Brake Job Part 1: The Set Up

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by David Horvath
Well, my son Samuel finished up the brakes this past Saturday and they are working fine. The rear drum brakes were in good shape so he only had to work on the fronts. The whole process took about two hours from start to finish and he's justifiably proud of himself. I'm going to break this up into a few posts so let's get started!

By the way; Samuel was under close adult supervision during all procedures. He also wore protective eye wear and gloves when required. When working on your vehicle, always refer to a good, vehicle specific, shop manual to review the procedures before you start.
Follow all safety procedures in the shop manual and read all of the instructions that come with the parts you are installing.

Step 1:  Safety first!

The first step was placing chocks behind the rear tires of the van. These keep the van from rolling backward when it's jacked up in the air. Never jack up a vehicle without chocking the tires. Even a slight movement backward can cause the vehicle to slip off the jack. 

Since he was only working on the front brakes, I had him apply the parking brake as well. This locks up the rear brakes which will also help to keep the rear end fixed in position.

The next step is to break the lug nuts loose. You want to do this before you jack up the vehicle. The weight of the vehicle will hold the tire and wheel in place while you are applying force to the nuts. The whole wheel will just spin if you attempt this with the wheel in the air.

Here's Sam using a Gorilla Power Wrench to accomplish this. It's much easier if you are lifting up on the power wrench. You have more leverage that way.

You only need to loosen them enough to get them moving and then snug them lightly back against the wheel. Do this one nut at a time.  Don't unthread them all the way yet! You'll do that once you jack up the vehicle.
breaking nuts loose


Step 2: Jacking Up The Vehicle

With the wheel chocks in place behind the rear tires, it's time to jack up the vehicle. Refer to your vehicle's owner's manual or your shop manual for the proper jacking points under the vehicle frame.

Carefully set the jack under the proper point making sure there are no wires or lines that could be pinched or damaged!

Here Sam is using a Tire Rack Aluminum Service Jack to lift up the corner of the van. Note the van is on a nice smooth, level surface. 


jacking up the van

Step 3: Jack Stands

Another important safety device is a set of jack stands. Make sure they are rated high enough to support the vehicle weight you are working with. These supports go under the frame of the vehicle to support the weight and to give the vehicle a stable connection to the ground.

It's never a good idea to leave the full vehicle weight on the jack. Most jacks are mounted on rollers that could move causing the vehicle to shift as you work on it.

Once the jack stands are in place you can slowly lower the vehicle off the jack and onto the stands. Do this slowly and watch the stands to make sure they don't shift.

They should be sitting flat on the ground. After they are properly seated under the vehicle, the load should not shift easily. I typically move my jack back up to within 1/4" of the frame just as a backup should something shift unexpectedly.

Step 4:  Remove Lug Hardware and Wheel/Tire

Now the tire and wheel is up in the air and you can remove the lug nuts or bolts. This is pretty straight forward. The Gorilla Power Wrench comes in Handy for this as well.

removing lugs

If you have aftermarket alloy wheels, you may see centering rings sticking to the hub. Make sure you remove them carefully using a flat blade screwdriver. 

removing centering ring

Step 5: Look at the parts!

This is the point of no return. Once you start taking the calipers and rotors apart, there's no turning back. Now is the time to carefully inspect your new replacement parts and to compare them to the parts on the vehicle. You don't want to go any further if you don't have the correct parts right? 

Samuel will be replacing the pads and rotors with Hawk HPS performance brake pads and  ATE Premium One Brake Rotors. He's also going to be replacing the fluid with ATE SL.6 Brake Fluid

He inspected the parts and checked them against the ones on the van. Everything checked out and they look like the parts on the van. He's ready to move on to our next blog post: 


Brake Job Part II: Taking it all apart 

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