Car Self-Maintenance

Sisyphus

Kingfisher
Other Christian
Inspired by this thread, I changed my brake pads and rotors. I was also inspired by the fact that a shop offered to do it for me for close to $1,000. The bottom line is that I recommend everyone do this as it was rewarding and empowering. However, it is NOT nearly as quick and easy as depicted in the ChrisFix video so I want to give what I think is a more honest assessment of the process.

It should go without saying that you should supplement the video with one specific to your make and model. There will be minor differences, and at the very least you should find out the torqueing specs for your caliper and bracket bolts.

Before I begin, just to give some perspective I had never done this task before. My experience working on a car involves changing the cabin and engine air filters, replacing the battery, recharging the AC, and changing about a dozen or so flat tires.

The video shows an ideal situation. The presenter has taken immaculate care of his vehicle and works on it all the time. Your situation is almost certainly not ideal. The video is 15 minutes long. It will take MUCH longer than this. It will take at least that long just to scrape the rust off of your hubs if you want it to be as clean as possible. You’ll also be spending time scraping the brackets.

What really takes time is something that the video not only doesn’t cover, but doesn’t even acknowledge exists: troubleshooting. What happens if your wheel doesn’t come off when you remove the lug nuts? What if the rotor doesn’t come off?

My hubs were so incredibly rusty that the wheels and rotors were completely seized to them — it was as if they were all one solid unit. Figuring out how to resolve this involved doing extra research while the car was jacked up and buying some additional items.

All 4 wheels were stuck. I needed 3 different solutions. For the right side, simple kicking was enough to dislodge them. The left side was worse, presumably because I park in the street and salt and sludge and filth gets kicked up into them. For one of them, loosening the lug nuts and driving around a bit was sufficient, but the other was so bad that I was able to drive around with the nuts loosened and nothing happened. In this case, the solution was liberal application of PB Blaster and several doinks with a 4-lb sledgehammer. This was also the best solution for freeing up the rotors, but this process takes time too as you need time for the compound to set.

There were some other issues that came up, so be prepared to come up with solutions on the fly. Some ingenuity will be required. Also don’t skimp on tools. I wasted a lot of time and energy fiddling with bolts on the first wheel because I didn’t have the proper socket wrench extensions.

Other considerations are time and space. If you don’t own a home it’s going to be challenging to find a place to do it. Time constraints also complicate the process a lot. Don’t plan on doing all 4 wheels if you have to drive to work the next day. For your first time doing it, it will probably require a full weekend. When I did the first wheel, I figured I could get it done in the middle of the parking lot before other people came home. When it was getting into the afternoon I started to feel rushed and I skimped on some of the cleaning. The point is that time constraints will diminish the quality of your work.

To summarize: adequate tools, time, and work space are a must. Be prepared for the job to take a lot longer than videos suggest. Problem solving is also a must – you will likely run into some difficulty. You have to be able to pace yourself and take breaks.

With all of that said, I’m glad I did it, and I’m looking forward to the next project.
 

JustinHS

Robin
Orthodox
Been wrenching on cars for years. Every spring I do some major repair project. Just finished up working on my mini truck, and am now digging into the family sedan (Honda Accord). This past January I put in a new starter and battery for the Honda. Idiot me accidentally crossed poles and blew the main fuse, so that’s new as well.

Pro-tip: if you ever need batteries, Wal-Mart Everstart are just as good if not better than Autozone or O’Reilly’s without the huge mark-up. They’re made by the same companies.

About to put some KYBs and Tein springs with some Goodridge brakelines on the Honda. Brand new tires. Will post pics when done.

When I started wrenching at the age of 20, all I had was a cheap mechanic’s socket and wrench set, a floor jack and stands in the parking space of an apartment complex. This was back before YouTube, so I was studying the Haynes manual and just doing it.

