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Old 09-09-2002, 01:48 PM   #1
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Did I ruin my truck's brakes??

Truck is as we speak having a $600 brake job...both front rotors need replacing. These are original, w/ 40,000 miles on them, but they were "scored" so badly, they could't be turned. (haven't seen them myself yet).

So, only about 1000 of those 40000 miles was spent towing the trailer..but I have to wonder. I did check the trailer's brakes while I re-packed the bearings a couple of months ago..everything looked fine, and they definately work. (also adjusted the brakes at this time). I have noticed that they are quite "grabby" on gravel surfaces, like campground roads, so I've turned down the sensitivity on the brake controller in those situations. But I adjust it back up while on pavement. I did find that on wet pavement, they also have a tendancy to lock. But anyway, for the most part on my trip, everything seemed fine. maybe I was pushing on the brake pedal harder than I thought....(?).

The other thing: the hitch setup is less than perfect. My truck is a 4x4 (2000 dodge ram) and it sits up high. The hitch bar is not adjustable, though, and sits way higher than the "19.5"" height of the airstream's hitch. But the weight of the trailer does make it sag down to a normal height, and when the tension arms are adjusted, I can get things "close" to level, but not quite. both the truck and the trailer are very slightly "nose high". If I changed the amount of tension, either the trailer would be leaning backwards too much, or the front end of the truck would be too high. So I'm wondering if this had anything to do with my truck's brake demise, or if its just an amazing coincidence that this happened right after my vacation.

(local trailer store told me that an adustable hitch-bar/ball setup would cost 300 bucks, so I figured "close enough").
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Old 09-09-2002, 02:18 PM   #2
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Chuck,
GM pads as well an many replacement pads have a metal piece that makes contact with the rotor and warning the user when the pads have worn down to a certain distance. A few times I have bent them back to give me an additional 1,000-2,000 miles before replacing them. I have seen front brake pads worn down in less than 20,000 miles so 40,000 miles does not surprise me. On my GM products, I usually get 2-4 sets of front pads before having to replace the back shoes. Part of it has to do with the pad material, carbon metallic, semi-metallic or metallic. Did rivets get into the rotor or did the rotors overheat? I have seen cases of lack of silicone grease on the caliphers causing them to stick as well as water in the brake system that set up rust and eventual seizing. Has the vehicle been pulling to one side or the other occasionally? Lastly, and forgive me for not looking at your location before posting this, is your area mountainous? Maybe your front pads brakes were on the edge and heavy use did them in? One last comment, my son used my '92 Z71 truck one day and came back home with the story that something was grinding in the front end. You guessed it! The little angle piece that was there to warn me had broken off (no, I didn't bend this one) and rivets scored the drum enough that it had to be replaced. This was just in one day of use on the highway. I check pad thickness every time I rotate tires (5-7,500 miles) and replace when I think it won't make it the next time around.

One last suggestion, go to www.pickuptrucks.com and go to the Dodge trucks section. Post an inquiry as to mileage received for stock pads when not towing and towing. Maybe someone else can give you more insight.
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Old 09-09-2002, 02:31 PM   #3
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yeah, the trip was to a mountainous area; and I heard grinding noises last week (about a week after my trip ended) and called the shop. it was only a "slight" noise, and only noticeable during fairly hard braking. the thing that gets me is that the brakes seemed to work fine. there wasn't really any sort of "warning", you know? on other vehicles, there has always been a noticeable degradation in braking performance when something needed to be done.

funny...my wife's car just needed rear brakes done, and the fronts were hardly worn according to the dealer. I noticed it pulling to one side, (very slight) and just mentioned it when it was in for unrelated service. at least there was some "symptom". no one could figure out how the rears wore so much before the fronts; makes no sense. The only thing we could guess was that we bought it used...had 12,000 miles on it, and now has 20....maybe the first owner drove it around w/ the parking brake on??? seems odd.
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Old 09-09-2002, 03:02 PM   #4
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Chuck,
Some drivers are really rough on brakes. Jackrabbit starts and hit the brakes stopping. The previous owner could have been that type. Also, you have seen the vehicle going down the road with the driver riding his/her brakes. They rest the left foot on the brake and use the right for the accelerator. Who knows, maybe the guy towed heavy equipment. Anyway, you know what to look for in the future.
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Old 09-09-2002, 03:07 PM   #5
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Chuck,

Is your hitch head and insert a one piece unit? It should be adjustable for fine tuning.

The ones I have used have all been on an adjustable bar that allowed me to move the head up or down depending on the truck. I had to replace it once when I bough a new 4X4 truck, and I don't remember it being 300 bucks!

