Monday, October 18, 2010 05:05
Recently I told you why it’s good to periodically bleed your brakes (Bleeding Brakes: Easy, Effective Preventive Maintenance). Now, I’m going to tell you how to do it. Here’s what you need to bleed brakes:
- Two or three small bottles of brake fluid. (Don’t buy the large containers: Once brake fluid is opened, it must be used or taken to the recycler.)
- Someone to help you who will precisely follow directions. (A love interest is not a great choice, while using a spouse is a just asking for a long-running argument.)
- Jack, tools to remove wheels, at least one real jackstand, and something to use as wheel chocks.
- Combination box-end/open-end wrench that fits the nipple on the brake caliper or brake drum.
- Length of clear plastic hose that fits tightly over the brake nipple.
- Safety glasses because the hose will inevitably pop off and fluid will spray everywhere.
- Clear plastic container.
- Container to collect used fluid and take it to the recycler.
- Rags, paper towels, and kitty litter to clean up the inevitable mess.
- Can of brake parts cleaner to clean spilled fluid from rotors or calipers.
- Beer or a dinner reservation to pay your helper. (If you pay with beer, demand work first.) More...
Friday, October 15, 2010 02:44
Brake bleeding is one of the easiest, cheapest, and effective forms of preventive maintenance for the do-it-yourselfer. Done every two years, completely renewing brake fluid will not only help ensure maximum stopping power but also will extend the life of internal brake components. Another advantage: Like drawing blood from a human, brake bleeding will indicate the health of the brakes system.
I learned the value of regular brake bleeding when I was racing and encountered badly fading brakes: Blasting into a 65-mph turn at 130 with ineffective brakes is not nearly as much fun it sounds. I was baffled as the brake pads and rotors had been freshly serviced. In desperation, I bled the brakes. Out squirted a dark, bubbly mess reminiscent of cola syrup with a bit of carbonated water. Racetrack braking had raised the temperature of the brake fluid to nearly 300 degrees. This caused the brake fluid to break down and release vapors. Also, the moisture that brake fluid inevitably sucks out of the air boiled and added more air pockets, so the system wasn’t fully pressing the brake pads against the rotors. Bleeding the brakes before every on-track session became a ritual. More...
Friday, October 8, 2010 04:35
Allow me to start with a “selling a basket case” story. I was selling my wife’s ex-rental-car Pinto. I was asking $500. The best you could say about the car was that it started every time, ran, kinda turned when you moved the steering wheel and kinda stopped when you pushed the brakes. It was cockroach-tough and just as loveable. One potential buyer walked around the car and pointed out some of the vehicle’s many faults. After quite a long time of being nice, I said to her, “Listen lady, you’re buying a ’76 Pinto, not a year-old Mercedes. Do you want it or not?”
All its problems could be fixed with a Phillips-head screwdriver: Just remove the license plates and leave it by the road.
Now, here’s a “buying a basket case” story. While living in Connecticut, I bought a seafoam-green and rust-colored Subaru wagon for $500. The best you could say was that it started pretty much every time, turned when you moved the steering wheel, and stopped when you pushed the brakes. Also, all its problems could be fixed with a Phillips-head screwdriver: Just remove the license plates and leave it by the road. One cylinder had no compression, so we disabled its rocker arms so it didn’t pump raw gas directly into the air, or oil into the intake manifold. I drove it for about eight months and sold it for $500. Best automotive return on investment I’ve experienced. (It was also a great New York City car. When taxi drivers tried to intimidate me, I looked ‘em in the eye and turned toward them. Apparently afraid of tetanus, they swerved abruptly away. I felt like Saint Dale “The Intimidator” Earnhardt.) More...
Friday, September 24, 2010 01:34
If mine are any indication, car guys’ relatives often treat them as if they were “Click and Clack,” National Public Radio’s phone-in car comedy team Tom and Ray Magliozzi. When my middle brother’s name shows up on my caller ID, it means his poorly maintained ’89 vehicle is having a difficult-to-diagnose problem. (My father, a physician, ended similar cocktail-party talk with one consistent answer: “Cancer. Inoperable.”) Sadly, I’m often able to diagnosis their problems. How often do you think they take my advice? Rarely. Okay, almost never. I don’t offer the answer they want: “Give it the Club Med treatment. A little rest in the sun and some alcohol will fix anything.”
My favorite brother—I have three and this one not only got me into the Alaska bush and back, we even killed a bear without a guide, and he’s the only one who follows my car advice—recently sent me an email. Allow me to share what he said and my response. First a scene setter: He’s a cheapskate. More...