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Old 07-05-2002, 11:44 PM   #1
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Exclamation Heeeelp! My brakes have failed...anyone have a similar experience?

Hiyer Motorhome people,

I need some help with a problem concerning brake failure. Here's the short version of the story...

This evening I drove our 345LE 1990 coach from Garberville, (Northern California) over the 2500ft mountain/hill to Sheltered Cove on the coast. A trip of about 25 miles. There were some REALLY steep grades up and down, with James Bond style hairpin bends. The guide books don't really give the idea of the scope of this. There are some very tricky bits for a bigger rig.

All went slowly and smoothly, the brakes worked fine. I was in low gear coming down into the bay and decided to stop to let things cool off at about 1000ft elevation.

There was a fair bit of smoke coming of the front disks and the rear drums, but not more than I would have expected given the situation.

After 10-15 mins I started up and found my foot went to the floor on the brake pedal. I was parked in a store parking lot that was about to close...I found I could pump the brakes and get pressure. The store clerk was bugging me to move out so they could close up so I pulled out. I had brakes as long as I pumped a couple of times.

The remainder of the trip down the hill was done very slowly at a crawl. I did have brakes as long as I pumped to keep the pressure.

I am now safely parked at the Sheltered Cove RV Park.

My questions - has this ever happened to anyone, or someone you know?

Will my brakes be ok in the morning when everything is cooled off?

I assume the brake fluid was boiling. Do I need to put more fluid in? Should I do a brake overhaul before I drive? That would be tricky as we are out in the sticks...

I keep the coach mechanically at 100% and have just had a service. The entire brake system was replaced about 6 months and 11,000 miles ago.

Thanks for any help! We are not scheduled to leave here for a couple of days. I'll check back on this forum Sat, or drop me a note to willy@williamhenshall.com

Thanks !

Will

PS If you are wondering how I am able to get on line out here...it's my MotoSat 2 way satellite. It rocks!
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Old 07-06-2002, 01:01 AM   #2
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Sounds like the master cylinder...

I would check the level of the brake fluid and top it off. I had a similar experience with a Suburban about 10 years ago and it was easy to fix temporarily by adding brake fluid.

Hope you get some more replies. Be safe on the trip home!

FYI- I am very jealous of the MotoSat! If you ever see a used unit availbel, let me know!!!
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Old 07-06-2002, 09:36 AM   #3
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Thanks for reply!

This morning (initial test treading on brake without engine running...didn't want to wake my family or very close tent neighbors ) the brakes seemed to be back to normal. At least the pedal didn't go straight to the floor.

More as it happens...

Re the MotoSat - I do know of one second-hand for sale via the MotoSat beta list. Drop me a line off forum to willy@williamhenshall.com and I will forward the relevent email to you.

Cheers

Will
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Old 07-06-2002, 09:44 AM   #4
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Thanks for reply!

This morning (initial test treading on brake without engine running...didn't want to wake my family or very close tent neighbors ) the brakes seemed to be back to normal. At least the pedal didn't go straight to the floor.

More as it happens...

Re the MotoSat - I do know of one second-hand for sale via the MotoSat beta list. Drop me a line off forum to willy@williamhenshall.com and I will forward the relevent email to you.

Cheers

Will
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Old 07-06-2002, 10:25 AM   #5
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Will,
Your situation may be above and beyond the purpose of this forum and all information should be verified by a qualified mechanic.
Having said that, when your brake system was replaced, did they install new hydraulic hoses. I am talking about the ones on the brake line going from the frame to the calipers on the wheel and the one (s) in the rear. The extreme heat may have caused those lines to expand under pressure. A visual inspection of those lines would be highly recommended.
Be safe!
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Old 07-06-2002, 12:26 PM   #6
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Ditto the brake hoses. Not only can they expand, they can collapse. I had to replace the OEM hoses on my pickup due to this. In a panic stop, the front brakes would seize and not release. Imagine sitting on a freeway with cars zinging by you at 80mph and you cannot move. Scared the heck out of me.

I replaced my Miata's hoses with StainlessSteel ones and they made a difference I could not even imagine. If I keep the truck, I will replace them with stainless.

-BobbyWright
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Old 07-07-2002, 11:37 AM   #7
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Yup, Bobby, the collapsing is another issue many folks overlook. First signs of a brake hydraulic line going bad, is the front brakes pulling to one side. People replace pads, rotors and bleed the brakes with no success, completely overlooking a seemingly intact hydraulic line.
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Old 07-08-2002, 10:43 AM   #8
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Update to brake failure problem

The next day, Sat, I went to the local little general store and asked where the nearest town I could get quality brake fluid from. The clerk said "Right there sir, behind you on the shelf" - I guess if your store is at the bottom of a 2500 ft 2 mile drop you would find a need for this! There were 3 different brands and a whole shelf of fluids!

My master brake reservoir was about 3/4" below the lowest rim in both chambers. I topped it up to 1/4" as specified in the owners manual.

I did a test drive around the block and the brakes were fine, maybe better than before even. There was no visible sign of leaking anywhere on the system. I wonder if my fluid level was low before and had got to a critical level that only manifest a problem when the system had got hammered...

The big worry for me was that to get home to San Francisco I had to go over the damn mountain again! Eech.

So we set off nice and slow with my wife driving the Suzuki tower. No problems at all. I came down the other side of the mountain/hill in low gear, all brakes were fine and dandy.

I then drove back (with an eye on the brakes the whole way and plenty of stopping room in front of me) to SF without any problems at all. The brakes are performing perfectly.

I am going to get the system checked before I go on the next trip, but have to say this was a scary and strange experience.

The secret of survival if this happens to anyone is keep calm and don't panic. Look for alternate routes to exit the hill, and pump the brake pedal like a lunatic until you get pressure. Wait for the whole rig to cool down (at least an hour) and see if you get pressure again on starting the engine. Oh, and also keep a spare bottle of brake fluid in your tool box!

Thanks for all support and input

Will

The pic is of the hill behind the coach. Ah, I know...there was alot of fog. Heh. After all the drama of getting there, it was foggy and bloody freezing after 4pm every day!! Beautiful though.
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Old 07-12-2002, 07:42 AM   #9
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sounds like there was probably a good bit of air in your system , which if not bled, will drop the fluid levels, and cause a mushy pedal or actual drop to the floor. I would continue to check the master cylinder for a time, and you can also try leaving the cap loose, and pumping up your pedal a bit slowly, then checking for the bubbles to arise in the fluid. I put a rag under to catch any fluid leakage. Of course bleeding the lines at each wheel would be better if you can do that with a helper, or place a small container under the outlet at each wheel and do it yourself.
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Old 07-12-2002, 04:04 PM   #10
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Unhappy Had a similar problem

William,

Before I saw the light and purchased my A/S TT I had a 31' Pace Arrow Class A motorhome. While I was coming down a rather steep mountain road from Balch Park (Mountain Home State Park) and also towing my Ford Ranger (no tow vehicle brakes) I managed to "BOIL" my brake fluid also. I had no brakes until I pumped them several times. I stopped, unhooked the Ranger and had my wife drive it down to Sunnyvale. After several hours the brakes returned to normal. I had just installed new disk brake pads at all four wheels.

You should have the rotors checked for heat damage at the very least. Check the pads and shoes for heat damage. The big rigs are notorious for being overloaded and mine was with the Ranger in tow without brakes.

Ciao, Brian
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