Category Archives: Chassis Maintenance

How Do You Know if Your Toyota Needs Brakes?

The brake system on your Toyota is arguably the most important safety equipment on board. The brake rotors and brake pads on your vehicle make sure you can stop as quickly and safely as possible, helping you maintain control of your vehicle in almost any circumstance.

Like any other part of your car, the brake system must be regularly maintained, in order for them to continue doing their job correctly. Unfortunately, some drivers may not notice the signs that their Toyota needs brakes, leading to a dangerous and expensive situation! Not only is this dangerous to you and everyone around you, but ignoring needed maintenance on your brake pads can lead to damaged rotors, which then can lead to even worse damage to your wheel. Protect your Toyota, and everyone within and around it, pay attention to the signs that your brakes need service…

  • One sign you may notice, that tells you it’s time to replace your brakes, is vibration from the brake pedal. When pressing your foot on the brake pedal causes a slight jittering in the braking, then this most likely means the brake rotors have been warped, due to overheating. To return the brake rotors to smooth operations, they’ll need to be machined or replaced.
  • If you hear a clicking or shaking noise whenever you apply your Toyota’s brakes, then it probably means you have gotten to the point of needing to replace your brake pads. This rattling would normally be stopped by the manufacturers’ device, designed to stop the shaking of brake pads when the brakes are applied, but when the brake pads have worn out, the clips and springs may not be able to keep things from rattling around.
  • Another way of knowing that it your Toyota needs brakes, is by making a visual inspection, through the car wheel. You should be able to at least see the outboard brake pad, and also see how much of the pad is left. With a flashlight and inspection mirror, both cheaply available, you might be able to see the condition of the inboard brake pad, as well. If less than 3 mm of the friction material remains, then it’s time to start looking for new brakes.
  • Manufacturers have installed a device, designed for the very goal of this article. Sometimes referred to as a “brake squealer,” a small metal tab sticks out beside the pad, to alert the driver that the brake pad is close to its minimum thickness. When you hear a loud squeal coming from your brakes, and it happens consistently, every time you apply the brakes, then it probably means you have hit the metal piece. At that point, you must really take into consideration getting new brake pads.
  • Hands down, the worst sound you may hear would be grinding rotors. If the brake pad wears completely out, then the metal brake pad backing plate is the only thing contacting the brake rotor, which causes a terrible grinding noise will damage the rotors. If this is ever the case with your Toyota, you must go and get new brake pads, as well as brake rotors, as soon as possible. This is a scenario you will hopefully not find yourself in, but if you do, getting your brakes taken care of is your number one priority. You may also see grooves within the rotors, from the brake pads being worn down too far. If you see this, then it is definitely time to replace your brake pads. If the grooves are more gouges, then you will need to replace the rotors, too.
  • If you apply the brakes, and the car pulls to one side, without you moving it that way then this probably means that there is some unbalance in the brakes, such as a hydraulic problem or a seized caliper. If it pulls without applying the brakes, then it most likely not your brakes causing the problem.

These warning signs are something you should always keep in mind, while you are driving down the road. You should especially start looking and listening for these symptoms if you are reaching 30,000 miles since your last brake pad replacement, or if you stop and go frequently, such as in city driving. Some brake pads last longer then others, and may also cause different symptoms than others, so keep an eye on your brakes in general, too. If you pay attention to what your Toyota needs, and keep your brakes maintained regularly, you should be good to drive it for many years to come.

DIY Quick Struts for your Toyota Camry

Struts, especially your front struts, are regular part of keeping your car maintained. When your front struts are in good condition, they keep you and your car from feeling the pressure and bumps of the roads and highways you drive upon as well as keeps your car alignment. When your front struts go bad, and your alignment is off, then the constant driving and travelling in your car can become uncomfortable for you and cause problems for the rest of the car. Therefore, keeping your struts well-maintained, replacing them at the proper time, is an important aspect of car maintenance to keep in mind.

DIY Spring Compression or An Accident Waiting to Happen
DIY Spring Compression or An Accident Waiting to Happen

How do you replace your front struts, though? Fortunately, for all you Toyota Camry drivers, there are quick struts, that can easily be installed and uninstalled, if you have the right tools, without the element of danger that comes with attempting to DIY spring compression. Take a look at our quick front struts replacement guide, to help do-it-yourself, like a pro.

