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Old 11-05-2013, 09:03 PM   #1
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1990 36' Land Yacht
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Flaming Brakes

Good evening all,

My name is Bryan and I just purchased my first RV; a 1990 Airstream Land Yacht 36' 50th anniversary edition. It has meticulous maintenance records, 55K+ miles (5K on recent rebuild), and I am the third owner. I drove it home this evening and when I arrived my front left brake was red hot and actually erupted in a small flame. After extinguishing the fire I concluded the caliper had ceased which caused the molten flame. I intend to change both front calipers and rotors tomorrow, however my questions is two fold:

1. Is there something could have I failed to do that may have led to the brakes not being disengaged completely? (emergency brake is not the issue).
2. The seller was the grandson of the deceased owner and knew nothing about operating the vehicle, any suggestions for this rookie besides trial and error?
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Old 11-05-2013, 10:05 PM   #2
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1999 23' Safari
Perrysburg , Ann Arbor
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Welcome to the exciting world of Airstreams!

But seriously, the best thing you could do, you have already done: join up here. Now plan to do lots of reading. Use the search function and read as much as you can as soon as you can ... and pretty soon you'll know a lot about your machine.

I'm a trailer owner, so can't comment except in generalities, but I will say that as with most vehicles, there are only a few things that can easily kill you: brakes, tires, and steering. So you need to attend to those first. Then there are lots of things that can disable and strand you: electrical failure, cooling system issues such as leaking radiator cores and cracked / burst hoses, plugged fuel lines, broken serpentine belts, etc. So those need attention next. Finally, there are all the "house" systems such as furnace, plumbing, stove, etc. that make the machine more than a mere vehicle, and you've also got to make sure they're all up to snuff. So work your way through it all little by little and with a little luck and some advice from Forum members, you'll soon be having a ball in places you never thought you'd visit! Enjoy!
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Old 11-05-2013, 10:35 PM   #3
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There is noway you could have known the caliper was going to stick. Neither could the seller. Replacing the calipers and rotors is a great idea also make sure to put new brake pads on. You should check your frt, brake lines also and make sure they are good. GM vehicles especially are prone to the brake lines collapsing inside. They will look good but they will let brake fluid flow into the caliper but not return out of it. I would guess that was the initial problem but since it has all been so hot I would replace it all. Hope this helps.
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:01 AM   #4
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Having had a LY moho, I can tell you that if the rig sits in storage for any length of time the disc brake calipers will stick. Disc brakes are meant for everyday use, otherwise they can stick. After sitting for a while, brake maintenance is more critical for disc brakes than drum brakes.
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:53 AM   #5
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I'd also change the brake hoses if they are more than a few years old. I had a car that had 15 year old hoses which I did not change when doing a rebuild. It turned out that they deteriorate and can act like a check valve and not let the caliper retract. Also, brake fluid attracts moisture which can cause the pistons to lock up - a good bleeding helps flush out the system.

Good luck,

Whit Nash
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Old 11-06-2013, 02:16 PM   #6
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1992 36' Land Yacht
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Originally Posted by rwnash View Post
I'd also change the brake hoses if they are more than a few years old. I had a car that had 15 year old hoses which I did not change when doing a rebuild. It turned out that they deteriorate and can act like a check valve and not let the caliper retract. Also, brake fluid attracts moisture which can cause the pistons to lock up - a good bleeding helps flush out the system.
Agreed with above. The most common cause for a "stuck caliper" is actually a collapsed soft rubber brake hose. When I purchased my 92 LY 36' it also locked the front caliper within one block. One turn of the bleeder reveled the true cause of the problem. Pressure could not return back from the caliper. I replaced all 5 (yes there are 5 if you have rear disc brakes) hoses for under $70.

The calipers are probably OK but replacing them isn't that expensive either. Rockauto.com was doing a closeout on the brake calipers that our LYs use and I picked up all 4 loaded with Wagner Thermo Quiet pads for under $80 delivered as spares. If you have 4 corner disc brakes then the fronts and rears are the same.

I would have the rotors turned and put on new pads. Don't scrimp on what pads you use. These babies aren't light and the brakes on the 36 footer were marginal in my opinion.

Don't forget to replace ALL the brake fluid as well. DOT 4 or 5.1 fluid is best IMHO. I would stay away from DOT 5 unless you feel like flushing every bit of your current fluid before putting the DOT 5 in. They are not compatible.

Don't forget the electric brakes on the TAG axle as well. They usually need to be serviced since they're often ignored. Good time to lubricate the bearings and replace the seals as well.

Welcome to the world of AS. There are several on here that own 90 to 92 Land Yachts so you're in good company. If it needs to be done, then someone here has done it. Just ask and don't be shy.

I have one rule that I always try to pass on... NEVER believe what a PO says they did unless you were there to verify it. All POs were trying to sell you their MH before they became POs. Trust what you know... not what you've been told.
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Old 11-06-2013, 04:10 PM   #7
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1981 31' Excella II
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Put some DOT 5 brake fluid in the system and flush all the old stuff out. New brake hoses are not a bad idea. You can get some stainless ones made. The DOT 5 won't suck up water like the conventional stuff. The military uses it for this reason. It does not go bad and it is not corrosive. Another issue with trailer brake controllers is that most of them are an on off system. 100% on then nothing. There is a time delay when you hit the brake but for the most part is a dumb system. There are brake controllers that are proportional and they are much easier on your brake system. Cheap calipers can also get a stuck piston from sitting with conventional brake fluid in them.

