When 90 minutes becomes 7 hours – A Subaru Brake Job

So my daily, the 2013 Subaru Forester, was in need for new brakes They had degraded recently and the one rotor was definitely warped.

Now back in May I decided to purchase a set of PowerStop brakes on Amazon. I ordered a full kit using both their fitment tool and if I recall, actually looking up the parts at PowerStop. I decided to upgrade to the cross-drilled performance rotors as well as the better ceramic brake pads. I had  put these aside to focus on the engine building but I had reached point where I felt the brakes needed to finally get done.

I needed some help from my son (and some of his special tools) to deal with the caliper pistons so I asked him to help.

Things started off smoothly, with the car jacked and the tires coming off smoothly. I prepped all my tools and pulled out and unpacked the brake kit.

General wear on the rotors

 

Rear

The rotors all around had typical wear on out outer facing sides. I honestly can’t recall if I ever had the brakes done or not since I bought the car in 2014. I know I didn’t do them but I may have had them done or I am thinking of the last major work I had done on the 2001 Deluxe Luxury New Beetle of Love.

Anyway, we decided to split the car in half with me doing the passenger side and my son doing the driver side. We’d kick this out in 90 minutes at most and be done by noon.

The passenger side caliper bolts all came off without any difficulty. However, Mak was really having a hard time breaking the nuts on the driver side.

We pulled out the torch to try and loosen them up and then I heard him pretty much go “ugh”!

Driver side caliper mount snapped

He had gotten the caliper bolts out but even with the heat, the top caliper mount bolt snapped, leaving the majority of the bolt embedded in the spindle. The lower bolt was not budging either and we decided that the best thing to do was to try and remove the spindle from the strut and the axle and the tie rods.

Well, let’s just say that the tie rod breaker I use on the Beetles really didn’t fit right. I was able to get the steering tie rod off, but the control arm joint was not working.

A neighbor thankfully had a fork we could use and we finally got it all disassembled.

Broken bolt (lower) and seized bolt (upper)

The rotor/spindle combo weighs about 50 lbs. It was quite heavy.

My small propane torch had not made a difference so Mak decided to take it to his shop. This all had very significant memories of the last time I did suspension/steering work and all the drama from the way old 1302 struts from back in February.

Of course, being a professional auto technician, my son has access to far more tools than I do so the o-a torch made short work of heating up the one stuck bolt and it came off easily.

The broken bolt was a little more of a problem. It had broken with a tiny bit above the surface… just enough to get the vise grips on.

The first few heatings didn’t do much but he then got that things so hot I was afraid it would damage the spindle. But with everything about 1000°F he finally was able to get a grip on the bolt and it budged and finally unscrewed.

Success!

No threads where damaged!  If it had broken a bit below the surface I’m not sure how much of a pain this would have been to really get it out.

So when it all cooled we went home and…

Let’s just say there was one thing I failed to do, because I stupidly that my research on part numbers and Amazon’s fitment system for auto parts was accurate. We never stopped to actually try to put on a rotor or pads because the broken bolt sent us into a whole other direction.

The goddamn kit did not fit.

I have no idea what it is to but is is not a 2013 Subaru Forester Limited X as it was supposed to be!!!

So there we are, now hours later, with everything more or less taken off and parts that do not fit!!!!

I managed to not lose my cool but I will say this is the second time I’ve ordered brake kits off Amazon where the system showed “this is a fit for your car” and the extra information all seemed to imply it was the correct part and it did not fit. The last time was in 2018 when I ordered a full brake kit for my son’s then 2003 Mark IV Golf and those did not fit either!!!  (I think I’m done ordering brake kits from Amazon!)

So I had to basically buy 4 new rotors and pads and while my son’s commercial discount helped a bit I ended spenting over $250 additional today so I could put it all back together.

Duralast’s “better” option

I ended up going with the more expensive rotors for the front and all around ceramic brake pads for every wheel.

Autozone’s Duralast brand parts are adequate, but the kit I had bought originally was much nicer.

Rear Passenger

The rear rotors and pads went on easy so that was at least a plus.

I mean, if I would have known this would have been so long, I would have built in more time to really clean the hell out of the calipers and caliper mounts and painted them. I would have removed the backing plates off and scrubbed them up and coated them with new paint as well.

But after many hours of back and forth to get other tools, 3 trips to Autozone, and the delays with the dismantling of the driver front I just wanted it all back on and functional.

I took the car for a drive to do a break-in of the pads.

We had not done anything with the fluid and I’m thinking that I’ll bleed them and possibly due a total fluid replacement. I really like a brake pedal that starts the braking and the slightest touch and it isn’t quite there.

So. Yeah. 90 minutes ended up being most of the day.

 

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