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Car Brake Failure


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I have a old 1994 Citroen ZX avantage.

 

When I was driving the car felt like it was stuttering and pulling to the drivers side (I thought I had a puncture) and smelt like it was overheating, although it didn’t. Then when I put my foot on the brakes the pedal went straight down and the brakes failed without any warning apart from what I mentioned.

 

 

Just had a mobile mechanic come out and he reckond the drivers side disc is warped and reckons that was the fault. he has quoted me £70 to change and new pads as well (I think this is reasonable?)

 

However I am not to sure this is the problem as I have never heard of brakes failing because of this... I haven't driven the car on the road since they failed (luckily failed right outside my home) But drove it 6 foot in my drive the day after and the brakes worked well... but do not want to take it out and run the risk of killing myself or someone else should they fail again!
Edited by Jme
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Welcome to the forum.

 

Some thoughts without having checked the car myself but it could be the problem is the result of a lack of maintenance.

 

For some reason the caliper/pads on that corner of the car may have seized so the pads were held against the disc. This may have caused everything to heat up and the brake fluid in that caliper to boil so the brake would not work, since rather than compressing fluid when using the brake pedal you would be trying to compress gas/steam and need a far greater pedal travel. This would be worse if the brake fluid had not been changed regularly (every 2 years is normal) so it contained a lot of water. Now once the brake had cooled down the gas/steam would condense back to liquid so the brake pedal would be back to normal. The disc may have warped due to being overheated from the seized pads/caliper.

 

For the repairs:

- you need to change the brake fluid completely and thoroughly bleed out all the old fluid.

- check if the front discs are warped by using a dial gauge (just a visual check may not tell you if they were warped) - if so then replace both sides. If they are worn then they should be replaced anyway.

- chances are the front pads may have sufferred from overheating and need replacing - do both sides and clean all the old brake dust from the pad support.

- the piston in the driver's side caliper may be seized and need freeing up - or possibly the caliper replacing.

- check the brake hoses for any damage since an internal problem could cause a caliper piston to not free off.

- check the driver's side hub bearing has not sufferred from overheating and also its outer CV joint.

 

The quote of £70 to replace both front discs and pads is low, you could pay twice this just for the parts - unless the price was labour with parts on top.

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Thanks for the reply and welcome to the forum.

I watched the mechanic take off both front wheels, the passenger side disc moved free enough. But he showed me as he spun the drivers side and you could see the gap appear and disappear between the pads and disc. Also there was a slight piece missing on the pad drivers side.

I was standing there as he phoned up and got a price for parts... I could then see him working out a price in his head and he quoted me £70 and said that included labour. I was as surprised as you with the price... I had thought double that at the cheapest to be honest. He is a new mechanic I am using and came recommended. He did mention he hadn't been doing the mobile mechanic bit for long though.... Just hope he does a good job and does solve it.... otherwise it will be back to my old mechanic who I would have used this time but he couldn't come out to collect the car and there was no way I was driving it to him in it's current condition.

Edited by Jme
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Depending on which engine you have, a quick look on the eurocarparts website gives about £45 for 2 front discs and pads and your mechanic may also get a trade discount which is being passed on to you. I would also have the brake fluid changed and this will be an extra cost, fluid is about £6 for a litre plus the labour to change it - a Citroen dealer charges for about 30 minutes.

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I don't know how your mechanic is doing this job for £70.   I've recently done this job on daughter's Xsara which had a binding front n/s brake caliper.   I found the disc badly scored and the brake pad friction material almost gone.   I've got the calliper working freely again with new pads and discs.   Even with Eurocarparts sale price (when don't they have a sale? :P) the pads and discs were £64.   And the job took me 3-4 hours.   Maybe your discs are not vented.   That would make them a bit cheaper.

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I am not questioning him! he says £70 I will pay that. He did say that was with labor costs too....

 

I hope it solves the problem... I am not 100% sure it is the cause of the problem... I think I may have other problems causing it... but for £70 I am willing to let him do the job. If it doesn't solve it then I will go to my usual mechanic, or scrap the car! Just the hassle of trying to find a new cheap runabout.

 

I've had the car 9 years and apart from a few minor niggles, I've pretty much had trouble free driving from it. Not bad for the £500 I paid for it in 2005.

