sticking brakes

2001 Chevy prizm 4 speed automatic.

Passenger side front brake will intermittently drag. It’s starts small but get’s quickly worse to the point where I’d better be able to find a place to park it. I notice when it happens I have a hard pedal. (no freeplay) I’ve had it hot enough to smell the brake a couple of times.

I let it sit and cool down for half an hour and everything is fine. 20 miles of driving the other day and no problem until I’m within a mile or mile and a half from home. I barely made it.

But In the last quarter mile I noticed something odd. As I came to a stop at a light close to home with it dragging I heard a brake squeak. Then I realized I heard it over my right shoulder. It was the right back rear that squeaked not the left front.

When I got home I checked the left front and of course it was very very hot. But then I went to the right read and tapped the drum with my forefinger… and nearly burned it. The right rear was very hot as well.

This has me thinking it’s not as straight forward as I though. I already bought a loaded caliper, shoes and a rotor for the front. 2 years ago I had a similar problem and with the help of a neighbor we found a problem with the caliper slider. He polished that up and everything is was fine until now so I just figured not more messing around trying to fix it, just replace the parts right?

But I had noticed that even with the left front dragging it was steering straight. I would think if the left is dragging it should pull left. But ahah! what if the right rear is compensating? Or what if the rear is the heart of the problem. I know there is crossover in the master cylinder.

My driving habits include putting the car in neutral at traffic lights because I have leg pain and don’t like to be forced to have a foot on the brake pedal, plus it uses less fuel in neutral. But if there is just a slight grade and a little roll I just give the hand brake a little pull. I thought it was a good idea to use the hand brake occasionally because most stuck cables happen with people that hardly ever use it and it sticks the next time they do. Could a sticking cable at the right rear be the culpret? Is there any way one brake dragging could cause the opposite rear to drag?

I’m wondering about the relationship between the opposite sides of front and rear through the master cylinder and which wheel has the real problem, left front or right rear.

I don’t think this is coincident. If I’m going to fix it I want to fix the right thing the first time.

The next time the right front locks up, open the bleeder screw and see if brake fluid squirts out the bleeder.

If it does, it means that the right caliper still has hydraulic pressure being applied.

One thing that can cause this is, the rubber brake hose going that caliper has collapsed inside and is acting like a check valve. Allowing hydraulic pressure to the caliper when brake pedal is applied, but not releasing the hydraulic pressure when the brake pedal is released.

If you find this is the case, replace both brake hoses.

As far as the left rear brake, that’ll have to be disassembled to find out what’s going on.


I recently replaced a caliper on my 99 Corolla (same as Prizm). It usually start with a faint squeeking noise from the wheel after the car reaches a certain distance. The car has difficulty free rolling and struggle to climb 5% pitch driveway. My problem wheel got very hot and smelled burning metal.The amount of brake dust was also an indicator my caliper was sticking.Do not delay this repair. I posted a video on Youtube about my sticking caliper

The wheel that gets hot is on the corner where the brake is dragging. If you touch the wheels to check do it very carefully… a dragging brake will quickly and easily raise its respective disc to hundreds of degrees. You could use an infrared thermometer if you have one.

A sticking caliper (or, on drum brakes, a cylinder) is not at all uncommon. Any competent shop can fix you up with a new caliper. He’ll also want to (and should) change the pads and perhaps the rotors on the other side too. A good man will want to do that. It keeps braking balanced.

that sounds like a wear sensor squeak but if you had it get that hot several times maybe the pads wore down to the sensor.

Like i said in my regional post the squeak I hear coming to a stop was from the right rear. Like a squeak you’d hear if you stopped the car from 5mph or so with the hand brake.

Do you do that often ? Not really a good idea.

It was not the wear sensor squeeking because I had 50% brake pad material left on that sticking caliper.The squeek stopped after I replaced the caliper. Check the wheel cylinder on the back in case its seizing . I doubt the e-brake cable has anything to do with your situation.

yes, the left front gets very hot. Way to hot to touch the caliper or disk but I can tell by the amount of heat in the allow aluminum wheel. And the smell, and one time a bit of smoke. but the opposite rear got hot too.

2 things. one is as someone mentioned it could be the that flexible brake hose. If fluid can’t flow backward when you release the brake it could be the cause of the problem and I can take the caliper pads and disks I’ve already bought back to autozone.

The other is I’m worried the right rear happening at the same time is not coincidence and I can’t come up with a theory that explains them happening at the same time. The routing of the brake fluid is across the car. one piston send pressure to the left front and right rear and the other separate part of the master cylinder sends pressure to the other two. That’s so you can blow out one side and the car will still stop on the other. What could apply pressure to both the right rear and left front at the same time with you foot off the pedal? And like i said I can tell when it’s starting to happen because I get a hard pedal. Is there anything sophisticated about how the master cylinders work that would apply pressure to both? Has anyone expericned the opposite wheels dragging at the same time.

I can’t imagine my friend and I would have freed up what I think you call caliper float without addressing the flex hoses because it’s one of the top reasons brakes can drag and stick. But I haven’t jacked it up and looked.

