out of our price range. Instead, car problems could take much longer and the broken down car would always just… be there. And you can’t really use a car that’s not working, so any travel would either involve walking or calling someone for a lift. The good news from this is that brake jobs are a snap. Usually. Anyway, my dad’s an invaluable resource when working on cars.

The first difficulty was an oddity with the lug nuts holding the tire in place. (I’m probably going to use the wrong word at some point. I’m fine with this.) Instead of spinning wrench and two pipes to give us increased leverage on the crossbar. By standing on the end of this custom-built lever and making nervous hopping motions I was able to loosen one of them enough to move. The other one required fire.

Fire is useful in jobs like this. Heat causes metals to expand, and applying a propane flame to one of the stuck lug nuts could help to loosen it. It’s the same science behind why holding a stuck pickle jar under hot water can loosen the lid.

When we caved in and finally tried this science fire, another application of a wrench, two pipes and my feet made it work (easier than the other one, actually.) With that, we finally had the tire off.

Things got complicated again when we got to the actual brake disc. Instead of sliding off the five lugs like an idealized dreamland car part that functions exactly as shown in the Haynes manual, it appeared that the brake disc was all-but fused to the structure behind it. (Sidenote: I recently learned from Rhett and Link’s Good Mythical More that when metal is in space, it instantly fuses to other metal that it touches. It doesn’t happen on Earth (or on metal taken from Earth to space) because we have a handy layer of oxidation on it. Hearing my dad use the word ‘fused’ in this context made me think of space metal, and a little worried about how permanent such a fusing might be. Fortunately, we weren’t repairing our car in space.)

After 10W40 failed to loosen the brake disc into the aforementioned dream part we tried building a contraption that would make Rube Goldberg proud. It used two wrenches (to clamp onto the brake disc), two car jacks, and a long metal pipe. One of the car jacks was just a stabilizing metal of the appropriate size, and the other was used as a prying device by orienting it vertically instead of horizontally. On paper, it would theoretically be possible to use the jack’s lifting ability on the pipe, which was connecting the two wrenches. The wrenches would be pulled back by the pipe, causing the jack’s strength to transfer to the effort. It was pure genius.

When our marvelous machine fell apart, we tried fire again.

After heating the elements that we were worried about (and nervously keeping away from other elements… it wouldn’t do to have some of the parts there under flame as it could lead to even more problems if we weren’t careful. Never play with fire, kids) we recreated our Marvelous Pulling Machine. The MPM mark 2 (MPMmk2.0) removed the superfluous jack and made better use of the tire itself as a kind of balancing and staging area. We didn’t get the brake disc off because we were losing daylight. However, the MPM 2 held together. We used a screwdriver to operate the jack, and left the device “under tension” while we left it alone.

There was some stage during this process that I wondered just how much of my love of mad science I can attribute to my dad. I mean, he laughs even more than I do whenever we see Professor Membrane shout that they got the mixture all wrong.

When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to find my dad saying that I wouldn’t need to go about some crazy logistical process to give a ride to someone else so that I could get to work tonight. He said that he was able to get the brake disc off this morning (if I’d slept until noon instead of nine-fifteen it might’ve made me feel lazy). He had to leave to run an errand, and I’m going to wait for him before continuing since it’s apparently more complicated than usual at this stage. He’s still not absolutely certain that he’ll be able to get the caliper on properly, but we’re hopeful.

Worst case scenario, I’ll wind up walking. Which will mean that I won’t carry my laptop. So, if I manage to upload this on the 18th, I’ll have gotten to work in my own car. If I upload it later, it means that I had to walk to work.

Or that I typed this up and forgot to upload it. But when has something like THAT happened?

EDIT: I not only wound up walking, but I also forgot to upload it since I took my laptop with me.  So, I guess it’s a worst of both worlds scenario?  Actually, Easter’s a good reminder that our world probably isn’t the worst.  Happy Easter, everyone!


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