1999 Dodge Caravan Brake Hydraulics

  • 1 POST
  • 3.3L
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • 132,000 MILES

This van has ABS brakes. Front Brake pads and rotors replaced about 2 months ago. Ever since, brake pedal has been low, feeling like only 2 wheels stopping. No loss of brake fluid or leaks. I pulled the rear wheels and found both rear wheel cylinders showing moisture leaks from cylinders. I replaced both rear wheel cylinders, and 2 rear brake lines (over the axle) as they were severely rusted. Brake shoes almost new. Also adjusted the rear brake shoes. Attempted to bleed the brakes. I was able to bleed the right rear and left front brakes. The left rear and right front have no brake fluid flowing. There is no fluid coming out of the brake lines before the brake hose on these 2 wheels. Also there is no fluid coming out of the brake line for the left rear before the valve that is located on the left near the rear wheel. Also tried blowing air into the valve and it doesnt seem to be clogged. Can you help?

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have the same problem?
Monday, September 14th, 2015 AT 7:21 AM

1 Reply

  • 29,781 POSTS

I worked for a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership for ten years through 1999 and never ran into this, however, it is a REAL common problem on GM front-wheel-drive vehicles, so I'll tell you about that and see what happens. Rather than retype my novel, here is a part of a previous reply to a GM owner:

There's one more important thing to be aware of that only applies to GM front-wheel-drive cars. When pedal-bleeding with a helper, or after replacing calipers or pads, never, never, ever press the brake pedal more than half-way to the floor. That is proper procedure for any car or truck when the master cylinder is more than about a year old because corrosion builds up in the lower halves of the two bores where the pistons don't normally travel. Pressing the pedal to the floor runs the lip seals over that crud and can rip them causing a slowly sinking pedal and eventual failure of the master cylinder. But there's a more important reason on GM fwd cars. Most fwd cars use a "split-diagonal" brake hydraulic system. Instead of a front and a rear system like we've had since the 1960s, the left front and right rear are on the same hydraulic circuit. GM master cylinders have a valve that trips to block off two ports when one circuit doesn't build the same pressure as the other one. That happens when one circuit has a leak but it will also occur when you stroke the pedal to push the pistons out of the caliper housings. One piston will naturally come out first and when the pads contact the rotor, that side will start to build pressure. Since the other piston hasn't moved as far yet, no pressure will build and that valve will trip. From that point on, no matter how hard you press the brake pedal, no fluid will come out of that caliper and the opposite wheel cylinder. The service manual says that can be avoided by pedal-bleeding the wheel in a specific sequence, but they lied. That valve will trip if ANY wheel builds pressure while ANY wheel does not.

Once that happens, many people identify the master cylinder as the reason they can't get brake fluid from two wheels and they replace it, then run into the same problem when bleeding the new one. This can happen even when not bleeding anything. Just pumping the pistons out after replacing the front pads can cause this problem. The only way I have ever found to reset that valve is go to one of the wheels that isn't flowing fluid and give a very short, quick burst of compressed air through the opened bleeder screw, then let it gravity-bleed.

Some owners don't even notice when that valve has tripped. Suspension geometry and alignment angles have been modified on front-wheel-drive cars so there will be no brake pull when one side isn't applying. On Chryslers you'll never see the slightest hint of a pull. On most GMs, all you'll see is a slight wiggle of the steering wheel as the brake pedal is being applied. A fairly common complaint on GMs is those new front brake pads wore out too quickly on one side and the other side looks like brand new. That's because the one side is never applying and one side does all the stopping. Some people don't ask for help until they've gone through two or three pairs of pads, then they figure out something is wrong. All this can be avoided by never pushing the brake pedal more than half-way down to the floor.

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Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 AT 9:04 PM

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