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96 Grand Caravan Brake Issue - Feels like air but doesn't seem to

6666 Views 7 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  wambus
I have a 1996 Grand Caravan ES with anti-lock brakes. I hadn't opened the system for quite a while and the last time I did I fully bled it and the brakes felt great. The other day, the brakes just started to feel a bit spongy on the way to work. On the way home they felt a LOT spongier. I had to pump the brakes to get them to stop the van, but they did work once pumped. It feels like there is air in my system, but I didn't open it and it came out of nowhere. I have inspected the whole system and can't find any fluid coming out anywhere so I'm not sure where any air could get in if there is any.

I did have my brake light come on going around a corner a couple of time a few weeks back. I assumed the fluid was low as the light turned off after I completed turning the corner each time. Anyway, when I got home I went to top off the resevoir and it was already full. The little bit of fluid I added just filled up the filler neck. I didn't see the light come on again after that, though.

Anyway, fast forward back to the issue. I bled out the wheel cylinders and got some nasty fluid out, but not any air. The fluid coming out of them now is nice and clean, though. I went to bleed the front calipers and broke off both bleeder screws (they were frozen in). The broke off in the sealed position, though, so I bled them at the brake lines going into the calipers. The pedal was still spongy, but it still stopped the van so I kept using it.

I ordered new calipers and did some research. A bad brake booster would make for hard applies. That isn't my issue, mine are really soft. A bad master cylinder with an internal leak should have pedal fade. I don't have any. You have to pump the brakes to get the brakes to apply decent, but once they're on, they're on. They don't fade towards the floor as I sit at a traffic light. I kept an eye on my fluid level and it wasn't going down at all (no external leaks I can find to let fluid out or air in). I was hoping there was somehow air in the top of the calipers although I have no clue how it would've got in.

Anyway, the new calipers arrived today and I put them in and bled the front brakes. The van feels the same as before. I'm kind of scratching my head on what to do next. I needed new calipers anyway since the bleeder screws broke off, but I also have something that allowed the system to suddenly feel like it full of air when I can't find any while bleeding (and I was thorough). Any experience anyone has had that could explain this mystery to me?
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· Super Moderator
1966 Crown Coupe, 2016 200 S AWD, 1962 Lark Daytona V8.
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17,294 Posts
With an ABS stop, it is normal for the pedal will drop lower and buzz. If the pedal is already low to begin with, it will be even worse.
I think your problem is at the rear wheel cylinders and the drums will have to come off for a better look. If the fluid that came out of them looked bad, I'm sure that they are internally rusted. You may not see a wheel cylinder leak until you pull the drum.
There should be 2 bolt holes (in the lug nut bolt circle) where you install 2 - 8mm x 1.25 bolts to walk the drum off the hub. Use solvent and lube on the hub and the threads if the drum is rusted on.
 

· Super Moderator
1966 Crown Coupe, 2016 200 S AWD, 1962 Lark Daytona V8.
Joined
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17,294 Posts
Hot front pad odors may mean that the rears aren't doing their fair share in stopping the vehicle. Have someone step gently on the brake pedal gently while you watch for both rear shoes move outwards, one side at a time. If only the primary shoe moves, block it with a screwdriver to see if the secondary shoe moves. The inside of the drum might show how well the shoe linings are making contact.
Hold-down hardware and self-adjusters can rust up also.
Wheel cylinders can leak and sieze up after some time and they are fairly cheap to replace, if needed.
 
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