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Old 12-10-2019, 07:21 PM   #1
Nigey
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2007 AURA XE
2002 SL2
Default The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

This is a long post, you've been warned, but if you read it to the end at least you can at least laugh at me or think "glad that wasn't me!".

It all started when I had a whine from a rear wheel bearing and replaced it. Well it was really tough to get the rear drum plate off to access the bearing, and in the end I resorted to using liquid wrench (not sure how much it helped) but it did contaminate the brake shoes. Anyway, after the replacement wheel bearing, I knew I'd replace the brake shoes. No problem, I thought....

I replaced the brake shoes, and then made a fatal error of looking under the dust covers of the slave cylinders to see... a lot of brake fluid. No problem I thought, I'll just put new slave cylinders on (AC Delco ones $8 each from Amazon, what's not to like?).

But... the banjo bolt holding the line to the cylinder rounded off, it was truly rusted in. And in their wisdom, the bolts holding on the cylinders are 6 or 8mm, totally prone to rust and hence being rounded off as well (grrrr and yes I used a 6 sided socket for both, but they had been eaten away by rust). After an entire afternoon of trying to remove a cylinder, I gave in and hacksawed and drilled out the cylinder. This of course, meant that I needed a new flexible hose. Knowing what I had to do on one side made it easier to just do likewise on the other side, and anyway, replacing in pairs is something I prefer to do anyway. As you can see, from just one wheel bearing, I'm up to new brake shoes, 2 slave cylinders, banjo bolts and now 2 new rear brake hoses.

And then it got worse. When looking underneath the car more closely, I see the rear brake line is rusty, really rusty. My last Saturn had the same the problem, and the rear brake line did completely collapse (definitely didn't like that when I was driving!), so.... new brake lines it is, I won't mess around. Here I make a fatal decision: why not replace all those GM "high quality stainless steel" brake lines with brand new Copper Nickel lines rather than just portions of the brake line? I quickly priced up the cost of the lines and thought it was a no brainer, even with the cost of the extra tools, which I'd need anyway to replace portions of the line. Plus I'd have added comfort in the knowledge the brake lines would not be prone to rust. I'm now up to new brake shoes, 2 slave cylinders, banjo bolts, 2 new rear brake hoses, 50 ft of copper nickel line, various iso bubble flare fittings and an iso bubble flare tool (yes, I know you might be able to make do with just 25ft of line, but I read it was tight and anyway, I needed to practice my flaring skills with the tool and it seemed like cheap insurance).

So... complete brake line replacement. And since the rear hoses were so rusted in, I decided what the heck, just spend the extra $20-$30 on front brake hoses so I wouldn't get stopped when I couldn't get the front ones off. However, this job had one last surprize for me: the master brake cylinder. By now I was in deep, really deep, with almost all the brake system replaced... However, when I'd replaced the first three lines feeding into the master brake cylinder, I admit I was confident that the last line would come out.... Yeah, it didn't. Well, actually it did, but only after stripping the internal threads of the master cylinder. "Woo hoo!" and "gosh" I didn't say (though I did say other stuff that I can't repeat on this forum).

Bending and installing the new lines was actually really pretty easy. FWIW, the youtube videos show people pushing the lines from the top of the car downwards. I found that really illogical, and having pre bent the lines, I found it much, much easier to tie a piece of string around the front of the line and pull and guide it up to the master cylinder (don't forget to always tape the fitting to the end of the line!). It was way, way easier to do that. I should add, I had no help and it was just me working on the car.

Anyway, for fun and so you can laugh at me, here's the final tally: new brake shoes ($25), 2 slave cylinders ($16), banjo bolts ($8), 2 new rear brake hoses($30), 50 ft of copper nickel line($50), various iso bubble flare fittings($18), an iso bubble flare tool ($55), front brake hoses($30), new master brake cylinder ($60), and oh yes, brake fluid($20). Total cost was about $312. Not bad for replacing a rear wheel bearing, eh?

Forever being an optimist, here are the positive points:

i. it was a heck of a lot cheaper doing it myself
ii. I now have complete confidence in my brake lines knowing exactly the condition of them
iii. I have extra tools -and you can't have enough tools!
iv. if you haven't, use Copper Nickel brake lines, I can't recommend them enough; really easy to bend and flare (though you obviously have to be careful and patient).
v. brake lines were actually very easy to bend by using the old ones as templates and wrapping tape around them with the new line.
vi. brakes after good bleeding (recommend a power bleeder) are the best they have ever been!

Negatives:
well, pretty much what could go wrong... went wrong (thank you front disc brakes for being the only thing that went right). And I spent a *lot* of time on this, though it should be noted that if everything had come apart without any aggravation it would have been a single day job and would have saved me a good amount of money and time. Like many mechanical jobs, it was a case of wasting much time trying to remove rusted bolts and learning the sequence of things as the job went on. I also had to go to the hardware store to find nuts that would secure the brake line clips as the original ones had disintegrated.