  • To start, you will want to gather the necessary tools and parts for this job. This will include: a socket wrench, with sockets, penetrating oil, and a torque wrench. The quick strut should have all the pieces necessary for the replacement process.
  • Once you have all your tools and parts ready, go ahead and jack up your car. Use proper jacking techniques, as safety is your number one priority. After the side that you are working on is off the ground, remove the wheel.
  • After the wheel has been removed, look towards the top of your wheel well. You should notice a stabilizer link, basically a tab connected on the side of your strut, with a 5mm bolt holding it in place. Use your large wrench to grip the bolt while unscrewing the bolt from the stabilizer link. It would also be a good idea to spray some penetrating oil on the bolt, before unscrewing it.
  • Next, find your way down the front strut. You will see just behind the wheel assembly; your Camry’s ABS wire clip. Unclip this and then look to the side and find the 12 mm bolt holding the brake line on. Remove this as well. Pull that out of the way and move on to the next step.
  • You should now see two 22 mm nuts, one above the other, that must be removed. Spray some penetrating oil on them first, then unbolt them. You will then have to knock the bolts they were attached to out of their sockets. Then open the hood of your car.
  • Above where you were working, you will need to remove three 14 mm nuts from the top of the strut tower.
  • Next, use a jack stand or scissor jack to support the bottom of the steering knuckle. You should now be able to pull the front strut assembly out of the top socket and completely out of the wheel well.
  • During the installation process, it is a good idea to recall the steps you took to get to this point. Working your way backwards can really help you make sure you don’t forget a step or part, that’s necessary for your car.
  • First, make sure the quick strut is aligned correctly, with the strut tower sockets. Go ahead and stick it up in the correct holes.
  • Second, reinstall the strut bottom with the steering knuckle. You may have to wiggle it around for it to fit in correctly. Be careful not to damage the brake line during this process.
  • Third, reinstall the 22 mm steering knuckle bolts, the three 14mm strut tower nuts, and then the 22 mm steering knuckle nuts last. These need to be torqued to 152 lb•ft, or else they may loosen up on the road.
  • Fourth, reattach the bolt holding the brake line and reattach the ABS clip, back to its original position.
  • Fifth, inspect the stabilizer linkages and then reinstall the stabilizer link bolt.
  • You can now reinstall the wheel, and lower the car to the ground.

Once you have followed these steps to replacing your front struts, be sure to take your car out for a test drive, noticing any problems or noises. An extremely important last step to add for your front struts replacement process is getting an alignment. This step is vital for keeping your car healthy and your tires in shape. Installing new front struts on your Camry is a great way to test your DIY ability. So whenever your Camry needs new front struts, you are prepared to replace them quickly and skillfully.

What Kind of Brake Pads Should You Choose?

Whether you own a Bugatti Veyron or a 71’ beat-up pick-up truck, the one equalizer of all car classes is brake pads. There is no vehicle that can survive without them and there is no vehicle that wouldn’t be in serious danger if the brake pads wear out without the owner’s knowledge. However, though brake pads in general may equalize different drivers and their cars, if you look into the details of the different kinds of brake pads you will see the great contrast between different vehicles and their needs.

What are these differences within the brake pad selection that can affect your choice when you decide to get new brake pads? What kind of brake pads best suit you and your vehicle? Let us take a look at what kind of brake pads are out there and what type of driver, vehicle, and style, they are designed for.

Factory Brake Pads

First, we will look at the OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] brake pads, those that came with the car or that you bought at the dealership to replace worn-out pads.

The OEM brake pads that were made for your vehicle can be described as basically average. The wear, the performance, and the dust from these brake pads are simply regular. There is nothing particularly special with these pads but also there is not really any specific detriment that they cause either.

In that case, why would you not just use these brake pads on your vehicle? Even though the OEM brake pads are the default pads for a vehicle, drivers and vehicles can be considered anything but default. Different styles of driving and different types of vehicles causes a necessary variety between brake pads and therefore, default may not work for everyone.

Soft Brake Pads

We have established that brake pads need to have different features to lend themselves to the different personalities of cars and drivers out there and so now let us look at our Second type of brake pads. Soft brake pads are designed for high-performance vehicles that need to stop quickly and with little effort. They also are very quiet which can make it more of a comfortable ride as well.

