After a near-miss on a roundabout many years ago, I’m pretty paranoid about the brakes on the Citroën BX. Currently, the aged brakes coupled with old tyres are useless. I’m determined to get this damn car to at least slow down when the brake pedal is pressed. I suspect the MOT centre would be grateful for it too. Time for new brake pads and discs.
Article originally presented on the Facebook BXClubUK Group 12/03/2020
EBC brake discs and pads
Typically I would just buy good quality pads and discs from a motor factor. Over the years the project BX has had genuine Bendix and Mintex and a few other brands all with reasonable results. The current set is genuine Brembo, they were put on the car over 6 years ago and haven’t done more than 1000 miles. I suspect a lack of running in, coupled with old fluid and 12-year-old tyres is the route cause, rather than manufacturing quality.
When I started to look online for front discs and pads, I found EBC new old stock coming up for the BX at very competitive prices. I’ve had previous experience racing on EBC Greenstuff and while there was no dramatic improvement in stopping, brake fade came in much later. EBC is a UK based company and seems really keen on customer support. They are a brand I generally like the ethics of. I’ve gone with EBC Ultimax pads and premium EBC vented discs.
Hand brake Cables
Unlike most conventional cars, the BX has its hand brake on the front wheels. This is a result of the hydropneumatic suspension. With a cable-operated hand brake on the rear, when the suspension sinks the cables either go completely slack or over tight. One is better than the other, but not by much. With the cables on the front, the outer sheath can get caught on the wheel rim.
The cables I had on the car had been on for over 15 years and were using a piece of garden hose to mask the damaged sheath. Since I’ve had a set of the correct length cables in stock for over 10 years, I thought I might as well change them at the same time!
Preparing for new discs
Overhauling the brakes on the BX does take a little bit of time and consideration. The sliders are prone to corrosion so need a check-over, cleaning and relubrication. The frame of the calliper allows the pads to slide on a machined face. This also needs cleaning and reasonable application of copper slip. It’s a strangely satisfying job when it becomes like second nature.
Another area of preparation focus for me is the hubs, on the disc mounting surface. When I first got this car, this front corner was a mess. Frankly, it looked like the whole thing had sat in saltwater for a decade. Nothing came apart easily and that included the brake disc from the hub. In the end application of heat through the application of a 4″ angle grinder released the bond. Since then plenty of copper slip has sat between the hub and the brakes disc.
All back together
After a few hours per side, the brakes are all back together. Anti-rattle springs are cleaned and replaced. New brake pad wear sensors are installed. Hand brake adjustment is set. All ready for the road!
Initial test drives show a notable improvement, but nowhere near the performance of a modern car or that I can cope with. The discs simply won’t lock up at any speed despite little or no action from the ABS. They do feel considerably more like they are trying to do something now!
Follow Up – August 2020
On a recent trip out, another driver encouraged me to perform the classic emergency stop. And the BX did stop, pretty abruptly, without hitting anything! In March I had a full set of tyres on the car which have certainly helped but so has new hydraulic fluid and a full re-pipe throughout.
Since the emergency stop, I’ve developed a squeak from the rear under very light brake pressure. Probably a binding pad in the rear callipers as they are seldom involved in braking on the BX and do become corroded. I’ve only rebuilt one side in the last few years, so I suspect it will be the un-fettled calliper at fault!
I guess that will be another post, largely about the correct French swear words to use when removing a steel bleed nipple from an aluminium calliper!