Having replaced some of my own brake parts a while back and realizing just how easy it really is with disc brakes, a friend of mine needed a complete front brake overhaul and the auto shop he went to wanted $650. He ain’t exactly car literate so when he told me about it, and he has a Ford Taurus just like I do, I told his ass not to pay them shit and let me do it. More specifically, we did it together so he could learn from the process. What should have been an hour or two took us the better part of the day due to unforeseen circumstances. When you’re doing something like this yourself, you always gotta add on that extra time anyway just in case shit goes wrong and something usually does.
It took us about seven hours total from start to finish to get the job done right. Like I said, it shouldn’t have taken any more than two considering that I was showing him how to do things so he’d know for himself. First thing first was the diagnosis. He went to Pep Boys and they tried to rape his asshole dry. That’s how they get you. The uninformed get screwed hard. They tried to sell him on ceramic brakes and a fluid flush. For an A and B car, you don’t need to do all that shit. You just want high quality at a low price. You don’t want shit you don’t need. A daily driver with a couple of years left on it, you ain’t trying to put hundred dollar brake pads on it and a fluid flush is mostly unnecessary when you still have clean fluid in the cylinder.
He did have a very serious grinding problem with one side and if you do one side, you gotta do both. Since he needed all the hardware replaced (we reused the old mounting brackets), the next step was to gather the parts and tools. We had to get rotors, pads, and calipers. Once again, Advance Auto Parts (AAP) was the best way to go. They had quality parts in stock at the best price. A $50 off promo code helped knock the price down further. A bottle of brake fluid was on sale for less than 2 bucks. We needed needle nose locking pliers to clamp the brake fluid line to stop it from dripping out (which negates a fluid flush). And a piece of rubber hose to put over the teeth of the pliers so that they wouldn’t tear into the fluid line when clamped. Total cost for everything? Get this…$150! I shit you not.
Sure, if you got the dough and wanna pay the big boys to do your shit, feel free to do that. But if you ain’t rollin’ like that or if you’re more comfy doing your own shit like me, then save the time and money and get your hands dirty. Think about it. You gotta wait for them to put it up on the rack and then gotta wait for them to do the repair. With this type of repair, the time would’ve came out to about the same when factoring in getting and returning the parts (core charges). A bonus for me was using the AAP referral program. When my friend bought the parts online (I told him what to get), I became eligible for a $10 Tango gift card because he used my referral link.
Parts and tools were ready. Only thing left to do was the repair. The first problem was putting on one of the calipers. Believe me when I say that it matters what side they go on. Right goes on the right side, left goes on the left side. Period. We screwed up and tried to put the right on the left at first but we figured out what the problem was. The thing is, the banjo bolt assembly won’t go on if the proper caliper isn’t installed. That’s a good feature. It ensures that you don’t put things where they don’t belong. All was going well after that until the next problem arose. You’d think that exact fit parts would be an exact fit but the new caliper bolts were a different size than the original ones. We couldn’t use new bolts on old pins. The reason we were gonna use the old pins is because one of the calipers didn’t come with new ones. We thought nothing of it at first but it became one of the biggest issues.
Because the bolts aren’t interchangeable, my friend screwed one in to the point of stripping it and once we figured out why it was doing that, it took a good hour to get that new bolt out of the old pin. We couldn’t go any further without getting that done. Lucky for us, the other caliper set had the pins and everything else it was supposed to have with it so we used that to finish that side of the car. I got a brake fluid facial when he was pumping the brakes to bleed the line. Shit flew onto my face like a Peter North cumshot. That’s one part where it helps to have another person (when tightening the bleed valve) and that’s to make sure no air is in the lines. You also gotta make sure the banjo bolt isn’t dripping any fluid either. Another person comes in handy for that too. Unfortunately, the socket I used to tighten it split. And an adapter end broke. I know. Cheap fucking metal.
Thing is, I had those tools for years. They served their time, I suppose. This is what I was talking about earlier. You gotta factor in time for the unexpected. The adapter broke first and we couldn’t continue without it. Had to hit up AutoZone (since it’s closer to home than AAP) to get a new one. After we finished repairing the one side, we went to AAP to return one of the calipers for the core and buy a new socket. After that, he saw just how easy the repair really was and we thought replacing the other side would be a breeze, and it should have been, but it wasn’t. And the reason for that is because his fucking rotor was rusted and stuck.
