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Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid


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Ilona
Novice

Oct 25, 2016, 3:46 PM

Post #1 of 17 (1187 views)
Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

 
This is a real mystery and I can use all of the advice I can get!

2005 Dodge Caravan 100,000 miles, 4 cyl. automatic, no ABS.

At 86,000 (June 2014) miles I heard grinding in brakes. My regular mechanic replaced the front brake pads as follows:
Parts 1 Brake Pads-Front, adaptive One-Ceramic $60
Labor 1 Brake Shoes &/OR Pads - R&R $80

Then, several oil changes were done at Walmart. The last of those was at 101,437 (August 29, 2016). According to my receipts no other fluids were added and they don't even check the brake fluid as part of their oil change service.

My husband checks fluids from time to time but has never had to add brake fluid and he hasn't added any fluids in at least six months.

At about 102,500 miles (September 29) it felt like something was grinding in the front when I used brakes. I didn't hear grinding, but something didn't feel right. I was away from home a the time. By the time I got home and took it to my mechanic I had 103,140 miles (October 18) on the van.

The mechanic said that my right caliper was stuck and had ruined the caliper, brake pad and the brake hose. He replaced the following on both front sides: Calipers, brake pads, brake rotors, brake hoses. He also added brake fluid. The only driving I did after that was:

On October 21- I drove the van 22 miles and there was no problem.
On October 23- I drove about 9 miles when the van started to slow down. I gave it more gas, but it didn't do much good. It started going slower and slower over the next two miles till I was able to pull off of I-95. When I stopped I could smell rubber burning and smoke was pouring out behind both front tires.

I had the van towed to my regular mechanic. He said both calipers had apparently been frozen at one point but when he test drove the van the tires did not heat up. The right caliper was damaged enough that he had to replace it but the left wasn't that bad.

Searching for the cause of the problem, Mechanic discovered that the brake fluid was contaminated...it was cloudy. He replaced the master cylinder and said he flushed the system.

Mechanic speculates that the fluid may have been contaminated before the problems started at 102,500 miles (September 29), causing the first locked caliper. Then, since he didn't know there was contamination, the bad fluid went on to cause the double locked calipers on 10-23.

Mechanic said the other possibility is that the first locked caliper was just due to normal wear and tear and the brake fluid may have been contaminated after the van left mechanic on 10-18 and before 10-23. I can assure you no one opened the hood of my van during that period.

I picked up the van with the new master cylinder. Drove 8 miles to my house and looked at the brake fluid. It was cloudy. We put some of it in a glass and could see it had something oily in it. We added some new brake fluid to the glass and the old fluid separated and went right to the top.

I called mechanic to report that the brake fluid is still contaminated. He told me to bring the van back and he would flush the system again.

What do you think could possibly have happened here? If there is still contamination isn't it going to ruin all of the new parts I just go put on the front, as well as all of the stuff on the back breaks? Is it even safe to keep driving this van? I appreciate any thoughts any of you can share.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Oct 25, 2016, 6:13 PM

Post #2 of 17 (1183 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Contaminated brake fluid is a BIG problem. Yes, you have likely ruined all the new parts that were put in. He finds contaminated fluid and he only repairs the front? big mistake.

You are going to have to replace every single component that has internal rubber to include the master, all calipers and wheel cylinders and all rubber flex hoses.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Ilona
Novice

Oct 25, 2016, 6:44 PM

Post #3 of 17 (1179 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Oh my God. I've already spent $1,000 on this problem! Who is going to pay for this?

The only explanation for the contamination seems to be that when they worked on the front end on 10-18 and they put in a quart of brake fluid, it wasn't brake fluid.

This is a real nightmare!

Thank you for your response.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Oct 25, 2016, 6:46 PM

Post #4 of 17 (1177 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Yes, contamination is always a nightmare



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Ilona
Novice

Oct 25, 2016, 8:13 PM

Post #5 of 17 (1170 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Actually Hammer I think you missed one of the steps in the process.

Mechanic replaced brake pads, calipers, brake lines in front.

40 miles after this work was done, both front brakes locked.