These days I try to stay away from “digital cars” where computers control everything. They’re building cars now in a way that you’ll need an electrical engineering degree to work on them. I like how analog my truck is. When the EFI engine goes, I’ll put in an old carb’d 302.
I have nightmares about the government being able to just turn our cars off if they ever wanted to lock us down again, that’s why I prefer analog. Can’t hack into a car that doesn’t have an ECU:

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john_Jea

Robin
Other Christian
There will be minor differences, and at the very least you should find out the torqueing specs for your caliper and bracket bolts.
You should but no one ever does.

My hubs were so incredibly rusty that the wheels and rotors were completely seized to them — it was as if they were all one solid unit. Figuring out how to resolve this involved doing extra research while the car was jacked up and buying some additional items.

Get some copper grease and smear it on the wheel hub especially the flange and put some grease on the threads of the wheel nuts to. That will prevent the wheel from rusting to it.

Pro tip: don't ever put copper or aluminum grease on moving parts, it acts as a polish and will wear down the moving material.
 

Sargon2112

Woodpecker
Protestant
Congrats, @Sisyphus ! I am fortunate to have grown up learning to turn wrenches from my Dad and other family, so I tend to take having that knowledge, and having their assistance when needed, for granted.

I have a lot of respect for guys who learn this stuff as adults! Keep at it.

A word about brake parts sources: I had some bad luck with rotors from the big name parts stores several years ago and went searching for alternate, non dealership, sources. A couple of sets of rotors on two different vehicles, a month or so apart, were noisy (low rumble, scrubbing sound could be heard inside the vehicle when braking) to the point that I thought I had missed something during reassembly on the first set. It turns out that the rotors were made from either incorrect or defective material, as the hardness and grain of the metal was not consistent throughout the rotor. There was a visible difference in the metal from one quadrant of the rotor to the next after a hundred miles or so of driving.

Anyway, for the last several years, I have bought my brake parts from Detroit Axle, and have had excellent results. They sell complete brake kits for some vehicles that include rotors, pads, anti-seize lubricant, a can of brake parts cleaner and a pint of fluid. Decent prices too.
 

JustinHS

Robin
Orthodox
Finished up replacing the struts and brake-lines this weekend. Rear wheels are a little bit cambered out even though the springs lowered it very mildly. Ordered the camber rods and a universal high-flow cat to go with the cold air intake that still needs to go on. Just got a welder too so I plan on playing around with building a header for it. After that, it’ll need a KTuner and it’s off to the dyno.

For now, the pick-up is on the lift to replace and bleed the brakes.
 
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Sisyphus

Kingfisher
Other Christian
Congrats, @Sisyphus ! I am fortunate to have grown up learning to turn wrenches from my Dad and other family, so I tend to take having that knowledge, and having their assistance when needed, for granted.

I have a lot of respect for guys who learn this stuff as adults! Keep at it.

A word about brake parts sources: I had some bad luck with rotors from the big name parts stores several years ago and went searching for alternate, non dealership, sources. A couple of sets of rotors on two different vehicles, a month or so apart, were noisy (low rumble, scrubbing sound could be heard inside the vehicle when braking) to the point that I thought I had missed something during reassembly on the first set. It turns out that the rotors were made from either incorrect or defective material, as the hardness and grain of the metal was not consistent throughout the rotor. There was a visible difference in the metal from one quadrant of the rotor to the next after a hundred miles or so of driving.

Anyway, for the last several years, I have bought my brake parts from Detroit Axle, and have had excellent results. They sell complete brake kits for some vehicles that include rotors, pads, anti-seize lubricant, a can of brake parts cleaner and a pint of fluid. Decent prices too.

I'll try, but I expect a lot of frustration along the way. For example I attempted what should have been an extremely quick and easy job today (changing rear diff fluid) which involves little more than loosening two bolts, but I was slightly off center and stripped the excrement out of the one so I'm stuck on that. At least I got good enough advice to start with the fill plug or else I'd be screwed. Luckily it isn't urgent so I'll regroup and see if I want to attempt to extract the bolt.

