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Old 04-03-2007, 09:18 PM   #1
commasense
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Default Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers

I bought my Track Z in October 2002. Since then, I’ve put 67 track days on it at a dozen different circuits. It has 36,000 miles, 6,000 of which were on track.

I had the brakes rebuilt last year by my regular shop, which is not a race shop. They charged me $750. So this year I thought I’d try it myself and perhaps save a little money, and learn a little about my brakes. I did save money in terms of actual cash outlaid, but it ended up taking a lot longer than I expected, partly because I was learning along the way, and because I repainted them at the same time, which added some time. Having done it once, I should be able to do it a lot faster the next time.

If you’d like to save yourself a lot of time (in the garage and reading this thread), here’s my quick take: rebuilding your brakes may not be necessary, except under unusual conditions or after many, many years. Here’s the thing: rebuilding involves replacing two rubber parts in each piston: the high-pressure seal and the boot. The first doesn’t seem to wear much, and the second isn’t strictly necessary.

After just a few track days I found that the boots had started to deteriorate, and although I was slightly alarmed at first, it didn’t seem to affect their performance or cause any problems. After a dozen or so track days, they had practically disintegrated (see picture). But unless you’re driving around sand dunes or other really dusty conditions, the brakes seem to work just fine without perfect boots.

As for the high-pressure seals, I didn’t see the ones that my shop removed from the brakes last year, but the ones I took out after one year—16 track days—were nearly perfect. I suspect they can go many years without being replaced, even with a heavy track schedule.

So if you don’t feel like rebuilding your brakes, I say don’t bother. Of course, I’m just a single data point, and I don’t claim to be a big expert on brakes. So if you have different opinion or more experience with brakes, please feel free to contradict and correct me.

If you want to know how I went about rebuilding and repainting my brakes, grab a beer, have a seat, get comfortable. This is going to take a while.
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Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:22 PM   #2
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Before I get started, I want to express my great thanks to Dave Zeckhausen at Zeckhausen Racing. Dave is one of the best informed and most helpful and friendly people I’ve dealt with in working on my car, and was invaluable on this job. He was responsive and patient with my numerous beginner’s questions. If not for his expert advice at a couple of points, my car would probably still be on jack stands and my kitchen counters would still be full of calipers. Or I would have destroyed them and would now need a new BBK. Or I would have totaled the car the first time I took it out on the street. Thanks a million, Dave. And if you readers find this thread helpful, check out Dave’s site and buy something from him.

I’ll assume that you know how to remove the calipers. A point that I wasn’t prepared for was how to keep brake fluid from dripping out of the line after disconnecting it from the calipers. Dave later suggested using the rubber cap from a bleeder nipple. If you were really prepared, you’d have some rubber stoppers about 1 cm in diameter. I had none of this, so I just put some plastic cups underneath the hoses to catch the fluid as it drained out.

While everything was off the rear, I took the rotors off, and cut off the heat shields with a pair of tin snips (see picture 1).

Here are the calipers as they came off the car (see pix 2-5). You can see that over four years, three of the four had darkened to various shades of brown. Only the right rear was still close to the original gold color. So I decided to repaint them while I had them off.

Knowing what I know now, I’d recommend you rebuild first, then paint. While rebuilding, you will be handling the calipers with dirty hands and doing other things that can mess up the paint. Better to finish all that, then clean them up and paint them.
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Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0911a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0914a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0915a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0892a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0893a.jpg  


Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 09:57 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:23 PM   #3
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Rebuilding

As I said, the process of rebuilding is nothing more than taking the pistons out of the calipers and replacing two rubber parts in each cylinder. In my case, the boots had pretty much fallen apart, so I just removed what was left of them. If yours are still intact, remove and discard them (or just stop at this point, since if they’re still in good condition, you probably don’t need to rebuild your brakes at all).

To get the pistons out of the bores, you need an air compressor and a nozzle with a rubber tip. Put a small block of wood between the pistons and blow air into the brake fluid inlet. Keep your hands out! The pistons fly out very quickly and with surprising force! If they don’t all pop out, partially replace the ones that came out and try again.

