I was getting that shimmy and shudder, with a dash of squeak. Any time I hit the brakes, they would emit a pulsing throb, and letting off the pedal would introduce a squeak in similar rhythm. It was time for some brake work, but instead of simple maintenance, I went for an upgrade. With Power Stop Brakes.
A lot of performance upgrades take some work. Sure, anyone can bolt up a cold air intake, but if you want to upgrade your cam or install a turbo kit, you’re going to need some experience behind you. I don’t have it, so any chance I get to upgrade performance with some simple wrenching I try to take.
When the front brake pads and rotors on my 2006 Honda Civic Si started to wear, I decided to upgrade to Power Stop’s 1-Click Brake Kit, which handily includes their Z23 Evolution Sport carbon fiber/ceramic pads and vented, cross-drilled, and slotted performance rotors. Power Stop also includes new pad hardware and the packet of high-temp brake lubricant you always forget to buy when you get brakes from the parts store. Worn pad hardware is likely what caused my squeaking issue.
But I didn’t want to just turn my rotors. They didn’t have that drilled and slotted goodness. Those holes and slots increase performance. The holes add ventilation, which keeps the rotors cooler (especially dual-layer, vented rotors such as these), and the slots sweep brake dust away from the contact patch between the rotors and the pads. You might not need this kind of performance for everyday driving, but I have been known to autocross, so that’s a good excuse. Also, they look cool.
I also wanted to check out Power Stop’s Z23 pads, which offer midway performance between their OE-level Z16 line and their trackable Z26s. The compound offers more friction for better grip. That means braking later, and the later you can brake, the faster you’ll be overall.
You can replace your brakes with simple hand tools, but I decided to use the excuse of this job to buy some specialized stuff. I got a brake caliper tool to compress the pistons. This can be accomplished with a large C-clamp, but some cars feature those monumentally stupid rear calipers that require you to turn the piston during compression, so I just got this tool, which can do both.
I also bought a cool, old, electric impact wrench from a Craigslister with a single visible tooth. Really nice guy. Electric impacts are all the rage these days, because they give you all of the torque with none of the huge, expensive air compressors. But while most home mechanics prefer the cordless variety, they’re pricey. I found this corded one, by Rockwell for $20, and it works great.
Finally, another nice old man from Craigslist sold me some deep well impact sockets, metric, from 10mm up to 21mm (but missing the 20) for $30. He was a staff mechanic for Yellow Cab for 30 years, and was selling off some of his old tools. One socket is even a Snap-on!
Transactions with cool old guys completed, I headed home and started working.
First, I jacked up one side of my car. Always use a jack stand, even if you don’t think you’ll be under the car. It’s just good practice. With my shiny new impact wrench, there was no need to loosen the lug nuts before jacking up the car. It zipped them off with ease while the wheel was off the ground.
With the wheel off, I set about removing the caliper, held in pace by two bolts. If you’re only replacing the pads, you only need to remove the top bolt and rotate the caliper out of the way. I pulled both bolts and lifted the caliper off to set on top of the hub, careful not to twist the brake line.
Next I pried out the old, dead, flat brake pads and tossed them into the Pit of Doom, noting which one was positioned behind the rotor, then removed the two bolts on the back of the hub holding the caliper bracket in place, before pulling the bracket. I removed the old caliper springs from the bracket and stuck in the new ones from Power Stop. This took a little doing. The fit was so precise that I needed to press them in with my vise, but that worked perfectly.
As the bracket was free, I could now pull off the brake disc.
BECAUSE HONDA STILL THINKS IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO PUT THESE STUPID PHILLIPS HEAD SCREWS THROUGH THE ROTOR AND INTO THE HUB AND THEY’VE BEEN DOING IT FOR 30 YEARS AND IT’S STILL REALLY DUMB BECAUSE THE SCREWS ALWAYS RUST IN PLACE AND YOU STRIP THEM OUT TRYING TO REMOVE THEM EVERY SINGLE TIME BUT THEY’RE NOT NEEDED BECAUSE THE LUG NUTS HOLD THE BRAKE DISC DOWN JUST FINE.
Thanks for putting up with that, everyone. And thanks for nothing, Honda.
Anyway, I fetched my drill and used three sequential sizes of bit to drill out the screw heads. Was I going to reuse the screws? Ham, no. I had no qualms about destroying them, and I actually took some pleasure in it. It proved incredibly easy. If you’re doing this, just drill until a ring of screw wreckage pops out around your drill bit, and you’ll be golden.
Back to important work. The old rotor was rusted a bit to the center hub, so I used Mjolnir, my trusty mini-sledge, to slap it free. I AM THOR, SON OF ODIN, AND I HAVE BEEN FOUND WORTHY.
Focus, Andy. Drilled and slotted rotors are directional, so be sure to pay attention to which side is which. Power Stop helpfully labels theirs (with dumb paper labels that are impossible to remove, guys), but the general rule is that a slot or a line of holes should angle down toward the center of the wheel in when it moves forward. Like this:
I began to put the pieces back together in reverse, starting with the bracket. I then compressed the caliper piston using my handy new tool, put the new pads into the bracket, and lightly coated the back of each pad with the included grease. This will cut down on brake noise. With this and their well-shimmed pad backs, the Power Stop pads shouldn’t make any annoying noise for a long, long time. I put the caliper back on, then the wheel.
I used my impact to spin the lugs on, but not to tighten them, which may have damaged the threads or made the lugs impossible to remove again. Instead, I then lowered the car back down and properly torqued them to proper spec (88 lb-ft on every singe Honda) with my torque wrench.
The other side was identical and faster.
I have since heard nary a squeak from my new brakes, and they feel great. My first autocross event is coming up in April, and I look forward to seeing how they’ll really do.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.