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Brakes after sitting

ENDED - getting rid of the car. Not worth it.

My car sat through the Canadian winter outside because we weren’t sure we were going to throw more money at it, for the rocker panels are in absolute garbage shape. I’m talking 90% GONE. Anyway, I am going to fix it myself but I am wondering right now if I should change the brakes (at least the front pads and disks) since it has been sitting through these elements. Any extra words on the rockers are appreciated too. Even the inner rockers and the pinch weld lifting points are gone too. :frowning:

A Cobalt is a unibody car, the inner and outer rocker panels and pinch weld are all you have for a frame. I would not be worrying about the brakes, It won’t need them on the wrecker going to the scrapyard.


To be honest I haven’t had a super good look underneath yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s salvageable but thanks for the info. I won’t do anything to it until I know for sure what I’m getting into.

Brakes: may not be too bad. Was the parking brake on or off? If on that long they can bond to their drums, or cables can rust stuck - might break loose cleanly, but if chunks of lining are stuck to the drum you may need to replace the shoes and clean the drum. (The same can happen with a clutch on an MT car.) There will be rust on the disks and drum surfaces, but unless they’re deeply pitted (can happen under the pads where moisture is retained) this should wear off with use. Deep pits can initiate cracks, seek advice if you find any. If left too long the calipers and master cylinder can rust causing them to stick or leak, requiring resurfacing or replacement. It might be wise to change the brake fluid, especially if already old.

Other potential issues: the body corrosion you mentioned (inspect before making investments), check for mold/mildew (look under mats, in the trunk, the coiled ends of seat belts, follow your nose), bad fuel or water in fuel (drain and replace, be careful), change engine oil, change other fluids if old or you suspect contamination from condensation. Have you run the engine since winter? If not, you might try turning it by hand from the crank pulley nut or by pulling on a belt before hitting the starter - if stuck return to the forum.

The car has very likely lost its structural integrity, and is now unsafe.
Doing maintenance on the brakes when a car is structurally unsafe is the automotive equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it was sinking.


90% of an ice berg is under water and all one sees is the tip!

Those “absolute garbage shape” rocker panels are the tip of the Cobalt berg. :grimacing:
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:


I didn’t leave the parking brake on because we had it loosened up. (When we got the car it was stuck but I will end up fixing that later on). The interior stayed completely dry luckily and I did start the engine a couple times. Thank you for the feedback, I will probably end up changing a couple fluids after. But first and foremost I’ll try to fix my desperate rocker panels.

This reminds me of an old 82 Dodge Aries I had. It too had “absolute garbage shape” rocker panels.

Whenever I’d hit a big puddle while driving it the driver side floor mat would slap the back of my left calf! :grimacing:
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:

That will essentially be cosmetic surgery, and won’t reverse the structural damage that is below the surface. I strongly suggest that you drive–very slowly–to a mechanic or a body shop, where they can put it up on a lift and determine the extent of the structural damage.

Be prepared for some bad news…

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This begs the question, “Why?”
:palm_tree: :sunglasses: :palm_tree:

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Yeah… if this is all for learning etc you can do as you please but the others have pointed out the obvious underlying problem that exists here.

That being said…brakes HATE to sit and wait for the vehicle to be driven. They do just about everything bad that they can whilst sitting around. Rotors will rust so deeply that they never “clean up” even after driving many miles to try and sand off the rust… Calipers love to seize up, usually due to moisture in the brake fluid that no one ever changes. Drums do all the same things except the wheel cylinders like to spring leaks and get brake fluid all over the rusted components just for the fun of it all I guess.

With structural body rust, the vehicle is compromised to say the least. You can do whatever your heart desires however…it wouldn’t be the first time someone put work and money into something they should not have.

If you are not marooned in the middle of Cuba…I say move on to another vehicle.

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I think I’m giving up on this one. I started it not even 2 weeks ago and now it won’t start. I’m taking it as a sign


That much rust on a cheap inibody car means it’s game over.

Sometimes you see elaborate rebuilding of such cars like a classic Mustang. In all cases it’s cost prohibitive and your car is dangerous at this point to serve as a daily driver.

I scrapped two unibody cars in the past as a result of corrosion and in both cases “repairs” were not feasible or very uneconomic.

Most body shops will refuse to work on your car.


Still, get someone to look it over for structural and other issues before making a decision. Not starting after two weeks might be as simple as a weak battery, or one that wasn’t charged sufficiently. Batteries sitting unused over a winter age considerably, unless kept charged, and if it’s 3-4 yrs old and in Canada it may have been on its last legs anyway.

The opinions given here should be well taken, and every Cobalt I knew aged quickly, but no-one has seen your car - have it inspected.