By on January 19, 2016

 

2007 Nissan Frontier. Image: Nissan

TTAC commentator suburbanokie writes:

Greetings,

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 [email protected]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.

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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: Frontier E-brakes Getting Shafted?...”


  • avatar
    shedkept

    I don’t know anybody who turns rotors anymore. It’s cheaper to replace them. You can replace front and rear discs and pads for about $220 (online price). The rotors are $27.99 each from NAPA. If the shop is charging $75-$100/hr. it can’t be cheaper to turn one.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      To me the issue with going for the cheapest brake rotors you can get is that they BARELY meet minimum spec for the car. While this may be legal, it guarantees a full brake job INCLUDING rotors every time and there is some risk that they are just poor quality rotors. I went that way on a ’96 Camaro one time and one time only; the new rotors warped after a single heavy braking and required replacement less than 5,000 miles after installation. I never went for ‘cheapest available’ after that as doing so would have doubled or even tripled my costs over better quality rotors over the next 100,000 miles. (I sold that Camaro with 160,000 miles on it.)

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC I paid $12 per rotor to turn them at my local parts store. That was probably 8 years ago, but totally worth it to me over spending $30-40 for a new one.

      • 0 avatar
        mason

        I’ll turn an OE rotor down until its reached its minimum thickness, and then I’ll replace with OEM. OEM is substantially more expensive but I don’t mind paying the premium when they outlast aftermarket by 2-3x. Aftermarket rotors are lucky to last through a set of pads before they rust around the edges so bad they begin causing problems.

        I also live in a humid climate where road treatment is steadily spread 5 months out of the year give or take so your results may vary.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          I agree. If the rotors are in good shape, Have them turned. Even if they were cheap aftermarket rotors, I would turn them. As long as they have enough meat, they are better than new rotors. The rotors on your car have been heat cycled many times. They are completely stress free, and completely stable. New rotors have very little if any stress relief. This is why many warp early on.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Sorry but the OE rotors outlasting and being better than aftermarket rotors is not universal.

          Yes, most OE rotors are better than the bargain aftermarket rotor. However many high quality aftermarket rotors are better than OE rotors.

          Case in point, I used to do fleet maintenance and repairs. In that fleet were over 20 Sprinters. The OE pads and rotors were done at 12-15k as the vehicles were used in door to door delivery. We installed premium aftermarket parts the first time they came in for brakes. The aftermarket pads would last 25-30K and the rotors would be good for two sets of pads.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            In the Sprinter example, there is going to be some debate on what is “better”. OE European pads and rotors are softer than what is used on American and Asian vehicles. This European parts usually are quieter and stop better, but have higher wear. The aftermarket parts are more like the Asian and American brakes. This causes noise and braking issues. On a fleet vehicle like a Sprinter, nobody likely cared.

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            I believe the error most DIYers make is forgetting the burnishing process. New pads need bedding to mate their surfaces. It removes most of the tendency to warp. For the record, I, too use the OEM’s until too thin. Works for me.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        It’s a great plan as long as your parts store a) actually has a guy who knows what he’s doing with the lathe; b) is working when you need them cut; c) isn’t backed up with customers because the store is understaffed. When I’m doing brakes I want to get in there and get it done, not stand around waiting for rotors to get turned.

        Besides, my old ones usually have a ton of rust inside the vents and around the hubs.

    • 0 avatar
      Grenade

      Most O’Reilly’s will turn rotors for $10/each. Now, whether they were turned by someone who knew what they were doing is another discussion all together.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Sometimes those high hat rear discs are a pain and the parking brake assembly seizes the rotors on. The only thing you can do is try to back off the parking brake adjustment from the rear, and keep hitting it with a bigger hammer. I’ve seen them come apart cracked in two whole pieces from hitting them so hard. On the other hand, sometimes they slide right off with no issues, like my 98 grand Cherokee I recently serviced. I would replace the rotors with the pads, you will thank yourself later. As for the emergency brakes, as long as they work, there is pad material still on the shoes, and there is no missing hardware and it is adjusted properly you can leave that whole assembly alone.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    You can try and alleviate the drive shaft vibration by re-indexing it if it wasn’t marked when removed. Unbolt it from the axle yolk, rotate it 180 degrees and bolt it back up. If your vibration is still there, it needs repair/balance or replacement.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Does the parking brake work now? I’ve seen them get hard or glazed with age, in which case you should replace the shoes. Test them by parking on a steep hill in neutral, or by stopping the car from a reasonable speed. Remember, it’s a parking brake, not an “emergency” brake.