Once you have the pistons out, look into the cylinder and you’ll see the high-pressure seal about a third of the way down. Dave Z. recommended using a dental pick to pull it out. Since I didn’t have one, I used an Exacto knife to snag and remove it.

Examine and clean the pistons and cylinders with clean brake fluid. If the sides of the pistons are scored or damaged, they will probably need to be replaced, but this is relatively unlikely. Do not use sandpaper or anything abrasive to clean the pistons. They are heat treated and sanding will damage them.

(Two pistons are not shown in this picture.)
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Last edited by commasense; 04-05-2007 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:26 PM   #4
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The stock Track Brembos have three piston sizes: 44mm and 38mm in the fronts, and 40mm in the rears. You’ll need four boots and four seals in each of these three sizes. The sizes are very close and they’re hard to tell apart. The seals may have color codes around the edges, and the boots may have a part number molded into them that includes the size. But if not, you could easily mix them up. Leave them in the labeled plastic bags they came in until you’re ready to install them.

Note: different manufacturers use different color codes on their seals. Unlike resistors, there is no universal code. So don’t be alarmed if the seal you remove has different colors than the one you’re installing. But do make sure you're putting the right size seal in each cylinder!

Dip the new high-pressure seals in clean brake fluid and slip them into the slots in the cylinders, taking care they aren’t twisted. Make sure they are perfectly flush in the groove. If part of the seal is sticking out into the cylinder when you push the piston back in, you’ll damage or destroy the seal, although you may not find out until it starts to leak!

Coat the inner lip of the boot with brake fluid and slip it around the notch in the top of the (appropriately sized) piston. The official Nissan service manual has a picture of a guy pushing a piston back into a cylinder with his thumbs. Ain’t gonna happen. Dave Z. explained that you need a C-clamp. A 5-inch works perfectly.

Coat the surfaces of the piston and the cylinder with brake fluid to lubricate them. Make sure when you set the clamp that it’s centered precisely in the middle of the piston (see pix). Use a block of wood to protect the outside of the caliper, then very slowly tighten the clamp to ease the piston into the cylinder. Don’t force it! If it is not moving smoothly and easily, stop, pull it out, and start over again, making sure the piston is going in straight and square. (If you screw this up and wedge the piston in at an angle, I have no idea what you should do. Call Dave Zeckhausen. Fortunately, this was one of the few problems I didn’t encounter.)
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Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0931a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0932a.jpg  

Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:28 PM   #5
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When the top of the piston is flush with the top of the cylinder, push the boot (which you put onto the piston before your started this step--see post #4) into the groove in the upper surface of the inner caliper wall. The manual says to use rubber grease here. I didn’t have any, and just used brake fluid. The 44mm and 40mm boots slipped in easily, but the 38mm didn’t: one side would go in but when I tried to push the other side in, the first popped out.

Dave Z. to the rescue again. He said that sometimes this happens and I just needed something like a socket to press the boot in with the C-clamp. Since I didn’t have a 38mm socket lying around, I went to the plumbing section of Home Depot and found a 1 1/4-inch PVC end cap that fit perfectly. 56 cents (see picture).

That pretty much completes the rebuilding, except for reinstalling the calipers on the car. But before we do that, let’s paint them.
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Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:30 PM   #6
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Painting

After reading threads here about painting calipers, I decided not to use either the G2 paint, which I couldn’t find in nearby stores, or Duplicolor’s caliper paint. I’ve heard that both tend to darken over time, and I’d had enough of that. I found that Duplicolor also makes a high-temp engine paint, which is rated up to 500 degrees, and High Heat paint which is good to 1,200 degrees (see picture 1). I figured this last would wear best in the high heat situations of track driving.

Unfortunately, the high-heat paint only comes in a few colors. I decided I didn’t want red or blue calipers on my Lemans Sunset Z. Black would have been interesting except it was flat, not glossy. That left silver. (I bought a can of the engine paint in gold, but it looked like sh*t compared to the aluminum silver that was available in high heat.)

As you know, the most important and time consuming part of any paint job is the preparation. Calipers are dirty and hard to clean. Using brake cleaner and wire or plastic brushes, remove as much of the caked-on brake dust and crud as you can. It’s not easy, because there are lots of tight little spaces that are hard to clean. Be patient. But keep in mind that no one will see the back side of the caliper once they’re back on the car, so if you want to slack off on cleaning (and even painting) the back side, no one will ever know but you.

