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The Indefinite Article.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

An Series of Unfortunate Events ... and a stopping point.

I started to replace the pads, drums and rotors of the Cavalier on Saturday afternoon. My first stop was Auto Zone where i purchsed all i would need: two rotors and pads for the front brakes, a set of pads and drums for the rear brakes, some grease to regrease the cleaned up compoenets of the caliper and the touching points of the brake pads, and a bottle of Dot 3 brake fluid. I also picked up a new set of plastic windshield wipers; the old metal wipers had long since disintegrated and rusted - a small thing to take care of while i was there.

I got home and assembled the pieces in order of how i planned to work. i would start on the driver's side front wheel and then move onto the passenger side front wheel. Once i was finished with the front disc brakes i would move on to the more arduous task of having to dismantle and reassemble the rear brakes.

Once I got the lug nuts loose i lifted the car and placed it on a jack stand. i removed the tire, exposing the front disc brakes. I sprayed it down with brake cleaner and realized quickly that i would have to turn on a fan to blow out fumes; an old floor fan i had in the garage worked like a charm.

While i was waiting for that to dry up, i read over the removal instructions again from my handy Chevrolet Cavalier illustrated repair books (Chilton's, i think). On my back, finally, i realized that i didn't have a Hex socket to remove the caliper from the roter, so i headed to sears to buy a hex bolt. got it (3/8" hex caliper socket) and came home.

I got the caliper off, replaced the old roter with a shiny new one, removed the old pads, greased the new ones, and set them into the caliper. When i tried to replace the caliper onto the roter, i realized that i hadn't used the c-clamp to push in the piston; soon after i also realized that the c-clamp i had was too small for the job (of course!).

It should have been a simple trip to auto zone, but instead was a full family trip to Target, cause Carol was aching to get her and the baby out of the house (it had been wet and muggy all day). So an hour later, i return with a shiny new c-clamp and get the caliper back onto the roter. It should have been uneventful from here, but it wasn't -- the threading (of what i thought was the caliper) was stripped. when i tightened down the caliper hex bolt, it just spun and spun ...

i went back to auto zone and bought two new calipers.

when i got home i realized that it wasn't the caliper threading that had stripped, but the bolt itself.

i went back to auto zone and returned the calipers for two new caliper hex bolts. because i was being extra careful not to have to come back again, i immediately noticed that these were larger than the original hex bolts (in length). i was told it was okay.

when i got home, the hex bolt socket i had originally bought was too large for the new hex bolts.


i went back to auto zone and over bought: a full set of hex sockets.

came home and finished the front right tire. and did the passenger front disc brakes without incident.

i was hoping my momentum would carry me through to the end. i lifted the back fo the cavalier and popped off the driver's side back tire, disassembled the drum brakes, and began to reassemble them with new hardware.

upon re-assembly i noticed that the connecting loop at the end of the parking brake cable was broken (see pic - this would explain why the parking brake wasn't engaging).

I got the cable off of the brake assembly, but i couldn't release it from the other end (see pic).

i went to BACK auto zone hoping to find out that i only had to replace the tip of the piece... but it turns out that this piece is a dealer piece; i will have to go to a dealership in order to get it.

UPDATE: the cable i need is available at Landmark Chevrolet on the North Freeway for $30.


  • I think that one of the really interesting things about living in the world is discovering how to do things. Often times, especially with computer things and especially with Perl things, you find yourself in a maze of dependencies. To get to A, you have to go through B. To go through B you have to read C, see D and pass through J.

    For example, I have to log into blogger from the front page to get its cookie to stick with my computer. I can't tell it to remember me when I put in my username and password to post this comment. I think I'll post as anonymous because I'm feeling lazy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:10 PM  

  • i am so glad i wasn't actually watching you do this
    i would have freaked out thinking about the giant machine propped up on those itty bitty holders

    By Blogger CarolinaDivina, at 12:10 PM  

  • it's funny you say that cause i thought i was being a little over-cautious using two when i propped up the rear driver's side wheel. i also had the jack under the car.

    as far as dependencies go, i was actually pretty amazed at how few dependencies are involved (or at least, how few i had to deal with) in changing out the brakes. i mean, i didn't really have to worry about the ABS system, the caliper ... etc.

    Honestly, if the parking brake cable were in tact, i would have never even thought about it.

    By Blogger Killy, at 3:16 PM  

  • Hi,

    My name is Bert, and I think it is sort of cool that you named your site with a quote from The Diamond Age, which I'd love to discuss, but that's not why I'm writing...

    On Monday I'm returning with my Cavalier to a mechanic for his fourth try in fixing the brakes.

    The last repair he put an oversize bolt in the rear right caliper. It lasted two weeks. Do these bolts go into the caliper or into the frame? Is it as simple as replacing the caliper, or do I have a bigger problem?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:24 PM  

  • bert,

    i'm sorry to comment back so late, but i never noticed that you actually commented till just today (3.25.05) when a friend of told me about having seeing your post.

    The replacement caliper bolt that i bought was indeed larger than the bolt that came from the original brake. i just managed to get the parking brake cable from the dealership this easter weekend and am in the process of re-building the rear brakes, so i haven't had the chance to get the car on the road and use it...

    to answer your question, the caliper bolts simply go through the caliper and attach them to the disk, so to speak, so there is no need to replace a caliper. the only thing i might suggest, if you think that the extra length on the bolt (the auto-zone person said it didn't matter) is causing problems, go to a chevrolet dealership and buy the appropriate sized bolts there and have your repair guy/girl put them in. i'm sure they aren't very expensive.

    another thing i'd like to ask: the rear right caliper??? calipers are only on the front brakes; disc brakes with calipers up front, drum brakes on the rear. did you mean the passenger side front brakes? or is there a problem with your drum brakes in the back?

    By Blogger Killy, at 6:08 PM  

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