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DIY: Replacing Brake Wheel Cylinders

Here's a good job for the DIY that's easy to do and will save you a few bucks.
» Before You Start
» Replacing Wheel Cylinders
» Rebuilding Wheel Cylinders

Replacing Wheel Cylinders:

  1. Jack up the car and place jack stands under the frame to support the car. NEVER work on a car supported by the jack alone.
  2. Remove the tires, brake drums and brake shoes. If the brake shoes are soaked with brake fluid, replace them. Mark the drum to the hub so you can replace it the way it was.
  3. Spray the hydraulic line and fitting with CRC 5-56 or a similar rust penetration spray. You might want to do this first so it has time to work. Put your drip pan underneath it to catch any over flow and brake fluid.
  4. Using the appropriate size line wrench, loosen the hydraulic fitting. I recommend a line wrench because they are designed specifically for working on hydraulic fittings. A standard wrench will work, but the chances of ruining the fitting are greater. Don't try to turn it out in one shot, work it back and forth and spray some CRC 5-56 on it as you work it out. This will keep the line from twisting as you remove the fitting.
  5. Before you take the fitting off completely, remove the two mounting bolts. Then take the fitting off by hand and remove the wheel cylinder. You do this to avoid any possibility of bending the line. As soon as the fitting is off, brake fluid will start to run out. Plug the end of the line with a suitable plug, I use a piece of vacuum line with a bolt in one end.
Note: Some cars use clips or snap rings to attach the wheel cylinders. Most notably GM vehicles. Some applications require special tools to remove and install them.

  1. Now that the fitting is off and the old wheel cylinder is out, you can install the new one.
  2. Start the fitting in the new wheel cylinder and turn it is as far as possible by hand. Then mount it on the backing plate and install and tighten the mounting bolts. Don't go crazy here; you don't want to snap the bolts off.
  3. Once the mounting bolts are tight, tighten the hydraulic fitting.
  4. When you have both wheel cylinders replaced, open the master cylinder and fill it with clean, fresh brake fluid. Then open the bleeders on the wheel cylinders, one at a time, and close them when you see a steady stream of fluid coming out.
  5. Reinstall the brake shoes and drum. Adjust the brakes and then bleed the wheel cylinders. Have someone hold pressure on the brakes and make sure there are no leaks.

And that's it; you're done. If everything goes smoothly it will take about an hour a side to do, including the bleeding.

Typical Wheel Cylinder Mounting

» Part 1       » Part 2       » Part 3

Additional Information provided courtesy of and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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