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Brakes for the Honda



The smell of fall was in the air as Guacamoto laid out his tools, and Motorhead arranged repair orders and sorted the day's collection of mail. Narleen, Motorhead's kid sister, who for the last few weeks had been missing, slunk through the front entrance and sidled up to Guac.

My unwavering assistant and spiritual advisor didn't notice her as she slipped behind him, stood on a handy milk crate and covered his eyes with her slim fingers. "Guess who?" she crooned in Guacomoto's left ear.

My ebony aide jumped about two feet straight up. Narleen clung to his back like an infant gibbon. He set her down and with a stern expression said, "Where have you been, young lady?"

She looked up at him with loving eyes and said, "Well, Mr. Curiosity, I've been here, there and everywhere, and I've missed you, too. Now, I'm ready to get back to work.

"Whatcha looking at Moe?" She snatched a letter from my hand and began to peruse.

Dear Mr. Motorhead,

My Honda's front brakes started squealing in April and since I drive so little I waited until Father's Day to work on them. My parents came to town for a visit that weekend, and on Saturday we shopped at the nearest automotive supply for new pads and a pair of jack stands. When the auto supply man rang up our purchase, my father insisted on paying the charge.

The next morning, Sunday, right after his required jump-start of good coffee and while my mother slept in, we got to work. We marveled at the jack stands‹obviously more safe than my scissor-jack and so clearly upscale from the stumps and wooden blocks waiting and rotting next to my garden.

Sitting on a folding chair in the gutter, my father read the repair manual's instructions to me, and I followed them exactly, even though both of us probably could have done the work with our eyes closed. The old pads came off, the new pads went on, I got pleasantly dirty, and the whole operation was over in 40 minutes.

My questions for you, Mr. Motorhead:

1) The brakes continued to squeal, loudly for perhaps the first 10 stops but much more quietly since then. I haven't done anything about it, thinking that the new pads need to settle or wear down to the right angle for the disc. Have I made a mistake?

2) Was I doing my father a favor by letting him buy the new parts (especially the jack stands) and read me the manual's instructions? Should I have put a wrench in his hand, or was it best to let him watch his son at work?

I need your advice. I'm thinking about checking the Honda's timing this fall when my parents come visit again.

Thank You.


"Did you read this, Guac?" She handed the epistle to our Jamaican friend. Guacamoto scanned the letter.

"I know," Narleen was like a miller moth on speed, "why don't you take the first question, Guac, I'll tackle the second, and we'll let Motorhead add his wisdom at the end. Okay, okay, so what are you waiting for? Let 'er rip."

Guacamoto began. "Often new disc brake pads will squeal a bit when first applied," he said, "but the noise should go away almost immediately.

"If the brakes remain noisy, nearly always the cause is brake rotors that are not true. If there is any run-out or side-to-side movement the disc pads will respond by vibrating slightly in their mounting brackets. Dogs and humans interpret this vibration as a high-pitched squeal.

"The way to alleviate the problem is to remove the rotors from the vehicle and turn them on a brake lathe. The lathe removes metal from the rotors until they are perfectly true. In the case of this fellow's Honda, however, the disc rotors are almost impossible to remove so many shops have lathes that mount on the car's frame and use the forward motion of the wheels to shave off the metal.

"So, no mistake was actually made and a few phone calls to local shops should lead to the solution.... Alright, Narl, it's your turn to rip this guy."

Narleen smiled and said, "So, this boy, I'm thinking college student type, wonders if he was doing his old man a favor by letting him shell out the cash and sit in the world's most uncomfortable lawn chair all afternoon. Right?

"Your dad wanted it to be just the way it was‹or he would have shoved you out of the way, and explained how a six-point, 12-millimeter socket on a swivel-handled ratchet would certainly be more effective and finished the project in an embarrassingly short time.

"Todd, you'd better consider the real question here: Who did the favor for whom?

"That's it Moe, wrap 'er up."

I grinned my Bob Barker grin and said, "Thank you very much Narleen and Guacamoto. You said everything I would have said to answer those questions so I'll press on to the advice.

"Todd, I'm not grinning my Barker grin right now, I'm frowning my Mr. Rogers frown. When your pop comes to town again, take him out to the bar or the coffee shop or to bingo. What's up with always wanting to put the old boy to work? You guys got to live a little."

Live it up a little with Guac, Narl and Motorhead. 115 S. 4th, Myazzola, MT, eta., etb., etc.. . .

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