Instructables
Picture of Get rid of steering wheel shake when braking.
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There are common problems that cause your steering wheel to shake when you apply the brakes. In order from least expensive to most, they are: dry guide pins, worn brake pads, and worn rotors.

It’s generally recommended if you replace the rotors, you replace the brakes, and grease the guide pins. Or if you’re just replacing the brakes, you also grease the guide pins. Now, if your brakes are still good, you could just grease the guide pins. Most of this can be done with a basic set of tools. Replacing rotors, however, is a little more involved. In either case, this if what it takes to get the job done.
 
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Step 1: Collapse the caliper

Picture of Collapse the caliper
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Start by engaging the emergency brake, jacking up the vehicle, and placing it safely on jack stands. Open the hood and remove the lid to the master cylinder reservoir. If you don’t do this you may rupture the reservoir when you collapse the calipers. Remove the tire. Place a pry bar in between the rotor and brake pad. With firm constant pressure the caliper pistons will press back into the caliper. If you are not replacing the break pads be careful not to damage them. You could also just use a C-clamp once its off.

Note: Only do one wheel at a time. You could completely expel a piston out of the caliper. Then you’d have to bleed the breaks after putting it back.

Step 2: Remove the Caliper

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Remove the upper and lower mounting bolts for the caliper. To avoid damage, hang the caliper up so it’s not dangling by the brake line.

Step 3: Remove the Caliper Bracket

Picture of Remove the Caliper Bracket
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The caliper bracket will have larger bolts then those that came off the caliper. They will also be set in place with thread locker. Thread locker is basically a glue that keeps bolts in place. If you don’t have an impact gun you’ll need a torch to release the bolts.

Now is a good time to spray the rotor, where it contacts the hub, with penetrating oil. 
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JonnyH12 months ago

The correct way ...would be bleed off when resetting calliper pistons, passing old oil into bleed bottle., once all works completed follow with brake fluid change and bleed fully..

Main problem ,, ill informed diyer's and clock watching fast fit shops.

wdexter1 year ago
It's been over a decade since I worked on cars professionally, but the trainers always were very clear that we should NOT push fluid out of the calipers back up into the master cylinder. Instead, it should be pushed out of the bleeders.

The idea was that the ABS system is pretty sensitive, and it might not like fluid being pushed that direction or the bits of gunk and grit that tend to accumulate in the caliper being pushed back into it and gumming up the little valves.

We usually just let the fluid go on the floor then thew down some oil dry (aka cat litter) but you can also use a tube and collect it up.
In this case, I have to respectfully ask where does the fluid go when in normal driving the brakes are applied and then released? Unless I am wrong that fluid goes through all the ABS valves into the caliper to push the pistons out thus squeezing the brake pads against the brake disk. Then, upon release, that very same fluid has to travel backwards. I have always been taught that it is perfectly normal practise to push those pistons back when replacing brake pads. Unless I and millions of others have being doing wrong all these years? :) Oh, if your brake hydraulic fluid does have all those contaminants in it then I would suggest it be completely drained before even thinking about driving the car again.

Somebody else said about hydraulic fluid being hydrophillic or hydrofillic? The word I know is hygroscopic in that it is a fluid which absorbs water (moisture) from the atmosphere. If you use silicon hydraulic fluid this does not absorb water. You do need to replace all the seals in the system though if normal hydraulic fluid has been used.
You may think this to be "normal practice" but I can tell you now it isn't. The previous reply is almost 100% correct (aside from the abs bit)

You may think it ok to push the fluid back to the master from the caliper pots but just wait until the day comes when you fire a bit of rust back up into the master and cut up the seals. Especially on say a twin turbo v8 land cruiser with a $11,000 ish master/ABS/TCS/stability module (that's right mate, trade price $9785.00 plus GST (ad on my 30% mark up for good measure) and 6 weeks from japan to AUS)

I'm a Brake specialist, people like you handing out info like this make me smile. Keeps me busy ;)
Jimmeh30. It is pretty obvious that there is a different set of standards and practise in the US as there is in in the UK. I can't argue with what you are saying I just disagree in respect to what we do here.

