In the world we live in, we cannot simply afford to put new into everything that is old and breaking down. As mechanics we shouldn’t have to, and we won’t! I was approached recently with a problem with a PT Cruiser I own of pulling more to the driver’s side when the brakes are applied. Sound like a no-brainer right? Caliper locking up on driver’s side, BOOM, done; go home. I just couldn’t settle for something as simple as that so I decided to investigate further before I spent a ton of money on a new caliper. Upon inspection I notice the passenger side brake pad worn less than the driver’s side so I have a new theory on my problem at hand. What if, and call me crazy if you’d like, the passenger side equipment wasn’t working properly, therefore the stronger side would change the movement of the front end? I was very sold on this idea and immediately started to look for a new caliper at certain shops.
Then there was a thought buzzing in my ear. Soon it became so annoying I just had to listen to what it was saying. “Rebuild it and they will come.” My first reaction is who is ‘they’ and secondly ‘AHH!’ because I am treading new ground for myself on this one. Rebuilding something as vital and small as a brake caliper is something I have never even touched base with before in my life, but I was in fact very intrigued. I remember the cost savings as opposed to buying an already re-manufactured caliper and decided it was worth a try. Instead of looking for a caliper I looked for rebuild kits instead and found a myriad of them for sale for very cheap; crazy cheap, my kind of cheap.
So on a beautiful Sunday afternoon I wanted to get started on my project. I grabbed my wrenches and really felt like all was right with the world as I set up shop underground. The planets were everyone aligned in perfect harmony and the seasons came as they should all because this gear head’s hands were one step closer to brake fluid and iron-oxide mixed with metal shavings and possible grease. It was always the possibility of grease that really got my blood a-pumpin’. Two things needed to be accomplished before I tore down this caliper. I needed a spot planned out for the rebuilding, and a cold Mountain Dew needed to be very close by because you just never really know. Everything began perfectly; and removing the actual part was extremely easy–too easy.
In this kit I had two major seals which is all a brake caliper is composed of to be perfectly honest. Yeah there is a piston that goes back and forth, but that is it. It cannot be rebuilt so there is no need to place another one in the kit; unless you wanted to make the price a little higher really. I kept the bleeder valve in the caliper but removed the brake line so I could place the machine on a bench top table. Using compressed air through the brake line hole, I popped the piston clean out of its home, but I must warn you that this is very dangerous and you must be careful of the placement of your hands. I would also advise a catching point for the piston so you do not damage the piston or the caliper. Now, after I have already completed the task, wish I would’ve at least placed a rag across the front of the piston to give it something to slam into. After the smoke and debris dissipate you will see the two seals. One is a dust seal that was located on the piston around the outside and the other is inside cylinder. Both are easily removed and once they are you can begin preparations to clean the contact areas very thoroughly because any small dirt and rust particles can severely damage new seals. For my application I used a lot of brake fluid cleaner and a rag to wipe away everything that really shouldn’t be located on the inside of the cylinder. With the area clean I dab a little brake fluid on my finger and run it around the new inner seal until it becomes lubricated and ready to be applied. After it comes the tricky one.
Now the best way to install a brake caliper dust seal is by placing it onto the piston before you reinstall the piston because if you don’t you will never get that second side of the seal back into the caliper. Period. At this point I am just ecstatic that everything is actually progressing where I wanted it to. With everything put back together I raced back to the car and bolted the caliper back onto the vehicle and attached the hose/line with brand new copper fittings I might add(you always want new ones when you take the line off). With a bleed, a fill, and a cross of the fingers I head out down the road around my countryside to get a feel for what I have done.
After all that it still didn’t fix the problem. I really cannot win for losing in these situations, but I sincerely believe the problem rests in the actual hose itself because I still have brake pad wear issues. As I bled the lines I noticed a complete lack of pressure from the driver’s side so I believe that hose may or may not be my culprit. If only we could rebuild those right? Oh and by the way for all those who wanted to know; how much did I really spend in the end?
The actual brake rebuild kit was just a small amount under $5. The little bit of brake fluid cleaner and the copper gaskets I’d say altogether 7-8 dollars were spent in an attempt to fix a big problem. Awesome numbers honestly to be able to save all that money versus having to just buy outright.
With that I conclude this has been an interesting and eventful attempt to save money and something I love to do. Happy Wrenching.