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Victoria Car & Vehicle Maintenance - Brakes - Handyman's Brake Checklist



Inspect brakes annually for corroded brake lines and cut or worn brake hoses. Brakes require an occasional relining to maintain peak performance. For those that are "handy," you can take a detailed look at the brake components to keep them in top shape.

Periodically you can remove the disc brakes pads and "exercise" the brake calipers. Use a big screwdriver or pry bar to pry the caliper apart, and compress the piston(s) back into the bore. That also breaks up any corrosion outside of the seal, before it accumulates enough to freeze up the piston. Repeat this several times for each caliper, pumping the brake pedal to push the piston back out.

Remove the pads, and either wire-brush or file the pad seating surfaces or sliding channels in the caliper to permit the pads to slip back and forth easily. Lightly lube the sliding surfaces with caliper grease or its equivalent, but be careful to avoid greasing the friction surfaces of the brakes. You can do the same in the back, removing the rear brake drums to exercise and lubricate the self-adjusting mechanism, and check the contact surfaces of the shoes and backing plate.

Inspect the handbrake (parking brake) cables. Squirt some grease or oil into the sheathed portion of the cable. Check out the ratchet mechanism in the handbrake lever as well, and lubricate the pivot point and pawl. Once everything is nicely lubricated, you might adjusting the cable itself, which you generally do where the spreader bar splits the single cable coming from the brake handle into the two individual rear-wheel cables.

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