The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: Ditching The Old and Busted
In order to install The New Hotness - i.e. vastly improved brakes - you must first get rid of The Old and Busted stock parts (which are still pretty new). However, before we get to that portion of today's show we'd like to take a few moments to share this brief message from our sponsors:
Some Words About Manliness: Posturing in such a way as to demonstrate your supposedly-instinctive knowledge of any given task is not manly: it's actually rather delusional and more often leads you to looking like a complete f***** idiot than anything else. If you're especially inept such posturing may also give you the added benefit of becoming the source for one of those funny little warning labels that we all love so much. Either way, you make your life more difficult. My advice to you is to crack open a cold beer, sit down, and spend a few minutes educating yourself: it is time well-spent.
So, yes: the difficulty of this project is inversely proportional to your knowledge of the provided instructions...and in this case, the provided instructions happen to give you some not-quite-common-sense information before you even open the boxes. The information is this: don't clean your rotors with brake cleaner. Why not? As you'll see in many of the following pictures, the rotors are painted on all of their non-pad-contacting surfaces: if you hit them with brake cleaner the premium levels of rotor-finishing that you paid extra money for will be eradicated with the first swipe of the towel, you f***tard. So...sorry, Brakleen, but all rotor-cleaning duties in this
install will be handled by Simple Green!
The Brakleen looks so awestruck and depressed because it knows that 1) it's not going to be used until we clean the debris shields, and 2) that the Simple Green can probably kick its a**.
Simple Green is a good thing to have around for any general grease/grime/film/muck/foulness removal duties...and it did such a good job at degreasing the rotors that I decided to use it to clean the new Bosch calipers as well. A couple of sprays and a rinse and the calipers were ready to come apart and be painted. Here's what you get when you pull one apart, with a 14mm wrench shown for comparison.
I used some compressed air to dry the calipers, but not the rotors; it doesn't matter if the rotors surface-rust, but I wanted the calipers to be rust-free and paint-ready. Since I really liked the neutral gray color of the caliper and saddle metal I thought I'd maintain it by giving them a little extra bit of protection. Thus, I shot them with some aluminum-colored engine paint...which was so close a match to the metal color that I couldn't easily tell where I'd painted. I also wanted to keep the paint out of the pistons and seals, and it turned out that the bottom of a plastic cup formed a perfect little press-on seal to mask the piston area. It also has the added benefit of making the caliper look somewhat myopic.
I won't bore you guys with shots of things being painted because we should all know how to paint something by now. What we might not
all know is how to pull a tie rod or drag link off the knuckles with little-to-no headache involved. All you need is a pry bar, a shop hammer, and an extra gorilla. I didn't have a spare gorilla lying around - shame on me - so I enlisted the help of my friend Andrew. When he's not toppling insurgent Communist governments Andrew is an epic-level plumber and part-time ninja. Seriously, he is...I've seen his character sheet and he's got, like, 26 levels in Plumber and another 5 in Ninja, and he also knows his way around a garage. Taken as a whole, this means that he's at least 94% as useful as a skilled gorilla when it comes to hitting things with large hammers, as we see here:
Valuable Information: The above picture shows the correct procedure for removing a tie rod or drag link...a procedure which does NOT involve beating on the tie rod to get it off the knuckle. Instead, you apply steady pressure to the rod by flexing a pry bar between it and the bottom of the knuckle, and then you give the front of the knuckle a few sharp, healthy raps with a hammer. The linkage will rapidly disengage itself, and if you pay close attention you'll realize why it won't hit the ground when it falls.
Obviously, we've already put Greta up on jackstands and pulled the tires at this point...and now that we've got the linkage free and bungee-corded out of the way we're ready to ditch the factory rotors and calipers and get down to the serious business of axle shaft and unit bearing removal. Yes, you read that correctly...but before I expound on this part we should take a look at the rotor that's going to be replacing the stock unit. Pictured: "Yeah, that's about an inch bigger..."
After the spacer is removed the stock rotor and caliper can come off, and the latter can be draped over the lower control arm (see upper left of picture below). It'll rest there until we're ready to remove the banjo bolt and swap the brake lines from the old caliper to the new...a strategy which will prevent air and debris from entering the brake lines. This is extremely important because there's going to be a LOT of debris flying around in the near future. So, when the rotor is removed and then caliper is propped out of the way we're ready to pull the axle shafts and unit bearings. Now, exactly why
are we doing this? Simple: the unit bearing pins the knuckle in place - preventing removal - and it's easier to pull the axle shafts out through the knuckles than it is to disassemble the U-joints.
