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2000 Dodge Caravan Brake Problems

Short Version.
2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, I two weeks ago I replaced the front brakes (rotors, calipers, and pads both sides) I drove the van 100 miles Saturday night with no problems. Sunday afternoon, whilst driving home from a resturant with 5 people in the van (driving super gingerly because they were my inlaws) the right front brake stuck on and smoked on the drive home. The calipers are new, and I have not had any other problems since I replaced the brakes that were trashed when I got it.

Long version
So heres the deal, I am the proud owner of a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, its got about 140,000 miles on it, its a little rusty, but I got it for free. A family member was getting rid of it, as it was 11 years old, and they wanted something newer, and it needed brakes and a few other things. They were going to donate it, but it sat all winter waiting for the donation company to pick it up. Being a consummate grease monkey elite shade tree mechanic tinkerer type, and being in the new family, new house cash flow situation, I swooped in and towed it home in hopes that I could make a decent enough ride that I could fit two adults, a carseat and a dog into.

Now when I got the van I knew it had some problems. Thats the reason it was free. But it is/was all fixable stuff. Typical of age and mileage It had a whiny power steering pump, it needed an oil change, the power steering lines leaked, the transmission cooler lines needed to be replaced. It needed a serpentine belt. It has a motor mount that needs replacing. The front suspension clunked because of worn out swaybar bushings and end link Its a bunch of work and few weekends and a few hundred in parts, but when the van was free, and you do the work yourself it costs a lot less. And try touching any used rig that is big enough for a growing faimly, and is new enough that the bank will give you a loan for less then about $15,000. (Cash for clunkers, worst idea ever, sincerely me)

The front brakes were completely trashed when I got the van, that is one of the reasons that the previous owner had parked it. And it was obvious that the right front caliper had seized, I could not push the piston back in. And that was the one that seized on, and had the most damages so I replaced it, along with the left front, as it was also the original one, and well they were both the same age, and once you have the stuff to bleed the brakes out, and have found a helper, you might as well.

So what causes disk brake calipers to randomly stick on when they are used gently? Because when I drive it angry, such as now, they seem fine.

Confused in Raynham,

It looks like the thing you left out on replacement was probably those flexible front brake lines. Their interior walls can breakdown and sometimes chunks of it can act like a check valve only allowing pressure to go through to the caliper but not release. That’s where I’d start. At this age I’d just take both sides back down & replace them both.

Its certainly a low dollar place to start, and given that most of the other problems I have had to fix on the van so far have all been related to rubber hoses of one kind or another, its not such a far fetched idea.

I have a 2002 Town and Country that warns not to try bleeding the brakes yourself because there are computer codes that have to be entered to keep the valves in the ABS open.My left rear wheel was sometimes locked up and smoked. Then I discovered the right front was dragging at the same time and they only did it together.

My brake fluid was dark with black specks in it. I concluded that the junk in the fluid was clogging the port in the master cylinder that controls those wheels. I parked the car facing down a steep driveway and used a turkey baster to drain the fluid out of the master cylinder and replace with clean.

Did this once a week for 3 weeks and the brakes have been fine for two years now.

I have the same van, 125K miles. The brakes started falling apart this past November, Rear cylinder one side, then the other. The master cylinder was next. I did not have ABS codes (until right now!) but have fresh fluid in there now with new master cylinder. I have left the front calipers. I am thinking the hose is a good idea, give it another flush, but if that doesn’t cut it I will change the master as well. Nice job on the free van, mine would sell for $3-4K around here.

A common mistake many people make when installing brake parts themselves is to install the caliper with a twist in the flexible brake hose. This can certainly cause the affected brake to drag. Double check your work and make sure you did not put a twist in the hose when you installed your brakes.