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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I found the excellent instructions on replacing brakes and rotors here: http://passatworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=179518 I'm working on a 2003 Passat Wagon, 1.8T. Not 4Motion.

However, after reading the instructions and also doing a further search of this site, I finally figured out the 'knack' of getting the pistons to retract, without buying the special tool. I understand this only applies to the rear brakes, changing the front ones will be a project for next week, but the instructions above seem to say that you just squeeze the piston back for the front brakes.

I found this was easier to do after removing the pads and rotor, and re-bolting the caliper back in place, it doesn't need to be tight, just enough to keep the caliper from flopping around. Those of you with three or four arms may find this step unnecessary, but I think it helped a lot.

Next, get a big C clamp. 10 or 12 inch opening. I am fortunate enough to have a C clamp that has the swivel pad on the screw end broken off, and that was just what I needed. The normal flat pad on the screw end of a non-broken clamp was just too big for me, as it covered up the two slots you need to use to turn the piston. But the broken clamp with just the ball against the piston face allowed me the room to get the needlenose pliers in.

It may help to try to turn the piston with just the needlenose pliers before putting the C clamp on, just to see how it turns. You need a pair of pliers with maybe 2" to 2 1/2" long jaws, I think it would be eaiser with a larger pair, and more difficult if the jaws of the pliers are less than 2" long. Open up the pliers so the points of the jaws go into the two oddly-shaped slots. It's a bit tricky to twist your pliers without the tendency to squeeze the jaws shut. Keep in mind that retracting the piston is NOT just like screwing in a bolt.

Anyhow, once your C-clamp is in place, open up the brake bleeder screw and connect a piece of tubing, I directed my excess into a glass jar for later disposal. My dad who's been a big truck mechanic for 30 years and a backyard mechanic for longer always kept a quart-sized glass bottle that had some brake fluid and a hose stuffed in it, for bleeding brakes.

You'll use the C clamp with the fixed end on the back of the caliper, on the bolt on the back of it where there's a spring attached, and the pad or in my case the ball end on the piston face. The screw on the clamp will be facing toward you. This is the normal way you would want to put the clamp on, I just want to make sure you don't put it on the reverse way.

Once you get the clamp snug on the piston, get in there with the needlenose pliers and turn the piston a bit. It doesn't take much, maybe a tenth of a turn or so. Then take up the slack with the clamp, the clamp handle may turn about an eighth of a turn or so. Then turn the pliers a bit more, and then tighten the clamp. By the time I got the hang of this, I was able to turn both the pliers and the C-clamp screw at the same time (this is why I re-bolted the caliper in place). It took me about an hour to figure this process out, then the second side took me maybe 5 minutes to compress the piston.


I was just confused on some of the write-ups on how you turn the piston and compress it at the same time, and I hope this helps someone understand it. You really do need to turn the piston AND squeeze it in at the same time. I don't think you can do it any other way. It's not like screwing in a bolt.


Hope this helps someone. If someone thinks this is useful, perhaps it can be added to the how-to thread in the Information Base? http://passatworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=179518

John
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Bonus question:

Bonus questions:

Anyone have an idea why the calipers are like this?

Does any other car have a similar design?

:banghead:
 

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jwh123 said:
Bonus questions:

Anyone have an idea why the calipers are like this?

Does any other car have a similar design?

:banghead:
Yes. Quite a few. It could also have something to do with the fact that the rear are the e-brake. I don't know. Maybe all rear calipers are like this because of the ebrake. Anyone else?

EDIT: Not all rear calipers are like this. The brakes an my 02 ss camaro are the same all the way around. No turning needed. They just slide back in. Still, I'm betting it has to do with the e-brake design on certain cars.
 

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i cringe whenever I see a write up on how to turn the piston back in with the WRONG tools. Folks should note that this is also a good way to damage the piston and should be done at your own risk.

Or...you could spend $35 and buy the correct tool to do the job.
Or...you could leave a deposit at your local autoparts shop and borrow the correct tool for a day for FREE.

I'm not saying don't do it this way, or that if you do you will definitely damage something, I'm just saying that you don't need to do it this way when there are alternatives that IMO are much better.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Very good point about buying or borrowing the tool, rather than making do.

But at 10 PM when you've got the brakes apart and the wife is asking if the family car will be able to get us to work in the morning, you do what you can.

I guess my point was that the otherwise excellent writeup I looked at was a bit incomplete in directions for those of us who don't have or who won't get the tool. And frankly, now that I know I can do it this way, I won't be buying the tool myself. I MIGHT ask at the place where I buy the pads if they have a tool to borrow though.

Yup, I'd agree that the reason for turning is probably something to do with the E-brake. I'm curious what the mechanism looks like inside, and why you can't simply turn it in like a screw.
 

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Using the proper tool (essentially free from AZ) = 2 minutes to retract piston, 0 chance of killing caliper

Using c-clamp & pliers = PITA hour per side (in my experience), pretty good chance of screwing up the caliper and/or bashing a knuckle or 2

Your choice.
 

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I spotted this little gizmo at Sears for compressing rear brake calipers:

http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&vertical=SEARS&pid=00946344000&tab=del#tab

It's not usually stocked in their stores but you can order it on-line and right now they offer free shipping after a mail-in rebate. It works with a standard 3/8" ratchet. You could also buy one of the fancy caliper compression tool kits like this one for about $35 including shipping:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/New-Brake-Caliper-Tool-Set-for-Disc-Brakes_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQcategoryZ43998QQitemZ4594543980QQrdZ1
 

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The cube works but its still a bit of a PITA as it doesn't necessarily fit exactly right. I used it the first time I did brakes and am much happier with the retraction tool I picked up from Harbor Freight.

The Harbor Freight tool goes on sale for $29.99 fairly often and with shipping its about $35. Pays for itself the first time you do brakes and as someone else mentioned, saves you a hell of a lot of time as well as greatly reduces the risk of damaging the caliper piston. Well worth it IMO.
 

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StewPidass0 said:
Using the proper tool (essentially free from AZ) = 2 minutes to retract piston, 0 chance of killing caliper

Using c-clamp & pliers = PITA hour per side (in my experience), pretty good chance of screwing up the caliper and/or bashing a knuckle or 2

Your choice.
Well stated.
 

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I did this today without the special tool. If it’s convenient to get one, probably a good idea. If you need to get the job done and don’t have one, here are a few tips to go with the original post.

My clamp has the end piece on it, so I used a 3/8x2 socket head cap screw as a spacer, with the head on the piston. It’s hard to get pliers into place, not a lot of space. Turn the piston a bit without the clamp to loosen it up and get the feel of it. Measure the distance from the piston to far end of the caller, so you can tell when you are making progress.

Follow the original instructions. But after you get it to move in a little, I found then I could just skip the clamp, and push on the pliers while turning. This was easier with the caliper dismounted and held in the other hand so I could push hard. I think it had to get to about 2 inches to fit over the new pads and rotor. The piston boot was sticking out proud from the piston at that point.

Good luck.
 
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