I do have to ask again though. What happens when that brake pedal is pushed down? Fluid moves through the system. It pushes the brake cylinder out. As in, it pushes against the piston (whether it's drum or disk brakes). Now I admit I am more familiar with drum brakes so forgive me if I am missing something. But those pistons push against the shoes. They come part way out of the brake cylinder. Once the braking effort is no longer needed those same pistons go back inside the cylinder. In the meantime, what has happened to the brake fluid? What I will add is that if your brake system is so bad that it has bits of rust in it then what the hell is anybody doing driving that vehicle? It doesn't matter what country the vehicle is in a brake system that is so bad it has bits of rust in it is plain dangerous. Anyway, I take it then you do not have/use these tools http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/SNAP-ON-BLUE-POINT-BRAKE-PISTON-WIND-BACK-AIR-TOOL-ADAPTORS-SET-/111166481753?pt=UK_Hand_Tools_Equipment&hash=item19e209e559 in the US? Let me tell you, they are found in every single commercial garage here in the UK. Guess what they do? Push those pistons back into the cylinder :)
under normal driving conditions, the piston/pads move on the order of thousands of an inch. You're moving a lot more fluid when replacing the pads and pushing pistons back in.

I agree that the risk is minimal, however, as your fluid should be relatively clean in the first place.
Most manufactures now require a brake fluid flush at some interval. This helps remove the particles in question. I have always backed up the fluid when changing pads and always will. Follow the manufacturers interval for brake fluid flushing, or if it makes you feel better, be a little more conservative and shorten the intervals.
Agreed. Most manufacturers specify 2 years with 3 years the absolute maximum for standard brake fluid. This is because at the end of 3 years there is a significant amount of water absorbed into the fluid. The exception is where silicon brake fluid has been used. That can be left for the life of the vehicle. Decades if that is the life of the car. Silicon brake fluid does not absorb atmospheric water/moisture. So, it doesn't create brake fluid boil and it also does not promote any corrosion in the brake mechanism. The only thing you must do if converting to silicon fluid from ordinary brake fluid is to remove and replace all the seals. They will be contaminated with the old brake fluid and it's a good time to change them anyway :)
When it gets towards the end of the life of those brake pads they have actually moved a heck of a lot more than just a few thousands of an inch. Unless you are using very thin pad material? So, during the lifetime of the pads the fluid is steadily moving more and more into the pistons. It is quite normal and standard practice, at least here in the UK, to use a spreader tool to push the pistons back fully into their respective housings. If you don't you seriously risk having an airlock in the system.
you're right, it should never be pushed back up through the lines.
chrwei1 year ago
it's great to see auto repair featured! I first learned to do brakes when i was 16, and you give some excellent tips. anybody really can do this. I would only add that some cars have the rotor as part of the wheel hub, so replacing it will require a really large socket and re-greasing the bearings, which is a bit more involved and very messy without some expensive tools that shops have. most all 80's rear wheel drive Chevy's are an example that do this, and much to my disappointment, Geo Metro's too.
What?

Who'd design that? I know, someone wanting to force people to go to dealherships. Intolerable.
I was still able to do it in my driveway, it's just messy pushing new grease into the roller bearings by hand :(
I'm guessing it was a manufacturing cost-cutting measure, less parts, less to assemble
static chrwei1 year ago
Here is why I think the disk is integral with hub. Withe a dick that's serviceable it would be good idea to use the brake lath to insure the dick surfaces are perpendicular to the axle The manfacture would have to machine serviceable disk anyway. Why not make it integral with the hub, so all mechanics have trouble free way to make a repair Anyway the time the disk goes bad it's probably time to service the wheel bearings Most professional mechanic have whell bearing packing to to save, but there no avoiding getting grease on the hand . The grgrease cleans off you know ;)
A disk integrated into the hub is not a good idea from a DIY perspective for a very simple reason. Anyone has the basic tools to remove and replace a disk with a separate hub:
- the wheel lug nut wrench that comes with the vehicle;
- a strong screwdriver to press the caliper piston;
- wrenches to loosen the caliper carrier;
- a screwdriver to loosen the disk screws.

Messing with a hub requires a torque wrench to avoid damaging the bearings on reassembly. Often, hub nuts are extremely tight and significant force is required to free them. Hub nuts are frequently of single use. The same goes for axle nut covers.