Perry
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Old 11-06-2013, 04:45 PM   #8
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The problem with DOT 5 is it doesn't absorb water and thus it will leave water trapped at the lowest point. This is usually the caliper. Because DOT 5 doesn't absorb water it keeps it separated in the system. Moisture invades brake systems even if you use silicone based brake fluids like DOT 5. DOT 5 brake fluid has a much lower boiling point then DOT 4 or 5.1 and any water trapped at the caliper will boil at a much lower temp. The last thing you want is to overheat and boil your brake fluid when doing a steep downhill grade.

The best method for maintaining your brake system is annual maintenance which should include replacing your fluid at least every 2 years. Putting DOT 5 in and forgetting it will not resolve your future brake issues.

Don't screw around with years++ old soft brake lines either. I'll bet $$$ that it is the source of your problem and not the actual caliper. The symptom is classic of a failed inner liner on a soft brake line.
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Old 11-06-2013, 05:43 PM   #9
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If you get the water out of the system none will come back in. I have a car I bought in 91 and I put the stuff in there and I have never changed it and I have never had to replace anything but pads. The car sits a long time between uses. The DOT 5 won't boil near as quick as the glycol based stuff. Car restorers use the stuff because it will keep the brake system new forever. I use to put it in my my dirt bike rear brakes because the standard fluid would boil too easy and I had no brakes. The silicone fluid cured about 90% of that. Standard brake fluid attracts water and eventually it absorbs so much that it won't stay in solution and then you have corrosion. I have even mixed the stuff with regular brake fluid with no ill effects. I don't know where you get your information but real life experience and that of the military don't agree. I use standard fluid in my daily drivers. I have heard this argument about silicone trapping water and have never heard it from someone who actually used the stuff. I have been using it for over 30 yrs in stuff.

It does not replace maintenance but it will stop the corrosion end of things. Till you take the caliper apart you don't know what happened. If you pull the piston out and there is a rusty ring where the piston sat then you can assume that caused the piston to stick.

Perry

Quote:
Originally Posted by 92landyacht View Post
The problem with DOT 5 is it doesn't absorb water and thus it will leave water trapped at the lowest point. This is usually the caliper. Because DOT 5 doesn't absorb water it keeps it separated in the system. Moisture invades brake systems even if you use silicone based brake fluids like DOT 5. DOT 5 brake fluid has a much lower boiling point then DOT 4 or 5.1 and any water trapped at the caliper will boil at a much lower temp. The last thing you want is to overheat and boil your brake fluid when doing a steep downhill grade.

The best method for maintaining your brake system is annual maintenance which should include replacing your fluid at least every 2 years. Putting DOT 5 in and forgetting it will not resolve your future brake issues.

Don't screw around with years++ old soft brake lines either. I'll bet $$$ that it is the source of your problem and not the actual caliper. The symptom is classic of a failed inner liner on a soft brake line.
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Old 11-06-2013, 05:47 PM   #10
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Welcome!

If mine sits for any length of time I stop and check tire, brake, hub temps after a few miles of driving. Generally, from storage to home (3 miles) I always do a quick "post flight" check when we stop after driving any distance.
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:26 PM   #11
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DOT 5 is for cars that never see the road and never have to brake hard. Car collectors use it because the cars don't need to brake hard and really never get driven. Trailer queens are not what a MH should be and when in use demand more from their brake systems then DOT 5 can offer. The brakes on a MH work harder then any car on the road. I wouldn't trust anything other then DOT 4 or 5.1 in mine and hope that the guy behind me thinks the same. What's the big deal about replacing your fluids every couple years. We can agree to disagree on this but I'm sticking firm on this one.
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Old 11-06-2013, 08:32 PM   #12
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You seem to adopt a religious fervor in approaching issues that would benefit from a more scientific detachment.

It would be very strange if a manufacturer of brake fluid were to continue making something with such apparently inferior performance, as indicated by your posts. DOT 5 fluid has been shown to effectively eliminate corrosion in clean systems; and if your brakes get hot enough to affect DOT 5 performance, then your DOT 3 or 4 fluid would have turned to vapour by then.... at least the DOT 5 will still stop you under extremely hot conditions (read long descents in your Airstream), but with a somewhat longer pedal travel. There is no problem of DOT 5 fluid mixing with the glycol based fluids, but there is indeed a potential problem if moisture remains from a contaminated system due to previous use of DOT 3, 4 or 5.1. When filling your system with DOT 5 fluid you should flush well through the system..... but you should do that in any case, no matter what fluid you are putting in there! The only real downside to DOT 5 is that extra care needs to be taken in bleeding, and a rebleed a week or so after the initial bleed is advisable. The upside is reduction of water ingress and therefore corrosion, especially in vehicles that spend much of their time standing...... read motor homes. An extra rebleed will keep your system safe and moisture free for up to five years, much less effort than the 2 or 3 fluid replacements in the same period with glycol based fluids, and even with that, you'd still get corrosion with the glycol fluids!

The absolutely ideal time to use DOT 5 is if you completely rebuild the master and slave cylinders in your vehicle, you can then kiss your corrosion problems goodbye.
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:44 PM   #13
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I'm sorry, but "Flaming Brakes" makes me think of a punk garage band.
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Old 11-07-2013, 06:22 AM   #14
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For non-sillycone....

Water will get in the system, the reservoir is translucent for a reason.
Don't remove the cap, look thru.
If your low on fluid because of pad or shoe ware and want to add, get the smallest container that will do the job and discard any fluid left over. Remember when you retract the pistons during pad/shoe replacement the fluid will be forced back into the reservoir.

DON'T add fluid from an open container and flush the system every 2-3 years.

Fluid degradation happens slowly, you won't believe the improvement if you've never flushed.

kno-nothing Bob
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