Among the things I learned on this job is that brake cleaner disintegrates rubber gloves.
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Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0930a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0899a.jpg  

Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:32 PM   #7
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I’ll assume I don’t have to tell you about painting technique. As you can see, I masked off the various inlets and other sensitive places (see picture 1). I roughed up the surface with a Scotchbrite pad and washed it off with soap and water. I also used a tack cloth to remove dust, but this turned out not to be such a great idea. More about that later.

When all the prep was done, I applied the paint according to the instructions: three or four light coats, ten minutes apart, all within one hour. The aluminum high-heat paint goes on very smoothly and easily (see picture 2).

The paint’s instructions say that for maximum durability, you should set it by heating the parts to 300 degrees for two hours, then 400 degrees for and hour and a half. I didn’t want to use my kitchen oven for this, so I bought a toaster oven, and put it out on the back deck where the fumes wouldn’t fill the house (see picture 3). It worked great for the rear calipers, but it turned out to be too small to fit both fronts at the same time. I didn’t want to do them separately, which would have taken more than eight hours (with cool-down time), so I ended up using the kitchen oven after all. And it was no problem. The fumes weren’t all that bad, and were completely gone the next day without contaminating the oven.

As it happened, I had to repaint one of the rear calipers. In using the tack cloth, I inadvertently left tiny bits of the sticky stuff on one of the rear calipers. I discovered this after four hours in the toaster oven: the paint had bubbled up in several places (see picture 4). I had no choice but to pop all the bubbles, sand them down, and start all over again. After that, I made sure to use the tack cloth very lightly and to wash the caliper with soap and water afterwards.
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Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0909a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0902a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0917a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0920a.jpg  

Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:36 PM   #8
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All in all, I could have taken a little more care in the preparation and sanded down some of the chips in the old paint better than I did. Also, painting after rebuilding would have prevented a little damage I accidentally inflicted while working on them. (No need to be concerned about heating the rubber parts: they get much hotter in ordinary use.)

The paintís instructions say that after the heat treatment, you have to wait a week before putting on a second coat. So a few days from now, Iíll paint the Brembo logos on using vinyl stencils I had a local sign shop make for me. (Pictures to come.)
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:37 PM   #9
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Finishing up

Once everything’s done, it’s just a matter of remounting the calipers on the car.

What’s wrong with this picture?
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Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:38 PM   #10
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The caliper is on the wrong side of the car. The bleeder valves should be at the top, not the bottom. D’oh! Fortunately, I figured this out before I had gone too far.

Then you have to bleed the system. As you know, start bleeding at the right rear, then left rear, right front, then left front. At each corner, do the outside valve first, then the inside. I found that an hour or two after my first bleeding, the pedal was soft again, so I had to do it a second time.

Here are pictures of the finished job, complete with my new SSR 17-inch wheels and new RA-1s. I also put new pads in all the way around: Cobalt Friction’s new XR2 compound in the front, and Spec VR in the rear. (Spec VR pads are no longer available. I just happened to have had a set of rears from a year or two ago that I hadn’t used.) And a set of titanium shims from Zeckhausen Racing in the fronts.

These are my track wheels and tires, which is why I don't have the center caps installed.
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Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0943a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0944a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0947a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0949a.jpg  Rebuilding and repainting Brembo calipers-img_0940a.jpg  


Last edited by commasense; 04-04-2007 at 06:48 AM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:44 PM   #11
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The whole job (not counting the logos a week later) took me four days—longer than I expected. But part of that was the learning curve, running out to get tools and supplies I didn’t know I’d need, the four-hour heating process for the paint, etc. I also had to replace the left front rotor ring and repair a little damage done to the left front caliper when my wheel hub fell apart late last year. That accounted for at least half a day.

Also, and I think this is important, at a couple of points when I was getting annoyed or tired, I stopped for the day. I could have gone on, but I might have made a stupid mistake or done a sloppier job that I would have regretted. Try to avoid working tired or angry or under time pressure.

If I had to do it again, I could probably do the rebuilding only in a day or a day and a half.

