Hooniverse Asks: Is there an easy car repair that intimidated you?

There are certain parts of a vehicle that are intimidating until you get your hands on them. I just experienced this for myself last night. The rear brakes on my wife’s 2016 Mazda CX-5 started making a bit of noise. I assumed it was just time for fresh pads, so I wanted to try and give this repair a go myself. Now I’m sure many of you have changed pads or even rotors and more, but I’ve never touched the brakes on a vehicle. And it’s a part of the car I really don’t want to screw up, especially in my wife’s car.

So brake work intimidated me. Even though I’ve always heard it is usually a piece of cake. So with guidance from Friend of Hooniverse Rick Radcliffe, a very easy-to-follow brake how-to video I found on YouTube, and our CX-5 staring me in the face in my garage, I decided to have at it.

And guess what? It was total cake. Even with the rear electronic parking brake, I knew what to potentially look out for and how to handle the whole thing. And in the comment section of the YouTube video I linked above, the poster mentions exactly how to put the car in and out of maintenance mode as is needed for the parking brake.

I got the pads in place. The rotors went back on after spreading back the piston. And I torqued the wheels all back up nice and tight. After that, a quick ride around the block showed no pedal fade, no noise, and issue-free brake operation, including the parking brake.

I was scared of this one, and I didn’t need to be. And now, I no longer am.

10 Comments

  1. Bleeding dual-diagonal brakes on a Volvo. The first time I took a good look at the brake line routing and then the bleeding sequence chart, my eyes squinted just a bit. But in the end it’s pretty much the same as bleeding a conventional system, just more of it.

    Congrats on the pad change. It feels great when everything goes together like it’s supposed to!

    1. Yeah, I think when it comes time to do brakes on the Jag I still may send that one off… rear inboard brakes sound like a real pain in the ass.

  2. I mentioned in Last Call that I recently rebuilt a carb. The car had been waiting for the repair for about a year–caused by a mixture of not having the right weather when I wasn’t too busy, and having a big enough window to work in that I would be able to get all the way through in one sitting.

    Anyway, I did the job in one evening, found the gasket the next day, and had the car running three minutes after hooking everything back up. The battery still had enough voltage to fire it off.

    But I had no oil pressure–the pump had lost its prime after all that downtime. And there is no commercially-available pump priming tool for that application and I didn’t know where to locate a scrap distributor to use to make my own tool.

    Plan B was to take the oil pump apart and pack it with Vaseline. I really didn’t want to do that out of fear that disturbing something that had not been apart in decades might not turn out as expected. I was able to get a gasket and decided to go for it–there were a few screws that needed some convincing to come loose, but eventually they came out without too much destruction. But then the cover was still stuck. I tried prying on it, knocking it with a dead blow hammer, poking at it with a flat screwdriver, and cursing at it, but none of those seemed to work. I was at the point where I was about to put everything back and look on ebay for a scrap distributor, but then by some miracle, the cover came off.

    It went back together without problems, and the pump is now primed. I avoided the bad stuff I feared.

  3. Welding. I have most of the equipment, I could start with some easy edges around the wheel arch, but well, I’m procrastinating.since a year or three…

  4. Am I allowed to answer “everything”? Every single job on the car seems intimidating at first. I grew up in a totally non-mechanical household. When I “checked” the oil on my first car, a 1977 Volvo 242, I drew out the stick, it seemed wet, I was happy. Of course, I burned the headgasket on the 900 km trip I went on after…oops. Learning is fun, but it often smacks me in the head the hard way. And stuff like doing the brakes is super useful and has saved me a gazillion coins over the years, but I still get stuck when I lack an impact wrench or any strategy that works to remove stuck bolts on, say, our rustmaster, the Leaf. I sometimes wish the force was stronger with me.

  5. Brake work is generally pretty easy. Anyone who has any mechanical ability should be able to do a routine brake job. Of course, even routine jobs can turn ugly if fasteners break or strip.

    I’ve done a lot of brake jobs, but the last one on my daughter’s Protege was a bear. The Phillips head screw holding the rotor on was rusted and then I broke a screw driver bit off in it trying to use my drill driver to get it off. It took a lot to drill it out after that.

    1. yeah it was simple but then the last pad fought me when going back in – annoying but otherwise fine. I’m now no longer scared to do brake work (except for on the Jag)

  6. I’ve found that I have much more trouble with stuff that seemed easy and became hard, like changing cylinder heads on a Ford 5.4 Triton in an F150. I’ve pulled heads on both OHV and OHC engines so it seemed doable but complex plumbing, very tight access and very big and heavy parts made it a 4 weekend hell project.
    In contrast pulling the heads off a BMW R100 is about 3o minutes work and splitting the exhaust is the hardest part.

    1. sometimes, you just need a really really big hammer…
      My oldest brother and I was putting his engine back into his t-bird when it stopped going down into the mounts. new mounts, new hardware, what could go wrong…the lower studs on the mounts were too long and hit the bottom of the cradle. why is it that the last thing you check is always not correct in all respects. I mean, I’ve assembled a fifty thousand pound paper box making machine from a pile of parts thrown against a wall and did not have those kinds of problems.
      one job on my lincoln was to take the entire dash assy out to replace a heater control motor assy. just looking under the dash at the bowl of spaghetti looking nest of wires and cables, I feared for my sanity and hands. however, I cracked open the computer put the disc in and followed fords step by step instructions. dear lord, what a mess. I realized then that the guys designing the hvac and the guys designing the dash were in two different countries and never got the memos. without the factory manual in front of me, I would have left half of the stuff lay on the floor. layer cake design just sucks.

  7. An oil change. I always go to the quick lube shop, but afterwards regret not doing it myself. Spun a rod bearing, so decided to drop the oil pan and take a look. Next thing I know I’m draining the oil and removing the filter. 2 days later I realized, I had essentially performed the dreaded oil change.

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