While this sounds perfect for any vehicle, the problems that come with a soft brake pad may repudiate some drivers. For example, the cost of performance is the loss of durability. Soft brake pads wear out very quickly, which can lead to other problems with the rotors, if you don’t pay attention to them. Also, replacing them consistently can add up money-wise, which is a strong detractor as well. Understandably, most high-performance vehicle owners don’t mind spending a little more for high-performance brake pads so the money issue may not be a problem. However, the other negative factor of soft brake pads is the amount of dust they create. Dust can be both annoying and cosmetically detrimental if left uncleaned.

Hard Brake Pads

The Third brake pad type we will be looking at is hard brake pads. These can be noisy, even if working correctly, and more importantly, they increase stopping distance compared to other kinds. If you do choose hard brake pads, the details of hard brake pads must be taken into consideration when you stop your car. Give yourself more time and room to brake, or it could lead to fender-benders and accidents.

The benefits of hard brakes are essentially the opposite of the downfalls of the soft brake pads. Hard brake pads last longer than soft ones, which can make your wallet happy, and they generate far less dust.

Choose Wisely

As you can see, there are benefits and detriments to each kind of brake pad. Choosing which brake pad depends fully on what positives you prefer for your vehicle, and are ok dealing with the negatives that follow.

Differential Oil Change Instructions (05-15 Toyota Tacoma 4×4)

If you are looking to change the differential oil in your Toyota Tacoma 4×4, then we have the right guide for you. We know many do-it-yourself projects can lead to disappointment or frustration (or, worse!) damage, if you forgot a step, tool, or part that is necessary for the project at hand. This guide will help make sure that your differential oil change takes place without a hitch. So if you are ready to get this DIY project going, we will move right into our first step.

  • Before setting up your vehicle for a differential oil change, lifting, supporting, and immobilizing it, you want to start this project right by checking to see if you have all your needed parts and supplies. In this particular project, you will need a 10mm hex socket for the differential’s fill and drain plugs, an oil drain pan, a hand pump for pumping oil, and a torque wrench if possible. The supplies you need consist of about one and a half quarts of 75W-90, and some PB blaster if needed for any plugs that are stuck.
  • Once you have gathered all the necessary tools and supplies, you are ready for the doing-part of this do-it-yourself project. To reach your Tacoma’s differential, you may want a rolling mat or soft pad to lay on while working, to make it easier to focus on the project and not the searing pain from laying on rough asphalt. When you have made it under the car, with easy access to all your tools, you may notice something blocking your view of the differential’s fill and drain plugs. This is most likely the skid plate. You will need to remove this before proceeding with the next step of the process.
  • After removing the skid plate, you will see two 10mm Hex or Allen plugs, one is the fill plug another is the drain. Start by moving the pan underneath the drain plug and removing the fill plug first, to make sure you can get it off while you still have oil in your system. Next, remove the drain plug and let it drain the old oil out. While it is draining, it would be the best time to clean the magnet on the drain plug. Once it is drained out, you will want to use the torque wrench and torque the drain plug to 48 lb•ft. Now grab the 75W-90 and your oil pump. Pump about 1.6 quarts of differential oil into the differential. The oil may begin to spill out slightly, so be sure to have rag handy to clean up any excess. Once the differential fluid dwindles to a few drips, clean off the fill plug and reinstall it, and torqueing it to 29 lb•ft.
  • The last step is to just reattach the skid plate, and clean up the tools used for your differential oil change. Make sure to clear all tools out from under your car, so that you don’t create any problems for your tires or undercarriage. Once you’ve cleaned up, you are done!

The differential oil change has just these few steps to take that will take from old differential oil to new differential oil in just a few minutes. Remember to follow all torqueing pressures so as to not strip the plugs. As with all DIY projects, always use the appropriate safety tools while working on your car. If you follow these steps, and use all safety precautions, your differential oil change will be one more project you can cross off your list.

How to Remove a Frozen Brake Rotor

Sometimes, replacing just the brake pads won’t fix all of your brake problems. At some point, your vehicles brake rotor will need to be replaced or resurfaced, which means you will need to remove it from the car. Unfortunately, something that may sound relatively easy can quickly turn into a frustrating mess, and a seized or frozen brake rotor can easily explode one of those situations. When you have a frozen brake rotor, there are a couple steps to follow to conquer the challenge.

