[EMS Discuss] Replacing rotors - A nice day at the shop

Ben Hallert ben at hallert.net
Thu Jan 16 05:40:49 PST 2014

I posted this to my Facebook thing this morning, wanted to share it here
too; are there opportunities to chat up the shop to our friends we can be
taking to help grow the community?  Just a thought....

I had a productive day at the shop after work yesterday!  For the last few
weeks, my car has grumbled at me about half of the time I used the brakes.
I say grumble because it didn't quite match any other description; it
wasn't scraping, it wasn't screeching or shaking, it was just...
grumbling.  "Grrrr..."  I figured there must probably be a pebble stuck
between a pad and the rotor or something and it was slowing properly, so
when I got around to it I took it to the Eugene Maker Space (
http://eugenemakerspace.com) to fix up.

Pulling off the front right wheel, I went to loosen some bolts that hold
the caliper on when I discovered the source of the problem:  Somehow, one
of the two bolts was _missing_.  Completely gone!  I could rotate the
caliper in place with little effort because it was only half attached,
yikes.  This is unacceptable!  Whoever did my brakes last was clearly a
complete and utter careless moro-  I paused.  On contemplation, I realized
that I was the last one to touch these because I had replaced the pads a
few months ago.  In a sudden spirit of "can't we all just...  get along?"
reconciliation, I magnanimously decided that failing to properly tighten
that bolt was an understandable mistake and certainly not worth obsessing
over.  Let's let bygones be bygones and all that.  A quick walk down to
Autozone got me a replacement bolt and we were off and running.

A backstory on these brakes; as I mentioned, I had replaced the pads but I
had known for the last year or so that I really needed new rotors.  The
rotors are the big metal discs that the brakepads squeeze against to slow
you down and they can get worn.  When they get worn and get grooves in
them, that wears the pads out quicker and it's a dirty cycle.  I had
actually needed to replace my pads twice, both when I was broke, so I had
incurred extra expense overall as a result.  As someone once told me,
'there's few things more expensive than being poor'.  But this time, I had
planned ahead and had gotten new rotors and by damned, I was going to
replace them.

To get the rotors off, you remove the calipers (the things that squeeze the
pads against the rotors), a thing that holds the pads themselves, and then
just pull the big metal plates off the hub.

This sequence really looks better in writing than the reality because of
that last step.  "Just pull the rotors off" implies that the rotors have
not rust-welded themselves to your car as mine had done.  I knew the theory
but had somehow never actually pulled rotors before so I spent the next 45
minutes alternately hitting it with a mallet, watching instructional
YouTube videos, then hitting it harder with the mallet.  After watching a
less useless video, I did something new: I grabbed a shop torch and started
heating parts of the rotor near the center (where it was bound up).  If it
hadn't been for the helpful encouragement of some guy back east, I would
have been worried about setting my car on fire but apparently this is 'the
thing to do' so after heating and hitting and burninating, I eventually got
it off.  I've got to say that having a shop with shop resources was pretty
nice.  Need a torch?  Sure, here we are.  Clean floor to crawl around on
under car?  Beats a cold and wet driveway!  Penetrating oil for removal and
clamps for resetting the calipers?  We gotcha covered.  One of the best
parts of the whole thing was that I was really kinda stranded until I
finished the job.  If I was at home and the rotor wasn't coming off, I
would be totally tempted to go inside and play on the computer until it was
too late (Better put the wheel back on, I'll try another day!) but being
stranded in West Eugene was a good motivator to just get it done.

After a couple hours total, I had both rotors replaced (with fresh new
pads, why not) and hadn't set my car on fire even once.

Community shops like this are awfully nice to be a part of and I look
forward to our upcoming move.  We've currently got woodworking tools, metal
lathe, a welding table, 3D printers, a soldering station, community
workspace for big projects, and more.  We're in the process of finding a
bigger place to allow for growth and increase our capabilities and it's
going to be an exciting evolution.  I'll post more details as it develops
and invite anyone who's interested in learning more about the space to
contact me.

Now...  how well did I tighten that new bolt?  I guess I'll know what to do
if my car starts grumbling again.

- Ben
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