The van was towed back to the mechanic. THIS is when he discovered the contamination. He flushed the system and replaced the master cylinder with a re-manufactured master cylinder. He didn't replace ANYTHING else. He said he hoped the contamination didn't get to the back brakes.

I brought the van home, looked at the brake fluid, and it was clearly still contaminated. He is going to flush the system again tomorrow.

From everything I've read it is not even safe to drive the van until all of the rubber parts AND the new master cylinder are replaced. Do you agree?


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Oct 25, 2016, 9:22 PM

Post #6 of 17 (1168 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Quote from top of interest ">>
2005 Dodge Caravan 100,000 miles, 4 cyl. automatic, no ABS.<<"
Just asking how this does NOT have ABS?


As Hammer Time said this is a nightmare. It sure seems like an oil has been the "contaminant" and very unfortunately with any use will swell and ruin all rubber brake parts more than you imagine at a cost I can't estimate because you say non ABS. That alone would be thousands extra!
Sub note: An oil mixed in with brake fluid (any non rubber tolerant oil product) will ruin every last brake part that uses rubber - all of everything about it.


You can't just flush it out now. All parts are wrecked and problem will not end now till all parts containing rubber have been replace - master cylinder right on to each wheel, flex hoses calipers again and don't forget there's other flex hoses, a proportioning valve and anything ABS I didn't think they sold this vehicle without.


Just BTW - potential for mega thousand$ in costs and no choice. Who or when something went wrong and with what is hard to peg down but fluids are a common thing to check at oil changes and not necessarily itemized on a receipt.


IMO - PLEASE find a REAL SHOP (tech's certified or at least supervised by 100% qualified techs) that can take this on knowing what you know or have been told with receipts. This van isn't safe to use at all anymore at all.


This easily could total the entire value of the vehicle! Not a joke,


T



(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Oct 25, 2016, 9:28 PM)


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Oct 26, 2016, 3:25 AM

Post #7 of 17 (1157 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In


Quote
Actually Hammer I think you missed one of the steps in the process.



I didn't miss a thing. Your mechanic did.

It doesn't matter in the least what he replaced the first time around. Once he realized there was contamination in the system, the process starts all over again and EVERYTHING needed to be replaced at that point. Anything left behind will contaminate the rest of the system, regardless of how new it may be.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Ilona
Novice

Oct 26, 2016, 12:33 PM

Post #8 of 17 (1148 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

@Hammer: This is the part that made me think you had lost track of the order of events:

"He finds contaminated fluid and he only repairs the front? big mistake."

What I am saying is that it's worse than you thought!

He replaced everything in the front the first time I took it in, before he knew about the contaminant.

Five days later, when I brought it back because the front brakes locked up, he found the contaminant. At that point, he only replaced the master cylinder.

It seems there is no getting around the fact that EVERYTHING has to be replaced. The question now is, who is going to pay for it?

If only they had looked at the brake fluid when they worked on the brakes the first time, we would know if it was contaminated BEFORE they worked on it or not. But, they didn't look at it. They added a quart of new brake fluid, but say they drain the old stuff right into some big container that has all kinds of other drained fluids in it.

Walmart is in the process of reviewing the film of the last oil change I had there. Can you believe they film all of their work and they keep the film? Anyway, I'll know in a little while if Walmart can exonerate itself. If they can, I have no choice but to conclude my mechanic is liable.

Do those of you here agree with my assessment?


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Oct 26, 2016, 12:45 PM

Post #9 of 17 (1143 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

This is what happens when ou let a place like WalMart work on our car.

I wouldn't trust them to wash my car, never mind work on it.

They both screwed up. The guy that put the stuff in there in the first place and the so called mechanic that actually looked into the master cylinder and had to bleed the brakes and never saw the contamination. Any oil product makes rubber swell up like a balloon. The first clue is usually the rubber in the filler cap swells up. It's pretty hard to miss.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Ilona
Novice

Oct 26, 2016, 1:13 PM

Post #10 of 17 (1141 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

 
Thank you for your advice Tom.

"Just asking how this does NOT have ABS?"

