Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bleeding brakes...

In the past two months, we've done a lot - I started my new job, we moved out of a house with no electricity and into a new one which has been completely repainted and a new bathroom and kitchen put in, and bought a new car. It's a Holden. Or more accurately, it's called a Vauxhall here. Being in it with the windows closed makes me feel sick, because the first owner was an avid smoker and a builder. 

We've also been to Reading a few times with friends, and I've moved offices, to a little place called Pangbourne on the Thames river, just south-west of Reading. (It's dirty and yucky, but at least it looks pretty!) 

Last Friday I was driving to work. The BMW in front of me slowed down and stopped at an intersection. I put my foot on the brakes... and I wasn't slowing down! I managed to slow down enough and turn the car onto the shoulder with a squeal (there was only a sliver of one, and then a building)! I got to work a bit shaken, with no brakes. 

Thanks to certain friends who are good with cars, I managed to impress the mechanic who came to tow our car home enough that he drove me all the way home instead of charging me £150 to go 20 miles, which was awesome. (I was very grateful.) 
He also explained that it was probably air in the braking system, and told me how to bleed the brakes. Brendan and I decided that this was a good idea, and we would do it ourselves. 

So, all of Sunday afternoon, and Monday evening, we learned how to take the wheels off the car and bleed the brakes. Lots of fun, arguments, swearing and four (four!) trips to Halfords to buy the right sized spanners and assorted tools. But, the brakes worked again! We are very proud. We're not particularly mechanical people!

The car is at the mechanics at the moment, though, just to double-check. Apparently the reason I stopped a little and didn't totally crash into the BMW or into the building, was that the back-up brakes went on when the main brakes failed. It looks like we do have to replace the master cylinder. Ack. But brakes are, shall we say, quite important.


Brendan said...

Note to automakers: Brake fluid is highly corrosive, which means the "bleeder screws" to let air and old fluid out invariably end up corroded solid shut.

This means undoing them requires quite a lot of force and quite a lot of leverage. So why did you make them tiny little 8mm bolts that will round off as soon as you so much as look at them!!!


Anonymous said...

Oh, my! I'm glad you're okay. How awesome that the two of you fixed the brakes on your own -- that's quite an undertaking.

Been missing your blog posts.