by Mike Peake
It is now 2005 and we entered the period of the lean times. There were two reasons for this.
First, I decided I’d had enough of my stressful job and changed to my current more local job. We took a big hit in income as we were no longer getting the nice commission cheques every month. However, I could stop looking for tall buildings to jump off and my wife no longer needed to hide the knives and could stop scouring yellow pages for divorce lawyers! And, I actually got to see my family.
Secondly, my daughters were growing up and starting to do ever more expensive activities. We had truly frightening bills from singing teachers and dance schools (and still do). Although I think the singing and dancing teachers may have been ripping us off as I still can’t sing a note or dance a step!
This lack of cash did make things difficult as even the slightest fault would mean her being off the road while we scraped together the cash for the parts/MOT/Insurance/servicing etc. and then just when I thought I had the money, there’d be a school trip or new tap/ballet shoes to buy (For the Girls…honest). On the whole though, Poppy behaved very well and nothing too serious came up.
Being a convertible and driven with the roof down mostly, the manual washer pump was not used from one MOT to the next. It inevitably dried out and split just as the MOT was due. A silly thing to take it off the road I know, but it took time to track down a replacement and come up with the £20 or so required on top of the MOT and insurance that had both run out. She failed that MOT on sticking front brakes and a minor welding requirement but the washer pump was ok!
Another couple of months passed while I saved for the welding. So, in the meantime, I decided that I would look at the brakes myself. How hard could it be??!! Obviously recon callipers were out of the question on my non-existent budget, so I bought the replacement seals and pistons and set about doing it myself. I researched the job and took advice from the experts on a classic car forum on the interweb thingy and then set to. I took the left calliper off the car but left it attached to the hose and put a thin bit of wood between the two pistons. Thin enough that the pistons would come almost all the way out but thick enough that they didn’t pop right out and drop the brake fluid all over the drive…in theory. So, with all this set up, I sat myself in the half padded driving seat and pressed the brake pedal. Nothing happened. I pressed a bit harder and there was a small pop. It had worked! Both pistons were almost all the way out ready for easy removal.
I had a celebratory cup of tea and a bacon butty that Mrs Fatbloke had very kindly made me. Still feeling very smug and self-satisfied, I set about repeating this procedure on the right hand calliper. I sat myself in the half padded driving seat and pressed the brake pedal. Nothing happened. I pressed a bit harder. Still nothing happened! I was now pressing so hard that my amply padded posterior had left the poorly padded driver’s seat. Then with a very loud pop, the brake pedal went to the floor.” Yes!” I thought. “Success!” So I proudly got out of the car only to find one piston fully out of the calliper, the piece of wood floating off on the pool of spilt fluid and the other piston still very much in the calliper. I said some very bad words. I then quickly cleaned up the pool of brake fluid before Mrs Fatbloke could see it and say some bad words of her own about staining her brick paved drive. I then stomped into the house, washed up and sulked until a bottle of Merlot had worked its magic.
Some days later, I returned to the task. I split the left calliper, removed all the old seals and cleaned the bores with wire wool before soaking it in some lovely solvent that I shouldn’t have had in the shed from my days in labs. I then split the right calliper and did the same to the half without the piston. It was now time to turn my attentions to removing the stuck piston. I took a pair of wide jawed grips to the piston and started to twist and pull…it didn’t work. I then tried gripping each side of the piston with pairs of pliers and pulling with all my might whilst standing on the calliper. This resulted in severe bruising in a rather sensitive area but did not remove the piston.
When I could walk straight again, I consulted my father in-law who is a retired engineer with a fully equipped workshop. (Fully equipped for his woodworking and wood turning hobby that is!) He came up with the idea of sticking a 3 foot bar to the piston with chemical weld and leaving for a few days to fully cure. We then clamped the calliper in his bench vice and with one of us on each end of the bar we twisted and pulled…and twisted and pulled…and twisted and pulled. Eventually, it came free. I was then able to repeat the cleaning process although the bore in this half of the calliper needed a lot more work with the wire wool.
I left them for a few days to allow all the solvent to fully evaporate and then reassembled them with the new seals and pistons all without further drama…That is until Mrs Fatbloke came home from work and pointed out, rather forcefully I thought, that the coffee table in her lounge wasn’t the best place to be rebuilding brake callipers. I thought this was a little unfair as I had thoroughly cleaned them before I started, and it was my lounge too. With hindsight though, it might have been wiser not to mention this at the time.
Anyway, the nurses at A&E were all very nice about the whole thing and even gave me back my calliper once they’d removed it. I soon recovered and was able to refit the callipers and bleed the system through with the help of my youngest daughter who acted as my patient pedal pusher. The welding was done and we were back on the road for another few years of happy classic motoring on and off as finances and MOT/insurance renewal dates allowed.
to be continued
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