Tuesday, December 3, 2013

X-11: Only Took Five Years...

When I first got the X-11 in January of 2009, both front brake rotors looked like this.

I completely re-did the rear brakes (new drums, new shoes, everything else cleaned up and lubed). About all I did up front was to drop new brake pads in and clean some of the rust off the calipers. I needed the car moving and new rotors could wait a little longer.

The replacement pads did a good job of scraping the rust off, but the rotors themselves were under spec and had grooves like little metal records. A good panic stop was very entertaining! I'd push on the brake pedal, then a little harder, then harder, watching that other guy's rear bumper getting closer. The X-11's nose would dive, but she'd stop with plenty of room between her nose and the other car's tail. Maybe she was testing my blood pressure for me.

More recently, though, I was hearing some occasional loud, low grinding noises like I was dragging granite blocks across cement.

For the record, no X-11 shipped with granite blocks.

Sounded really bad, and always after some moderate to severe braking. I started imagining the rotors getting worn down until they looked like these:


That is what happens when you don't get your brakes worked on like you're  supposed to. Those shiny "fingers" are the insides of the rotor--and the outer half of it is missing, ground down by metal-on-metal contact with a worn-out brake pad. Inevitably, the joker driving a truck like this will tell you, "It just started making noise this morning." Heh.

I saw one back in my Pep Boys days (1996-98) where the entire rotor had been worn down to the point where it fell off the hub. On both front wheels. "It only started making noise this morning," the woman said. "The brakes were acting funny, so I drove it here."

Then she wanted us to put the tires back on and let her drive it home because she couldn't afford new rotors and pads just then. We offered to call a tow truck, because that was the only way the thing was leaving. All it'd take was her hitting a bus full of kids and nuns and Pep Boys would be signing ownership over to someone new.

She left the truck and got the work done a few days later. This was a big full-size Ford pickup. Plenty of liability damage, there.

I had those images in mind when I ordered new pads and rotors back in August. Took me another 4 months to get myself together health-wise. All the usual stuff: one knee or the other, one foot or the other, or my right elbow would seem to flare up just as I was thinking it'd be a good day to work on the car. Add the trouble I have getting up and down and almost-constant tiredness and it seems to take a confluence of cosmic powers to get my ass out there.

I've still got things that need reinstalling after all the electrical troubleshooting back in May; a dead, rusty muffler to replace; a blower motor with a bad wire; an oil change 10 months late; and a lot of other stuff. Got the parts, but they won't install themselves.

I can tick the brakes off that list. Only took me two days, this time, to get them done. I have to relearn the brake pedal, but it feels amazing. Stops like a cat.

The rotors didn't look too bad. Both of them were the original 32-year old pieces the car shipped with. Both were close to 3/16" thinner than their replacements (and very likely under the "REPLACE THOSE SUCKERS NOW!!" spec). That grinding I'd heard was probably from the pads I threw on in 2009, which now have grooves ground into them from the wear on the rotors.

Then (because I was feeling productive for the first time in months) I re-fixed the horn. That's two things off the list. Only 2-1/2 pages to go.

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