Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and we're here talking cars with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. How are you this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: So today's victim, today's vehicle is a 2013 Ford E250 van that had a problem with its rear brakes. What was going on with this van?
Bernie: So the owner of the vehicle came in with the brakes making a pretty bad grinding sound. We did a brake inspection, found that the one brake pad on the rear was extremely badly worn, grinding on the rotor right down to the backing plate.
Mark: Okay, that seems a little bit different. What would cause only one pad to wear so fast?
Bernie: It's basically a seized brake caliper on the right rear, and it's not uncommon. When a caliper seizes, usually one, often one pad will wear worse. Sometimes both pads on one side will wear, but often it'll just be one pad that wears because of the way the caliper seizes. We'll look at some pictures a little later, and I'll explain it further.
Mark: Okay, 2013, five years old, that's not that old. Did this van have really high mileage?
Bernie: No actually not. I mean, in terms of kilometres it didn't even have 50,000 kilometres. So yeah a five year old van could have a lot, but this vehicle was actually very low mileage up to this point.
Mark: And what would cause the caliper to seize this soon in its lifecycle?
Bernie: Yeah, it's kind of a Ford issue. The calipers on these vehicles on Ford vans and trucks, I find that we replace these more than any other vehicle and they seem to often seize up at a very early age. I think just due to the design of the calipers, they're just not very durable for some reason. I mean, they're built tough, they're big. We'll look at pictures in a second. They're tough, they're big, heavy duty but just something about the design of them. They tend to fail very frequently and I'd say about 50% of the brake jobs we do on Ford trucks and vans involve replacing calipers. So let's just get into some photos right now. Isn't that lovely? All my pictures seemed to have disappeared so I'll talk for a few more seconds and see if I can get my pictures back. I love it when this happens because this is a good picture show. Ask me a few more questions and I'll stop the screen share, I'll get some pictures back.
Mark: Sure. You say this is a fairly common thing to have and is it just an issue with Ford's or does this kind of caliper freezing or sticking happen on other vehicles?
Bernie: Actually it happens on all vehicles but not quite so often. As I say, Ford tends to be ... Sorry if I'm not looking at the camera here, I'm just trying to download my photos. But Ford for some reason in the Ford design, they use what's called a phenolic piston. It's not made of metal and I think that a lot of the problems is due to that piston design. Let's get these photos up here. But yeah, a lot of it has to do with the piston design. The other thing is that the dust seals on the Ford's tend to go bad quite frequently too and once the dust seal cracks then water can get in it and cause calipers to cease. So I think I'm ready to do a screen share here.
Okay, there's the full picture. So you can see, this is the rear brakes completely taken apart. This it the left brake rotor, the left brake pads, the left caliper and on the right hand side, you can see this is the inside of the rotor. You can see very shiny, very gouged and this is the inboard brake pad completely worn down to the metal backing plate, the outboard pad. You can't see on the angle here but there's quite a bit more material, we'll look at the pad pictures in a sec and you can see just a generally rusty condition here, which happens, 'cause you get a lot of metal flakes flying through the air. So the next picture we'll look at is, there's a comparison of the brake pads. So this is what the outboard pad looked like. There's about five millimetres in that pad and probably at least a few months to a year's life left in that brake pad based on the driving of the vehicle. And there's the inboard pad completely worn. The pad material's completely worn away. Just the metal backing plate wearing against that rough rotor. For our next shot, we've got the ... There we go, it sharpened up. This is one of the slider pins and there's a rubber cover over here, and you can see a lot of rust here so this could've been one of the contributions to the caliper seizing up in early age. As I say, it is five years old, I mean, all it takes is a little bit of road salt to get in here and cause this to seize. Now being in Vancouver, we don't use a lot of road salt, but we have had a couple winters where there's been a bit of salt on the roads. So maybe this seal isn't very effective at the factory, a bit of road salt and water got in there and caused this pin to seize. The caliper wasn't completely seized like this. There was movement in this area but all it takes is a bit less movement, and it'll cause the pads to wear quicker. So that combined with piston problems could've caused this issue. There is a picture of the caliper, the right brake caliper. The pistons are sticking a fair amount out. I mentioned the dust seals are a problem. These are the dust seals here. They weren't ripped on this vehicle but frequently we find that after 50 to 70 thousand kilometres, which is kind of an average life for these brake pads, depending on the weight you haul on your vehicle. Of course, these dust seals will often be blown open, and I'm seeing this for years and years on Ford's. They don't seem to have made ... changed a lot over the years. I'd say that's kind of a common problem.
I apologize, this photo's not of sharpest quality that I've done, but this is the old right rear rotor versus the new rotor. I'd say, it's a bit of a fuzzy shot, but you can see this surface here, how little material there is there compared to how much metal there is here. So quite a lot is worn off. I don't know how long this has been noisy. The owner had said he'd had the vehicle in for an oil service about a week previously, and they said there's five millimetres on his brakes. So they obviously did a quick brake inspection, but that's how much metal has all of a sudden started making noise. So that's how much metal is worn off the rotor in one or two weeks. So, you can't go very long like that before it'll completely wear out. Again, another photo of the rotor. You can see how little metal there is here versus how much is on the other side. We have over the years, I've actually seen people wear this completely off, so you have just the fins of the rotor rubbing against the pad, and you can imagine how fast that wears.