One last thing: based on the rusted bolts I encountered, I vowed I didn't want to deal with rusted nuts ever again, so put a thin layer of the heaviest grease on top to protect them. If anyone else has any suggestions about this....

...
2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 L LZ4 V6
2002 Saturn SL2 1.9L (manual)

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Old 12-10-2019, 08:19 PM   #2
Waiex191
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

Nice! Sounds like a story out of my playbook.

...
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Old 12-11-2019, 11:01 AM   #3
SLfun
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

I just did the rear brake shoes and drums on my 98 S series. Was going to do the wheel cylinders too but like your car the fasteners are all rusted into place and rounding. Of course the brake lines look like **** and really should be replaced end to end.

When doing jobs like this you see how these cars were not designed to last 20+ years, but we solider on.....

...
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Old 12-11-2019, 11:05 AM   #4
lilwhitetruck
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

Well, great story! But like most of us, it sounds and from Waiex191 response also, Its sounds just like something out of my playbook too!!! " Honey, don't worry, this will only take me an hour!" As she mutters to herself "And where have a heard this before. . ." And as I mutter to myself "You know you just lied right out you're teeth, right?" And the Saturn in the garage that hears this entire conversation " You just don't ever learn, do you?" LOL!!!

...
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Old 12-11-2019, 11:05 AM   #5
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigey View Post
...One last thing: based on the rusted bolts I encountered, I vowed I didn't want to deal with rusted nuts ever again, so put a thin layer of the heaviest grease on top to protect them. If anyone else has any suggestions about this....
Sounds like a good job. Buy some Fluid Film and/or chain lube and, when you’re under there working on things, carefully apply it to any fasteners in the immediate area. It could help.

...
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Oil use is 1 ounce per 100 miles with ~230,000 miles on the engine

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Old 12-11-2019, 11:13 AM   #6
alordofchaos
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1998 SL2
Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

+1. BTDT. Not with brake lines, though.

Removing an oil filter. No kidding. Took a good chunk of the weekend and several trips to the FLAPS.

Had a few other situations (rusted rotor would not come off - torch and 5 lb sledge didn't do it, though I had limited swing space; drove it to a garage and the guy used a 2 lb sledge while it was on a lift after heating it, but still took a lot of "persuading" )

Quote:
And I spent a *lot* of time on this, though it should be noted that if everything had come apart without any aggravation it would have been a single day job
After a couple decades of marriage, I think my wife finally understands why may answer to, "How long will it take" is always, "I don't know"

It could be anywhere from 15 minutes to the whole weekend. Usually shorter if I have done the job on that particular car before (liberal use of anti-seize, tighten to spec rather than "hit it with the impact until you get bored", no surprises of the "that doesn't look good - better take care of this while I am in there" variety, etc)

Quote:
I vowed I didn't want to deal with rusted nuts ever again, so put a thin layer of the heaviest grease on top to protect them. If anyone else has any suggestions about this....
I didn't do this but did think about it . . .
When I did my resonator a week ago, I used stainless steel bolts. I was thinking about cleaning up the bolt heads (both sides) and putting on a coat of high-temp POR15. The bolts that were already on there were pretty bad after 17 years and I'm pretty sure they used stainless OEM hardware.

...
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Old 12-12-2019, 11:14 AM   #7
fdryer
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

alordofchaos, if I'm not mistaken, GM doesn't use stainless hardware on exhaust systems. One look at my exhaust system shows after many years in the salt belt state, the hardware rusts away but the main pipes remains solid (400 stainless series developing surface rust without corroding thru). The stainless clamps and hardware I bought to use on a flex pipe hasn't shown any signs of two winters of salting. GM, in my opinion, uses the least costly hardware to meet design criteria insofar as new car warranty for emissions. I tend to think other auto manufacturers do the same. Structural hardware like those used for shocks or struts use hardened bolts with descriptions like 'grade 10.9'. Not stainless but galvanized for corrosion protection. The same for brake caliper brackets. My guess with plain steel bolts used for brake cylinders may be a holdover from standard practices used for decades. Why change when it works? Those suffering from severe corrosion having to resort to cave man methods to remove rusted bolts are few compared to most paying a repair shop to do it ($$$). I don't envy anyone having to suffer these insults to diy repairs. I've used choice words in my frustrations when working on my cars over the years. It comes with the territory.

Nigey, I enjoy stories like yours and didn't laugh (a chuckle here and there or smh) because yours is typical of almost any diyer willing to perform their own repairs while cutting costs against lining the pockets of repair shops and dealers. And somehow collecting new tools along the way. My garage is admired when a contractors comes by to give estimates on home renovations. They see something worth complimenting. I see a semi organized mess.