  • Step One: If you are reading this article, you most likely have already had your car jacked up, the wheel off, and noticed the frozen or rusted brake rotor. If you have not already done this, go ahead and do it now. When you jack your car up, use caution and common sense to safely lift and support it. You will also want to gather your tools necessary for the job, in this case, a mallet or hammer, ratchet, sockets, and wrenches, and also two bolts with two nuts and washers, that can screw into the now-open holes where your caliper was.
  • Step Two: Once you have all your tools and your car is ready to go, grab your mallet to try to break the frozen brake rotor loose. Obviously, you will want to have taken your brake caliper off before doing this. Using your hammer or mallet, start tapping liberally along the top hat of the rotor, not the surface area of it, especially if you are planning to keep using the rotor by resurfacing it. Take care not to hit the wheel studs, because the threads are easily damaged. This step may be the last step, for some, as hitting it may shake it up enough to break loose. If you are successful, congratulations! If not, or you just want to know the other way of braking it loose, then keep on reading to see the next step in removing your frozen brake rotor.
  • Step Three: Look behind the rotor. You should see two holes where the caliper was attached. Those two holes are where you are going to put the bolts at. Start with one and point the screw-end of the bolt towards the rotor, going through the top hole. Then put two washers on and screw a nut on as well. Add a second nut as your leverage piece. The first nut will be your tightening nut, so make sure there is a small gap between the two nuts. Do the same process on the bottom hole.
  • Step Four: Put your wrench on your tightening nut and the ratchet on the bolt. Begin tightening the bolt so it begins to pressure on the frozen brake rotor, alternating between the two bolts, listening for the pop of the rotor. Once it pops, give both bolts a few more turns and then your rotor should come right off.

These steps of removing your frozen brake rotor can turn what seems to be a difficult project into a relatively simple process. The frozen brake rotor will also come off with minimal damage, only a scarring where the bolts were pushing. You have most likely taken off your rotor to get it resurfaced or replaced so the minor scarring is nothing to worry about. So if your vehicle has a frozen brake rotor, you are now equipped with two bolts and a guide to help you overcome this issue like a pro.

Pro Tip: When installing the new rotor, or the old resurfaced rotor, make sure both the hub and rotor are clean of rust and that the rotor easily slides into place. Use a dab of anti-seize lubricant, around the center of the rotor only, to make future removal easier.

How to Replace a Tie Rod End

If your inner or outer tie rod ends have started to wear, these excellent do-it-yourself steps and tips will help you replace them on your own. These steps can be generic and so you may need to adjust depending on your vehicle.

  • Step one: Gather your tools. There are a few tools you will need to replace your tie rod ends. These include a torque wrench, a ratchet, 22” and 24” sockets, pliers, a flat-head screwdriver, wire cutters, 27” and 32” open-ended wrenches, a crescent wrench, Loctite for threads, a hammer and chisel or punch.
  • Step Two: Removing outer tie rod end. Once you have gotten your vehicle jacked up and removed your wheel, you will see your outer tie rod end, and the inner tie rod end will be covered by the tie rod bellow. First of all, if you leave your keys in the ignition of your vehicle then this will allow you to move the wheel assembly freely. Start off by loosening the jam nut that is connecting the outer tie rod end to the inner tie rod end. You will need to use the 27” open ended wrench for the nut and the crescent wrench for the inner tie rod to hold it in place. The jam nut will most likely not come off so you will probably have to wait to take it off with the rest of the outer tie rod. So after loosening the jam nut, go ahead and move on to the castle nut. You will first have to remove the cotter pin using your pliers or a pick tool, keeping it flat and level. Once you’ve removed it, take the castle nut off. By this point you should be able to knock the tie rod end out of the steering knuckle with your hammer. Now that it is out of the knuckle, loosen it from the inner tie rod end and count the turns to help keep your alignment.
  • Step Three: Removing inner tie rod end. In order to remove the inner tie rod end, you must first remove the bellow by taking off the bellow clamps. Pull on the tabs of the inner clamp first to pop it loose, then twist the boot. Proceed to the second clamp and remove it by using the pliers to pull it off. When pulling the boot off, you will most likely damage the seal, so be ready to replace that as well. You should now see your inner tie rod, and the tabs around it. Simply knock the tabs back, and loosen the tie rod. You should be able to unscrew it by hand after this.
  • Step Four: Installing new inner tie rod end. Before installing the new inner tie rod end, be sure to add the Loctite to keep it from loosening after installation. The washer that comes with the new tie rod end has tabs that holds the rod in place while installing it. Go ahead and line the tabs up with the grooves on the rack of your vehicle and then tighten your inner tie rod end onto it. Now use the hammer to stake the washer into the tie rod, you can turn the wheel to push the rack and rod out, allowing you more room for the hammer. Stake the washer on both sides, and then install the new bellow or, if the old bellow is still in good condition, install the old one. Push the bellow into the groove and then install your inner boot clamps to hold the bellow in place. If the clamp is loose, squeeze it together to tighten it to its proper tightness.
  • Step Four: Installing new outer tie rod end. When installing the new outer tie rod, screw the jam nut onto it to where the jam nut is or was located on the old outer tie rod. Recall the amount of turns it took to unscrew the old outer tie rod end from the inner, and proceed to do that many to screw the new one on. Once you get it to where you want it, take the new castle nut off, insert outer tie rod into the knuckle, and then reinstall the castle nut. Now you will use the torque wrench to tighten it, do this by pulling the wheel assembly all the way out to make it easier to tighten. Make sure to line up your castle nut with the hole in the thread for your cotter pin. Never loosen to line up the holes. Insert your cotter pin and bend the pin with the wire cutters. Finally, tighten the jam nut onto the inner outer tie rod end.