My two pet peeves are being lied to and stolen from, and you can expect both of these to happen any time you go to a shop. It's amazing how far a little knowledge goes. Two years ago I had no time or space to learn about or work on cars. I dutifully took my vehicle in for a 60K mile check-up. The friendly people told me I didn't need the pads or rotors replaced, but they'd gladly clean and relubricate the caliper guide pins for me.

Oh how nice, I thought. Caliper guide pins, sure whatever, that sounds important. The charge for this helpful service was around $250! Having just done it myself, I now know it requires about 30 seconds per wheel to do this and the tub of caliper grease which is a lifetime supply cost about $25. I sure got taken to the cleaners on that one, but now I can be confident it won't happen again. The more I know, the less likely someone is to pull that kind of zinger on me.

Aside from all that, cars are amazing machines, and I find myself more interested in the theory of how it all works. I'm trying to work my way out from the engine block so I'm focusing on alternator, starter, ignition circuit/distribution, transmission, intake/exhaust and eventually on to differentials and brakes and then I guess heating and cooling and accessory circuits which I know are important and costly, but don't interest me as much from a theoretical standpoint. If anybody knows what textbook @Jacob Robinson was referring to upthread, I'd be interested to take a look at it.

P.S. I bought my pads and rotors and buybrakes.com and so far no trouble to report.
 

canuckj

Woodpecker
Other Christian
Glad to see guys are doing some of their own mechanical maintenance. I am by no means a mechanic but have done lots of work even in an apartment parking space. Brake pads and basic tune-up such as spark plugs (on many models) or drive belts are totally doable in such a space. For items such as thermostats it helps to have a garage. Definitely do you own brake pads. They are really easy once someone shows you how. Rear drum brakes and locking 4x4 hubs are also doable and I have done them by myself.

A couple of tips:

- Buy an electric powered impact gun (I bought a cheap one for $40 and it is plenty powerful for tough jobs)
- Get a Haynes or similar manual (the illustrations suck but it usually gives good step by step instructions and torque specs)
- Buy a torque wrench
- Scotty Kilmer has a good YouTube channel
- If you get really stuck you can always call a mobile mechanic from Kijiji
 

BasilSeal

Kingfisher
Catholic
Gold Member
Agree on those points. If you can find the factory service manual for your specific model year car, those put the Haynes manuals to shame. They used to be easy to pick up on eBay etc.
 
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rodion

Sparrow
Orthodox
Inspired by this thread, I changed my brake pads and rotors. I was also inspired by the fact that a shop offered to do it for me for close to $1,000. The bottom line is that I recommend everyone do this as it was rewarding and empowering. However, it is NOT nearly as quick and easy as depicted in the ChrisFix video so I want to give what I think is a more honest assessment of the process.

It should go without saying that you should supplement the video with one specific to your make and model. There will be minor differences, and at the very least you should find out the torqueing specs for your caliper and bracket bolts.

Before I begin, just to give some perspective I had never done this task before. My experience working on a car involves changing the cabin and engine air filters, replacing the battery, recharging the AC, and changing about a dozen or so flat tires.

The video shows an ideal situation. The presenter has taken immaculate care of his vehicle and works on it all the time. Your situation is almost certainly not ideal. The video is 15 minutes long. It will take MUCH longer than this. It will take at least that long just to scrape the rust off of your hubs if you want it to be as clean as possible. You’ll also be spending time scraping the brackets.

What really takes time is something that the video not only doesn’t cover, but doesn’t even acknowledge exists: troubleshooting. What happens if your wheel doesn’t come off when you remove the lug nuts? What if the rotor doesn’t come off?

My hubs were so incredibly rusty that the wheels and rotors were completely seized to them — it was as if they were all one solid unit. Figuring out how to resolve this involved doing extra research while the car was jacked up and buying some additional items.

All 4 wheels were stuck. I needed 3 different solutions. For the right side, simple kicking was enough to dislodge them. The left side was worse, presumably because I park in the street and salt and sludge and filth gets kicked up into them. For one of them, loosening the lug nuts and driving around a bit was sufficient, but the other was so bad that I was able to drive around with the nuts loosened and nothing happened. In this case, the solution was liberal application of PB Blaster and several doinks with a 4-lb sledgehammer. This was also the best solution for freeing up the rotors, but this process takes time too as you need time for the compound to set.

