Minivan break conundrum?


Old 08-17-13, 12:51 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: USA
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Minivan break conundrum?

We drive a 2012 Dodge Caravan, (our first new vehicle purchased sometime last year). I'll admit, I love the space it provides myself, my wife, and our three children.

I am no mechanic, but I am a junior chemical engineering student and I like to believe I am capable of "figuring stuff out". I've always done my own simple maintenance and repairs, such as: breaks, oil, bearings, etc...

Possibly, I should have stuck to this mantra.

Recently, at about 20,000 miles, the rear passenger side wheel started squealing while in motion. The squealing discontinues while applying the breaks, but come's back when the pressure is released - much louder if it is a hard stop.

The squealing will subside while turning the wheel right, yet continue's while turning left. Sometimes the squealing mysteriously stops, only to return at any given moment, and surely returns after engaging the breaks.

I would say that the wheel squeals more than 65% of the time spent in motion.

I know that I should have taken an immediate look at the break assembly myself, but we opted to take the caravan to the dealership instead. My next mistake was allowing my wife to bring it in. Nothing against her or women anywhere, but I've become to think that the dealership fed her a load of BS.
She's a smart lady and I coached her before she left, but I do not believe they took her seriously.

They charged her $55 for the appointment and told her that the "breaks were dirty". For another $100 they could blow out the dust and the noise would stop. She called me, and I told her that the assessment didn't make sense. I told her not to send good money after bad, and to come home.

Well I didn't do what I should have. I procrastinated, and almost three weeks have gone by. I have since been driving the van myself.

Today I got out of the vehicle and I smelled something a little funky. I walked around to the rear wheel and saw smoke coming from the break assembly.

OK, time to figure this out, immediately.

I took apart the break assembly and discovered:

The breaks looked at least as clean as any other vehicle I had worked on.

The rotor is badly scared on the front side - rigid scrapes run top to bottom, similarly to what I've seen after removing badly worn pads.

Oddly the front pad has worn evenly, with about 8 millimeters of pad left on either side; however, the pad was not evenly pressed against the rotor and I could see an air gap between the top of the pad and the rotor, yet not the bottom.

The rear pad has worn unevenly, left to right. the left (back) side contained less than 8 millimeters of pad thickness, and the front contained over 9 millimeters of pad thickness. It is also chucked up on the edges. I double checked the pictures I had taken while disassembling the system and there is no chance that I mixed up the pads.

The difference of 1-1.5 millimeters doesn't seem like a lot, but it represents a 12-15% difference, certainly concerning.

The pads and rotor were securely in place, not loose in the slightest extent.

The pins were free and and moved easily when pushed.

I am not 100% aware of how the break system works, but I believe that the piston may not be retracting properly after the breaks have been engaged.

I'm trying to wrap my head around how the damage I have seen could have happened.

Thanks for the long read and if you are willing to reply...

Am I crazy not to believe the dealership's claim that the noise has been caused by break dust? Or could this be a more serious problem that I should receive a second opinion on? Should I just clean the breaks myself and see if the noise goes away? I suppose the next step is to get out and drive, considering I have disassembled and reassembled the system.
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Old 08-17-13, 12:57 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

A 2012 with 20K miles on it - isn't it still under warranty?
Old 08-17-13, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for the reply.

Yes, that's why I sent it to the dealership to begin with. I didn't like their solution though, pay us more and we will blow out the dust. So do you think I should take it somewhere else?
Old 08-17-13, 01:35 PM
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Brake issues normally have a much shorter warranty than other items on the car. That said..rears also don't get near as much of a work-out as the fronts. Just guessing that it's 4 wheel disc? Dust wouldn't be an issue, though a glazed pad or a faulty anti-squeal spring could be.

I'd have to ask to speak to the service manager or general manager and ask for a complimentary check. It's 15 min to pull the wheel and pads, rough the pads a bit and check for proper parts installation.

If they don't agree, calmly tell them they just lost a customer and you'll be sending a letter to the owner explaining why. Then turn around and walk away.
Old 08-17-13, 02:12 PM
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Yes, it is 4 wheel disc. Thanks for the advice.
Old 08-17-13, 03:06 PM
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And I agree with Vic. I would be pretty vocal about the fact that I brought it in already and was diagnosed with "dust". Obviously the "dust" didn't cause what it has progressed to, so obviously the tech missed something.

Note Vic mentioned management and I'm in total agreement there, too; don't talk to a service writer or an "assistant" anything.
Old 08-17-13, 03:22 PM
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Wow...either I didn't read the whole post or I went thru a time warp, maybe both.

I'd be parking the car in the Managers space and demanding they correct the issue. If they refused I'd be calling the Dodge District rep as well as the dealerships home office (assuming a large chain of owned dealers).

If the pads on the other side aren't the same in terms of wear (I doubt they will be) then it's a defect that they should correct.
Old 08-19-13, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: California
Posts: 214
brake squeal with disc brakes is a normal complaint from high line to the less expensive cars, what I mean to say with this is they all suffer from the dreaded squeal on light brake application. It's a vibration between the disc and pad caused mostly from worn brake material. The pads being worn a little different in relationship to one another isn't unusual either..... within reason. A floating caliper will wear one side a bit more, a slight bit more than the other. Floating calipers are used a ton as they are lighter and cheaper to make. If you are having loud noises and smoke from a wheel it is time for the van to be following or riding on a tow truck. As for the dealership It's their responsibility to discover what the issue is with your van. I might consider calling both the service director at the dealership as well as the customer service number for the manufacture. I had an issue many years ago with a new Chrysler I bought for my wife and had to contact chrysler prior to it's being repaired, mine was a difficult issue to locate but a smoking brake should be a easy diagnosis. Remember it can as well be from the ABS system as it effects the application of all the brakes.
Old 08-19-13, 05:49 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: North Central Indiana
Posts: 905
" Noise quits when I turn" kinda makes you think wheel brng. Unlikely,,but those are the tough ones to find.

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