Piston Slap: Frontier E-brakes Getting Shafted?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap frontier e brakes getting shafted

TTAC commentator suburbanokie writes:


Another longtime listener, firsttime caller … I have a two-parter.

First: My 2007 Nissan Frontier will soon be due for a rear brake job. I’ve never worked on rear disks. Should I replace the emergency-brake shoes as well as the service brake pads, or will a simple inspection of them do for now? Also, I’ve had varying advice here: should I have the rotors turned, replaced or simply let them be if no pitting or warping is detected?

Second: Last year, my father and I replaced the U-joints on the prop shaft and since that day there’s a vibration around 55-60 mph. Whether I’m in 4th, 5th or 6th gear is irrelevant and the vibration goes away above and below that range. I do remember when trying to remove the old U-joints, my father took a small chunk, maybe a half-inch square area, out of the shaft right at one of the ends, and I’m pretty sure this is causing it, but is there anything I can do about it?

Sajeev answers:

Those rear discs with integral parking brake shoes are much fun to work on! And by fun I mean a PITA. To wit:

So anyway, onto your questions:

1. When in doubt, turn the rotors. And I will always doubt the surface of a used rotor when mating to a new brake pad, even if they look perfect. A simple turn of the rotor surface ensures there’s no leftover pad material baked (?) onto the surface, which could cause a squeak. Why risk ruining perfectly good, brand-new pads? Skimming does thin the rotor and requires earlier replacement, but new ones are cheap ( less than $40) online.

2. I assume your emergency brake shoes are reusable as most people don’t use them enough to wear them wear out. Maybe 10+ years from now, the friction material may break off the shoe, so just eyeball them to verify everything is still in place.

3. Sounds like your driveshaft either needs repair or replacement. There are plenty of driveshaft places in major cities; there’s probably one close to wherever you live(fingers crossed on that). I’d do the cheaper of the two. Question is, what’s the going rate for a driveshaft in the junkyard? Perhaps the piece of mind of getting yours repaired and re-balanced is worth the cost, no matter what. Your choice here.

[Photo courtesy: Nissan]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Mfgreen40 Mfgreen40 on Jan 19, 2016

    Thirty years ago we tried the flywheel grinding method without success. We could not maintain perfect parallelism and pedal pulsation was the result. We bolted a ring to the table and surfaced it,then we clamped the rotor to the ring and surfaced it, flopped the rotor over and did the second side. It did not work for us. Maybe now they have it figured out. The beauty of the lathe is machining both sides at the same time insuring parallelism . The good shops use a small angle grinder with the proper grit sanding pad to get a nice finish. The real problem is getting someone who cares about their workmanship, most parts houses just use a counter salesman. We had one parts place in town that would surface the rotors for free when you bought pads. I agree, dont surface if you dont have a problem.

  • Turf3 Turf3 on Jan 19, 2016

    I don't believe in turning rotors for the sake of turning rotors. I think this is largely something promoted by brake shops and parts mfrs. to sell more rotor turning jobs and replacement rotors when they get too thin. If the pedal is not pulsing, and if the old pad has not torn and galled the surface, I would leave the rotors alone. Sure there are some grooves, but the new pad will just wear to fit those in a few miles. You know, there's a "bedding-in" period recommended, anyway. The last car I did all the wrenching on was my Mazda 626. I did every pad change on that car and sold it at 170,000+ miles with the original front rotors on it. I never let the pads chew up the rotors, as soon as I heard the pads start to scrape I changed them.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jan 19, 2016

      That's true, just pad-slap-n-go. You're not rebuilding the Space Shuttle Orbiter. I have to keep reminding this to the repair shops I go to. Their job is mostly to upsell, I get it.

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  • FreedMike I suppose that in some crowded city like Rome or Tokyo, there's a market for a luxurious pint-size car. I don't think they'll be able to give them away here in the U.S.
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