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Discussion Starter #1
Because mine are....

I've had my car for a couple of years now and the brakes have never been "right" as far as I'm concerned. They require what feels to me like a lot of pedal pressure, they never really "grab" (in a good way), and worst of all, they chatter like mad, especially when breaking at speed and going downhill.

I've had one of the better known brake shops in my area check them out and they said that the brakes have about 50% life left on them and that the front rotors are warped (which I assumed since I get the chattering). They told me there is no reason to fix the brakes at this point unless the chattering just drives me to crazy.

I did get a lead from someone on a brake thread on this forum about an outfit back east that sells quality rotors and pads which I have purchased and intend to do the work myself. However, I'm concerned that after I go to all of that trouble the brakes will still be crappy because of some inherent defect in these cars' design.

What say any of you about this?

Thanks.

Gary
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, 2.5, 4EAT, All weather package.
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1,040 Posts
I'm not sure how different the '02 brakes may be, but I know my '04s feel about the same as my old '95 Grand Prix. That is, a fairly soft pedal but reasonable stopping distance. I like this because it becomes easier to stop more smoothly and also find tune your braking to actually slow down, or if you just want to apply the brakes lightly to turn the brake lights on to get someone following too close to back off.

Getting back to your post I would definitely replace the pads and rotors. If the rotors are really warped then they wouldn't pass a safety inspection (not sure if your state has one, I live in PA and we do). You may also want to check the pads for glazing. I would also check the condition of the brake lines and hoses. If they are swollen, then it is time to replace them. Finally do a full flush of the system with new fluid. A lot of people neglect their brake fluid but realistically it should be changed at a regular interval like your oil, transmission fluid and coolant.
 

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06 OBW 2.5, 05 Forester, had 03 H6 OBW
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I have done the brakes on my '03 ll bean several times with a variety of components.

The brakes have always sucked, I could need a brake booster or master cylinder but it never gets any worse so i don't think so, it's just a 3600lb car with undersized brakes.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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Our 03 was fine with factory pads, awful with some Wagner aftermarkets, brilliant with the Centric PosiQuiet Ceramic pads on now. I will go back with those.

some folks say a master cylinder brace is helpful.

Also, crappy tires can be a big part of the problem.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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i would first start with a simple thorough brake job before contemplating changes or some kind of brake component upgrades. most of your issue may simple be 10+ year old components, rust, or hardware.

remove your pads and note if they are all equally warn. if not - then they're simply not working properly and need maintained (common by this age...particularly in the rust belt).

1. clean and regrease the slides. THROW AWAY the stupid rubber bushings on the caliper slides pins. they swell and seize in the bore and reduce pin movement. Subaru's didn't have those dumb bushings for decades, I don't need them now.

the slides get devoid of grease and rusty and hang all the time...it's unbelievably common. i've had to torch them out before if they're completely seized. today one set took a large pipe wrench and chisel and a couple dozen whacks for the pin to come out. that meant only one pad of the two was really grabbing the rotor (the outer pad).

2. replace any boots that are cracked or pad clips that are rusty/caked with debris, brake pads will hang on them and not slide properly.

sometimes if i want to just get a good solid base I just buy a hardware kit with new pin boots and pad clips to start fresh.

change the fluid (is it 10+ years old?)

turn your rotors and install new pads.

start with a quality break job and you likely won't need any hopped up stuff.
 

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01 Outback LL Bean
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I second cleaning and greasing the slide pins. I think it is one of the most overlooked aspects of brake maintenance. Especially on older cars. Make sure to use a synthetic brake caliper grease.

The front calipers are a dual piston design. While this is generally good, the pistons are smaller and I think have a tendency to have one or both seize quicker than a single piston caliper because the individual pistons are smaller. If one of the two pistons is seized you will have uneven brake pad wear when looking at the pad.

Similarly if one of your slide pins is sticking you will have uneven wear across the pad.

