Brakes... Wow I'm an idiot

Okay… I am currently the owner of a 2003 Nissan Sentra SE-R SpecV. So, about 6 months ago in the dead of winter here in Iowa I walk out to my to head into work for the day. When I released my e-brake, I noticed that the brake light on the dash remained on. I didn’t think too much about it as the vehicle seemed to move without resistance and the brakes were otherwise working fine. I just assumed a sensor had stopped working and was throwing the message. Much to my suprise, over the last month, a nasty metal on metal grinding sound has developed from the driver’s side rear brake assembly. Judging by the sound and the rather heavy amount of brake dust buildup, I’d have to guess that the caliper locked up and slowly grinded down the pad until it didn’t exist and is now direct caliper on rotor contact. Assuming this is correct I will need a new brake pad, rotor, and the parts to fix whatever is wrong with the caliper. As I am no mechanic I’ll have to take this in and have it fixed at a shop. Does anyone know how much this job will cost to get done at a shop?

replace the pair…rotors and pads…around $350

So you just kept driving around with the brake light on for 6 mos? This means - yes, check to see that the e-brake is off, but also check the brake fluid.

I wouldn’t assume that there is a problem with the caliper. There might be. The more likely thing is that your pads were basically down to near nothing - this is what put your brake fluid low and turned the light on (as the pads wear, the brake fluid level goes down). You will certainly need new rotors. You probably needed them anyway.

Don’t ignore warning lights on your dash. Small problems become big ones when you do. In this case, death was actually one possibility.

If this is like most cars with rear disc brakes there will be a drum cast into the back of the rotor with the parking brake shoes inside it and it is probably these shoes that are worn out due to a rusted and stuck cable that set your warning light. The rear brakes have to be disassembled to see what is going on and what parts need replacing. No way to give you a price estimate without knowing what the job is? It would have helped to know the miles on the car.

Dumb, but not idiotic. Idiotic would be deciding the change the engine oil at the same time as a brake job, using the same drain pan for the oil and brake cleaning, and dropping a brand new brake pad into the old oil. Luckily, I hadn’t run out of brake cleaner spray yet, cleaned it real good, and the brakes are working fine.

You should know that the brake light is also an indicator of pad wear and a need to check your brakes. When you press the brake pedal you push brake fluid from the master cylinder (upon which is mounted the reservoir with the low fluid sensing float) into the calipers (cylinders for drum brakes). As the pads wear, more and more of the brake fluid stays in the cylinders when you take your foot off the pedal. As time progresses, the fluid in the reservoir drops to where the float trips the light.

You’ve been driving around with low pads for the last six months. You’re now metal to metal. Rivets to Disc.

In future, when the light comes on and the parking brake isn;t engaged you’d be well advised to get the brakes checked. Even in it only blinks, as sometime happens.

Thanks for all of the great advice here. It may be the caliper or maybe not. I had assumed it was residual damage caused by an accident I had been in about 1.5 years ago and just took awhile to manifest. I had made that assumption mostly because it only seems to be affecting the one caliper.

Trust me, this is something that’s been bugging me in the back of my mind since well before the noises started. I haven’t even let anyone else in the car with me during this period. It’s not something I wanted to ignore, but my fiscal situation up until now forced the issue until now and it has gotten to a dangerous point. I now have sufficient funds to have the issue fixed though and will be reporting to a local shop soon!!!

This is not a mistake I will soon repeat.