Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Transportation

My journey to maintaining my own vehicles

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You went from changing your brakes to taking the bed off your truck in what?....a month?    I'm sure you realize how cool that is, but I'll tell you anyway, that is!    Obviously it wasn't above your head, but as a second step into auto maintainence it isn't as easy as you make it look.     In fact, IMO, this is beyond calling it maintainence, it is auto repair at this point.    Brakes, wipers, oil changes, tire rotation all are maintainence.    Taking the bed off your truck to replace the gooseneck on your fuel tank is definately not routine work.

Great pics!  New career as an auto mechanice in your future?


--- Quote from: Mountain State Prepper on August 26, 2013, 06:08:16 AM ---Great pics!  New career as an auto mechanice in your future?

--- End quote ---

thanks for the kind words. and no on the mechanic, i'm actually tossing around going the LEO route right now. there's a thread on the work board for that.

i'm thinking that working on vehicles is like yard work (to me): i enjoy doing it for myself, or would enjoy helping a friend, but the minute i was doing it and getting paid i would probably hate it. case in point: i like working on my yard, but i hate working on my boss' (part of my job duties).

I love updating this thread because:

1)   It means I’m learning as I go since I’m new to taking care of my own vehicles
2)   It means I’m hopefully helping others get to the point where they are OK to work on their own
3)   I’m usually saving money since shops overcharge for components and I have to pay labor

Today I’ll be posting about my 05 Malibu Maxx.

So let me set the stage for you. Labor Day weekend. My family off on a short road trip to the White Mountains. We drive up to the Show Low / Snowflake area. The Mogollon Rim is beautiful! Great weather. We’re staying at my friend’s BOL with his family and one other… our ‘team’ if you will. Fun, bonding, and good times ensue.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. Time to go home! Sleep in my own bed and sit on my own toilet (I don’t care who you are, everyone misses their toilet). Off we go do drive through the scenic forests and luscious landscapes. Seven and eight percent grades (where’s my motorcycle?) of twisting and winding roads.

To keep my wife happy and avoid going through a guard rail judicious use of the brakes was needed. But about half way home every time I applied the brakes my driver side front wheel sounded like it was going to rip itself away from my car. The steering wheel would vibrate and shake and frankly it was pretty scary given the driving conditions.

Side note here: our car is a manumatic – the type of transmission that is generally an automatic, but it gives you the option to shift like a stick… with the push of a button… and no clutch… so you can pretend like you’re speed racer… I guess. Before this trip I thought it was a stupid novelty item and never used it. But in order to curb my speed it actually came in handy. I was able to keep the car in a lower gear and that helped to keep my speed down and reduce the use of my brakes. Figured I’d drop that bit of knowledge on you before I got into today’s repair.

OK, back to the meat and potatoes.

I got home and thought maybe it was the CV joint, especially since during the last oil change I was told I had a leak somewhere on my front axle. I looked everywhere and couldn’t see a leak at all. I also couldn’t break the axle nut since I’m weak and had no impact wrench so I decided to get the rotors checked out since they looked pretty rough and they were pretty old.

Sure enough the driver rotor was worn unevenly and while machining it might have done the job, I opted to get new rotors and install them. Here we go!

First thing is to make sure you have good tools. My jack decided to crap out on me today so I had to go buy a new one. Not too big a deal though since I needed jack stands and the parts store had a combo.

Note: never get under your vehicle with just a jack!!!! If I had been under there when my jack failed I would have been in a world of hurt, maybe dead. Use jack stands or something else to keep a vehicle up!

Here are my new toys:

And here is what we are going to be disassembling and working with today.

Note: I didn’t take any pictures of removal since I was in a hurry to get the parts checked out, that’s why my rotors look brand new even though I’m writing this as a tear down.

On my car there are two components that need to be removed to change brake pads and rotors. There is the caliper which holds the brake pads and the piston which attached to the caliper. Each has two bolts that need to come out. Also it helps to remove the mount that the brake line attaches to so you have more play with moving the parts around.

Here is a nifty trick when taking stuff off, put on lug back on in order to keep the rotor from flopping around and being a pain in the rear.