There were some other issues that came up, so be prepared to come up with solutions on the fly. Some ingenuity will be required. Also don’t skimp on tools. I wasted a lot of time and energy fiddling with bolts on the first wheel because I didn’t have the proper socket wrench extensions.

Other considerations are time and space. If you don’t own a home it’s going to be challenging to find a place to do it. Time constraints also complicate the process a lot. Don’t plan on doing all 4 wheels if you have to drive to work the next day. For your first time doing it, it will probably require a full weekend. When I did the first wheel, I figured I could get it done in the middle of the parking lot before other people came home. When it was getting into the afternoon I started to feel rushed and I skimped on some of the cleaning. The point is that time constraints will diminish the quality of your work.

To summarize: adequate tools, time, and work space are a must. Be prepared for the job to take a lot longer than videos suggest. Problem solving is also a must – you will likely run into some difficulty. You have to be able to pace yourself and take breaks.

With all of that said, I’m glad I did it, and I’m looking forward to the next project.

This resonates with me, I did a brake pad job on my car a year ago or so. I say job, but it was a brake pad ordeal.

It was a good experience and I learned a lot doing it because everything went wrong. It was humbling.

I can’t emphasise enough that you need to set aside several days before you need the car again, no matter how straightforward it looks on YouTube.
 

canuckj

Woodpecker
Other Christian
This resonates with me, I did a brake pad job on my car a year ago or so. I say job, but it was a brake pad ordeal.

It was a good experience and I learned a lot doing it because everything went wrong. It was humbling.

I can’t emphasise enough that you need to set aside several days before you need the car again, no matter how straightforward it looks on YouTube.
I am interested in what went wrong.
 

rodion

Sparrow
Orthodox
I am interested in what went wrong.
Mostly me being retarded and impatient. I rounded a bolt on one of the rotors, and because everything was so old and rusted it was just difficult to get everything back in place so I ended up spending a long time cleaning everything as well as I could. I also did this partially by torchlight because it got dark by like 4pm (winter in England.)

Additionally I originally bought the wrong pads to replace it, not realising that if you have brake shoes on the rear axle you need a different type of brake pad on the front.

I also managed to damage one of the brake fluid lines. I didn’t know that until I took it to a garage to get it checked and for some good natured mockery.

But still, I feel confident I could competently do it myself next time
 

Sisyphus

Kingfisher
Other Christian
Agree on those points. If you can find the factory service manual for your specific model year car, those put the Haynes manuals to shame. They used to be easy to pick up on eBay etc.

It’s interesting that you bring this up. I was in one of the chain auto parts stores recently and I saw a Haynes guide for my vehicle. I thought, oh it’s only $25, it can’t hurt, but then I remembered that I don’t buy things impulsively and I always do some research first.

I saw some comments in favor and against it. Things like “gives you just enough information to get you in trouble.” People complained that for reassembly it just says to do the opposite of disassembly. Some said the pictures were of poor quality.

I also read that the factory shop manuals on eBay are often pirated and inaccurate. The actual manual runs like $1,000, but for example the manufacturer of my vehicle allows you a certain amount of downloads in a certain span of time for about the cost of the Haynes. It seems the allotted time should be enough to get the whole thing or at least what an average DIYer would need.

I’m going to give this option a try.
 

BasilSeal

Kingfisher
Catholic
Gold Member
Of those I got on ebay only one was clearly a photocopied knock off of th original FSM. It was accurate, just heavier paper with less fidelity. The real ones I had were original MOPAR manuals were printed on the equivalent of phone book paper, lightweight but also rather durable.
 

canuckj

Woodpecker
Other Christian
It’s interesting that you bring this up. I was in one of the chain auto parts stores recently and I saw a Haynes guide for my vehicle. I thought, oh it’s only $25, it can’t hurt, but then I remembered that I don’t buy things impulsively and I always do some research first.