Mark: That must sound really good.
Bernie: It's horrific, it's horrific. This is the right rear side with a brand new rotor, new pads and a new ... this is a Napa Eclipse caliper. These are really good quality calipers. I don't know who else makes a caliper of this quality but not only are they painted nicely, but they have better hardware. They take a little more time to rebuild them than the average rebuild and they're probably about 20% more money than the regular rebuild. But I find they're worth it in terms of quality if a person wants to go for that kind of thing. It's important on a truck. The owner of this vehicle, they haul a lot of weight in it. So we put the heavy duty fleet pads, ultra premium rotors and these calipers on. You need to do whatever you can to make it last long. If you use cheap pads, it'll wear out fast and it'll just end up costing you more money in the long run. Save you now, but you'll be back having a brake job done sooner. That's the end of our picture show.
Mark: So that was a pretty extensive repair then, basically.
Bernie: Yeah, yeah. There's a lot that needed to be done for sure.
Mark: And was it really necessary to replace all the components or could you have just done the rotors, and the pads?
Bernie: No there's no way because the caliper was what caused the pads to seize up in the first place. When you have a wear difference that much, all the other pads were about five millimetres and this other one was zero. It's clearly a seized caliper issue. You can have a bad brake hose that'll cause pads to wear to but in a vehicle of this age, a bad brake hose will be highly unlikely and as I said, Ford caliper problems are just super common. So yeah, that's the kind of the extent. Pads, rotors, calipers and we also flushed the brake fluid which had never been done before and it was old and discoloured and dirty.
Mark: So maybe talk about that for a second. Why that's a rare kind of thing in my experience in having cars for the last 40 years. Flushing the brake fluid. What's that all about?
Bernie: That's actually one of the more common services we do here. Now it's one thing that never used to be ever talked about over the years. You know, you and I are kind of the same age. When we were younger and we had cars, nobody ever flushed brake fluid. But brake fluid is a hygroscopic fluid. It absorbs water and it's actually meant to do that because if the water actually got stuck in a certain area, say if it wouldn't absorb water, water would get trapped in certain areas of the brakes, like it would maybe get out the calipers or up in the master cylinder and would cause rust and corrosion. So because it actually absorbs water, it actually takes the water with the fluid but it weakens the fluid quality over time and what happens is the boiling point of the fluid goes way down and the brakes given enough heat which happens in braking. Usually you'd only ever experience it on long hills. You could actually lose your brakes, because the brake fluid would boil. So flushing brake fluid has been recommended by European manufacturers for many years. They usually recommend every two years. Now you can look in the manual of a lot of American vehicles, and they won't even recommend it. I don't know why because it's the same fluid, you're driving in the same conditions. The only place you might be safe from that is if the car never left the Arizona desert. But anywhere else around North America, there's a fair bit of moisture and that gets absorbed into brake fluid. So the recommendation for a lot of manufacturer's is every two years, two to three is good. I mean, we can test the water content, but normally we just look at visually, and we look for our regular customers, we just look at their maintenance schedule, and we can tell if it's been two or three years, we flush it. So it is actually a fairly common service, but a lot of people have not heard of it and a lot of manufacturers, it's left out, and I don't know why.
Mark: All right. Econoline vans have been around forever basically, almost as long as me. How are they for reliability?
Bernie: Yeah, you know, I'd say they're fair. I won't comment on the really old ones because they're ... I realize with cars, every decade has its reliability compared to whatever other cars were around in that time. But I'd say, I'd call them fair. I mean, over the years, they've had their issues. I'd say, and we talked about bad brake calipers. Those are issues that they've had. I mean generally, they're pretty tough, well built vans, but there's been a few issues with spark plugs blowing out over the years or seizing up. I think Ford's got beyond that in these newer ones. They have the regular type of spark plugs that don't have any issues. Things like intake manifolds have had coolant leaks and things. So I'd say I'd call them fair, but they've had probably more than their share of problems. But just on a general day to day basis, they usually start up fine and run and they can haul pretty heavy loads. They're usually built quite toughly, if that's the right word to use.
Bernie: Beefy, yeah that's a good word for it. They're built "Ford Tough". Interestingly about the Econoline is that actually 2013 is one of the last years, 2014 was actually the last year they made Econoline's. They switched to the Transit vans, which are those more boxy, cubey type of vans that kind of mimic Sprinters. It's interesting, I've traveled to Europe a couple of times over the last two, three years. I noticed most of the vans they have they're all of that Sprinter type design. All the manufacturers have that kind of taller, narrower style van. So it seems like the American manufacturers have all gone that way too, because the Dodge's are like that and the Ford's and it's funny, I don't know what's Chevy's been doing, but I should, but. Ford's definitely gone with the Transit van which are those more tall, cubey, rectangular type of vans.
Mark: So there you go. If you need service for your Ford van or truck in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You must book ahead, they're busy or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. We have hundreds of videos on our YouTube channel at Pawlik Auto Repair. We really want to thank you for listening to the podcast. If you're calling from somewhere else in North America, we cannot diagnose your vehicle over the phone. It's not in integrity for us to do that. They're just too many options. So if you're in Vancouver, call us to book an appointment, otherwise, just enjoy our shows. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark and thanks for watching.