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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I'm having some brake issues, I seem to have a squishy pedal and almost need to pump the brakes to get adequate braking power. Fluid is ok- dealer replace rear rotors and pads about 1 year ago and I think the fronts are due, but there is no scoring or rust on rotors to indicate a pad or caliper problem. I'll tackle the brakes myself, but I'm sort of lost as how to determine where the problem is coming from. Any tips or advice would be mutch appreciated.

BTW- I apparently won an IPD photo contest with my outback, but haven't seen the issue of their flyer it was in- has anyone come across one in which a black OB LTD is shown with bike on roof maybe near the river or old 1812 war fort?

Thanks
Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Brakes

Not sure about the recall. Where can I find more details concerning it. My OB is a 1998 LTD.
Thanks Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Scratch that, my OB is a 1997. I did find some info on the recall and it seems to only cover 98-99- so I'm SOL there.
 

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Tokyo's between my toes
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Then I would follow what oneobs says, replace or at least bleed the brake fluid because sponginess can be caused by trapped air. It is also possible for old rubber lines to swell like baloons a little bit, reducing the amount of fluid pressure that actually gets to the brakes.
 

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Okay, to diagnose brake problems....

First off, verify that the brake rotors/drums are clean, rust free, and smooth. If they are severly grooved, or rusty/dirty, that could be the cause of your problem. If you can, get them turned. If they are warn beyond safe turning limits, replace them.
Are the drums/rotors glazed from overheating or foriegn substances? If the rotors/drums are glazed smooth, a light turning will greatly improve friction

Next...pads. are the pads glazed? Are there any visual signs of pad overheating or discoloration? Are the pad backs discolored? Warped? Is the pad wear even from the inboard to outboard pads? Is the pad wear even across the pad? (it's normal to have more wear at the leading edge of the pad, but if you've got a severe taper, time to look at the calipers.

Calipers.. Do all pistons advance evenly/smoothly? Do they retract evenly/smoothly? are all the dust boots in good shape? (no cracks, no discoloration). Are the caliper adjusters working properly? Do they allow the caliper to move smoothly and evenly?

Brake lines. Are there any kinks in the brake lines? Any 'bulges" in the rubber lines? Any discoloration or cracking?

Master cylinder. If you remove the vaccum hose to the master cylinder, with the car off, do you hear a "sucking" sound? If not, you're not getting vacuum to the master cylinder. (I'm assuming you've got vacuum assisted power brakes in your 97, someone will have to correct me if you don't). Does the brake pedal travel back to it's original position when you release it? Does it suddenly drop for the first bit of travel, then the pedal firms up? Does it then not return to full height? If so, you brake booster (vacuum or otherwise) may be bad, but look at everything else first.

ABS... Not sure if you have ABS, but you might want to have the system looked at to ensure proper operation. If you can't afford a dealer test...do your own "cheap" test. Find a nice deserted parking lot, and do some quick stops after a rain or snow. If you can lockup any one wheel for more than 1 second...your ABS is not working properly.

Even if you don't have ABS this will also tell you which end of the car is having braking problems. If you do this test and the car "fishtails" or if the car wants to slide sideways..and it's repeatable, the front brakes are doing their job, but the rears are not. Since the rear of the car is not being slowed down...it's trying to pass the front end (NOT FUN). If the car comes to a stop in a perfectly straight line, that doesn't "PROVE" that all 4 brakes are doing their job. Try introducing a slight turn while braking at the limit of traction. If the car turns sharper, that means the rear brakes are doing all the work, and the fronts are not doing their job. If the front end of the car slides wide...the front's are doing their job, you just applied too much brake, or too much steering input. If the rear steps out/goes wide, it could be too much braking, or it could be the rear brakes aren't doing their job (see above). Go back to the straight braking test to see if you just applied too much brake/steering, or if it's the rear brakes not functioning.

It's also possible that only one side, or even one CORNER of the car is not braking to full potential, but the other 3 are fine. Examining the brake pads is one clue, but the wet/snowy parking lot test will also show you which corner is having problems/issues.

Finally fluid. Your brake fluid should look like TEA (iced or hot, your choice). It should not be black, it should not even look like coffee or beer. It should look like weak TEA. If it's darker than that, It's old fluid that needs to be flushed and replaced.
Flush the entire system and bleed it. See if you are still having problems. If so, start at the top and work your way down.

As a side note, braided stainless steel brake lines usually work to firm up brake pedal feel, but they can't work miracles. If you're having to pump the brakes to stop, you've got some kind of problem going on, that new firmer brake lines won't solve.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Wow- thanks for the input. I'll spend the next day or so testing some of this out- so long as this iceage we're experiencing here lets up :)

The real clincher on the brake issue is that I have to depress the pedal 2 or more times to build up adequate braking pressure and relive the spongy pedal feel.

Are there any tricks or special tools that I should gather for a simple brake job on an OB?

Thanks again,
Mike
 

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Tokyo's between my toes
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I've always thought it's a good idea to pick a safe place and practice a panic stop or two just so you know how your car will behave before the real thing is forced upon you. Really stand on the brakes and see what you can get out of it.

I also do that to check a bad road surface like rain or snow, so I know how much stopping power I have under the circumstances.

PS: on the rental Toyota I'm driving, the tires STINK in the wet, it skids like crazy on a hard stop.
 
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