Sunday, February 06, 2005

PITA and Unitaskers

The next time that I read that an automotive procedure is a real Pain In The Ass I'm going to think twice about doing it myself.

I finally got around to replacing my rear brake pads this weekend. It hadn't been an emergency before Christmas, so I had put off doing it for a while, and finally thought that this weekend would be a good time to get my hands greasy (Figuring that if I got out my testosterone that way, then I wouldn't feel bad about not watching the Super Bowl). I took Ishy on a failed expidition to find Fort Funston in S.F. yesterday (don't go on John Muir Road, it's right off of 35) and got back at 2:00 P.M. yesterday. Figuring that gave me 3+ hours of daylight, and that an hour per tire was a good measure (it was right for the fronts with no experience, so I figure it would be good for the more challenging rears with some experience) I lifted the car and started to work.

All was well until I got to the part where you have to push the fully extended (because the pads are so thin) piston all the way in to make room for the new fuller pads. On the front axle you do this by applying preassure with a C-clamp before you remove the calipers. On the rear axle (since it's where the emergency brake goes), you do this by actually screwing in the piston. And the only grip you get is these two small notches at either end of a diameter.

So there is a 'proper' tool for this (we'll come to that later), but without it you have to do what I did which is to apply about as much torque as is reasonably possible to a pair of needle nose pliers while applying also as much force as is reasonably possible to keep the points wedged into the notches and rotate clockwise. After an hour or more of gruelling work, I finally was able to get the first piston in place and reattach the caliper to the rotor.

The problem is that the last few turns were easy, and so drunk on power I figured that I could get the other one done with plenty of time before the sun went down. Boy was I wrong.

After two hours of grunting and turning I finally conceeded that the dark and hunger were winning. I think part of this was that the other piston had been extended further, and that also the muscles in my hand were a cramping tired mess. I went to get dinner and tried again for another half hour or so with a head lamp before finally giving up for the night.

But, I'm extraordinarily paranoid and live in California, so my mind kept running to thoughts of earthquakes in the middle of the night throwing my car off the jacks and onto it's poor untired rotor. After some extremem mental anguish I went and put the tire back on inspite of it's brake not being attached, just in case it fell in the night.

Anyway, this morning I took a walk to Pep Boys and found the 'proper' tool for the job. Usually I'm against unitaskers (I liked Alton Brown's reasonings here), but this was a $10 tool that was going to save me hours of work, which easily made it a cost effective decision in my book. Anyway the break piston tool (that's really it's name) is a cube with 3/8 inch holes on all the sides (for a socket wrench to attach) and little nubbins of all sorts of shapes to fit whatever your pistons notches happened to look like.

Even with the tool though, the operation was still a major PITA and took anouther half hour of gruelling arm work. Mostly the problems stemmed from not having a third arm (I hate how often that's the case with mechanical work) but eventually I made do. And am now driving with a very safe amount of brake pad on all four tires.

Of course after I violated my poor Sally like that (Lifting her dress and leaving her ass facing the street all night, and then grinding away at her again in the morning), I figured I should give her a treat, so we went to the car wash. She looks very pretty now, I just hope she forgives me.

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