On drum brakes it makes even more sense to have a separate hub.
The fact that most if not all cars & light trucks AFAIK have the disk integral to the bub doesn't force anyone to go to the dealer My do the do that? My first guess if the rotor was replaceable part it would wise to put the hub with replacement disk in the brake late to insure the the surface are parallel & perpendicular to the axle The replacement part anyone can purchases can be assured that marching has been done
nate711731 year ago
Sschoemann, i hope nobodys around when you change your brakes without reintroducing pressure. Dwell on the piston position, you'll figure it out if you dwell on it.
Sonata851 year ago
i'll admit i didn't read any of the comments below, but THREAD LOCKER on caliper bolts?! no man! no! just torque em down tight!
darren13131 year ago
holy smokes you guys need to slow down before you hurt somebody or damage property. rotors have a discard specifications meaning when they get too thin they have to be throw away and new ones installed. if you're not out doing a lot of hard stopping stop and go or pulling a heavy trailer then this is a good indications that your rotors are getting too thin. check your rotor thickness using a micrometer checking in several places this will show if you truly have a rotor that is warped and yes there are specifications for that it is called lateral run out . the author is correct the guide pins could be binding causing the caliper not to release fully back on the slides keeping the brake pad in contact with the rotor causing it to overheat. also the little square rubber this in the round hole that the caliper piston fits in may have gone bad not pulling back the piston when the brake pedal is released keeping the pads in contact with the rotor causing an overheating therefore causing a warped rotor or it could be a bad brake hose. after inspecting your brake system and find that only one side is warped that's a good indicator that you have a bad caliper or bad hose. if you just recently did brakes and all the sudden you have a warped rotor you might want to check that you put your caliper on right and did not twist the hose. if your vehicle has high mileage on it above 60 thousand miles I recommend changing the hoses and the calipers. another good indicator of a bad hose or caliper the inside pad will be thinner than the inside pad on the other side. if the outer pad is thinner than the other pad on the other side that's a good indicator that your slides are binding if this is the case this will give you a low or spongy brake pedal. if those slides are binding it may be because some body put a petroleum based lubricant on those slides never ever put petroleum based lubricant on your brake parts such as bearing or axle grease as the author of this instructable suggests you to do. petroleum based lubricants on brake parts will cause the rubbers to swell and bind.. if the rotors is hard to come off because of rust what you get it off clean the hub where the rotor mounts with a wire brush and put a high temp never seize this is typically a silver in color ( read the label) on there not a copper and don't gobe it on a little bit goes a long way. if you have to use a torch to remove any of both of the brake caliper assembly or bracket assembly just go and buy a new one . when reinstalling the caliper bracket bolts use a blue loctite not a red. if your pads are worn evenly and you have overheating and your rotors or well above the discard specifications and can be resurfaced you need to start looking at your tires and suspension like your struts or shocks both your tires and your suspension system struts or shocks are a integral part of your braking system if any part of this system breaks down worn out this could cause you to apply your brakes harder to just too stop causing a overheating causing your brakes rotors to warp and pads to wear out prematurely also if you have rear drum brakes you need to ensure that those brakes adjusted properly this will also cause you to apply brake pedal harder therefore cause overheating causing warped rotors all this stuff occurs over time so if you have a high mileage vehicle you need to really start looking at all the parts involved in your braking system such as your tires your struts or your shocks your rear drum brakes if you have them and that they are properly adjusted if you have rear disc brakes check those calipers make sure they're working properly as well. when installing new pads apply pressure to the piston what's this pressure is applied go and crack open the bleeder screw the fluid should start dripping out then go ahead and slowly push back the piston until it's fully back once it is fully back keep pressure applied then close the bleeder screw. by doing it this way you are avoiding damaging your ABS system and or your master cylinder even if you don't have an ABS equipped vehicle is best if you do it this way especially with vehicles over 30,000 miles this way you avoid damaging the master cylinder. it is also recommended that you change your brake fluid every 30,000 miles because all brake fluid whether it is dot 3 4 or 5 . loves loves water. dot 4 and 5 withstand higher braking temps therfore dont break down as quickly as dot 3. by checking brake fluid levels in your master cylinder on a routine basis will also indicate a low pad situation which will give you a pretty good idea when you need to do your brakes but this is only a guide a thorough visual inspection of your braking system is required too actually determine when you need to replace your pads. as one commenter suggested that you re surface new rotors I disagree with that comment based on the fact if you have to re surface a new rotor you are throwing your money away and removing life from the rotor. a rotor that has been manufactured under strict quality control and has been handled and stored properly will not be warped straight out of the box. also the author of this instructable recommends that you pump the brake pedal after you do your brake pads. this is correct to a point you do not want to