Remembering The Basics Ensures A Quality Job And Eliminates Comebacks
Hondas continue to enjoy the popularity earned by providing a good vehicle that will deliver many miles of trouble-free service to their owners. But all machines, even the good ones, require regular maintenance and, eventually, the replacement of consumable parts. Brakes certainly fit that description. What we'll look at in this article is not so much how to replace worn-out pads, but rather things to be on the lookout for that will ensure a quality job and eliminate comebacks.
Keep in mind how the brake system has changed to keep up with forward-moving technology. Actually, the mechanical brake system hasn't changed a great deal, but with the advent of ABS and its integration into traction control and vehicle stability assist, good work habits when servicing the system are more important than ever.
Honda and its well-dressed Acura sister line have used the simple and effective squeak-type mechanical brake sensor for years. I'm sure we're all familiar with the metal tab that makes contact with the rotor when the pads are reaching the end of their useful life. While we find the noise unmistakable, many customers still don't relate it to a brake warning.
That's why it's important to inspect the pads on every car that comes in the shop. Give customers the heads up that brake service will soon be needed, and you'll be much more likely to get the work. Better yet, give them an appointment. It works for the dentist, and it will work for us.
While heat is the most common cause of rotor warpage, not controlling the torque on the lug nuts is probably second - and shouldn't be. If you're still tightening wheels with an impact gun, you're part of the problem. Do us all a favor and stop it.
The most basic and often-overlooked detail is a thorough inspection of the system. While the front pads may be the obvious problem that got the Civic on the lift, it's our responsibility, and opportunity, to inspect the entire system. Take a good look at the rear shoes; we've seen the friction material separate from the shoes on some older cars. The safety consequences of this problem are obvious.
Also take a look at the hardware, including the self-adjustment and hand-brake mechanisms. Don't overlook the wheel cylinders; check them for leakage as well as free movement of the pistons. Hopefully, you recommended and sold a brake fluid flush along with the service. This is the time to be sure the bleeders will open and aren't plugged. At the same time, look at the brake hoses and the steel lines to confirm their condition.
Honda uses the familiar turn back-type caliper with the rear disc brakes. What we're looking for here is even wear of the pads. Check the hand-brake system to make sure it's operating freely, and check the condition of the cables. Are the protective rubber boots still intact, or can you see the rust on the inner cable? If the cable looks good, unhook it from the caliper to confirm its condition as well as to check for binding in the mechanical part of the caliper.
When it comes to replacing the pads, the same good habits apply to both the front and rear. By now, I'm sure we're all aware of the risk involved with simply pushing contaminated brake fluid backward through the ABS system. The risk of creating blockages in the ABS modulator is just too great to overlook. There's really no reason not to open the bleeders and slowly retract the pistons, catching the bad fluid in your bleeder bottle. You're going to bleed and flush the system as part of the service anyway, so you might as well get rid of the most abused fluid from the start.
As the brake pads are being removed, it's important to look for anything that isn't moving freely. As mentioned earlier, we're also looking for pads that are worn evenly, otherwise the workload isn't being distributed evenly at best, and there's a good chance the pads are hanging up and putting the dreaded heat into the rotors. It's not unusual for the customer not to notice these problems since they tend to come on gradually. But all of them can feel the difference once the system is restored to its original condition.
The system inspection continues as we start to replace pads. Open the bleeder and push back the pistons on the calipers. On the front, we use a C-clamp between the outer pad and the back of the caliper. It should take little effort to retract the piston and move the caliper away from the outer pad. If excessive effort is required, don't use force. Instead, look for an indication of what's binding and remove the caliper to investigate it further.
If the slides are frozen, it will become evident when the caliper is removed. On some older models, the slides are part of the bolts, while on others the caliper bolts go into the slide. Either way, they should be removed, cleaned and lubricated. Be sure to check the condition of the rubber boots that protect the sliders from the elements.
If you're working on a model where the boot is located on the inside diameter of the caliper bracket, carefully remove the boot to clean the rust off the housing and the boot to re-establish the proper clearance. Late-model cars use a seal on the slider part of the bolt that is much more effective and easier to service. Now with the caliper removed, the piston should easily return to the bottom of the bore; if not, a rebuilt is certainly in order.
All of these warnings also apply to rear brakes equipped with discs, except, of course, using the C-clamp. Being equipped with a mechanical hand brake, it's necessary to turn the pistons as they're refracted. Again, we should all be familiar with the process and have the tools on hand to make it a simple one. Be careful when turning the piston so that the boot isn't torn.
If the boot feels brittle, or is already torn, it's a good indication that overheating has taken place. Being equipped to handle both mechanical and hydraulic application, the rear calipers are twice as likely to have a problem.
The last place to look will be the most obvious - the pads themselves being stuck in the bracket. Like the boots that tighten up by the buildup of rust behind them, remove the plated anti-rattle clips from the bracket and clean up the bracket where they sit. The final step is to use a high-quality lube on the slider hardware as well as any areas that make metal-to-metal contact, particularly where the pads mount into the bracket.
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