1999 Dodge Caravan Locked Brakes

Tiny
HAVEMERCY
  • MEMBER
  • 1999 DODGE CARAVAN
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 138,000 MILES
I was running errands and the left brake got heated and locked up. There was blue smoke and it smelled like burnt brake pads. Once the brakes were locked up, the speed on the van started dropping. I could not go faster than 25 miles per hr. The dealer replaced the front left and right calipers. Flushed the brake fluid and replaced the pads. But the brakes are still locking up. I reseached this on the internet and this is not a new problem. No ones knows how to fix this problem. What causes the brakes to lock up? How can this be corrected.
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Saturday, April 17th, 2010 AT 8:40 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi havemercy. Welcome to the forum. A number of things can cause a locking brake. Dirt and corrosion buildup on the polished sealing surface of a caliper piston prevents the piston from releasing. Years ago we cleaned or replaced the piston, but today it's just as inexpensive to replace the entire caliper. That's wat was done already and is the most common cause of locking brakes.

Brake fluid contaminated with petroleum products will make rubber parts soft and mushy. They will grow causing return ports in the reservoir to become blocked. The trapped fluid will keep the brakes applied. Then, as the brakes heat up, the trapped brake fluid heats up and expands, causing the brakes to apply harder. If the fluid is contaminated, the rubber seals under the reservoir cap will balloon up and you won't be able to stuff them back in. Opening a bleeder screw will release the trapped fluid and the brake. Your mechanic would have noticed this when he filled the fluid.

Another possibility that seems to becoming more common is a rubber front brake hose that's pinched off by rust buildup inside the crimp of the metal bracket holding the center of the hose. The brake will also release under this condition if the bleeder screw is opened. The fix is to open the crimp a little with a channel lock pliers. Replacing the hose, of course, will also solve the problem.

You are likely to find the car will move easily hours later after the trapped brake fluid has had a chance to work its way back up to the reservoir. The brake will lock up again after it's applied the next time. The big clue here is the brake will not release when a steel line is loosened at the master cylinder, but it will release when the bleeder screw is opened.

Caradiodoc
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Saturday, April 17th, 2010 AT 9:04 PM
Tiny
HAVEMERCY
  • MEMBER
Would the master cylinder have to be replaced? I understood that the master cylinder would effect the van from stopping but that not my issues.
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Sunday, April 18th, 2010 AT 6:36 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Look at the rubber bladder seal under the reservoir cap. If it is blown up and mushy, the fluid is contaminated with petroleum product. The only proper repair is to replace every part with ruber o-rings or seals, and to flush and dry the steel lines. If the seal can easily be popped back into the cap, (with clean fingers), the fluid is fine.

The more common problem is the constricted hose I mentioned previously. When the brake locks up, park on a small incline where the van won't coast too far away so you don't look funny chasing after it like happened to me once. Loosen the two steel lines on the master cylinder one at a time. If you loosen the cap, no air will enter the hydraulic system. Loosen each line nut just a quarter turn or so. Chances are the stuck brake will not release. Now reach behind the wheel and open the bleeder screw on the caliper. You might want to place a block of wood a few inches downhill from one of the wheels. If the brake releases when you open the bleeder screw, the hose is constricted. Use a large pliers to peel the crimp open just a little on the bracket in the middle of the rubber hose.

Caradiodoc
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Sunday, April 18th, 2010 AT 10:11 PM

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