I recommend Centric Rotors and for pads I also recommend Centric PosiQuiet Ceramic Pads or StopTech Street Performance Brake pads. StopTech is owned by Centric and is a step up from their normal brand. Pricing for these pads and rotors is very good from RockAuto.

I have PosiQuiet in the front and StopTech in the rear. Next time I need to replace the front I am going with the StopTech's

You could just be a victum of having crappy pads put on by the previous owners. Switching to Centric pads will make a difference.
 

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Lawn ornament XT
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Also be careful- I think '02 was a change year for outback brakes, so there are 2 sizes of everything in the parts catalog. Measure your front rotor to determine which you have.
 

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2003 LL Bean Outback H6 and 2019 Outback Base
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I had the same issue on a 2000 I had.............it ended up being a " frozen" caliper piston.....so only 3 of the brakes were working......once that was done...they were fine......changed all the pads and greased the pins as well..............rotors were fine....replaced master cylinder as well....flushed twice..............
 

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2005 OBW 2.5L, 1989 Subaru Justy, RIP Blu
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I had that feeling two, and it turned out I had a forzen rear caliper. First thing look through your wheels. Do you see a shiney patch on the rotos on all 4 wheels that look about the same?

If not then that wheel has an issue with a caliper.

How old is your brake fluid?
 

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'14 Subi OBW, '18 Subi Forester
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Check the build date of your '02 OB. Early (prior to November 2001?) cars actually used carryover front brake parts from the 2001 model year. The pad area is smaller, and they just don't stop as well as those built later with the new carrier and pads. My summer 2001 built 2002 wagon has the smaller pads, and on my first pad change I went thru a lot of BS with the folks at Hawk over why what they shipped didn't fit.

A consequence of the smaller pads is that they tend to get very hot in 'spirited' operation. This promotes material transfer from the pad to the rotor when you sit at a light with your foot on the brake. You'll know if you are having this issue because you can actually see a heavy pad imprint on the shiny rotor face after it happens. While this isn't uncommon on many cars, it seems to be worse on these relatively heavy vehicles that put extra load on their pads. The transfer of pad material onto the rotor in selective spots raises the surface ever so slightly. If you can buff this high spot off prior to parking the car, there will be no negative outcome. If, however, you park and let it cool, or even worse if the rotor gets wet, bad things can happen. Bare iron oxidizes quite readily. But where the iron is sealed (or technically 'passivated') by the pad material, it does not oxidize. In the oxidation process, the thickness of iron oxide increases, but at the expense of the total iron remaining. So the rotor becomes temporarily thicker at all spots not passivated. But when you buff off the passivation and the iron oxide thru driving, the passivated spot returns to the original thickness while the oxidized spot gets thinner. Net is you now have a small high spot, and a large low spot. That's the pulsing you feel in the brake pedal, and the steering. It's wrongly called 'warped rotors', but is more correctly "thickness variation" or TV in the machining trade.

If your car really is a "true 2002", then see the above comments from other posters.
 

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311 Posts
^ +1.

I was going to suggest the same thing. Somewhere there is a thread on that and someone has a link to it in their signature but I couldn't find it basically its about what Fibber said though.
 

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2013 OB 3.6R SAP
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203 Posts
I had all those problems with my '01 VDC (with the 3.0 6 cylinder), and it regularly warped the front rotors to boot.

I finally solved it by going to Hawk HPS street pads, along with StopTech Cyro rotors. You can get both at Tirerack.

The Hawk pads have a higher coefficient of friction than OEM and most replacement pads, which means you don't need to use as much pedal pressure to stop the car. Note that it doesn't decrease your braking distances, but it does make panic braking a little more calm. I probably wouldn't recommend the Hawks for super cold climates, but we had some cold snaps while I ran the Hawks and never had issues.

FWIW I think the main upgrade was the pad, not the rotor. Either way, I never had warping issues again, and the net result was acceptable, but not phenomenal, braking.
 

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'14 Subi OBW, '18 Subi Forester
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George, you touched on one of the issues with the Hawks that I didn't like at all.

