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Old 11-23-2013, 06:49 PM   #1
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Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

2006 E350 with SMB 4x4.

Driving around town last Sat, I thought to myself how crappy the roads were because the van felt like it was following cracks and ridges and made a note to check my tire pressure when I got home. The next stop, I noticed a faint "burned clutch" smell, but I was in an industrial area so I didn't think for a second it was me. Pulling out of that stop, the van started pulling right, harder when I braked. "Crap, a flat tire" I thought so I pulled over at the next opportunity.
No flat, but the right front brake pads were smoking and the smell was definitely coming from there. I was close to home so I drove it and paid attention. In like a mile, it switched and started pulling left when braking (which I attributed to overheated pads on the right becoming ineffective).
About 2 hours after I got home, I took the van for another drive around the neighborhood to make sure I understood the symptoms, but it didn't do anything abnormal!
I took the right front wheel off and could easily turn the hub by hand. There wasn't any extra brake-drag noise. I didn't have any more time to mess with it so I put the wheel back on.

Fast forward to today, I took the van for another drive to try and duplicate the problem. Well, today the van pulls left when driving and right when braking! The left front wheel gets hot and emits hot brake smell but the others don't. None of the symptoms showed themselves until I drove about 5 miles @45mph.

Sticky calipers? Both of them?
Bad brake fluid?
Clogged engine oil cooler?

Edit: I'm a dumbass and thought I was in the 4x4 section when I posted this. Sorry.
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Old 11-23-2013, 07:49 PM   #2
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BogusBlake
2006 E350 with SMB 4x4.

Driving around town last Sat, I thought to myself how crappy the roads were because the van felt like it was following cracks and ridges and made a note to check my tire pressure when I got home. The next stop, I noticed a faint "burned clutch" smell, but I was in an industrial area so I didn't think for a second it was me. Pulling out of that stop, the van started pulling right, harder when I braked. "Crap, a flat tire" I thought so I pulled over at the next opportunity.
No flat, but the right front brake pads were smoking and the smell was definitely coming from there. I was close to home so I drove it and paid attention. In like a mile, it switched and started pulling left when braking (which I attributed to overheated pads on the right becoming ineffective).
About 2 hours after I got home, I took the van for another drive around the neighborhood to make sure I understood the symptoms, but it didn't do anything abnormal!
I took the right front wheel off and could easily turn the hub by hand. There wasn't any extra brake-drag noise. I didn't have any more time to mess with it so I put the wheel back on.

Fast forward to today, I took the van for another drive to try and duplicate the problem. Well, today the van pulls left when driving and right when braking! The left front wheel gets hot and emits hot brake smell but the others don't. None of the symptoms showed themselves until I drove about 5 miles @45mph.

Sticky calipers? Both of them?
Bad brake fluid?
Clogged engine oil cooler?

Edit: I'm a dumbass and thought I was in the 4x4 section when I posted this. Sorry.
Amost sounds like a wheel bearing issue.
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Old 11-23-2013, 09:44 PM   #3
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

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Originally Posted by BMWBILO

Amost sounds like a wheel bearing issue.
I haven't checked the drivers side, but when I had the pass. off, I "checked" things by wiggling the hub up and down (ball joints), horizontally (tie rod), and in and out (bearing play). Nothing abnormal, but I should probably pull the calipers off and repeat.

I read somewhere that old brakelines can swell and restrict the return of fluid to the reservoir after braking and exhibit symptoms similar to sticky caliper pistons.
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Old 11-23-2013, 10:29 PM   #4
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BogusBlake
Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWBILO

Amost sounds like a wheel bearing issue.
I haven't checked the drivers side, but when I had the pass. off, I "checked" things by wiggling the hub up and down (ball joints), horizontally (tie rod), and in and out (bearing play). Nothing abnormal, but I should probably pull the calipers off and repeat.

I read somewhere that old brakelines can swell and restrict the return of fluid to the reservoir after braking and exhibit symptoms similar to sticky caliper pistons.
I only mentioned wheel bearings because you said things get hot. I may
be way off.
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Old 11-23-2013, 11:26 PM   #5
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

What sort of an axle and brake setup are you running?

If you have a chance to get a jack under there when it feels like something is off, you might be able to hear of feel what's dragging. Or perhaps not.

I had what I'm pretty sure was a dragging caliper on the right front this summer. I initially suspect the wheel bearing or hub and ended up having a shop tear through everything on that corner (to the sum of $90 or so; PM me if you want a reference for a very reasonable shop in Redwood City, CA). The only thing they found that was anything but well lubed, was the brake caliper (one piston was fine, the other was dry). As one might expect, no issues since that tear down/rebuild.
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Old 11-30-2013, 04:48 PM   #6
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

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Originally Posted by MadScience
What sort of an axle and brake setup are you running?
ProRock 60 with stock E350 brake calipers.

Another symptom that I didn't think about: twice, the ABS light has come on after idling to warm up then stopping for the first time (on cold mornings). After 5-10 minutes of driving and braking, the light goes off. To be clear, the ABS light was NOT on when any of the pulling was happening.

The brake fluid in the MC is very dark. I'm going to flush and replace it regardless because that's the cheapest thing to start with. Also I learned that the Ford Motorcraft (or whoever they rebrand) DOT 3 fluid boils at a much higher temperature than the generic parts store DOT3 fluid. Seems like a good idea to use the good stuff.

If the symptoms persist, I'll nut up and replace the flex hoses and calipers...
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Old 11-30-2013, 06:47 PM   #7
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BogusBlake

I read somewhere that old brakelines can swell and restrict the return of fluid to the reservoir after braking and exhibit symptoms similar to sticky caliper pistons.
But probably not on an 06. Those aren't old by any stretch. You've definitely got something going on, keep us posted.

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Old 11-30-2013, 10:03 PM   #8
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

Symptoms sure sound like sticking calipers. The calipers tend to have stiction problems on rigs parked for extended durations.

PS - Ford has renamed their high-temp "SUPER DOT-3" fluid. They now call it DOT-5.1 to conform with the rest of the industry. The parts counter might not be able to find it unless you search under F53 motorhome.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:18 PM   #9
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
Symptoms sure sound like sticking calipers. The calipers tend to have stiction problems on rigs parked for extended durations.
Is that something that can develop while the rig is parked then show itself after some exercise? The longest my van has been parked since I bought it in August was for 3 weeks while I repaired the oil cooler. The previous owner, however, parked the van for months at a time. Due to the mileage and time between title transfers, I suspect the PPO did the same.

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
PS - Ford has renamed their high-temp "SUPER DOT-3" fluid. They now call it DOT-5.1 to conform with the rest of the industry. The parts counter might not be able to find it unless you search under F53 motorhome.
That's a great tidbit. Thanks!
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:32 PM   #10
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Re: Sticky brake caliper, or something else?

I finally got some time to dig into this a little deeper. Always the optimist, I picked up some caliper lube and some new brake fluid thinking I'd just take it all apart, lube 'em up, and head for the mountains tomorrow. "Nope" said my van.

These calipers are done. There's pretty severe corrosion on the pistons and all the piston boots have big tears.

Front Right:




Front Left:


I had to pick up a T45 Torx driver for the caliper slide pins. I should have picked up an extra 21mm deep socket because they're not messing around with the caliper frame bolts- While I was hanging on the breaker bar to get one off, my impact socket cammed out and split!


I hit the bolt head with a torch for a few seconds and then I could get it out.

Hopefully Santa brings me some new calipers...
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