Actually the brakes are a good suspect. A sticking caliper will cause the thumping flat tire effect you're describing. The clue is the car is hard to accelerate, won't creep downhill by itself on a slight incline, and the wheel will get real hot. I just had this suddenly occur to my '88 Grand Caravan last week but in that case the fix takes less than a minute.
The first thing to do when the brakes lock up again is to loosen the steel lines at the master cylinder. Lets hope they don't release there. If they do, we have to talk about the brake fluid being contaminated with a petroleum product. That's a very expensive repair.
Next, open the bleeder screw on the sticking caliper. If it releases, brake fluid is being trapped by the rubber flex hose. On mine that was due to rust buildup inside a metal bracket where it was crimped around the hose. It took less than five seconds to spread it open with a large screwdriver. On yours the two common causes are rust inside one of the crimps on the end of the hose, and allowing the caliper to hang by the hose while you're doing brake system repairs. That tears the inner liner and can turn it into a check valve.
If the caliper still doesn't release when the bleeder screw is opened, there is a ring of rust or dirt on the piston and it's causing it to stick under the rubber square-cut seal. It is no longer economically practical to clean and rebuild a caliper, especially if you have to replace the piston. Instead, replace both calipers with inexpensive rebuilt units to maintain even braking.
Caliper problems occur most commonly shortly after the brake pads are replaced. As the old pads wore, the pistons worked their way out to self-adjust. Any dirt or rust pitting would not cause a problem until the pistons were pushed back in to make room for the new pads. That's when that rust and dirt get stuck under the seal.
Creaking and squeaking noises must never be ignored on Ford products. They have WAY more trouble with steering and suspension parts separating leading to loss of control and crashes than all other manufacturers combined. In particular the tie rod ends and lower ball joints must be inspected for play, tightness, and wear. If you don't know how to do that, have the steering and suspension systems inspected at a tire and alignment shop.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 AT 9:20 PM