Friday, August 11, 2023

Brake Job

 I am exhausted, and my feet hurt. I did too much walking. My son in law came up today and I helped him put brakes on his 2015 ford escape. He did 99% of the work while I bitched, got dizzy a couple times, said ohfuckohshit a couple of times, and just generally made a nuisance of myself. 

The reason for us doing the brake job is the "mechanics" wanted $1200 to do it. What were they going to do for that? They wanted to replace ALL FOUR brake calipers for starters. No idea why, these work just fine. And replace 2 rotors for twice the price the stores want.

It wasn't too awful bad to do after we finally figured out how to compress the rear brake caliper piston.

The pistons nowadays have this turning thingamabob they do, so you can't just put a c-clamp on it and squeeze till it hollers stop. No sirree bob, you first try this special little tool:

The way it's supposed to work is you insert those pins into the holes on the brake caliper piston, push down while turning with a ratchet. And it's supposed to magically retract the piston so you can put it on over new brake pads.

What happens if the magical little cube doesn't fit into the holes on your piston, you ask. Well fuck shit piss I am glad you asked.

Then you find something that will fit into those holes. In our case I had a pair of needle nose pliers that kind of sort of worked. Twist and turn twist and turn but the piston does not compress no matter how hard you press while twisting and turning. 

Then I dug out my small adjustable spanner wrench. That worked great until you go 180°, then it hits the caliper and you have to reposition to the other side, then you have to twist with the needle nose pliers to enable the spanner to fit. I believe that may be where I was saying ohfuckohshitgoddamit a few times. We had about 45 minutes into this first brake caliper and the damn piston was not compressing.

So I had watched a couple of youtubes on this prior to starting, and I got to thinking about those. One guy had a much better tool for the job:
but I had no access to that. Another video I watched a guy used a pair of oil filter removal pliers to squeeze the piston and then he rotated it by grabbing with channel lock pliers and turning it. I don't have oil filter pliers, but I do have a big ass c-clamp, so we put the clamp on the piston, grabbed the piston top with channel lock pliers to turn, then tighten the c-clamp and then turn it again, and we were done in just a couple of minutes. Easy peasy japanesy.

As I said, once we figured that out, it went smoothly, sort of, afterwards.

But damn! My feet hurt.


  1. First ram into that crap over thirty years ago on the FRONT brakes of a damn Subaru.
    It turns because the emergency brake is incorporated into it.
    Ford started doing it in the nineties and yes I have the Snap On kit to do them.
    The Subaru was before the internet and it took me hours to figure out what the hell was going on there.
    I wound up using two pin punches with a screwdriver between them to twist with.
    I will never forget that dirty sonofabitch as long as I live and the little holes in the piston won't either....
    I'll bet the guy behind me the next time wasn't happy either.

  2. Yea..brake jobs are one of the biggest rip offs that exist in the "auto repair" industry. With rare exceptions it's far cheaper just to order ALL the parts online and replace everything yourself if you have even a modicum of mechanical ability. With BoobTube vids anyone should be able to do the job on most vehicles.

  3. I've been able to 'borrow' that brake tool from the local big-box car parts stores, but have been able to get those twisty ones to go back in with the trusty C-clamp. Maybe Honda/Toyota do it different?

  4. I did the brakes on my 02 Ranger several years ago. I did not turn the rotors (another rip off). I had pulled the rear wheel and drum off, and when I saw how the emergency brake cable wound around the inside of the assembly, I just put it back together and returned the shoes. The C clamp worked fine on the Ranger. Just gotta watch the overflow from the brake fluid reservoir when pushing the new pads in.

  5. I popped my cherry on those confounded e-brake calipers doing just what you did; the C-clamp. Of course, at the time, I didn't even know these had to be turned to get them to retract. And this was before Youtube. I finally had to go to the parts store and say "What the HELL?" Once I understood the mechanism it was a piece of cake!