Let’s go back to the completed brakes. Some websites like to overcomplicate a simple process. You know those motherfuckers online who think because they’ve been doing something for so long that they swear they know what the fuck they’re talking about and you don’t? Well, fuck them. YouTube will definitely be your friend when it comes to DIY auto repair but look at more than one video because some of those guys just make you work harder than you really need to and make you spend more money on unnecessary tools and parts. You wanna know why they do it? Because some of them are in bed with the industry. They don’t make shit for money when you do your own damn work so they say what they say the way they say it to discourage you from wanting to take on the task. When that happens, that’s when you wanna pay someone else to do it. Someone like them. You wanna get what useful information you can but you gotta know how to weed out the crap from the good stuff. That’s also advice you wanna apply to your dating life.
Buy only what the fuck you need to finish the job. We thought we were ready to wrap shit up quick but a stuck rotor was a total surprise. I’ve never even heard of it happening before, much less seen one and had to deal with it. The hammer method? Nah, don’t bother with that stupid bullshit. Tried that and it does nothing more than make you look and sound like a retarded fucking blacksmith. I hit up YouTube again to find a solution and the absolute best one was the nut and bolt method. You can look it up yourself. It’s easy to find plenty of vids on it but once again, don’t let certain videos make you spend more than you need to. All you need is 2 long bolts and 4 nuts with about the same or slightly smaller measurements as the original parts and that’s it. Just make sure the ones you get are made of quality metal.
When we decided to try the nut and bolt method, we went to Home Depot for the parts and I fucked up and got bolts that were too big. That was my bad but it doesn’t have to be yours. Learn from my time-and-gas-wasting mistake. We had to go back and got smaller bolts, tried the method out, and it fucking worked like a charm. Simple and easy but one of the bolts broke because it was made of cheap metal. It didn’t matter to us at that point because the rotor was already off and the bolt was piss cheap but so you’ll have quality spares available the next time around, spend a little more for higher quality metal. It’s like bicycle spokes that keep breaking. I had that problem in the past and it turns out the spokes I was using were made of cheap metal. I upgraded. By doing so, that meant spending more and not a damn spoke has broken yet and it’s been a long time. Sometimes you gotta spend more for quality goods and that’s okay. You get what you pay for. The rotor debacle was more time wasted, over an hour, on something that ended up being simple but it only becomes simple once you’ve experienced the simplicity. Encountering these issues for the first time can be overwhelming but ingenuity always comes out on top.
Once we got that side put back together, we gave the car a test spin. Where he had grinding, jolting vibrations, and slow stops with the old brakes, the noise and vibes disappeared and the stops were fast and confident with the new ones. So confident, in fact, that he began driving more recklessly, damn him! I’m not saying that in a bad way. For him, it was relief, a shitload of money saved, and a job well done. You know how it is when you accomplish something big and to celebrate a brake job repair, you fucking use them. You gotta make sure they work for your driving habits. Panic stopping from a high speed is a good way to test them out and I’m talking interstate. Just make sure ain’t nobody anywhere near behind you when you do it. Drivers beside or in front of you will look at you like you’re a fucking maniac when testing the new brakes but they can kiss your ass. People waiting at the bus stop can too. Especially them. You ever had someone with no car talk shit to you about yours? I know I ain’t the only one. You just fixed your own damn car, learned something new, and kept some money in your pocket. Congrats!
It was a long ass day but it was a successful one and that’s what matters most. Not just saving the money but getting the job done the right way, not half-assed. You know the quality of the work and you know exactly what parts went in. That’s something you don’t get at an auto repair shop. They’ll show you your old part sometimes but the new one? Doesn’t happen often, does it? My only complaint is that auto parts retailers don’t recycle parts like rotors and pads. They simply trash them which is what we had to do with his old brake parts and that’s disappointing. No one is gonna tell me those parts can’t be broken down and reused for something. I think they should be mandated to recycle not only the fluids that come back to them but also the parts. I’m not saying something like rotors should have a core but that’s a big chunk of heavy metal going to a landfill and I believe that’s wrong. A company with vision will change the industry someday and find a way to make it happen. We all benefit from recycling.
What, you think I did the job for free? HA! Yeah, right. I got paid for my time and effort but I didn’t drain him like Pep Boys tried to do. He’s my friend and I got a fair payment for my work while allowing him to keep way more money in his pocket than he ever would have anyplace else for such a task. I will say it’s nice that some car features are designed to let you know exactly what’s wrong with no guessing and that helps make a diagnosis and repair so much easier. We’re both Ford Taurus owners. It’s a good car. Easy to fix. Safe in an accident. Reliable. You can say the same thing about a lot of cars as long as they’re taken care of. Another thing about repair shops is that some of the sleazy ones will fuck something up in your car on purpose to get you to come back for that repair or they might fuck it up on the spot. Or if they feel you’re an idiot, they’ll try to upsell you on something you don’t need like new tires when your old ones still have years of life left in them. Knowledge is power. Know your car so you don’t end up getting hosed for $650 for a $150 repair.