Solving Brake Problems
I don’t recommend you rebuild your brake calipers unless they are too expensive or too rare to find on the open market. The truth is that a caliper rebuild kit is pretty much a couple of rubber seals: one seal for the caliper piston, and one for the dust boot. The problem is that often times the caliper piston or bore is so pitted up from corrosion that it will never seal properly when you’re done with your rebuild. You often don’t find this till after you’ve got it apart or after you try to use your freshly rebuilt part and you find out it leaks.
If you’re considering rebuilding your brake calipers, don’t. You’re better off getting remanufactured units and installing them. That way you know you can rely on them to do their job. To give you an idea what you’re up against, here’s a video I made on brake caliper dissection.
Replacing rear calipers is similar to replacing front calipers. In some cases you might also have to deal with the parking brake assembly; that’s what creates the most difficulty when performing this service. Here are two videos on replacing rear calipers. One involves the parking brake assembly, and the other does not.
Some brake rotors are held on with screws or other fasteners. These can rust into place and be very difficult to remove.
I’ll start by saying that some disagree with this method because they don’t like the idea of hitting two hammers together. I have not had issues doing this, but I strongly urge you to use safety glasses when performing this procedure. For starters, see if you can get your hands on an impact driver. It’s much easier to use this tool to remove stubborn brake rotor screws.
If the impact driver doesn’t work, place the ball end of a hammer on the rotor screw. Strike the hammer on the screw with another hammer a few times. This normally breaks up the rust and frees the screw.
If that doesn’t work, I use a punch and a hammer. I start by hammering the punch into the rotor screw. I then change the angle of the punch so that when I strike it with a hammer, it moves in a counterclockwise direction. Honestly, I prefer an air hammer to hand tools for this, but hand tools will work in a pinch. I’m often asked if you need to reinstall these screws; you don’t. Once you bolt the wheel down, the rotor will be held in place just fine. They install the screws at the factory to make it easier to install the brake components. Installing the screws makes installing the caliper and brake pads easier, but it’s not necessary. Here’s a video on the process.
I would wager most of you wish drum brakes were never invented. Truth be told, drum brakes can be better than disc brakes in some applications. In fact, drum brakes last a very long time, which means you won’t need to service them nearly as much as you would disc brakes. In fact, I’ve seen drum brakes last more than 100,000 miles. So even if you have difficulty with drum brakes, at least you know you shouldn’t have to worry about them again for some time. Here’s a video on the basic parts of a drum brake setup that will help illustrate some of the topics covered later in this article.