2010 Dodge Nitro brakes

  • 2010 DODGE NITRO
  • 3.7L
  • V6
  • 100,000 MILES
I watched your video on how to replace brake pads I have 3 questions

1. How would I know if rotors need to be replaced? (Is replaced and cut same thing?)
2. If I don't need to do rotors only brake pads, I only need to do the video up to replacing pads and then just put back together?
3. What tools would I need?
Do you
have the same problem?
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 AT 4:50 PM

1 Reply

Hmmm. Those questions make me nervous because while a careful do-it-yourselfer can do a decent brake job, what you're asking tells me you have no idea of all the things professionals do to prevent problems, and all the things you can do to cause problems. Would you allow your most-trusted friend to do plastic surgery on your face after watching a video? You can get the same information from a service manual, which I highly recommend the manufacturer's manuals, but you need the one specific to your year and model. Most online videos are very generic and you will find your calipers are mounted differently, parts are shaped differently, and different procedures are needed. What you want to learn from a video is part of what took me eight weeks, 4 1/2 hours per day, five days per week to teach my Automotive Brakes students.

Another excellent resource is to visit a community college with an Automotive program, and check their library for a copy of an older "Brake System" text book. The service manual is vehicle-specific and covers the exact procedures for that vehicle. The text books are procedure-specific and are generalized to any vehicle.

I'll try to find where I answered this before because it takes way too long to retype everything. To get you started, once you have the rotors removed, take them to an auto parts store where they machine them, or to any repair shop. They will measure them with a micrometer to see if there is enough material left that they can be machined. There is a legal minimum thickness they can be machined to called the "machine to" spec. If that can be accomplished, there is another slightly thinner spec. They can be allowed to wear down to and still be legally left on the vehicle. That's called the "discard" spec. And is typically 0.030" thinner than the machine to spec. Every shop that does brake work will have a reference guide that lists all vehicle models and years and will have those specs. No one will be talked into machining rotors for you that will end up too thin because that can easily land them in a lawsuit. Even if the other guy runs the red light and causes the crash, his lawyer or insurance investigator is going to pick your vehicle apart to try to find any contributing factors that shift part of the blame onto you. They will convince a jury that you were partly at fault because you were less able to avoid the crash, and they will be right. Next, the mechanic, or more likely, the shop owner, will be answering some pretty tough questions too, and they know it can get serious enough to put them out of business. No conscientious mechanic is going to risk that to save a used rotor.

Be aware that a lot of shops won't even bother to measure rotors anymore or machine them because with the cost of the lathe, the high cost of consumables like cutting bits and anti-vibration tools, and the mechanics' labor time in dollars, it is far less expensive to just pop on a pair of new rotors. That alone avoids a lot of potential problems that professionals know to watch for.

As for the tools, we only have that memorized if we work on the same models over and over, as in a dealership. I was the suspension and alignment specialist at a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership for ten years, and I did a real lot of brake jobs too, but every trade-in car was a new experience. We just grab the right type of socket or wrench, and try a few until we find the right size. There will be a few people who will smugly tell you exactly which size socket you need, because they just worked on that model, but they won't be able to tell you what you needed for that other car you worked on yesterday.

If you already have the common wrench sets, torx sockets, and screwdrivers, and you think you're going to save money by doing this job yourself, let me quietly bust your bubble. You can start saving money on the second or third brake job when you will already have these things. At a bare minimum, you're going to need a flat file, a 1/2" drive click-type torque wrench, a pair of steel jack stands, and a bottle of high-temperature brake grease. If you are one of the few people yet who don't understand the importance of properly torquing lug nuts, we're through except for me to warn of all the other things you can mess up. Brake grease and the flat file are just for noises and for producing a quality brake job. If you don't care enough about your customer to use those, just don't tell me about it.

Be aware too that I used to freely tell people how to repair their Chrysler radios until one person got angry with me because he didn't follow instructions, and he wrecked his. This is why I worry about sharing these details when I can't look over your shoulder, and a video won't even ask you how you're doing.

Once the wheel is removed, use a large flat-blade screwdriver and reach in through the top of the caliper and pry the piston back in. You're going to have to get it back in sooner or later to make room for the new, thicker pads. As the old ones wore down, the piston worked its way out and brake fluid filled in behind it. That is how all disc brakes self-adjust. Also, there needs to be room in the reservoir on the master cylinder for that fluid to go to. That's why no professional will ever top off the brake fluid during other routine services like oil changes.

Some people will tell you to use a c-clamp to force the piston to retract, but no mechanic ever resorts to that. If that is the only way to get the piston in, the caliper is full of dirt or other debris and it's going to cause the piston to stick later. If you're muscular, you may be able to push the piston in by hand, but for the rest of us, using the screwdriver is so fast and easy so why would we look for something more difficult?

Once the caliper is removed, never allow it to hang by the rubber hose. Use a rubber strap, coat hanger, or some wire to tie it up to the coil spring.
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Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 AT 9:50 PM

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