Monday, November 12, 2012
The time I thought I was an auto mechanic...
A typical charge for brakes at a mechanic shop - $150 (depending on how high your skirt is, of course), brake pads at an auto part store - $20 (lifetime warranty included), the look my cousin (who happens to be a mechanic) gave me when I showed him my brake pad job – Priceless.
I like to think of myself as resourceful and self sufficient. So when my car started making growling noises at me every time my foot even came near the brake pedal, I figured I could take on the task of changing the brake pads all by myself.
Proudly, I walked into the auto parts store and I asked for the parts I would need to complete the task. Skeptically, they gave me what I needed but not before they asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into. I made my purchase, which included a Dr. Pepper, a manual, grease, and of course the brake pads. I totally knew what I was doing.
With my grungy jeans and t-shirt on, I attempted to remove the lug nuts. I failed. After fifteen minutes of trying, I asked my sweet neighbor for assistance. He obliged and the lug nuts were off and so was the tire. I got down to business.
Removing the caliper and switching the brake pads, I tightened the bolts not checking them twice. I reattached the caliper back to the rotor. Wiping my cheek, I stood up and admired my work. Brake dust gets everywhere, by the way… I don’t recommend a white shirt or wiping your cheek.
I put the tire back on and had no trouble tightening the lug nuts with the tire iron, and repeated the process on the passenger side. The sense of accomplishment and pride I felt could not be measured. I felt like rolling my windows down while cruising down State street, my car donned with the best brake job the world had ever seen, and shouting my victory over brake pads to anyone within earshot. Except that it was the beginning of January, negative schfifty five degrees, and I don't have hydraulics... which I totally had in that daydream.
Fast forward two weeks…. (mid January)
My brakes were working so well, until they didn’t. They stopped, but not in the way that they were meant to. They stopped working. The grinding, whining, and moaning started up again and it took me a whole two blocks of near slamming on them for them to even start to consider coming to a halt. (Okay, that was an exaggeration.. but I think the point was made.) They stopped working. The brake pads I bought must have been faulty.
I took my car to my cousin (a top notch mechanic). He took one look at my brake job and I kid you not… immediately started laughing. I stood there my pride slowly fading into the dust.. brake dust. He looked at me and started laughing AGAIN! I self consciously asked him to explain…. He said these words to me “Rotors are meant to be round and smooth. They aren’t supposed to look like a gear. There are chunks of metal missing from these" And another fit of laughter started up again. “Can I keep these rotors please?? I’m gonna hang them up in my garage.” I just asked him how much it was going to cost me to fix my mistake. . . turns out bolts & nuts are meant to be there. If you miss one (or several) the brake pads won’t stay where you put them. Jerks. Brake pads are jerks!
So after a very nice cousin helped me out of a not so nice situation, my brake pads have never worked better. Turns out… I’m not an auto mechanic after all.