I saw some comments in favor and against it. Things like “gives you just enough information to get you in trouble.” People complained that for reassembly it just says to do the opposite of disassembly. Some said the pictures were of poor quality.

I also read that the factory shop manuals on eBay are often pirated and inaccurate. The actual manual runs like $1,000, but for example the manufacturer of my vehicle allows you a certain amount of downloads in a certain span of time for about the cost of the Haynes. It seems the allotted time should be enough to get the whole thing or at least what an average DIYer would need.

I’m going to give this option a try.
The Haynes manuals are not that bad. I was able to follow them for many procedures. I have found FSMs online before for free. If I remember correctly they are more for professional mechanics.
 

JustinHS

Robin
Orthodox
I learned on Haynes manuals because like I said this was pre-YouTube / easy access to FSM days. Haynes manuals are okay, and I still find myself referring back to them from time to time. They’re not the greatest, but they’ve been fairly clutch for me.

Once you get the basics, you’ll know what you’re looking at or have a general idea of what this rod does, or where that linkage goes, etc. Suspension and chassis is pretty basic and a good way to learn (just remember your alignment settings if you mess with that stuff). Brakes are straight forward as well.

Every man (IMO) should know how to do a tune-up on his own car: oil change, air filter, differential, transmission filter, spark plugs, fuel filter, rotate tires, and brakes.

Having a basic set of tools is also great. Harbor freight has a basic mechanics tool set for $15 that you could keep in the trunk next to the spare.


I’d like to eventually weld up my own exhaust instead of going to a muffler shop. My dad just bought a mig, and I’ve got a high flow cat and a muffler sitting there waiting to go on. Just need to buy the piping.
 

Tex Cruise

Pelican
The Haynes manuals are not that bad. I was able to follow them for many procedures. I have found FSMs online before for free. If I remember correctly they are more for professional mechanics.
I think I've mentioned it before on here, possibly in this thread. I've often found that where a factory manual will instruct you to use GM special service tools H21950, k15bx, and 157920b, a Haynes or Gregory's manual shows how to do it with a hammer and a screwdriver.
 

canuckj

Woodpecker
Other Christian
I
I learned on Haynes manuals because like I said this was pre-YouTube / easy access to FSM days. Haynes manuals are okay, and I still find myself referring back to them from time to time. They’re not the greatest, but they’ve been fairly clutch for me.

Once you get the basics, you’ll know what you’re looking at or have a general idea of what this rod does, or where that linkage goes, etc. Suspension and chassis is pretty basic and a good way to learn (just remember your alignment settings if you mess with that stuff). Brakes are straight forward as well.

Every man (IMO) should know how to do a tune-up on his own car: oil change, air filter, differential, transmission filter, spark plugs, fuel filter, rotate tires, and brakes.

Having a basic set of tools is also great. Harbor freight has a basic mechanics tool set for $15 that you could keep in the trunk next to the spare.


I’d like to eventually weld up my own exhaust instead of going to a muffler shop. My dad just bought a mig, and I’ve got a high flow cat and a muffler sitting there waiting to go on. Just need to buy the piping.
I did a muffler and tail pipe one time. No welding involved as it was a bolt in flange. It was very dirty work and when I found out how little it would have cost to have to work done at a shop I was shaking my head.
 

JustinHS

Robin
Orthodox
I

I did a muffler and tail pipe one time. No welding involved as it was a bolt in flange. It was very dirty work and when I found out how little it would have cost to have to work done at a shop I was shaking my head.
Yeah, as long as you piece together your own hardware (muffler, tip, res) you’d only be paying for the labor and piping.

Only time I did an exhaust myself was when I bought a used JDM catback off a forum. Ever since, I’ve always preferred the custom fit of a muffler shop exhaust.
 

john_Jea

Robin
Other Christian
Buy an electric powered impact gun (I bought a cheap one for $40 and it is plenty powerful for tough jobs)
I second this. If you already have a cordless drill just buy a impact gun that uses the same battery. Mine has paid for it self just in time savings when changing from summer to winter tires.
 
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