October 09, 2004

The Cranky Cadillac Caliper Conundrum Caper

My Dad likes to fix the family’s cars. Or to put it another way, he would rather fix them himself than pay someone else to do it. Since we have an old lift in the un-used back garage, that’s not too much of a big deal most of the time. And, unlike myself, he actually has some skill in changing brakes, doing tune-ups and the like.


Today, he decided to change the brakes on my Grandparent’s Cadillac. No problem. And they really needed to be changed. The brake pads on the back brakes had never been changed (most back brakes get changed only half to a third as often as the front brakes) but they were in pretty bad shape. The little “chirper” clip that’s supposed to make noise to let you know when it’s time to change the brakes had broken off, so the pads were worn down to the metal. Fortunately, the rotors (the disk part) were not damaged.

Well, everything was going fine for my father up to the point where he had to put the whole thing back together. On a normal car (being defined as one that my Dad has worked on before) to get everything to fit, you have to compress the caliper. He’s always done this with a large C-clamp. And he’s hardly ever had a problem doing it before.

Except for this time. No matter how hard he turned the screw on the C-clamp, the caliper just wouldn’t compress. After half an hour of straining, he finally called the dealership and asked what he was doing wrong. There reply was that you need a special Cadillac tool that turns the plunger in the caliper while it compresses it.

Just great. There was no way that my Dad was going to go buy a tool just to change one set of brakes. So he gets me back in the garage with him. My job is to use a hammer and a punch to hit the notches and get the plunger to turn while he compresses it with the C-clamp.

I suggested using a pair of pliers or an open-ended wrench to turn the plunger, but he said that there would be no way to get enough pressure on the piston.

So from there it went something like this:


That was me hitting my thumb with the hammer. (Fortunately the left thumb, which I don’t use when typing.)

This went on for 15 minutes or so. And only stopped when I could no longer get a good angle on the notch to turn the plunger, and I could no longer easily count to ten.

Now, having all of his ideas no longer work, my father decides to try mine. He grabs a pair of pliers, sticks the end of them into the notches and…


A few minutes later, using a 5/16” wrench and a pair of vice-grips, I had fabricated my very own Cadillac Caliper Compressor™ (Sorry to disappoint, but no duct tape was used in the manufacture process. Maybe in the Mark 2 model.)

Using our newly created tool, the rest of the job was over in a matter of minutes.

About now you are probably asking what the whole purpose of this story was… Actually, there isn’t any other than the fact that I really like the title “The Cranky Cadillac Caliper Conundrum Caper”


Posted by GEBIV at October 9, 2004 03:48 PM

right tool for the right job :-)

Posted by: Harvey at October 10, 2004 01:57 PM
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