I replaced the front and rear brakes on my truck this weekend. By "I" I mean "we," and by "we" I mean "my brother Jon and his friend Mike." My job was ensuring that everyone was properly supplied with beer.
I did my job so well that it ended up taking several hours for Jon and Mike to finish the brakes. In retrospect, since regulation of alcohol is clearly out of the question, we should have done the rear brakes first, as they are drum brakes.
Manly man guy-types like Dave and myself know this already, but there are two types of brakes -- disc and rotor. My truck has both; disc in front, drum in rear. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's the standard set-up for all cars, but I wouldn't know because I'm such a manly man guy-type that I only drive pickup trucks (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I used to be that idiot who forks over $700 for new brakes).
Disc brakes are similar in principal to the brakes on your bicycle. The wheel is slowed when something clamps down on it. In terms of a basic brake job, there are only three things per wheel to be concerned about -- a rotor and two pads (the spinny-wheel-thing and the two soft things that clamp onto it). It took us (Jon and Mike) about 30 minutes to get the front brakes done.
Drum brakes, on the other hand, are a crazy collection of wires and springs, a setup clearly devised by men who hated their wives and wanted to ensure that replacing the brakes would take all afternoon. The phrase "drum brakes suck" brings up 361 results in Google.
This is a picture of the hardware kit for a Jeep Wagoneer (my parts looked a little different). There are actually several more parts involved, these are just the ones you are supposed to replace -- in addition to the actual pads. This is a diagram for drum brake assembly. Doesn't it look like fun? Now cover everything in grease and get drunk.
Needless to say, it took us (Mike -- Jon had given up) considerably longer to replace the rear brakes. Despite the invaluable assistance of five other guys standing around drinking beer, Mike was forced to spend several minutes staring at the assembly, drinking beer, swearing at the assembly, drinking more beer, and telling us stories that had a habit of ending with the phrase "so, I got a DUI for that."
After about two hours, the brakes were finished and we decided to test them out by driving to the bar. I bought Mike lunch in thanks for the hundreds of dollars he saved me. In gross -- beer, parts, lunch -- my brake work cost me $150. I challenge you to call any auto shop anywhere in America, you will not find one that would do all that work for even as low as double my cost.
However, whether I saved any money on the day is arguable. I got home at 4 p.m. and my wife decided to use my drunkenness to her advantage. I woke up the next morning with a wallet full of receipts from various stores. I sat there, staring at the receipts and nursing my tea, and my wife came in and kissed my forehead.
"I'm going to get you drunk and take you shopping more often," she said. "You wanted to buy me everything."