Friday, July 8, 2016

Fixing the Brakes on our 2006 PT Cruiser

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):
Easy, but dirty!

The annual MVI this year revealed a few things that would have to be fixed, namely the brake rotors was pitted, the horn wasn't working, one head light bulb was burned out and the watts link needed to be replaced

After some research on resurfacing brake rotors I came across this guy who used an angle grinder to re-surface uneven brake rotors and I decided I was gonna give it a try.

I jacked up the vehicle, removed the right tire and blocked the left wheel. Then I put the car in drive and while the differential turned the right wheel I used an angle grinder to resurface the brake rotor. It actually worked really well (aside from the nasty rust flying everywhere) and after about 30 minutes I was ready to flip the rotor inside out and do the other side. The brake rotors looked almost new and even after grinding off about 0.020" they were still well within tolerances.

After the first rotor was done I had a look at the other one and that one was very badly pitted. I'm not sure how it could have gotten this rusted in about a year. The only thing I can guess is that it must have been sitting in the garage for an extended period of time with the salty slush from the winter sitting on the brake pads. In any case, after another hour of grinding on the second rotor I measured the thickness and it did not meet the tolerances so I ended up having to buy one rotor after all.

For the next time, I'd like to build myself a rotary table for my lathe so I can use the fly cutter and my mill instead of having to resort to using an angle grinder; it would be a lot less dirty and a lot more comfortable (and probably quicker too).

The second thing was the horn, it worked for last year's MVI but then failed this year. Interestingly enough, when I started looking at it, just before I was gonna take off the steering wheel it magically started working again. Like what?!? In any case, since it was working I moved on to the last item: the watts link.

Interestingly enough, I had never heard of a watts link before, but after some digging I found out that it was essentially functioning like a sway bar, just a different design. In any case, after getting a quote for almost $200 bucks at the dealership, I found one at Marshland Auto Parts for just a little over $70. I'll take that, thank you very much.

Replacing the watts link was quite easy, remove 3 bolts, use a 3-prong pulley puller to remove the connecting rod from the watts link, re-install the two connecting rods to the new watts link and putting it back on the vehicle.

The last thing was replacing the head light bulb. It was a simple "unscrew, unplug, re-plug, re-screw" kind of deal and took less than 5 minutes. Can't believe one tiny little light bulb cost almost $30 bucks though!

The front right brake disk after the wheel was taken off
You can see the ridges and some spots on the rotor
After the first pass with the grinder
Another view
After the second pass
Getting closer
The marks are mostly gone, but rotor is still rough
Switching the rotor around
Doing the other side
The left side rotor was pitted too much to fix
Looks pretty bad. I gave it a try anyways for practice sake
After a few passes, the pitting was still very deep
Close-up of one area of pitting
Another view
On to removing the links from the watts link
One link off
Removing the other link with a 3-prong pulley puller
The new watts link on top of the old one
The new watts link installed
Angle grinder
Work light
Extension chord
Car jack
DIY Car ramp
Socket set
Impact gun

1 new front brake rotor
1 new watts link
1 new light bulb


3 hrs


Drives like a charm and the annoying clunking is finally gone!


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