Here is one http://www.reesehitch.com/weightdist_bmount_drbr.html

for 167.00 plus freight.
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Old 09-09-2002, 03:14 PM   #6
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Chuck,

I don't think towing the trailer has messed up your brakes, either. My 1ton Dodge Van never sees more than 12 or 15k Miles on a set of brake pads. 40K miles on truck brakes is pretty good, in my book. I do live in a hilly area, and I get into a lot of LA traffic with it, constantly on the brakes.
I would just take the truck to Dodge for a safety check and oil change periodically. My local Dodge dealer does oil changes for under $ 40.00, and they always safety check the entire van.( because they want to sell repairs, of course.) So I pick the things that make sense to be repaired, and that way keep tabs on brakes etc.
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Old 09-09-2002, 04:30 PM   #7
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Well, this is getting way off-topic, but it was the wifes' car that was used; I bought the truck new, so its only been me. Still, though, on the wife's car (ford taurus), I doubt anyone was towing much with it, and even if they were hard on the brakes, it still should have been the fronts that needed work, not the rears. maybe they drove around in reverse all the time?? that's a puzzle...

the hitch head is not adjustable. I showed it to the guy at the local trailer place, and he said it was an "oldie". don't make 'em like this anymore, I guess. the replacement cost was for a piece like you described, plus another 150 or so for the thing that actually holds the ball. this was so that it would work with the old-fashioned tension bars. I suspect you could get a whole setup for that much. I thought I saw some somewhere...maybe ebay, for around 300.

Oh, well. I guess I'm doin' ok, if 40,000 is good for truck brakes. we tend to get alot of mileage out of brakes, since we do mostly highway driving. wife's last car had brakes done once in 150,000 miles.

Time to go down to the Dodge dealer and take my medicine. I still think I'm takin' a real screwing here, with their pricing......
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Old 09-09-2002, 06:28 PM   #8
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Hi Chuck,

I don't always have the dealer do all the work. If it's just brake pads, then I usually do them myself. On my cars, the rotors are mounted in front of the hubs, held on by the whheel bolts, and I change them myself, too. I never did the truck's rotors, so i don't know what is involved.
A Chilton manual and some good tools can go a long way, and save a lot of money if you're handy with tools. The dealer wanted $ 180.00 just to do the pads. I bought name brand pads for $ 30.00 and it literally took me 45 min to replace the fronts.
But if you're not handy, then I think the dealer is a better alternative than the discount brake shops, at least around here in SoCal.
Good luck!
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Old 09-09-2002, 07:10 PM   #9
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yeah, I know a good local mechanic that I'm sure wouldn't have charged me so much...its just that I needed a warantee job done, too (silly passenger seat adjustment lever was broken, and I reported this before the warantee was up...they ordered the part, and never called me when it came in. that was a couple of months ago, so I thought I'd just get both things done at once).

I used to do this sort of thing myself, when I worked at a place where we had a garage and a lift we could use. Now I don't have the time or the gumption, and its a royal pain to do it in the driveway. BUT...for 600 bucks, I'll think about it next time.

Oh, I found out part of the reason the bill was so high: 81 bucks per hour for labor. Maybe I'm living in the past, but I think that's a bit rich.....
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Old 09-10-2002, 10:23 AM   #10
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Chuck,
One more thought, there is a brake protortioning valve in most systems that adjust pressure front to rear. Maybe there is a problem with it. By the way, when I bought my '77 it came with a Reese welded equalizer unit that was set up for a car. When the unit was placed in my receiver hitch, the ball was at least 9" too high. I had to buy a used adjustable Reese unit just to get the trailer home but fortunately it was less than a year old.
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Old 10-12-2002, 07:36 PM   #11
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Next brake job check out these Kevlar brakes. I have them on my 68 Suburban and they are awsum! I have over 20000 miles on a set of these shoes and they still look brand new! Stopping power is terrific with no brake fade on my drum brake set up. They might seem pricey, but when you see how long they last and the increased stopping power, they are definately worth it!

http://www.praisedynobrake.com

I think you could also get the same shoes for your trailer
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Old 10-14-2002, 08:33 AM   #12
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I had the exact problem with my 98 K-2500 Suburban. I had to find the TSB myself and show it to my dealer who finally replaced the proportioning valve. No more 6k mile, $500 brake jobs though I am still not entirely satisfied with the brakes, hydroboost, rear drums, etc. The new Suburbans are much better I hear.
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:31 AM   #13
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TSB?

Chas,
What is the TSB #? I have a '99 Suburban 2500 and it eats brakes also. Too much stop and go driving around town also.

What were your symptoms that alerted you to the TSB problem?

Thanks, Brian
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Old 10-14-2002, 10:03 AM   #14
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Ken,

I will have to dig it up, it has been a couple of years ago. A buddy of mine who works with Mitchell auto software got it for me. Chevy initially refused to acknowledge it since it wasn't from GM headquarters. Mine would dive excessively in the front even under moderate braking and six thousand smelly miles out of a set of pads was totally unacceptable if not sickening. Keep in mind mine was a 98 4x4 3/4 ton hard, hard, loaded. Is a 99 the same thing?? Now I get about twenty-five to thirty thousand out of a set of pads which is much better, not great, but better.
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