You are the second person to make remarks about stainless brake lines. They're not stainless at all and whoever started hearsay on the internet should be whipped. There's enough false information being spread on the world wide web to make fools of anyone unwilling to check for facts. I'm sure you're no fool. If stainless brake lines were standard on daily drivers, you'd notice the outrageous repair bills when damage occurs and someone has the unenviable task of making a custom replacement. If stainless brake lines were stocked, they'd be very expensive too. The tooling alone would be expensive (check costs for electric crimping used in solderless plumbing). Then there's the difficulty in working stainless into flares and bending. If you're familiar with work hardening, you'll understand. Brake lines are made of steel and either coated or treated for corrosion resistance but once the coating is scratched, steel rusts. I came off a local highway exit going uphill so I usually let off on the pedal to coast off the exit. When calculated just right, I won't have to stand on the brake pedal. This time I didn't have brakes and pumping failed to get braking as I slowed down enough with residual braking to turn right of the car in front, avoiding a crash. The next few minutes were deciding on how to proceed to either a parking area or continue to my lunch stop to find a place to assess brake failure. The street is on an incline off the exit ramp so that made it easier to use just enough throttle to move and use my parking brake handle if necessary (didn't need it). A few short blocks to park on a side street allowed me to calm down then start looking under the car. A few minutes later and pumping the brakes resulted in brake fluid under the front end but nowhere near the brake master cylinder. I called for towing. I somehow managed dodging the bullet on the highway and exit ramp. Too far to limp home and attempt repairs, my decision was to use insurance for free towing and pay my repair shop. I was told the lines rusted at the fittings. No such thing, stainless brake lines on daily drivers.

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Old 12-12-2019, 08:32 PM   #8
Goggles Pisano
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

I share your pain, Nigey. I had a brake line spring a leak and while the father-in-law and I replaced the offending section, I knew the rest of the lines were on borrowed time. Luckily, I started gathering the parts and tools to completely replace everything, but my timeline suddenly moved up a few weeks when my line sprang another leak.

The project could have been wrapped up over a weekend, but I spotted my chance to get all the rear bushings and trailing arms replaced... y'know, while the brake lines were out, right? Quick diversion? Couple of hours, tops?

NYET.

That ate up enough time to keep the car on blocks for an extra week until I could travel back and help finish the job, where we ran into just about everything you did (short of the brake cylinders and banjo bolts). Then there's bleeding the brakes and finding a drip from a fitting not quite tight enough, never mind the dark crap that came out since they haven't been bled in ages. Then when everything was finally not leaking and buttoned up, the brakes making a g-dawful noise from sitting in the elements for a week, sending me into a new panic for roughly 30 miles until it finally calmed itself down.

I'll tell you though, between the new discs, pads, drums, shoes, lines, hardware and brake fluid, this Saturn now stops like an awkward conversation about a person who just entered within earshot. Having all the rear bushings replaced is an awesome bonus.

So yes, I can relate like a conjoined twin with an ice cream headache.

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Old 12-24-2019, 12:32 PM   #9
Nigey
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

Thanks for the kind remarks! I have read many of your posts and really appreciate your responses and knowledge. Regarding stainless steel brake lines, yes, I was completely incorrect.

I really don't know why I just assumed it, I think I must have read it somewhere (my bad), and.... I just also assumed only crazy manufacturers would put vital steel components on the underside of a car where they are so exposed to rusting on New England roads -how wrong can I be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
...
You are the second person to make remarks about stainless brake lines. They're not stainless at all and whoever started hearsay on the internet should be whipped.

...
2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 L LZ4 V6
2002 Saturn SL2 1.9L (manual)

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Old 12-24-2019, 12:40 PM   #10
Nigey
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Default Re: The domino effect on brakes -a cautionary note!

I feel like Bill Clinton.... "I feel your pain!" I have now learned never to tell the wife it will be quick or a couple of hours.

A little aside, I got caught again a couple of weeks ago on my Saturn Aura -I needed to replace a tee connecter under the coolant reservoir, I kept losing coolant and after seeing coolant under the reservoir surmised it was the offending item.

"No problem" I thought. "Just take off those 3 hose clamps, remove the hoses and put the new tee connector in. At long last, a job that will really take 10-20 minutes!".

NO!

Once you get the clamps off (why the heck were they put on there in the first place?) I see crimped bands holding the hoses on. Being older and wiser now, I just knew I'd destroy those hoses if I tried to get them off, and then I would also be a world of hurt trying to remove the other connections I could barely see and reach. I returned the tee connector, cleaned the old tee connector in situ, plastered on plastic epoxy resin, wrapped it with hose repair tape and so far 3 weeks in its been fine with no coolant loss. Even if it fails in a couple of months I reckon I've got at least some nicer weather for me to tinker in the driveway instead of arctic cold


Quote:
Originally Posted by Goggles Pisano View Post
The project could have been wrapped up over a weekend, but I spotted my chance to get all the rear bushings and trailing arms replaced... y'know, while the brake lines were out, right? Quick diversion? Couple of hours, tops?

NYET.

...
2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 L LZ4 V6
2002 Saturn SL2 1.9L (manual)

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