Friday, November 25, 2011

Brake TIme

Last Friday, headed home from a long week at work, the last thing I wanted was to feel the brakes start to give out on Little Blue - the '63 bug that is my daily driver. But I did. As they started to go, I wasn't sure I was feeling it. Did they seem like I was pushing harder? Closer to the floor? Certainly something was wrong.

After a stop that certainly felt wrong, I decided that if shit came to shove, I'd use my emergency brake. About 2 stops later and I was braking to show my brake lights and using my e-brake to actually stop. I made it home without problem. I decided to investigate in the morning when it was light.

Early Saturday morning, I was out investigating. I started at the back passenger and didn't see any issues. Then moved to the front passenger, removing the wheel to find the wheel and brake drum covered in brake fluid.

Here's what the set up looked like...


See the liquid? That's brake fluid. Meaning there was a leak in the system and the system lost the ability to produce enough pressure to push the brake show into the drum (and stop the car). Fluid on brake shoes is bad for 2 reasons:

1. You lose pressure on the brake shoes while...
2. adding liquid to where there should be friction to stop.

It's a lose lose situation.


Another example of shiny wetness where there should be dryness (the removed brake drum):

You can see fluid on the tire as well:

According to several sources, the most obvious place for a leak in the wheel is the wheel cylinder. It's a simple process, really. When brakes are applied, the fluid provides equal pressure through out the system. In drum brakes, this means the fluid presses on the brake shows (pads, really) through something called the brake cylinder (or wheel cylinder). In the picture below, it's the round cylinder object on the far right side of the picture.

it's important to note that the photo above is of the driver's front side (not passenger's, where I found the leaking cylinder). Since the system is all one, it is recommended changing both front wheel cylinders when one goes bad. Another reason to see this photo is, look, it's dry! No fluid. That's how it should be...

Above is the old wheel cylinder coming out. For those of you who have never removed these, please follow these steps in order:

1. remove the bolt holding the wheel cylinder on (I think it was a 12 or 13 metric wrench)
2. then spin the wheel cylinder while hold the brake hose with something to disconnect the hose. Don't try to twist the hose off the cylinder while it is still attached - it won't work!

The great thing about replacing the cylinders is that you end up with really clean cylinders to bleed once everything is hooked back up.

Here are the replacement wheel cylinders I bought at Viking Foreign Auto in Novato Saturday morning:

The bummer was nobody in the area had new brake shows. And they needed to be replaced (well, you figure while you are in there, replace them, but you would have to anyway as the old ones on the passenger side were covered in fluid that would never allow you to stop).

Enter out friends at Wolfsburg West. These guys are awesome. A call on Monday resulted in the new pads being sent via FedEx to my house on Wednesday. I plan on installing them later this morning. And that, my friends, is a pretty simple fix. We'll be back on the road by noon today!

 Happiness is a box from Wolfsburg West.

The cost of the wheel cylinders (above).

Below is how Little Blue has looked all week, waiting for new brake shoes...


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