First the piston housing. The two bolts are in red. Remove those and the housing moves freely.

Also let’s remove the brake line mount from its position so we can move things around better.

So now the piston is free. You can see that it is hollow – this piston needs to be pushed back in, we’ll do that a little later. Just a note that my rear pistons are solid and those had to be turned back in like a screw, make sure you know how yours go in so you don’t damage anything.

Let’s hang the piston out of the way, the struts are a great place to do this:

Now let’s get the caliper off. There are two bolts for those (different size from the piston on my car)

Once the bolts are removed this piece slides right off. Here is what it looks like by itself (brake pads installed)

There was a ton of red grease crap all over everything. I cleaned all of that off. Also this is a great time to take a wire brush and go over the caliper, piston housing, and wheel axle and clean up everything. There is a ton of dirt and crud in there. You may want to wear a mask as you are basically brushing and blowing powdered dirt everywhere.

OK, now that we have the dirty stuff clean it’s time to reset the piston. The beauty of my car and cars with similar brakes is that you don’t have to bleed the lines or even open the master cylinder, as long as you do things slowly.

They make a special tool to do this next step, but why buy a tool you will probably only need a few times when you can rig one up yourself? All you need is a c-clamp big enough to span the piston and a piece of wood, I used a piece of fur stripping that I had lying around. Set it up like so and slowly compress the piston back into the housing.

Be careful of the rubber gasket that is around the piston. You don’t want to rip that. I had a section of it not seat right and bulge out on me. I was afraid of it pinching against the brake pads when I reinstalled it. All I had to do was pump the brakes to push the pistons out and the reset it again. No problem.

Once the pistons are reset it’s time to get the rotors on. You need to clean them as they are shipped in a protective coating of oil. If you don’t clean them I’m told that stuff will gum up on your brake pads and you’ll have a problem you don’t need on your hands.

Brake cleaner and a rag is all you need. Spray the surface that the pads will touch and wipe clean. The brake cleaner evaporates quickly so work quickly, I like to do both sides twice, alternating them front back front back.

Once clean put the rotors on the axel and use the lug nut trick I showed you earlier! It will save you a lot of cussing and headache when reinstalling everything.

Now all you have to do is reverse the process. I didn’t show pictures but make sure you grease the contacts points on the OUTSIDE of the brake pads. So basically on the inboard pad a ring/the center where the piston will touch. On the outboard grease the edges of the pad where the piston mount touches them.

Get everything put back together then hop in the car. Slowly pump the brakes several times. This will push the pistons back out and allow them to operate the brakes. You’ll feel them tense up after a few pumps. Again, do this slowly, I’ve heard if you jam them to the floor you could cause a spike in pressure and hurt the master cylinder.

Once the brake pedal feels good, get the tires on, drop the car, tighten the lugs, and take it for a test drive. I do several long slow braking stops and then a few high speed stops, then as a final test I get up to about 50/60 and jam the brakes to the floor. If you aren’t dead then you did a good job.

What’s this? Another post within minutes of the last? Yes my friends, this thread is almost as good as Oil Lady’s book thread, I keep the updates coming.

Also while on our trip my rear driver side blinker went out. This car seems to run through blinkers like they’re going out of style so this is a familiar fix and a quick one. I probably got this done in under five minutes.

Here’s my light, there are two Phillips screws that need to come out. You can see one in the top and the other near the bottom:

There are two little expanding plastic pieces that help to seat it, but once the two screws are out you can pull the assembly straight out. Then it looks like this:

I need to change the light in the middle

To remove these types of light you just give them a little twist and they come right out. No messing with any individual wires at all, just the harness/bulb socket.

Sure enough, my old bulb burned right out

They bulbs pull right out. Put the new one in and test it before you reinstall everything, that way in case something is wrong you’re not kicking yourself for having to take it apart again.


Put it all back together and now people won’t get mad at you for not signaling your turn/lane change.

Nice write up and photos on the brake job.  That is why I love disc brakes over drum brakes, they are so simple in design and repair.  Your write up illustrates that well.


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