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.
Step 1: Collapse the Caliper
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
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. I used a Fish Bone Gear Tie for the job.
Step 3: Remove the Caliper Bracket
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.
Step 4: Remove the Rotor
Often times the rotor will have a bolt securing it to the hub. If there is one there, remove it. If the rotor doesn't come right off you can press it off using the bolts that mounted the caliper. Simply tighten them into the rotor's threaded holes and wrench away.
Step 5: Install New Rotors and Breaks
In a nut shell, a refitting is a reversal of the removal. Make sure the bolts are clean from any old thread locker. Apply new thread locker and re-install the caliper bracket with the manufacture’s torque specifications.
When placing the brakes, pay attention you’re using a left and a right brake. One will have a low pad indicator. That pad installs on the piston side on the caliper.
Step 6: Grease the Guide Pins
In my experience, dry guide pins are the most common culprit to braking shake. Remove the guide pins, clean them off, apply wheel bearing grease, and replace them. That simple.
Step 7: Replace the Caliper
Place paper towels around the master cylinder. This will catch any break fluid that over flows from the reservoir. Use a C-clamp to completely retract the pistons into the caliper. Clean off the caliper where it will contact the adhesive backing on the brake pads (if they even have it).
Tighten the caliper bolts to the manufacture’s torque specifications.
Step 8: Finish Up
Ensure the master brake reservoir is filled to the proper level. Replace the cap. Use a pry bar to position and lift the tire back onto the lugs. Mount the tire back on.
Step 9: Pump the Brakes!
This step is extremely important! Before you start the vehicle, pump the breaks until they are firm. If you skip this, nothing will happen the first time you step on the brakes.
Included in this step are photos from doing the rear wheels. Because of the lack of room, I had to use a torch to remove the caliper bracket bolts. Use caution. You don’t want to burn up your anti-lock brake sensors.
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