I don't have the van right now. Maybe it does have ABS, I can't find that info on the specs that are on line. Is ABS standard after a certain year?

If it has ABS then this is going to cost even more than I thought.

The book value of the van is only $1,500, but I have already put $1,000 into the brakes (most of which will be for nothing now).

In better times I could have absorbed this loss without it being the end of the world. But I can't do that today. I don't want to get rid of the van because I've had it since it had 40,000k on it. I know exactly what has and has not been done to it. There is no way I will be able to find a comparable van for less than $5k and I can't afford to go car shopping anyway.

"This van isn't safe to use at all anymore at all."

I've seen some people on line say that you can do what my mechanic is doing...flush the system and hope for the best. Most people believe as you do, that it's not safe to drive until everything is replaced. You have convinced me now.

And now, based on your advice, I am afraid to let my current mechanic do the repairs. That causes a whole new problem, because he has already agreed to replace the master cylinder for free.

This is a real dilemma.


Ilona
Novice

Oct 26, 2016, 1:28 PM

Post #11 of 17 (1139 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

@Hammer: "This is what happens when you let a place like WalMart work on your car."

Lesson learned. They won't touch my car again. It was just so darned convenient to have the oil changed while I shopped. And I thought an oil change was simple enough that they could be trusted to do it right.

" the so called mechanic that actually looked into the master cylinder and had to bleed the brakes and never saw the contamination. Any oil product makes rubber swell up like a balloon. The first clue is usually the rubber in the filler cap swells up. It's pretty hard to miss. "

OH! I'm so glad you told me that! Every little bit of info helps me evaluate the situation. I am an investigator, so I'm all about getting as much information as I can before I try to draw any conclusion.

When he told me he knew the fluid was contaminated because it was cloudy, I asked him why he didn't notice that the first time he worked on my brakes. That was when he said that they didn't see the fluid at the time because they were running it into a disposal container. I took that to mean that they don't even take off the brake fluid cap except to replace the lost fluid.

Then he said exactly what you said. That the clue that causes them to suspect contamination is the rubber in the cap. He said he didn't see the rubber because this particular cap has the rubber down inside of it a little. In other words, unless you were looking for it, you wouldn't see the rubber.

Thank you again!


(This post was edited by Ilona on Oct 26, 2016, 1:30 PM)


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Oct 26, 2016, 3:05 PM

Post #12 of 17 (1134 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

OK - Back a few posts we've both harped how disastrous this is. The average (most are) quickie oil change places are handy but you are risking so much for quick and probably lower prices by novices well meaning or not can't be paying for real techs to do even oil changes and fluid checks.


I've been super lucky that only a couple in decades (of many) of car work found either customer/friends even, just accidentally put oil or worse ATF in brake reservoirs. First noted it the rubber cap seal swells hopefully if in time which you can't know for sure suck out fluid seeing that oil floated on top only. You didn't have that luck - near certain.


Price out what a new or rebuilt ABS unit is. Not legal where I am to get used and unsure if rebuilt is allowed either. Not allowed to sell rebuilt master cylinders for ages here either.


It's totally not safe now. Rubber has already been harmed so flush your brains out particles will get in the wrong places - just a nasty situation at the risk of total brake loss!


Figure out for yourself if you wish to make a claim on place that would have done this by mistake and see if you can get some help money wise.


IDK these places well and been thru one once in another person's vehicle and it scared the daylights out of me. People under and over pushing buttons on a bartender's joy wand of what fluid would be dispensed! Yikes room for wild mistakes.


Really sorry this happened to you and yes can total the value of the vehicle if you have a conscience at all tell that this happened to next owner if you bail out on it.


Way late now but read a container of brake fluid. It should say if cap wasn't even tight not to use it! It's not an oil and absorbs moisture which would be so bad as contaminated but would have to change/bleed it all out. Issue is boiling point if minor with just that.