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It takes me the best part of a day to do the front brakes on our cars and similar for the rear ones, but that is on the drive and being slow and getting the tools out/back and possibly doing the job more thoroughly than is really needed. The other year our C3 needed the front brakes cleaning following a brake imbalance in the MOT and the dealer charged less than an hours labour. So I think doing the work regularly, using a hoist, not being too bothered about applying copper grease or cleaning the disc up (fitting a new one seems to be quicker once the protective grease has been cleaned off) all add up to make the job by a professional a lot quicker. So I would guess only about 1 hour labour is being charged and the mechanic has a low labour rate, but is not planning on becoming rich.

 

If the caliper is seized this will be found whilst changing the pads so no need to worry about it not being sorted.

 

How long is it since the brake fluid was last changed ? My main concern would be to get the brake fluid changed since a neighbour had an Astra that due to a design fault got rainwater in the master cylinder reservoir and his brakes failed at a roundabout with the pedal going to the floor due to the water boiling.

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It takes me the best part of a day to do the front brakes on our cars and similar for the rear ones, but that is on the drive and being slow and getting the tools out/back and possibly doing the job more thoroughly than is really needed. The other year our C3 needed the front brakes cleaning following a brake imbalance in the MOT and the dealer charged less than an hours labour. So I think doing the work regularly, using a hoist, not being too bothered about applying copper grease or cleaning the disc up (fitting a new one seems to be quicker once the protective grease has been cleaned off) all add up to make the job by a professional a lot quicker. So I would guess only about 1 hour labour is being charged and the mechanic has a low labour rate, but is not planning on becoming rich.

 

If the caliper is seized this will be found whilst changing the pads so no need to worry about it not being sorted.

 

How long is it since the brake fluid was last changed ? My main concern would be to get the brake fluid changed since a neighbour had an Astra that due to a design fault got rainwater in the master cylinder reservoir and his brakes failed at a roundabout with the pedal going to the floor due to the water boiling.

 

 

Glad you mention if the caliper is seized this will be found whilst changing pads....

 

I don't believe I have ever changed the brake fluid in the nine years I have had the car.... Although that isn't to say my usual mechanic hasn't done it as I do recall I had new brake pads at some point, although possibly a number of years ago. So yes I will mention it to my new mechanic, even if it does add a few £ to the bill....

 

With all the rain we have had I wouldn't be surprised if there was water in something!

 

I should mention the car was parked up for 6 weeks while I was away getting married and having a nice time away from the UK! So if something would have seized, it probably did then... Although I have been back and driving it for 2 weeks since... Albeit only 90 miles since my return... I only average 200 odd miles a month in the car... Hence the reason for the old runaround car... don't need a thousands of pounds car sitting there slowly devaluing!

Edited by Jme
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Well it's been done.... Took him about 2 hours and did cost me £70... He said there was a lot of air in the brakes and the bleeding screw snapped as he took it off! Although I can't fault his work, After I drove up and down the road for ten minutes there was still a strong smell of overheating, although the car didn't.... However this could be down to the fact I was "testing" the brakes.

 

I did take it for an easy 15 minute drive around some quiet roads later and didn't get the smell. I am just off the couple of miles to work this morning and obviously the car is cold, so will see how I get on... I have sort of scared the brakes are going to go again, lost confidence in the car now.

 

The mechanic did say he thought something else was wrong, but as he was a mobile mechanic he didn't have the equipment to get it up on ramps to have a good look under it.... he said it does sound like something is causing problems and suggested I take it to my mechanic for a check over... Which I am unable to do until at least Friday...

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Did he manage to remove the bleed screw that snapped off - if not, that brake will not have been bled and the only realistic way to sort it will be a new caliper.

 

If the smell is not from the front brakes, then possibilities from my experience  include:

- the handbrake not freeing off the rear brake shoes

- polythene from some rubbish on the road has stuck to the exhaust

- an exhaust leak or exhaust manifold leak

- a split in an engine breather hose

- an anti freeze leak - check the coolant level to see if this is happening

- fuel injector seal leak

- an oil leak on to the exhaust.

 

Is the engine temperature gauge showing its normal position or is it going high, just a thought in case the radiator fan is not running when the engine gets hot ?

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