push your break pedal all the way to the floor because you can damage your master cylinder pushing the cups further than they normally travel. I could go on and on about brake systems if you're not sure about what you're doing have a professional do your brakes if you're not sure about what you're doing you're putting your life your family's life and everybody else's life at risk. there are a lot of good comments and a lot of wrong comments just be careful and ask if you dont know. go to your local parts house and ask about brake hardware lubricants they should be able to explain the diff if not find a diff parts house better yet go ask a tech at yor local shop he or she will be more than happy to help you out wih good advice. my knowledge comes from over 24 years as a certified ASE tech and 30 years of hands on in the shop from dealer shops to retail tire shops working on almost every make and model. just rember the simpe basic stuff will bite you in the buttocks if you dont pay attention. brake systems are pretty straightforward easy to work on but if you get the wrong advice or don't know what you're doing it can become a catastrophic nightmare so be careful.
From my experiences, the leading cause of braking vibration is failure to minimize rotor run-out when installing the rotor. To do this you need a cheap magnetic dial indicator you can get at harbor freight for about $15...no need for a nice one which can cost over $100. Be sure to clean both rotor-hub surfaces with a wire brush or emery paper before you begin to remove rust and ensure a smooth mating surface. Stick the dial indicator to the a-arm, install the rotor with all lugs torqued the same 40-50ft/lbs is enough. Position the probe at a right angle to the rotor surface and rotate the rotor by hand (the caliper should be off while you are doing this). Run-out for a full rotation should be between .000 and .007in. I usually test all 4-6 rotor positions (depending on the number of lugs) and note the run-out for each, then choose the position with the least run-out. You change the rotor position by removing the rotor and re installing in each of the possible lug positions. I have never seen a rotor with 0 run-out, but I have seen it is bad as .015in in the worst position. This procedure is particularly important on the fronts.
sschoemann1 year ago
Ummm there is no need to pump up the breaks before starting the vehicle if you have simply replaced the rotor and pads. Your break lines are still sealed, so the application of vacuum to the booster will not matter. one way or another. Not starting the vehicle before pumping the breaks up is only necessary id you have opened the lines or bleeders so that you can tell if there is air in the lines as felt by a "spongy brake pedal". Also instead of a torch a dead blow hammer on a breaker bar with an impact socket will work to free the bracket bolts. If you are not familiar with dead blows, they look like a large mallet (depending on weight) made of a polymer (usually orange) with the head filled with a specified weight of loose shot, to prevent the head from bouncing, when used, this has the effect of multiplying the force of the blow exponentially. making a 4 lb hammer act like a 16 and so on.
sschoemann1 year ago
I find it much easier to use a mechanics pry bar and a cold chisel to compress the piston before removing the caliper. simply slip the chisel between the pad and rotor an tap it in sufficiently to give clearance for the head of the pry bar. and remove it then insert the pry bar head, with the edge against the rotor and pull back against the back of the pad. You may need to reinsert the bar deeper and repeat. but this will be much quicker and be less likely to damage the flexible brake line than removing the caliper and using a clamp or purpose made compressor. I have two different type of compressors and find this method much easier and prevents damage to the new ceramic composite pistons that require even pressure as they can crack if twisted, since the piston is aligned with the pad backing plate, and this method allows straight line pressure due to all the parts being in alignment and you can put the pressure on the opposite side of caliper from the piston all the force is evenly distributed preventing any torsional damage, and is even the currently recommended method by many manufacturers utilizing the composite pistons ad it also limits the amount of pressure applied ad the rotor acts as a depth stop
tiger125061 year ago
I would like to say that this is a great 'ible. It is great to see you mention lubricating the guide pins. It's probably more of a local thing, but it seems like the majority of brake shops, garages, and whatnot completely ignore that brake parts need lubrication. They'll change the pads and then *force* them into place. If you want smooth brakes, you *must* clean and lightly grease every surface that the edges of the pad plate backing contact. And definitely the guide pens. All this lubrication sometimes can get you in trouble, so I also advise using a cleaner on the surface of the brake disc to remove any overshot, or greasy fingerprints.
Also, depending on where your brakes have been done before, you might find everything torqued to an remarkably unnatural number of ft-lbs. I've done some brake jobs where the lug nuts, guide pins, and even the bleeder nut have been torqued so hard that they *must* be loosened with a torch (>300ft-lbs). Experience tells me that I can apply great amounts of torque much more easily with a longer lever arm, than I can with an impact gun. Because of that, before resorting to heating, you should try to extend your lever arm (safely) and use 6-sided sockets (rather than 12) to avoid stripping.
jeff961 year ago
When I change from winter to summer tires and vice versa, I lift the rubber boot for the guide pins and spray lithium grease in there. Adds 2 minutes to the job and I've never had the pins seize
oktex1 year ago
Great info!
When I was young I worked for a shop and back then proper procedure was to turn the rotors even when new to make sure they were true.