In order to remove the shafts we have to pull out the three unit bearing flange bolts...two of which are visible here, already soaked with penetrating oil.
Valuable Information: We know by this point in Greta's build that penetrating oil makes any job easier, but unit bearing flange bolts will likely REQUIRE it...and the forward-most of them on each side may very well need an impact wrench. We didn't discover this fact until we could get behind the rotor and inspect the fasteners...a situation that may be commonplace any time you delve this deeply into your Jeep. I've said it before, but it bears saying again: in the Wasteland, you need to be ready to finish before you ever begin. We had Liquid Wrench and an impact gun ready and waiting, and we never missed a beat. The five minutes we gave the penetrating oil to do its magic were spent reviewing the upcoming steps of the knuckle removal.
The fact that the steering knuckle pivots makes your life easier, because you just rotate it in order to get your tools onto the flange bolts. Here's a great view of the backside of the knuckle, which highlights one of the big potential pitfalls of this project: specialty fasteners.
Those, my darlings, are 12-point flange-head bolts...so if you don't already have a 13mm 12-point socket, you're about to go buy one. After these bolts are removed a gentle bit of persuasion on the unit bearing flange will pop everything loose. DO NOT TAKE OUT ALL OF YOUR TEENAGE ANGST ON THIS PIECE OF METAL. It takes less effort than you think: as soon as you see the unit bearing loosen you can work it out. So, tap gently, here:
After the unit bearing comes loose, you're ready to pull the shaft. You'll need another set of hands here, too, because you're going to thread the proverbial needle...err, knuckle. Whatever. Just look at the picture.
Have the person outside of the knuckle do all the moving and have the person with their hand inside the inner-C steady the axle shaft. The objective here is to pull the shaft without dragging the splines across the inside of the axle tubes
, which may or may not have a minor bit of rust or grit in them. I'd love to have a set of alloy shafts and new unit bearings to go back in but finances just don't allow it. So, we'll deal with this ugliness for now and replace them sometime down the road.
When the shaft is out - and the debris shield as well - you can start on removing the stock knuckle by pulling the split pins (cotter pins) from the castle nuts on the upper and lower ball joints. Here's the easy way to get a tight split pin out, if you have room to employ it.
The castle nut on the bottom is another potential fastener pitfall simply because of its size: it's somewhere around 27 or 28 millimeters. I don't know, specifically, because we only had wrenches and sockets up to 24mm...however, a 1-1/8" socket will fit closely enough to take it out. If you don't have tools in this size, you'll need to source them from somewhere before you begin
. After you remove the pins and castle nuts the knuckle is ready to come off...but before you pound on it, partially re-install the castle nuts in order to prevent the knuckle from hitting the ground.
Some of the slower members of the class haven't yet realized that this is the same trick we used to keep the drag link and tie rod from clattering down to the floor, earlier. The really
slow members of the class are still wondering if I had a spicy chicken biscuit for breakfast (I did) and whether or not they'll get to see more pictures of the stuffed animal that was in the pile of boxes (I'm not telling). After the knuckle pops free you're done with that side, and you can proceed to the other. The first side took us about an hour to complete and the second side took about ten minutes. We snapped this shot before we dropped the second knuckle...a rare lesson in focal planes and differential geometry, all in one.
And once they're both out the front axle starts looking a little bit naked. Note the bungee-corded linkage.
This is a good time to check your ball joints...specifically the lowers. If you've been chasing a steering shimmy or wobble you may want to replace them as a matter of course. Mine seemed to be within acceptable tolerance so we left them alone and focused on getting the debris shields cleaned and painted, which made both me and the Brakleen very happy (it finally got used). That brought us to lunchtime...or, about three hours into the install. Surprised that it only took three hours? Don't be: we read the instructions.
See? I told
you it was time well-spent.
Stay tuned: "Making Room for The New Hotness" comes up next, in which we explain a crucial part of the picture seen immediately above and also willingly subject ourselves to extreme danger.