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Fixing Car Brakes

Brakes are one of the simplest things to work on IMHO, but you definately need a manual. For this type of basic work, a Haynes will suffice. Buy new parts, not rebuilt, and spend the extra $10-$15 to buy premium semi-metallic disk brake pads over the standard-built-to-a-price set.

It used to be that you had to really score up disks or drums before they were too far and needed replacement but these days with excess weight such a concern to car makers, you can usually get 1-2 cuts before you have to buy new ones. The rotors/drums just don't have much meat on them to lathe true again. You probably will end up buying new.

When disassembling/rebuilding/reassembling the rear drums, do one side at a time. There are a whole bunch of springs, clips and the like that even though I have done dozens of brake jobs, I still can get mixed up if I don't have the other unassembled side to use as a reference. The pictures in a manual never seem to have enough detail to show you just which spring hook goes where....

Anyway, if the parts that Midas said needed replacing actually do, then $700 probably is not too much to pay. You can probably save half of that by doing the labor yourself and buying your parts wholesale if you can. I replaced the rotors and pads in my 1986 New Yorker last fall and the total tab was about $125 [CDN] and would have been less but I bought the absolute best set of semi-metallic pads available to me.

One thing you should do is replace the brake fluid if it is more than a couple of years old. Nobody ever seems to do this, but there is no surer way to have to buy a new master cylinder, calipers and rear brake cylinders than to let the fluid become all contaminated and corrode those items internally. So stupid not to when $15 worth of brake fluid and a couple of hours is all that's needed to flush the system out. The brakes are much more responsive afterwards too, depending on how much water you had in the system. [Webmaster note: not bleeding the air out of the system afterwards will cause sponginess in the brakes. Be sure to use the correct fluid, especially if you have an ABS system.]

Remember that when doing brakes as in doing anything on a car I suppose, cleanliness is next to Godliness so make sure everything is clean, and please don't use compressed air to blow the accumulated dust out. The dust is very hazardous, use spray solvents out of a can or soak things clean instead.

Stefan Mullikan added - dragging calipers

[If a brake is dragging even after the caliper has been repaired,] the flexible hose has probably collapsed internally. When they do, they can become a one-way valve in your braking system. Replace the flex lines, flush the system with new fluid and see what that gets you.

I believe FWDPerformance.com sells braided stainless steel flex lines for most models. When I bought mine, I think they were either cheaper or the same price as the parts store rubber replacements.

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