Question: (Being sarcastic)
Has manufacturing progressed so much that quality control has made this step obsolete? I really want some opinions...
A friend had to replace theirs 4 times because of this recently...makes me wonder if improper torque of the wheels had anything to do with it?
jz791 year ago
concerning the brake disc and its surface, normally there should be some brake pad material embedded in the surface of the steel brake rotor (that is why you see a bluish tint to it), if the vehicle has been driven very lightly, there is a chance of that material being unevenly distributed leaving patches of almost clean steel, and when brake pressure is applied, brake pads bite better on the patches that have embedded material on the steel surface than on the clean steel, this creates uneven braking effect, which sometimes is confused with steering shake

this, is some cases, (make sure you are alone on the road) can be remedied by accelerating the vehicle on the freeway to 120-140km/h (75-85mph) and applying hard braking UP TO but NOT reaching the point where ABS starts to kick in, and brake down to 40-60km/h (25-35mph), repeat this 4-5 times, the aim is to heat up brake rotors and pads and to cover the rotors surface with new brake pad material

this can same quite a big repair bill on unnecessary replacement of current brake rotors/pads and it should be done after new brake parts are put on the car as well (pads and rotors), after the initial brake in

if this doesn't help, inspect rotors for uneven wear or warp using a micrometer
jz791 year ago
1. when this job is done, normally, you would take the caliper completely off, pull cylinders out, inspect for damage (rust primarily), if there is any dirt stuck to the cylinders, pull them out completely, clean them, depending on the material they can either be lightly sanded (to remove rust and even the surface), or have to be replaced (in case rust has created deep craters or they are chrome plated and chrome has heeled off), when that is done, inspect the seal ring, inspect dust cover and its seat in the caliper, most of time that seat will have rust damage which creates a path for water to get behind the dust cover and start corroding the cylinder, this doesn't take long, but if you don't do it, chances are that a half-stuck cylinder will ruin your new brake disc/pads in couple months time
2. guide pins are very important part of the floating caliper, they should be inspected for rust damage AND wear, if there are signs of any, replace them (they are usually quite cheap), and concerning grease, don't use any normal grease, they tend to dry up and that leads again to uneven brake wear, instead you use special grease for those guide pins, I don't recall details, but the important thing is - it doesn't dry up, keeping the floating caliper free to slide on the pin
xperience1 year ago
This instructable is well written and the author is clearly very knowledgeable. First of all, the cup seals in the master cylinder are DESIGNED to allow brake fluid to flow backwards. Otherwise the brakes would remain applied after releasing the brake pedal. When you bleed the system and pump the brakes each pump allows the fluid past the seals, if this did not happen this level in the reservoir would not go down and new fluid could not replace the fluid lost out from the bleeder screw. Next, the only time a warped rotor or hub with lateral run-out will cause a car to shake is if the guide pins are stuck/dry or the car has fixed-style calipers. Rotors can cause a shake if there are slick spots on the rotor (oil or heat glazing) or from pad deposits that can create thickness variation. In any case, Mrballeng is right, a shake caused by the brake system (floating-style caliper) can be remedied by replacing/fixing the guide pins, pads, or rotors.
jdmeaux1 year ago
Mis-torqued lug nuts, bent wheel, out-of-balanced tire are all causes of shakes when braking
Unless I missed it in your presentation and one of the most important tasks to prevent brake chatter or vibration would be to torque all the bolts including the wheel bolts. If the bolts holding the wheels to the hubs are not properly torqued they will cause vibration when you apply your brakes. You should contact your dealer who can advise you of the proper number of pounds required to tighten your wheels. This is extremely important if you have alloy wheels on your car.
