Reaching braking point

In the past 18 months, I’ve rebuilt the Mini’s front brakes, a Range Rover’s rear brakes, tried to fix a sticky caliper on a Saab 9000 and pretty much completely overhauled the Ford Maverick’s stoppers. I was hoping I could take a break from brakes, but live isn’t always fair.

The problem now is the BX. One front caliper is suffering from a sticky piston, while the other suffers from a sticky handbrake cable (handbrake is on the front wheels). The two are combining beautifully to create binding brakes. Just like we had on the Mini, Range Rover, Saab and Ford. What is it with bloomin’ brakes?!

BX brake disc

First look at the BX's brakes while recommissioning. They worked fine a few months ago! This one now suffers a sticky handbrake cable

My mood isn’t enhanced – though it probably should be – by the 2CV just sitting there looking smug. In almost 100,000 miles of motoring, and 12 years of ownership, the 2Cv has needed one set of front discs, a couple of sets of pads, a pair of new rear shoes and that’s about it. No binding issues at all, thanks apparently to the use of alloy pistons.

The problem with the others? Steel pistons. What a rubbish idea! Being steel, they inevitably corrode and then seize. The other issue is that the brakes on these cars all sit in the wheels, so get covered in road muck. The 2CV wears its front brakes on the sides of the gearbox, in the engine bay, and further away from wheel-hurled muck. Whoever was in charge of 2CV brakes deserves a medal. Especially as they’re so powerful as well!

I’ve now got the decision with the BX about whether to rebuild the front caliper or just buy a replacement (as I did on the Maverick). £40 for a complete caliper, but not sure how much a rebuild kit would be. Probably a fair bit as the piston is gunked up enough to need replacing. Hopefully pay day will allow me the luxury of the expensive option! In the meantime, yet another hero on the BX forum is sending me another handbrake cable, so I can sure that issue pretty easily.

I hope that this will bring an end to brake-fettling for some considerable time. I can dream can’t I?

Project Budget 4×4: More brake woes

Last time I took the Maverick for a drive, it made such horrible grinding noises that I quickly turned around and came back home, being rather gentle with the middle pedal. It was the unmistakable grind of metal on metal, which surprised me as a sneaky peak at the pads with a wheel off (for a tyre change) had shown plenty of life left.

Very worn pad

Jeepers! Very glad I didn't try driving further with this

Today, I got the wheel off during a service and was horrified at what I found. The inner pad – very difficult to see on a casual inspection – had no pad material left on it at all! No wonder it was noisy. It seems that the common issue of caliper pistons seizing had jammed the inner pad against the disc. What I find surprising is that this binding generate only a small amount of heat – usually if a brake binds severely, the wheel becomes too hot to touch. Another clue that all was not well was the fact that it was pulling to the left under braking. The left-hand brake was clearly doing most of the stopping.

I’ll have to order a replacement caliper as the pistons are very seized. Naturally, the metal pad grinding on disc means that new discs and pads will need fitting too. I’m amazed that this didn’t cause a grinding sound on the test drive, nor the drive home…

New discs and pads are getting on for £60 – not too bad really – but the caliper may be more tricky. Reconditions replacements start at £58 plus delivery, rising up to as much as £100. Due to the budget nature of this project though, I’m going to first see if I can find a good second-hand unit.

Other work has progressed rather better. The oil was disgusting – looking like something you might find in a neglected diesel. That had to be changed, and a new oil filter was also fitted – a right pain due to exceedingly poor access. I also changed the coolant, spurred on by the fact that the coolant in the expansion tank actually froze last night. It has been very cold. I’m not sure this was as serious as it first appears as it looks to me like a one-way expansion tank – so isn’t actually part of the ‘live’ cooling system. I feel better knowing there’s a stronger mix in there now though, and the coolant change seems to have boosted heater output, so I suspect I’ve removed rather a lot of silt from the system.

I also changed the gunked up air filter, but not the spark plugs as I was sent the wrong ones. Therefore, this project is on hold until items arrive. And snow is forecast this weekend…