Point is to choose the right thing to do now with the right tech(s) at the job or choose some other option but this vehicle can only be considered plain dangerous to use at all the way it is IMO and anyone who really knows crap about the trade - ages upon ages brake fluid is the ONE thing NOT to mess up. Bummer,


Tom



(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Oct 26, 2016, 3:18 PM)


Ilona
Novice

Oct 26, 2016, 10:21 PM

Post #13 of 17 (1121 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

 
As of tonight it has been flushed twice. I drove it home today and I thought the brake peddle was going much closer to the floor than it usually does. I also heard what sounded like something rubbing in the front wheel when I made a sharp turn a few times, but then that problem stopped.

Hubby took it for a drive later (I did not tell him the things I observed) and when he came back he said the brake peddle is going to far down. So at least I know I am not imagining that.

"Point is to choose the right thing to do now with the right tech(s)"

I'm going to call my insurance company to see if any of this is covered. Then I'm going to call a Dodge dealer and maybe get an estimate over the phone. I'll call some places that specialize in brakes and get at least two more estimates. Then I'll call my mechanic and tell him the bad news.

"but this vehicle can only be considered plain dangerous to use at all the way it is IMO"

I believe I'll have it towed to whatever place is going to end up doing all the work. The more I read the more I can't believe my mechanic thinks I should just drive it and hope nothing else goes wrong!

Walmart still hasn't called me back to tell me what is on their video of the oil change. I've pretty much decided that my mechanic had to be the one to contaminate the fluid, when he was doing the front brakes.

I feel very bad that he is going to have to take this loss. I'm hoping he has some kind of insurance for this situation.

" if you have a conscience at all tell that this happened to next owner if you bail out on it. "

I wouldn't dream of letting anyone else drive the van until it is completely fixed!

Thank you all so much for your help!


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Oct 27, 2016, 3:27 AM

Post #14 of 17 (1117 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Good luck. Don't quit till convinced this is taken seriously and appropriate actions/decisions made.


Sorry it happened at all,


Tom


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Oct 27, 2016, 4:51 AM

Post #15 of 17 (1113 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Yes, they do carry insurance for things like that. It's most commonly used when they forget to put oil in a car but good luck getting him to admit he did it.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



(This post was edited by Hammer Time on Oct 27, 2016, 4:52 AM)


Ilona
Novice

Nov 1, 2016, 10:39 AM

Post #16 of 17 (1080 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Update:

Walmart finally looked at the security tapes to see what happened when they changed my oil in August. The manager there told me you can see exactly what they guy is doing and all he did was add oil, to the correct place. They can't let me see the video myself without a subpoena. I am proceeding on the assumption that they are exonerated, but will subpoena the video if this ends up in court.

I've spoken to a Dodge dealership who said I should replace everything. The estimate is $2,100 and includes front caliper kits (apparently the brakes come with it) rear cylinders, four brake lines, flush, and master cylinder. All Dodge parts except for calipers because Reman calipers are much cheaper and have the same warranty as Dodge calipers. They also said I have ABS but there is no hydraulic monitor on it so nothing needs to be done with the ABS.

I've also spoken to a large "car care center" chain that said they have ASE techs. They have one guy that is the only mechanic within 500 miles with some special high ranking brake certification.
They said I should replace everything (they didn't mention doing anything with ABS either) but can't give me an estimate or even a possible completion date because the number one tech is out with pneumonia.

Finally, I called my regular mechanic and asked him to give me an estimate to "replace everything". Apparently he thought I meant he should replace anything he hasn't already replaced so he gave me an estimate for back hoses, cylinders, and a proportioning valve. All after market parts. $253 total. I haven't been able to discuss that estimate with him yet.

I need my car back ASAP so I am going with the dealer.

Should I get more estimates in case I need them for court? I can't imagine anyone is going to do all of this any cheaper and besides, the only two local shops I would trust with it are the dealer and the one that is not available.

Thank you all!


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Nov 1, 2016, 11:15 AM

Post #17 of 17 (1075 views)
Re: Locking calipers and contaminated brake fluid Sign In

Everyone will agree that you can't go wrong with the dealer but I also thing everyone will agree they will be the most expensive also. By the sounds of it you don't have a competent independent shop to go to. That's a shame. It's probably too late for this problem but you need to find a local independent shop that is competent for future problems. Talk to other people and get some references. There are sources online like Angies list and other reference suppliers.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.







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