Brake Question for OG Car Guys

So my 18 year old son was driving my 96 Dodge 15 passenger van to a football game and according to him the left front brake locked up and started smoking pad. Not sure how or when it released but he was able to get it to a parking spot safely, thank God. When I went to get it, I found that the front brakes basically didn't work at all and the rears seem to, but not very well since they are drum brakes anyway. I topped off the fluid and was able to limp it home in the middle of the night. There is no visible leak anywhere, so I figured a likely possibility is that as the pads wore down, maybe fluid got so low that an air bubble was pulled into the line, and it expanded as things got hot, thus closing the brakes. I figured there was some possibility that if I put new pads on and squeezed the pistons as far back into the calipers as needed to do that that there was some possibility that whatever air was stuck in there causing the problem might get pushed right back up and out the top of the master cylinder, but after installing new pads, the brakes definitely work a little better than they did, but peddle is still pretty mushy and does not feel right. So the question is, is my theory still viable? You think it's worth taking it to get the brakes bled professionally, or do you think I have a bad caliper or master cylinder, and if so, does that theory match up at all with the original symptoms? The left front caliper that was originally locked up does have a small tear in the boot around the piston but is def not leaking, btw.

Need to bleed the system definitely if it got that low. Sometimes a pad can slip a little and get stuck if you go long enough before service. If you still have the front/back problems after bleeding, checking out the proportioning valve would be my next guess. Phone Post 3.0

air in the brakes will not cause them to drag,your problem is the caliper dragging or the hose is causing it to drag.you need to get the front wheels off the ground and see if they turn easily

Out of curiosity, why do you own a 15 passenger van? Phone Post 3.0

Rape van, duh *^ Phone Post 3.0

Low fluid with no visible leaks may be a bad brake booster/master cylinder.

Have your son pump the brakes while you bleed them and it should become apparent if the system is sucking air somewhere.

I have 6 kids and the van started out as kind of a joke. My daughter kept telling me I should buy a school bus and then I found the van pretty cheap. It's our 4th vehicle and we use it for vacations and much more stuff than we ever intended to.

I did get the wheels off the ground and off the vehicle and they turned freely. Whatever happened, after the brakes locked up, they freed up on their own and now don't work great.

I could imagine a pad or even caliper piston getting stuck or wedged, but I have since replaced them and still don't have appropriate pressure and don't see any leaks, so I'm not sure how that could have resulted in my current condition.

stevekt - Out of curiosity, why do you own a 15 passenger van? Phone Post 3.0

LOL, that was my first thought as well.


OP, get the wheels off, inspect it all. You can bleed the brakes in your driveway with water bottles and help from you kid. Youtube is wonderful for all type of shade tree mechanic repairs.

After the brakes are fixed, sell that fucking van, Youre an OG'er

May be a bad brake line locked up too.

Wouldn't explain the loss of fluid though. Phone Post 3.0

WuDaddy - Rape van, duh *^ Phone Post 3.0
Obviously you have no experience raping people in vehicles. You can't effectively rape someone with multiple rows of bench seats in a van. You need a large empty cargo area with no windows. Phone Post 3.0

were the pads worn down? the fluid level will go down as the linings wear

Same thing happened to me and it ended up being a caliper.

I am not 100% certain that any fluid was lost. It wasn't all the way at the top, but that would be normal on older pads. I can't say with any certainty that there was any loss of fluid.

Bleeding brakes is one of those things that I find such a messy deal that can be done so much better at the shop that I will take it to a mechanic for that, but there is no way I am paying someone to replace pads, calipers, or master cylinder.

ttt

cbia - Same thing happened to me and it ended up being a caliper.

Thanks, I am leaning this way. A bad master cylinder would not have caused the initial lockup, so unless the lockup somehow blew up some seal in the master cylinder, I am imagining that the caliper is just jacked up.

Same exact thing happened on my daughters car and it ended up being the brake fluid hardline from the wheel cylinder to the soft line.

Drum brakes though. Phone Post 3.0

are the rotors still perfectly smooth?

were the pads worn evenly?

my first guess would be caliper or something caught in between the pad and the rotor

sadic1 - I am not 100% certain that any fluid was lost. It wasn't all the way at the top, but that would be normal on older pads. I can't say with any certainty that there was any loss of fluid.

Bleeding brakes is one of those things that I find such a messy deal that can be done so much better at the shop that I will take it to a mechanic for that, but there is no way I am paying someone to replace pads, calipers, or master cylinder.

I have seen master cylinders take a shit and do exactly what you're describing. Attempting to bleed the brakes will likely lead you to the faulty component. Also, you'll have to bleed the brake system after replacing calipers or master cylinder before driving it. The real mess will be loosening lines and swapping parts, bleeding the system should be the easy part of this repair.

I'm not sure if I read this right but you said you DID replace the calipers? If so I'm not sure what it is without seeing it myself.

What you describe sounds like a bad caliper which I have had happen before causing it to lock up. I was able to unlock it and limp it home. After replacing it I had no problems again.

I only changed the pads not any calipers. I understand I will need the brakes bled if I change any calipers or master cylinder. I just want to change anything that needs to be changed myself because the shop near my house won't install components I bring them and wants to mark theirs way up. For some reason, I find bleeding brakes more messy and frustrating than doing the other work. Starting to feel like maybe the calipers is the logical next step. I will check the interwebs, but I think calipers don't necessarily need to be changed in pairs, correct?