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Strange Brake Failure Which Only Occurs Once Every 1-2 Months

We have a 2011 Dodge Caravan. There is a strange brake failure problem that only occurs once every 1-2 month. When the problem occurs, there is no resistance when we push the brake (the feeling is like pushing the gas pedal) and the car does not decelerate at all. We have to push the brake multiple times and we could hear the sound like pumping air. After that, the brake works normally again for another 1-2 months. Both my wife and I have experienced this failure multiple times so we are sure this is not the driver’ fault.

We brought the car to Dodge dealer multiple times. The first and second time, they said that they could not find any problem. The third time, they replaced the master cylinder for brakes for about $900. One week later, the problem occurred again. This time, they said that the problem was hydraulic control unit and one door of the unit does not work properly. The repair cost will be another $700.

Do you think that this is really the root course of the problem? Is it worth to do another repair? Or we’d better just sell the car? Thanks,

There’s supposedly an internal case study at Chrysler for your year/make/model which does indicate that the HCU can cause brake failure of the type you’re experiencing.

The diagnostic tell is (assuming the system was properly bled when the master cylinder was replaced) if there’s air in the left front caliper while the other calipers are fine. Did they say anything about doing this diagnosis?

No, the dealer did not mention this at all. They said there were two problems:

  1. Master Cylinder Problem which they fixed
  2. Hydraulic control unit door for right-rear brake.

See, it’s the “door” thing that’s getting me. Unless Chrysler has some weird internal language to refer to valves, an ABS hydraulic unit should not have “doors.”

I can only talk with their Maintenance Representative who is just a salesman. He then communicates with the technician who checks our car. I really wants to speak the technician directly to figure it out.

This is a serious safety concern and I would recommend you park this until its fixed. Have the dealer do the HCU unit replacement for $700 but tell them that they owe you $900 for fixing something that obviously wasn’t broken, net $200 back to you. Or just call it even if they eat the cost of the $700 HCU.

Don’t let them talk you into trading it in on a new van with a “special deal” just for you because of the problems with this van.

Maybe stop buying Dodge/Chrysler products?


Try another dealership. This one has a problem with comunicating with the customer…


Thanks for your suggestions.

Thanks. I agree with you that we should try another dealer.

I expect the problem is actually that hcu. But here’s some other ideas if that doesn’t pan out

  • Brakes are intermittently sticking on, getting hot, and boiling the brake fluid. Check the temperature of the wheels when this happens. Are any really hot?
  • Something is interfering with one of the calipers, caused by a faulty wheel bearing, suspension component, steering component, etc. Does this seem to occur more often after sharp turns?