In an attempt to address the underwhelming front brake issue, I purchased, also from TR the Hawk HPS pads and the PowerSlot Cryo rotors. Similar idea.

The problem was the first stop on a cold morning! Once they were warm, they had a nice bite. But you had to stand on the pedal for anything to happen on the first application, especially on temps below about 20' F. I got into the habit of riding the brake up my 500' long driveway and for the first bit after turning onto my road. Otherwise, that stop sign a few houses down could be a 'hit or miss' situation!
 

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2013 OB 3.6R SAP
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Yes, that doesn't surprise me. It's rare that temps get below 25F on the valley floor here in PDX, so it wasn't an issue for me. My wife never commented either. But I'm not surprised that in a colder climate the HPS pads would be a mixed bag.
 

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'02 Bean H6, AWP & ORP, factory hitch
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The rotors for the later 02 OBW were relatively small as well. With stock pads, they are "adequate" but put a load in the back or tow a small trailer and they show their weaknesses. Seen much smaller brakes, but would prefer larger rotors if there were no clearance problems.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Wow, thanks for all of these responses. You've given me lots to think about. I'll need to check to see when my car was built. Maybe I was sent the wrong rotors and pads. Good advice about lubricating the slide thingies, whatever they are. My car is a 3.0 and it just seems like with the auto tranny it just wants to keep going and not stop unless I tromp on the breaks a bit. Especially nasty front brake chatter when coming down a hill while towing a small tent trailer.

All in all, it seems like the brakes on these cares was not a strong point, even when working properly...
 

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Especially nasty front brake chatter when coming down a hill while towing a small tent trailer.

All in all, it seems like the brakes on these cares was not a strong point, even when working properly...
1. Inspect your lower control arm rear bushings. They play a large role in this scenario, transferring the force of the car+load into the front suspension. Stiffer aftermarket versions can be used in some cases.

2. You are correct.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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if you tow and are loaded heavily on a regular basis, definitely stay away from any cheap pads and hard tires. Tires stop your car (brakes stop the wheels turning) so, the stickier the better (but they won't last as long).

Consider the StopTech Street Performance pad. great initial bit even when cold, higher MOT than Hawk. Not noisy. Not expensive.(downsides? more brake dust, maybe more rotor wear) maybe new caliper hoses if the old ones are beginning to balloon a little. maybe a master cylinder brace. (these last 2 will help with 'mushy' feeling in pedal)
 

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06 OBW 2.5, 05 Forester, had 03 H6 OBW
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George, you touched on one of the issues with the Hawks that I didn't like at all.

In an attempt to address the underwhelming front brake issue, I purchased, also from TR the Hawk HPS pads and the PowerSlot Cryo rotors. Similar idea.

The problem was the first stop on a cold morning! Once they were warm, they had a nice bite. But you had to stand on the pedal for anything to happen on the first application, especially on temps below about 20' F. I got into the habit of riding the brake up my 500' long driveway and for the first bit after turning onto my road. Otherwise, that stop sign a few houses down could be a 'hit or miss' situation!
Wow, that's a deal-breaker where I live. I wonder if after 20 miles on the interstate at 10F if they cool back down and suck again?
 

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honestly I have to point out that my 'cold' experience with the Stoptech St Perf. pads only extends down to the lower 20s F. but they felt no different than a 90 degree day.

they are a good compromise in perf. and value for pads that could do well enough at an occasional track event or under severe/spirited road use. Ferodo and EBC and hawk and Carbotech - well, there are plenty of other makers with good pads. Just make sure you don't expect a 'track/race only pad' to have good cold bite. It likely will not.

Centric PosiQuiet Ceramic is as good to slightly better than OEM and around town, close to the S T St Perf. pad - just doesn't have the high MOT a track pad might need. WE run those on the wife's Outback. very nice.

there is a huge thread at NASIOC on the ST St Perf pads. You could probably search other brands in that thread to find some comparison anecdotes. Quick Review: StopTech Street Performance Brake Pads - NASIOC
 
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