 

Once you have followed these steps, replacing your tie rod ends should be the money saving success you were hoping for. Remember to properly torque and lock all fasteners, and then have a professional do an alignment as soon as possible after your tie rod end replacement.

Replace Brake Pads and Rotors – How to Know When

Remember the day you first bought your car? You accelerated your car to an almost irresponsible speed and then slammed on the brakes to see how quickly you could get your car to a complete stop. When it came to a smooth silent stop, it felt like you owned the road and were safe being its ruler. Sadly, that feeling of security can change when the mutinous brakes create massive safety issues within your different stopping experiences. Oftentimes these issues appear when it is time to replace brake pads or rotors.

What are these indicators that will help discover the need for new brake pads or rotors, before it is too late? Let’s discuss them now.

• When pressing down the brake pedal, you should feel some resistance. It shouldn’t be too resistant as that could indicate there is something wrong with the booster system which in turn makes it harder to brake. If you feel a lack of resistance then it could mean a leak, either externally or internally, or that a brake caliper has seized up.

• If you check under the hood, you may find an excellent indicator that it is time to replace your brake pads or rotors. If you can find where the brake fluid reservoir, maybe by experience or from your owner’s manual, you should be able to see the fluid level which could reveal the answer to whether it is time to replace your brake pads or not. If you have new pads, the brake fluid reservoir should be full, and as your pads wear, will be at or close to the low marker. Be aware, though, that if it is below the low marker then this could be from a leak somewhere. Obviously, replacing your brake pads or rotors will not fix a leak, so it would be wise to have it repaired as soon as possible.

Pro Tip: Never “top off” brake fluid. Brake fulid level, between “FULL” and “LOW,” is a good indicator of brake pad wear. At the low mark, your brake pads have worn enough that you should consider replacement. If the brake fluid is below the low mark, then you should suspect a leak somewhere. Replace brake pads and repair brake system leaks before you adjsut brake fluid level.

• When you brake, the system converts your forward momentum into heat which allows you to come to a halt. There is only so much heat that your metal rotors can take before they begin to deform or warp. This overheating can happen by rust, braking on hills or riding the brake, and although not being necessarily dangerous, it can be a frustration nonetheless.

• The very common or well-known indicator that it is time to replace brake pads is a squealing sound when braking. However, a squealing sound may not always mean that it is time for the brake pads to be replaced. For example, it could just be brake dust building up on your pads and rotors or possibly that there are damaged components in contact with the rotor. Brake pads do come with a feature that squeals when the pads are almost ready for replacing. Whatever the reason for the squealing, taking a closer look into the noise would be a good idea.

• Keeping track of the brake pads thickness will help you in deciding when to replace your brake pads. You can probably check out the thickness by using a mirror and a flashlight. Once you hit 3 mm or lower, it is definitely time to start replacing your brake pads. If you wait too long then the pads can start to damage your brake rotors or drums and this would be unnecessary and costly.

 

As you have seen, there are a number of clear signs that show when it is time to replace your brake pads and rotors. Keeping your eyes and hears open to the different indications can be a real time and money saver, and in the long run, a life saver.  When those brakes wear and start instigating a fight between you and your safety, and you are ready to quell the problem, knowing when to replace brake pads or rotors will restore your right to rule the road once again.