The flex hoses are know to internally corrode like water pipes and would explain the behavior of the front left but NOT the left rear.

I was thinking cooling down again is what makes them work again when it may simply be fluid slowly flowing back through hose taking the pressure off the pistons. But what’ s up with the rear. I haven’t looked at how hand brake cable works.

Like I said I want to have the right thing fixed first and have a workable theory of what the possible causes are before I start the clock on someones labor charges.

Thanks for the ideas so far. Can anyone dig any deeper? Am I giving enough of a description of the behavior?

Ok, just had an idea. With dual master cylinders you push on the brakes and pressure is applied in 2 separate pistons in the master cylinder at the same time.

If one side of the master is applying pressure then it’s applying to the opposite side at the same time. What could be happening to keep the pressure from dropping throughout that side of the system. Keeping the whole side pressurized so the rear can’t release either. Catch my drift? It would explain the hard pedal too.The downside to the argument is the master cylinder had 2 pistons and 4 separate brake lines so the pressure would have to remain high across the internal part of the brake cylinder. But that would be below he piston which could make it theoretically possible. Anyone had one of these master cylinders apart?

Another idea. Water in the fluid hear the caliper. Hydraulic fluid doesn’t expand significantly when hot. Water on the other hand boils at 212 which I think could be achieved by one hard stop on a down hill freeway ramp. 212 would be consider all that high as a brake temp but if it boiled water in the fluid it would create pressure and possible pressurize that whole half of system that includes the opposite rear. Once it starts dragging he would keep increasing the temp faster that it will cool and the more pressure the steam creates which makes things hotter still and the drag gets more and more. It’s just and idea. I’ve never heard of it but the physics is sound. Think steam engines.

You mean you found 50% after when it was taken apart to replace the caliper? Did you replace the rotor? If the rotor was extremely warped it could brush the pads on each turn but it would buck like mad getting off a freeway.

a problem with a rear wheel cylinder on the rear drum brake doesn’t explain them happening at the same.

I worked for a couple of years as a service manager diagnostician in a transmission shop owned by my cousin who is the greatest mechanic I ever met. We had to figure out weird things on a pretty regular basis. Experience said that trouble free cars rarely more than one thing go wrong at the same time. They are usually related. I’m have trouble accepting that the two brake problems are not related to a single malfunction.

Like I said I already had bought the parts before I noticed the problem with the rear.

no i don’t but a five mph stop is a 5mph stop. it’s not undue work for the rear alone to stop the car from low speeds. In terms of the brakes what’s different from a normal stop? I know the rears do less work over all but I’m certain they do more work everytime you exit a freeway than the do from 5 mph on their own. I think the cable simply works the shoes instead fo the cylinder. The real problem is accidentally leaving the hand brake applied and jumping on the freeway for 20 miles or so.

In fact backing up and stopping the car on the handbrake used to be the way turned the self adjusters on the rear brakes. I should try it. It can’t hurt anything.

Backing up and applying the brakes is how rear drum brakes are automatically adjusted.


Exactly! and rotor had some groove in it due to the sticking caliper. I did not replace the rotor because it cleaned itself out after a few hundred miles of driving. I kept the old pads and installed them on the new caliper.For your information, why not ask the experts at
Cut and paste your original question on the eight generation Toyota Corolla forum,registration is free.

I seem to remember that on some vehicles, the brakes are hydraulically split into 2 systems

left front and right rear

right front and left rear

Meaning if one circuit develops a problem, you’ll have 1 operational front brake and 1 operational rear brake

The fact that opposite corners have developed a problem also doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me

Perhaps there is an issue with the master cylinder . . .


That does not always work.

i already explained that in detail.

Why doesn’t it always work?


No need to be snarky . . . I’m trying to help you. You might want to think about that for a moment

I read your entire discussion, whether you believe me or not

To be brutally honest, I don’t care if you believe me or not

Why have you not yet replaced the brake master, considering you “already explained that in detail” . . . ?

I believe that’s federally mandated for all cars as a safety feature.


don’t draw me into a facebook style popularity contest. read my text. it was truthful. How you take the rest of it I could care less. You should have read the entire post before.

As I explained, in detail, I’m aware the master cylinder is a possibility among others but I don’t understand exactly how it could be the problem and you haven’t said you do either. It’s also he most expensive possibility. It would’t t be very smart to replace the master cylinder and find out it was something like a flex hose that won’t let the fluid flow backward. It’s like a 12 dollar part.

I know a lot about cars to start with. I’m here because this problem has some twists that complicate the diagnosis and I’m looking for people who know more about it than I do. To be brutally honest, that doesn’t appear to be you.

I’m snarky as hell. Live with it.

Your Prism is a Toyota Corolla. If you have drum brakes in the rear, they are adjusted by using the parking brake. Pulling up on the parking brake handle will adjust the rear shoes if needed. If you have rear disk brakes, they are naturally self adjusting just like the fronts.

If you have the diagonal brake system and if you have 4 wheel disk brakes, then I’m pretty sure you do, I would strongly suspect your problem is in the master cylinder.