    As far as rotor replacement is concerned, make sure the new rotors are coated, and of good quality. Really cheap rotors may not last as long as worn original rotors, especially if you live in a rust-prone area.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    The 1/2″ piece of metal sounds like a balance weight that came loose. Upon close inspection you my be able to see signs of its original location. Put a hose clamp on the drive shaft with the heavy part there. If this helps , you can add small washers under the clamp for fine tuning. Then you weld the proper amount. I have seen were the u joint end cap was not properly seated, like hung up on the edge of the mating part.

  • avatar
    suburbanokie

    Thanks for this. The vibration was actually due to not getting one of the U-joints seated properly. It failed on me recently after getting much worse for a few days. Upon replacement, the vibration is gone.
    The parking brake does hold the vehicle. Mine and my parents’ driveways are much steeper than average and it stays put just fine.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Aww you parked your Frontier next to it’s older half-brother, who was better in almost every way.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      What, the unibody Pathfinder? :P

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Whatever that mid 90’s one is there. Were they considered unibody? I hesitate to make those distinctions between truck/unibody, because I don’t really know what defines a unibody – and people always argue about it.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Slightly oversimplified answer: unibody = welded, body-on-frame = bolted on.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            In this case, the second-gen Pathfinder was unibody, but it was more like an XJ than a modern crossover. It still had a solid rear axle.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’ll work! I do always think of the XJ Cherokee as unibody. That’s most often the reference I see attached to it.

            Is a monocoque chassis (as the British say) just another word for unibody?

            Didn’t the LR4 have two chassis, a ladder and also a unibody?

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Monocoque=”one hull”=unibody.

            From the wiki, both the LR3 and LR4 have a hybrid unibody/frame construction.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            They must be the only vehicles to have such a thing! I recall Clarkson said it made them very very heavy.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            From the wiki:

            “Land Rover developed a body construction method for the Discovery 3, marketed as Integrated Body Frame (IBF). The engine bay and passenger compartment are built as a monocoque, then mated to a basic ladder-frame chassis for the gearbox and suspension. Land Rover claims IBF combines the virtues of monocoque and ladder-frame – though it makes for a heavier vehicle than a monocoque construction, compromising performance and agility somewhat but adding strength, toughness and adaptability.”

            The LR3 is over 5300 lbs. for a mid-size SUV.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I have no problem with large square things that are very heavy being used as cars.

  • avatar
    shedkept

    The legal minimums can rule out turning. If you have wear you may surpass that limit.
    Turning also produces a finish that isn’t like a factory “finished” rotor. Turning produces “Phonograph” style cuts and for $10/rotor I doubt O’Reilly is dressing them. Factory rotors have a better roughness average as they are smooth.

    There are “grades” of rotors and certainly the better ones cost a bit more.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also I am waiting for gtem to get here cause I gotta show him somethin in relation to this sort of post.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Do not turn the rotors if they are not causing a pulsation.

    Turning them will remove the pad deposits so you’ll have to build them back up. Turning will also remove the perfectly concentric grooves that have formed which actually increases the braking performance slightly by increasing the contact area.

    If the rotors are warped and need actually need resurfacing then they should be ground and not turned for best finish and longest pad life. As was mentioned above turning creates a phonograph style groove that increases pad wear initially. Grinding them on a flywheel machine creates a true non-directional surface that is easier on the pads. However in many cases having them ground, which you can only do with hubless rotors is expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      All the higher end rotors have a turned surface. You will not find OE Mercedes rotors that are ground. The reason most rotors have a finish from a surface grinder is the machines used to turn them at the factory are not heals to very high standards. It’s easier to use a worn out machine and then throw them on the surface grinder then to keep the machines in tip top shape. Cast iron particles wear out your machine very quickly. It’s just more cost effective. (This is not to say that the average brakes lathe is in excellent condition)

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    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.

  • avatar
    turf3

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      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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