I just wanted to make a post about how I solved some issues on my truck for a cost of under $100 and part of an afternoon.
Truck: 1994 GMC C1500 4.3l Vortec v6 w/ ~215k Miles (base low-end gas 1/2ton 2 wheel drive)
I was to drive to my in-laws a few days ago when I noticed some odd sounds coming from my front passenger tire. I was only a matter of blocks from home, so I turned around and went back. Turns out it's a good thing I did, becuase the caliper had frozen and was heating the disc a serious amount! Jacked it up and pulled the wheel. I couldn't touch any metal on the hub aside from holding the lug-nuts long enough to put them in the hub cap for safekeeping. Drivers side was warm, but not nearly so bad. It was at least 30 mins to an hour before I could touch the hub and try turning it. It was very difficult to move, and the pads were very worn. I let it sit over night and I still couldn't get it to turn easily like it should have. I deduced that the piston in the caliper had frozen in place and if I had kept going on my trip I might have been on the side of the highway with a flaming wheel. :o
Run time forward to yesterday, when I had both the money and time to fix the problem. I spent about $14 (after a core charge refund of $30) on a caliper, $16 on a set of semi-metallic front brake pads, $3 on a can of brake fluid, $2 on a can of brake parts cleaner, and about $25 for misc tools that are long-term purchases: set of box-end wrenches, hex wrenches, and a 5" C-clamp. Total: $60 after the refund for the old caliper.
I pulled the old caliper with a large hex wrench, 3/8"? Then I pulled the brake line and quickly tried to attach the line to the new caliper. Didn't go as easily as I imagined, but dripping hydrolic fluid tends to get in the way of things at times like that. Installed the new pads, stuck the caliper over the rotor and bolted it down. Then came the fun part: bleeding the line and filling the caliper pison w/ brake fluid. I called my wife out and she worked the brakes as I worked the wrench. I loosened the bleeder valve had her slowly press the brakes until fluid rose just out of the valve. Called "stop" and closed the valve. The idea was that any air in the line would be flushed by the time the piston filled with enough fluid to come out of the bleeder. Then I went and checked the brake fluid res. under the hood, and watched the level as she released the brakes. Added a bit of fluid to keep it from emptying below the minumum.
Started the engine and did some leak testing with the power-brake assist. Seemed fine, no leaks, good pressure at the pedal. Put the wheel back on and went for a drive. Nothing odd, but the shimmy/shake during braking that I got occasionally went away too. I had thought it was the shocks, but I guess not.
Back home I pulled the other front wheel and caliper to change the pads on it. I just pulled the cap off the brake res., and pulled the outside pad from the caliper. Then, careful to keep things aligned and straight, I used the C-clamp over the back of the caliper and on the worn pad to compess the piston. If you're careful and watch for straight even presssure and go slowly, a $5 C-clamp can do the job of those expensive $100 compressor kits. Once done I pulled the inner pad and put on the new ones. Reinstalled the caliper, bolted on, reinstalled wheel, bolted on. Went for a drive.
Braking is smooth, fast, and steady. No new shocks for the time being! Whew.
Not bad for an ameture wrench monkey. Soon it'll be the windshield and tires to replace, then I can have an inspection and get updated tags on it... At least I won't do those myself. ::)