Exactly. Do it in a star pattern small increment at a time works like a charm. I never had brake shake problems with my cars. They are all caused by worn out rotor and pad.
ccotton11 year ago
sorry, should've typed " are caused by a rotor that isn't perfectly in the center of the caliper pads, due to having been overheated and warps."
ccotton11 year ago
NEVER, EVER push the fluid back up thru the reservoir! That's a rookie mistake and will KILL the seals in a brake master. Next, you have forgotten or don't know that there's a correct phase that exists between the rotor and the mating surface of the hub. Without a dial indicator to check lateral runout, the best you can hope to achieve is LUCK. Pulsating pedal, shaking when braking, pulling to either side, all need a rotor that stays directly in the center of the caliper pads, and without measuring, you're counting on "the force" to get it right... This is not a well thought out Instructable!
totszwai1 year ago
Actually, wheel shake when braking have nothing to do with your procedure described here. It has to do with the brake rotor and pad having uneven wear overtime. The rotor and pad would begin to have grooves on them and when those grooves gets deeper and deeper and more and more "misalign" between the rotor and pad, that's what causes the shake. "Dry" caliper pin would only cause the caliper to "stuck" and not releasing the pad properly.

In addition, you are suppose to open the valve on the caliper, hook a hose to it, then compress the piston, so that the fluid would come out form the valve and not get push back into the reservoir.

Anyway, if your hub is straight, your have new rotor and new pad, given that the user tighten everything properly, then it would not shake. Few reasons that could cause it to shake are:
- User did not tighten the bolts properly
- User did not tighten the bolts on the wheel properly, too tight could cause the rotor to wrap, causing shake. Recommend 80-90lbs/tq.
- Uneven rotor and/or pad wear
- Very old rotor with tons of rust build up, causing it to "push" the pad in and out a little bit while braking.
biomcanx1 year ago
Great 'ible! I have always used a turkey baster to suck up extra fluid out of the master cylinder for compression of the pistons. Works really well and you won't leak brake fluid all over.
ac-dc biomcanx1 year ago
You're definitely doing it wrong. With new pads the reservoir should be at the full line. Merely recompressing the pistons to fit new pads again should not cause an overflow in the reservoir so there is no reason to have, let alone suck out, "extra fluid". They are at the same position they were previously when it was full, not over full. Similarly the author is wrong that you need to remove the cover to safeguard against rupture. Again it is the same sealed system and same volume of fluid it was when the pads were new in a SEALED system.

I can only think of one mistake that could cause this problem, that someone mistakenly waited till the pads were worn out then topped off the reservoir when they shouldn't have.
Never remove the cap on my brake fluid, never had it 'rupture' doing breaks. Then again I only do one wheel at a time, so that might contrribute to it as well.

Oh wait, yeah I do remove the cap: whenever I have to replace the calipers I drain the fluid and put in new. Have to remove the cap when I put in new fluid.
Or, since brake fluid is hydrophilic, it probably absorbed water and now has more volume than when originally filled and when the pistons are compressed the extra volume leaks out. It is always good practice to remove the master cylinder cap before compressing the cylinder.
jrm80691 year ago
Take the time to use a torque wrench on your lug nuts. Uneven torque on lug nuts is a major reason that rotors warp in the first place. It takes about 1500-2500 miles, but the thermal cycling with uneven clamping force, eventually contributes to the rotors getting out of shape. All major manufacturers have come to the same conclusion.
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