Disc Brake Project Progress Report

Finally, some real progress.  I was able to spend some time in the garage last night, intending to get the rear hose replaced (thereby finishing off the rear brakes) and get the driver’s side front brakes apart.  However, once I crawled under the rear axle and got a look at the rear hose, I noticed two things: first, the line nut and hose coupling are covered in undercoating overspray, and second, the hose itself is in good condition.  I chose to not fix what ain’t broke and leave the old hose in place.  I still have the new hose I bought, so I’ll be ready to replace it when it inevitably blows a week after I get the car back on the road.

With that decided, I moved to the front and removed the wheel.  The drum came off without a fight, and I was faced with the myriad springs, washers, and other doodads that hold the brake shoes in place.  Before I dug in too far, I decided to go over the instructions that came with my disc brake kit, and discovered that I didn’t need to disassemble the brakes – I could just knock the ball joints loose and remove the entire brake assembly, backplate, and spindle in one fell swoop.

At this point it became more of a paleontological expedition than an exercise in automotive repair.  After chiseling away at the rusty coupling for a few minutes, I snapped the brake line where it attaches to the front hose.  Unfazed, I removed the castle nut from the tie rod end and began mercilessly beating on it with my three pound sledgehammer (aka the BFH).  After a dozen or so whacks, it fell away with a satisfying thunk.  The next step involved loosening the castle nuts on the ball joints, but they were encased in 44 years worth of petrified grease and road grime.  I needed a large screwdriver and hammer to literally chisel away at the fossilized hunks in order to access the nuts.  Once loose, I positioned a small jack under the lower control arm so the spring wouldn’t decompress and fly through my skull, and used a pickle fork (a large forked chisel) to pop the upper and lower ball joints loose from their press-fit on the spindle.  Once that was accomplished, I was able to remove the entire spindle and brake assembly from the car:

Think I could get some promotional money from Maxwell House?

Once that was out of the way, I could examine the wreckage:

Not shown - 5 pounds of fossilized grease

It’s clear that I now have a few things to add to my “while I’m at it” list: as I suspected, the tie rods are fairly worn and are easy to replace.  Likewise, the sway bar links are ancient and shot, which is easy enough to fix.  Finally, the control arm bushings are split and worn, and this is the only chance I’ll ever have to access them.  This will entail the use of a press or some creative work with my bench vise.  At that point, I will have the front suspension entirely disassembled down to the frame, so stay tuned.

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