Why geeks should not do brakes!

For those of you that don’t know yet, the rear driver-side brakes on my Nissan Altima 3.5SE seized last week. I took the car into the dealership and even though they admitted that the brakes were seized, they let me know that it’s not covered under warranty! Turns out, I didn’t properly maintain my brakes… funny, never had this problem with any of my other cars. The Altima is only at 43k. Oh well, so I asked them for a quote on the work to be done. With taxes and everything, $600.00! The parts alone were quoted at $420.

I didn’t like their attitude at the dealership so I decided to see if I can do the work myself. I managed to source the parts for about $180 tax in and then spent about another $140 or so on tools (yay, tools). Melle was a great help, driving me on Saturday morning to pick up the tools I needed and leaving me some great Peet’s coffee 🙂 Thanks Melle!

So on Sat. morning, I get to work. I start by getting all my tools lined up and jacking up the car. I had to use a non-approved jacking point on the frame so that I can lower the car onto a jack stand. After, jacking the car up off the ground, I hear the sound of metal bending! I look under tha car and see exactly why that is not a jack approved hoist point! I swear a bit and keep going. I manage to lower the car onto the jack stand and take another look at the underside of the car. “Brilliant, the tire isn’t even off and I already have damage” I think. Oh well, on we go.

I start taking the bolts off and realize that there’s a lock bolt on the tire. Spend the next 30 minutes stripping the trunk bare, looking for the lock socket. I can’t find it… more swearing takes place, when I remember I put it in the glove box for safe keeping about a year ago. I go look and it’s there — yay! The work continues.

The wheel is off the car now and I’m examining the brakes like some professional mechanic that knows what he’s doing. I find the caliper bolts and get to work on taking the caliper off. Find the right socket and try to undo the bolt. No luck, it’s seized as well. I start hurfing on the socket wrench with the other wrench, nothing’s moving! A hammer, that’s what I need. I spend the next 30 minutes looking for a hammer. I own no less than 4, but can’t find any of them! Ok, back to the car. I get a bigger metal rod and use that as my hammer — it works! the bolt loosens and I manage to get it out. I’m feeling a bit better and more accomplished now.

On to the second bolt. The design of the car is such that you cannot fit a socket wrench onto the second bolt. All sense of accomplishment I’ve gained so far is lost. I manage to rig something up with a socket extender and try and open the bolt. If you’re thinking that this bolt was seized too, you’d be absolutely right! The fact that I’m using a socket extender means that hitting the socket wrench with a big metal rod isn’t doing anything but making the whole socket assembly fly off the bolt, ricochet off the inside wall of the wheel cavity and hit me square in the shin! Now I’m pissed and hurt and swearing much more colourfully now… only to look up and see that at that very moment a woman with 3 young children is walking by my driveway. They’re all stopped and looking at me, she’s got a very disapproving look on her face. I pretend I didn’t see her and move on. After digging in my garage for another 20 minutes looking for a 19mm wrench I decide to just go an buy one. Seeing that my car is in pieces, I have to walk.

1 hour later, I’m coming back from my walk to Canadian Tire, I have a 19mm wrench, some WD40, and brake fluid (which I didn’t use, but bought because it would have sucked to have to do that walk again). I get the wrench out, put it around the bolt and with one hit of my trusty metal rod, the bolt gives way. Goes to show you that it’s all about having the right tools.

Once the caliper was off, I figured I was home free. So… I get around to reading the instruction. It says “tap the brake rotor lightly with a wrench or hammer to release it”. Since we’ve already established that I DON’T have a hammer… I use the wrench. Tap a couple of times, nothing. A couple more, nothing. Maybe a bit harder, nothing. Really hard now, nothing. However, the metal on metal sound is starting to cause serious damage to my ears. I take a break and get some ear plugs, yes I have ear plugs, I bought them when I was using a concrete nail gun, a story for another day. Now that my ears are safe, I start really going to town on this brake disk! 5 minutes later, nothing! Obviously, I need a hammer, but I refuse to buy another one and no, I will not walk to Canadian Tire again, thankyouverymuch! I go digging through my garage and find the perfect tool. I have a 10Lb crow bar! The thought of using such tool on my luxury car has crossed my mind as being… well… stupid, but I’m pissed! Ears protected, I get back to it. 2 minutes of heavy hitting and the thing comes loose. At this point, as is appropriate for man that has conquered  the elements, I jump up and do my little happy dance. Now to actually take the disk off the car, I grab it and pull, nothing! It’s stuck! Lesson learned? No happy dance till the disk is actually OFF the car. I try to be gentle, nothing. I bit more aggressive, nothing. So… I loose it! Crow bar in hand I start pounding away at the thing. The disk makes a little twang noise and goes flying right into my groin! Needless to say, no happy dance.

Replacing the parts should have been easy, except for the fact that had I read the instructions before going to Canadian Tire, I would have found out that I needed a C clamp to compress the caliper piston so that I can fit the new pads in. Luckily, it was just at that moment that my mom came by to visit. Perfect, one more trip to CT and I don’t have to walk! C clamp in hand, the rest of the work proceeds without further incidents or injuries.

I lower the car down, knowing full well that there’s still the passenger  side to do. When I remove the jack stand I realize that the thing has dug itself into my driveway forming a nice little crater. I look at the damaged driveway and at this point, I’m not even phased.

I take a break to hang out with mom and chat about our upcoming trip to France and to calm down a bit. I then proceed to start working on the second wheel. Believe it or not, that one went right according to the text book. 20 minutes and I was done!

Conclusion? I ROCK at doing brakes!


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