The aging process isn’t for the faint of heart. It doesn’t matter if it is a mammal, a residential structure, or something mechanical, aging takes it toll on us all. Such is the case with a certain old Ford van of mine.
Despite all my haranguing about this van in times past, for some inexplicable reason it has started to become more palatable for me, flirting with some mild degree of fondness. Maybe the aging process is affecting my judgement.
At any rate, the front brakes were generating negative attention for themselves. They were making no noise and there was still good pedal feel with no vibrations, but the stopping motion was inconsistent, acting as if there were slick spots on the rotor(s). Since I’m using the van to teach my offspring to drive, as well as transporting her and her mother on occasion, an inspection was in order.
Pulling off the front wheels revealed items that weren’t horrible but it was far from acceptable. So a brake job was in order.
We purchased this van in 2010 with 89,000 miles. At that time the brake system was in nearly perfect condition with all factory installed components still in place including the brake pads which were down to about one-third thickness. Knowing we would be taking it to Oregon five weeks after purchase, with several mountain ranges to traverse, I replaced the pads at that time.
Since 2011, this van has sat much of the time. We’ve put 32,000 miles on it during our ownership with half those being accumulated between July 2010 and July 2011. In other words, we’ve averaged about 2,000 miles per year since; the question of why we still own it has been a frequent and lively discussion at Casa de Shafer.
The left front was the first to be addressed. It doesn’t look that bad, does it?
The brake pads were thinner than anticipated, with one shown here next to a new pad. This was the most worn pad of the four.
For what it’s worth the old pads were ceramic, as opposed to semi-metallic, as I am not excited about washing brake dust off wheels. The new pads are ceramic also.
Working on disc brakes is always preferable to drum brakes although there are a multitude of ways to execute the brake / rotor / hub / wheel bearing relationship with disc brakes, making for vehicle specific strategies. Here the hub assembly is part of the rotor. Removal of the rotor requires disassembly of the hub and removal of the wheel bearings.
Here’s the back of the driver’s side rotor. Notice the pitting, particularly at the top. If I have seen a rotor that was pitted, especially to this degree, it’s been a while. Might it be a function of sitting? This would certainly explain what seemed like slick spots on the rotor which it pretty much was given the pads had areas of greatly reduced surface area to grab.
The van was stored outside from November 2015 until recently. With my pickup developing rust there is no need for two vehicles to deteriorate so the pickup has been demoted to being parked outside with the van now residing in the garage.
Pulling off the right front wheel didn’t reveal anything drastically different except this wheel would not easily spin when in the air. While it had not translated (yet) into being felt while driving my thought is this thing is nearly twenty years old. Given its age it’s wise to play it safe.
So a new caliper was procured.
All the parts together looked somewhat daunting.
The pads on the right side didn’t look that horrible nor was the rotor as deteriorated as was the one on the left.
It didn’t matter, as new pads were installed in addition to the new rotors. Also replaced were the wheel bearings. I could have easily reused all four wheel bearings but that internal little voice told me to use new ones. Taking things apart to access the wheel bearings is an annoyance, so this should hopefully reduce the odds of doing so anytime soon.
After installation of the new caliper, the brakes were bled. It seems some people detest the process of bleeding brakes. For me, it’s a rather enjoyable endeavor but everyone has their preferences. It’s also quite preferable to the absolute mess one can easily make when packing grease into new wheel bearings. It is an easy, but profoundly messy, task.
Overall this was a very easy project but there were two challenges. First, this is a screenshot of the radar in the midst of my repair. I was quite committed by this point and the rain was not forecast for this time of day. Thankfully it rained very little.
The second challenge was more subtle. For the first rotor I installed the new race, the metal piece that merges with the wheel bearing, for the inner wheel bearing. Doing so did not allow for me to install the new seal on the inside as the seal could not fit into the groove. I fiddled around with this for a very, very long time. Having an epiphany, I called the parts store….sure enough, a new race had been installed with the manufacturing of the rotor. Thus I did not need to install the races that came with the new wheel bearings.
Having learned all this, the second wheel went from removal of the tire to installation of the rotor and pads (as seen above), including packing grease in the wheel bearings, in forty minutes. What a difference.
The van required nothing during our first six years of ownership however this is the third year in a row in which a repair of consequence was needed. Last summer the fuel pump retired after eighteen years ($225 total) and the year before that the radiator hoses were replaced ($110 plus coolant), although I view hoses as being similar to tires as they are consumable items. The fuel pump failure, like the condition of the brake rotors, makes me wonder if it can be attributed to its minimal use.
Hopefully the brakes are good for another nineteen years. Although it might be less if we start driving it more.