So, the first part of the job is installing lower ball joints. I would not plan on doing absolutely everything in the same day, unless you are a pro with a pro shop and access to all possible tools and toys one can imagine. Do not plan on driving on your old 15" wheels with new ball joints! It is impossible, and they will scrape against your old wheels like its the end of the world. So, even for this first step, you must have your new wheels already installed, or ready to install.
Go to this link and see how to change lower ball joints, it is the best write-up with pictures and all:
(i think you need to register with them to see the pictures)
Here is a funny thing: I took my car to a pro mechanic in a highly recommended shop, a guy who drives the exact same car himself - 1st gen LS400. He lifts it up, and checks the suspension and tells me that upper control arms need to be changed, but lower ball joints are OK.
I replace UCAs only to find out that old ones were very likely just fine (and they were OEM too!). However, Lower ball joints, especailly one of them, had quite a bit of play in it. So he missed that too.
Once you get lower ball joints replaced, you are ready for the brakes. I bought mine from a pick and pull place. If you are close to Sacramento, they have tons of those places there. Your Craigslist should also have good amount of listings from junkyards, but avoid private sellers unless they really have a good deal - I bought all four calipers with all hardware (and almost new pads already in them!) for $200, shipped. That comes to about $50 per corner.
Things that are the same between gen 1 and gen2 brakes:
- Same size of bolts all over: identical banjo connector and bolt where the brake line connects to the caliper. However, even if the bolts size are the same, their length (except for the banjo one) is not! The new calipers use shorter bolts, and if you don't have them in your new calipers, you must order them from Lexus. Some parts store may have them, but in my case O'reilly's thought they had them, and when I bought them they were completely wrong part - luckily I had them in the new calipers as well so I used those.
- Almost the same length of the brake line, but 2nd gen is longer by about 1 or 2 inches, so do not plan on reusing the old ones, they will be too tight in there when wheels are turned to extreme! Since these cars are old, we should all plan on replacing our brake lines, I prefer stainless steel ones.
- Same position of holes for two bolts that hold the caliper to the steering knuckle. So it is a direct bolt-on.
Things that are different: everything else! Pads, even those little wires/springs, the whole deal is different. Setting old pads in the old brakes was a little finicky, just because they are so small and really junky. The new ones, from 2nd gen, you will see - they are quite a nice piece of work, everything sits in properly and just right. To me they seem to have a bit more travel, and that reflects on my brake pedal feel... or maybe I just need to bleed my brakes a bit more? Don't know.
The procedure to install new front calipers and pads is this:
1. Get those wheel nuts loose before you jack up the car
2. Jack up the car and put it on stands (if you are doing both sides at the same time, you can jack it up in the middle, by lifting at the crossmember, the weight on your jack will be around 2000lbs)
3. get the wheels off
4. Unscrew the two 17mm bolts on the back of your caliper - they hold the caliper to the steering knuckle. They are both impossible to see, you literally have to turn the left wheel to the right, or right wheel to the left, to be able to stick your head in there and see them just barely. If you can see them easy, they are not the ones. If you turn the wheels all the way, the electric impact wrench from HF may just fit in there to save you a bit of time. Or if they are overtorqued, you may have to use a braker bar - mine has a good joint that allows me to bend the bar outside of the wheel well and then i can put a really good amount of weight on it. These need to be torqued to 87 ft.lbs.
5. Now the caliper can come off. Leave it on a tool box,or an upside down bucke or whatever you can put under the wheel, or tie it to the spring, with a wire as it is heavy. Do not remove it from the brake line yet, you will loose too much brake fluid.
6. Now you have one thing in your way: the dust shield. It is very soft metal, you can bend it with your hands. The top I just pushed with my bare hands. The bottom part is a female dog. So I took my electric shears and just cut away that part - start from the thin edged end which is towards the front of the car and cat across all the, to remove the whole bottom part. WIht right tools, iti is easy; without them, you can spend hours banging and guessing and constantly trying to put on the new rotor.
7. Once that dust shield is out of the way (don't worry, others have taken it off all together, and they report no problems!), you have enough space to put the new rotors there. Don't forget to wash the new rotors with brake cleaner spray after you put them! I recommend you use new little screws if you are using them at all; there are two per wheel, and they cost around $1 ea. at any Lexus dealership. The part number is: 90155-60002
They are NOT an essential part, and people drive without them. But they do make your life easier when working on brakes.
8. Get the new caliper, and study it a bit: it has that funny thin metal piece that goes around the bolt to make your life living hell when you try to bolt them in. I almost tore the little piece away as it took me 15 minutes just to get the bolt in because the little thin piece of metal bends as I put on the caliper and ends up being in my way and covers the bolt hole. If it was all new, this would not be a problem, but mine were all bent out of shape... If you have the same problem, you have to stick your head in the wheel well and push it out of the way with a screwdriver that you put in the bolt hole.
the new RIGHT caliper also has that funny looking wire clip, part number 4774950020 that holds the pins, and a sensor. On my 1990 LS, there is nothing for that sensor, so I took it off. Without that spring you are screwed, so first check that you have it in there! If you don't have it, car parts stores can get it for you in a day. Just remember to tell them that you need it for, say , 1997 LS, not really your car! Here is a picture of both right wheel and left wheel clip:
Yes, they are different! (and each caliper uses two of those sliding pins pictured above, so you need four in total)
Check to see what you need as far as the rest of the hardware. My wagner thermoquiet do not use shims, they are built-in.
Clean the pins on the new calipers, and put some Napa syl-glide on them. There are other places where you may want to put Napa syl-glide, best to check it for your pads.
9. Use a piece of wood over the pistons and a C-clamp to push the pistons back in. Then, install new pads in the caliper. Unlike your old calipers and pads, these will sit tight and nice. This is the clamp I used:
10. Now, be quick: using 14mm wrench (or if the bolt is too tight use an impact wrench) and unscrew the banjo fitting end of the brake line that goes into your caliper. It will immediately start leaking brake fluid, but you knew that, so just put that line into the new caliper and tighten it right away. There is a crush washer there, so tiny that it is easy to miss. Ideally you should get a new one, but I just reused the one from my old calipers, they are identical.
11. Now, put the caliper on the rotor, and find those two holes to screw in the two bolts. You CANNOT re-use old bolts, the new ones are shorter. If you already turned the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the side you are working on, you should have enough space to put an impact wrench in there and screw it in quickly. These need 87 ft. lbs of torque.
12. On the top of the caliper there is a bleeder valve, covered with a black cap. If you lost it, you can buy one pack of those 5/16th inch vacuum caps and cut them to be shorter, they fit fine. Unscrew that valve (10mm wrench) and have someone pump while you are watching the brake fluid squirt out. We pumped a bit, and it didn't seem to take too much air in as I was working fast, so the brake fluid did not get a chance to leak too much.
And the rest is easy! Put back the wheel and try out the new brakes. With new pads and rotors, brakes need about 200miles for pads to be seated properly. The most important thing to remember is: do NOT brake hard, and do NOT stop and hold brakes on at traffic lights! Find an alternative way - use parking brake, or let the car slide a little in the worst case... but if you brake hrad and then keep the brake on, you will possibly get some of the brake pad material stuck to the rotor and get what people incorrectly refer to as "warped rotors" (they are never warped, just their surface is not uniform)
BTW, I just changed the brake lines on the front wheels and the 2nd gen are longer, as they should be, and everything bolts right on, except for one litle thing: the old bracket was too narrow, and the new, slightly wider end of the 2nd gen brake line does not fit in it. I just used a zip tie to hold it there, and it is just fine.
I hope that covers it, if not, I will edit this post later