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Freshening up the Disc Brakes on your C3 Corvette

Technically Speaking: The Things to Look for When Performing a Front Brake Inspection

James Berry Apr 28, 2017
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Q Hello, Vette. I have a true love for Corvettes and have been working on cars since I have been old enough to hold a wrench. I recently purchased a 1969 Corvette project car. One of the first things I’m getting around to freshening up is the front brakes. I wanted to freshen up the front spindles, bearings, seals, brakes, etc., and was wondering if you have a typical listing of those parts that should be changed and what potential problems I should be looking for?

I was going to try and purchase a kit from one of the Corvette suppliers and it appears they have the parts but they sell everything individually, no pre-packaged kits that I can see. Any input is appreciated.


A I also have grease running through my veins so I understand your passion. To answer your question on a front brake job, a test drive and brake inspection for worn parts should be performed before you purchase any parts.


During your test drive, when coming to a stop feel for any vibrations through the pedal as it may be due to the brake rotors being warped. Some earlier-model brake rotors can be resurfaced at a machine shop. However, on newer vehicles the brake rotors usually will not have enough material to be resurfaced and will need to be replaced. Just remember, the thinner the brake rotor the easier it is to warp during use. While performing your visual inspection also examine the brake rotors for any grooves or excessive pitting.

Something to be cautious of when removing the brake calipers is not to let the calipers hang by the rubber brake hose as this can damage the rubber brake hose and cause it to leak. Simply use a bungee cord or place the calipers in an area where stress is not on the rubber brake hose.


When removing the brake pads check them for uneven wear or cracks and replace the brake pads with an original equipment or upgraded brake pad set. A good brake pad set may come with the brake hardware. The hardware should be replaced on every brake job, even if it needs to be purchased separately.

Dirty brake hardware can cause the brake caliper or pad not to move freely and stick, causing premature wear or uneven brake pad wear. Upon inspection, if one brake pad is worn considerably more than any other, suspect a sticking pad or caliper from dirty brake hardware.


After you have removed the brake rotor, clean the area where the brake pads ride with a wire brush and brake cleaner so the new brake pads will not stick.

Always clean the grease from the center of the brake rotor, spindle and the wheel bearings. While cleaning the wheel bearings inspect the inner and outer wheel bearings. You are looking for any pitting, discoloring (blue color from heat) or worn grooves on the spindle. If any problems are suspected these bearings are inexpensive and should be replaced.

The bearing races will be supplied with the new wheel bearings. The old bearing races can be removed from the brake rotor with a hammer and a punch. There’s a small lip on the bearing race against which a punch can be used to aid in its removal.

After the brake rotors have been resurfaced or replaced you will need to pack a handful of grease in the center of the brake rotor, clean the spindle, apply new grease and also pack the wheel bearings. Remember to always replace the grease seals.

When reinstalling the brake rotor, tighten the bearing nut hand tight and then back it off 1/4 to 1/2 turn. Check to see if the brake rotor will spin freely. If this nut is too tight it can cause wheel bearing damage. If this nut is too loose there will be play in the wheel. You can check this after installing the wheel and before you let the car back down. The locking ring and cotter pin will keep the bearing nut from loosening.

On late-model Corvettes, the front wheel bearings are sealed and not serviceable, the brake rotors will simply slip on after the brake caliper has been removed.

You must push the brake caliper piston back into the brake caliper to allow for the needed room for the new, thicker brake pads. If you loosen the brake caliper bleeder screw you will find it easier and better for the brake system when pushing the brake piston back into the brake caliper. I recommend attaching a hose to the top of the brake bleeder and run the hose into a catch pan to catch the fluid that will be pushed out. If the brake caliper pistons do not push back in freely, you may need to replace the brake calipers.

Check the rubber brake lines near the brake calipers for age cracks. If they are cracked you should replace them. These rubber hoses can collapse internally and not allow the brake fluid to return, or return slowly. This will give the same symptoms as a sticking brake caliper.

After you have completed the brake job you will need to perform a second test drive. Make sure the vehicle does not pull when applying the brakes. Also during this test drive—in a safe area—put the vehicle in Neutral and check to see if the vehicle will easily roll down an incline. You are checking to see if the brake calipers are sticking or the rubber brake hose has collapsed internally. After your test drive check to see if both front brakes are approximately the same temperature. You again are checking for a sticking brake caliper or a brake hose problem. It is not uncommon for the calipers to stick after the brake piston is pushed back for the brake job. If this occurs, the brake calipers will need to be replaced.

Whenever performing a brake job it is a good idea to replace the brake fluid even if the brake fluid does not look dirty. Brake fluid absorbs moisture over time and becomes contaminated. You can replace the brake fluid by simply opening one caliper bleeder screw at a time and let the fluid gravity bleed until it becomes clear.

Most of these brake parts are sold individually. I have not seen a kit available that supplies everything you need. All brake jobs are a little different and a brake inspection needs to be performed before you will know exactly what is needed. Good luck, Justin, and remember, when purchasing any part for your vehicle don’t just go for the least expensive part, you usually get what you pay for.



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