Finally, I suspect (but haven’t tested the theory) that if you wanted to replace only the boots only, but not the high pressure seals, you could do it fairly quickly and without disconnecting the calipers from the brake lines. You’d pull the calipers and rotors off, stick a piece of wood between the pistons, and push the brake pedal to squeeze the pistons out a little. Then just slip the new boots on and push them back in. It should work.

I hope you find this helpful.
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Last edited by commasense; 04-03-2007 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 04-03-2007, 10:02 PM   #12
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You did good !!! Iv done more than I can count. Something handy though ---- There is an assy lube I buy at Napa that has the consistancy of honey that is Brake fluid based and super slippery for assembling the pistons.

I also swear by Berrymans Carb Cleaner in the 5 Gallon buckets for soaking things that are caked with crap. Stinks bad and u will smell like it for a week but there is nothing it wont disolve--Paint, Plastic,Rubber,Baked on crap, varnish, etc. but has no negative affects on metals. After, clean in your parts washer and then spray the residue off with brake cleaner and then hit it with ur air gun

Great write up !!!
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Old 04-04-2007, 04:50 AM   #13
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I vote for a sticky here !

Great job :-)
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Old 04-04-2007, 06:53 AM   #14
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Great writeup James! Thanks.
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Old 04-04-2007, 08:45 AM   #15
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I've also gone through the rebuild on my stoptechs and found that my inner seals were also in PERFECT condition. I could problably do the job in a couple of hours now that I've been through the process.

One tip for the dripping brake fluid. If you raise the caliper to a high point in the wheel well, you can disconnnect the line and not have any leakage. Simply disconnect the line and secure it up high when it's disconnected and you won't even need a plug. (I figured this out pissing a lot of fluid out of my first line).

Great write up. It looks like you decided against the knockback springs.
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Old 04-04-2007, 08:56 AM   #16
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Thanks to all for the compliments and additional tips.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveh
It looks like you decided against the knockback springs.
Yes, because although I do a fair amount of track driving, 80% of my miles are on the street, where knockback is not a problem. I suspect that the springs would cause more pad and rotor wear than they're worth, since, after four years, I expect and deal with knockback on track without thinking about it.

But I'm interested in hearing about your experience with them over the long term. Any further news to report?
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Old 04-04-2007, 09:25 AM   #17
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About the inner seal's condition.

Brembo was worried about them when we ran the Acura TL during the 25H of Thunderhill...
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Old 04-04-2007, 05:40 PM   #18
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That is an excellent write up, it should definitely be stickied somewhere. That's alot of track miles.

And the toaster oven idea....
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Old 04-05-2007, 08:28 AM   #19
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Great write up! I'm guessing I can go a few more years before doing the inner seals. I have barely over 20 track days under my belt... My outer 'seals' did fall apart though. I remember the stoptech rep saying that those seals are in there for street driving service, and reduced maintenance, but will burn up in the track. If you get a lot of street mileage, it might be worthwhile just ordering a few sets of them, and just 'plop' them before winter sets in.

Commasense, just curious as to how you like the XR2/Spec VR set up. Are you having any abs/ebd issues with so much rear bias? I ran the Spec VR's up front, and they have some bite to them! I have installed XR2/GT Sports, but haven't put them to test yet.
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Old 04-05-2007, 08:42 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by dnguyent
Commasense, just curious as to how you like the XR2/Spec VR set up. Are you having any abs/ebd issues with so much rear bias? I ran the Spec VR's up front, and they have some bite to them! I have installed XR2/GT Sports, but haven't put them to test yet.
My first track day with the new setup is next Thursday. I'll let you know after that.

As I've said before the Spec VRs were my favorite pad: good bite and control, and great wear. I got nine track days out of one set! Then they stopped making them for about a year, and had nothing to replace them. I moved to PFC-01s, which I'd heard good things about from B.J. and others. They were fine, but didn't have the longevity of the Spec VRs. The worst were the XP-9s and XP-10s. I wore out a set of XP-10s in three days! I can't afford to use up $200 pads in three days.

I'll have to make a point of being careful in my first session next week. With new wider tires all around and brand new pads, it'll be like driving a different car. I'm looking forward to it!
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Old 04-05-2007, 08:42 AM
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