Bad caliper

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Main Forum' started by marjorieflowers, Nov 14, 2017 at 12:14 AM.

  1. marjorieflowers

    marjorieflowers Junior Member

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    Hi -- it's been a very long time since I've been here. I had a 2007 Prius and then several others before buying my Prius in 3015. My mileage is terrible -- 39.9mpg. I've gotten just over 40 mpg only five or so times since I bought the car new in 2015. I've taken it to two different dealers and called Toyota. I've been told the problem was the way I drive (never had this problem with my 2007 Prius), the kind of gas I'm using (They told me only to buy name-brand gas, didn't help), that it wasn't broken in (It has around 20,000 miles), etc. Basically, no one has been able to give me an answer that makes any sense. Today, the Toyota mechanic told be that my mileage was pretty normal. I might have slugged him if I hadn't been so busy thanking my lucky stars toe alive.

    Which brings me to the real issue I signed in tonight.......

    I was driving today to another town -- I was about 15 miles from home -- when the red BRAKE light and the yellow ABS lights came on. The brakes suddenly felt a bit weird, but I frankly wasn't sure that it wasn't my imagination. I pulled into a parking lot and I checked the manual, and then I called the service department at the Toyota dealership. They told me something was going on with the brakes and to bring it in. I was 15 miles out of town in rural Indiana, as so I was concerned. I asked if the car was safe to drive, and he said it should be fine -- I just didn't have anti-lock brakes. So I headed back. After about 10 miles, I no longer had any doubt that my brakes were not functioning properly. Once I got back into town, they got steadily worse. By the time I got to the light to turn into the dealership, the only way I could keep my car from rolling was to put both feet on the brakes and exert as much pressure as I possibly could. I've never been so happy and relieved to get out of my car!

    When I spoke to the mechanic, I told him I had no brakes. Clearly I was shaken, but by no means hysterical. He was very dismissive and said he was sure it wasn't too bad. After half an hour, he approached me in the waiting room. He said, "You have a SERIOUS problem -- you have NO brakes!" (Well, duh!). He said he problem was the brake caliper and that I didn't have a drop of brake fluid. They'd have to order a part, but it will be ready tomorrow.

    So here's my question, or rather, questions:

    Is this normal for something to happen to this part in a car that's only two years old?

    Would this be likely to something that happened suddenly, or was this a gradual thing that just reached the tipping point today?

    Might there be any secondary damage from driving the car 15 miles after the light came on?

    Are there any follow-up questions I should ask before I sign for the car tomorrow?

    I appreciate any advice anyone can offer.
     
  2. Elektroingenieur

    Elektroingenieur Active Member

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    No, it’s not normal. It wouldn’t surprise me if Toyota asks the dealer to return the part for failure analysis, though they probably won’t share the results, even with the dealer.

    If the repairs are made at no charge under the warranty, it may be best to consider the matter closed, since the trouble could have been caused by foreign object damage, which wouldn’t normally be covered.

    It won’t do anything for you, directly, but after you’re sure everything has been fixed, you may wish to report the incident to NHTSA. If they receive enough similar complaints, they may open an investigation, which could eventually lead to a recall, if they find that other vehicles are at risk of similar failures.
    I’ll let others comment on this, but if it were just a small leak of brake fluid, I would have expected the red BRAKE warning light to have turned on long before other symptoms were evident.
    The usual secondary damage is from the collision, but fortunately, there wasn’t one, so I wouldn’t think so. Any other problems with the brake system should be found while the dealer is making the repairs and testing their work. It’s clear that they recognize the problem is a serious one.
    Any competent mechanic should do a road test after making a brake repair, but the service advisor shouldn’t be offended if you ask if this has been done. They also should have used the Health Check function of a Toyota Techstream diagnostic system (or equivalent) to confirm that there are no diagnostic trouble codes stored in any of the car’s computers.

    For your records, even if the repair is done at no cost to you, be sure to get a copy of the repair order listing each part that was replaced and its ten-digit or twelve-digit Toyota part number.
    It’s unfortunate that the dealer didn’t give you this advice when you called them, but for future reference, if the red BRAKE warning light comes on and stays on again (with the parking brake released, of course), and you also notice any trouble with braking, stop the car in a safe place, as soon as you can, and have it towed in, rather than taking the risk of further failures while you are driving.
     
    jerrymildred likes this.
  3. marjorieflowers

    marjorieflowers Junior Member

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    Thanks so much. Since it's unusual to have a problem with a caliper this soon, does it make sense to ask if they checked the other one(s)? To me, it seems if one is bad, and they all came from the same place, they all might need attention. But I don't know, and even worse, they know I don't know.

    I've had issues before where they told me the car was fine to drive, and even when I stressed that I would be leaving town, they assured me it was roadworthy. It wasn't.
     
  4. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    certainly, the entire system should be checked visually, and by road test.

    this is a very unusual problem, even for older vehicles. ask if it appeared that any road damage had taken place, or something might have happened before you purchased it new.
     
  5. 5 Speed

    5 Speed Member

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    If one of your calipers was not releasing for some reason and your brakes were always dragging this could cause a drop in mpg, excessive brake wear and eventually brake failure. I had a friend that had a dragging caliper that eventually wore the brake pad on one side until the piston was touching brake rotor and when this happened all the fluid drained out of the piston. I couldn't believe it didn't make sounds that they didn't realize was catastrophic. It can be very easy to diagnose with a simple and quite inexpensive IR temperature meter. After driving a few miles without braking safely coast to a stop and check the brakes at each wheel for excessive heat. I would say if you were careful you could do this with your hand but I am sure someone could end up burning themselves. Dragging brakes generate heat and checking each rotor for excessive temp takes just a second.

    I do agree that how you drive has a major impact on mpg too. When my wife drives my car she always gets 5-6 mpg less then I get but I drive it like a Prius paying attention to the gauge and understanding how to optimize the mpg and my wife just drives it like her camry . How often when you are driving and accelerate does it go out of ECO mode on the gauge? In stop and go traffic do you try and maximize driving in EV mode only?
     
    #5 5 Speed, Nov 14, 2017 at 9:31 AM
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 9:38 AM
  6. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Lapsed Cargo Cultist

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    We've had that same behaviour on our 2010, had it into the dealership to check (more than once), dismiss the lights. It's definitely not just mechanical, it's something in the brake system electronics, a "missed handshake" according to the Service Manager one time.

    There could be a mechanical problem as well, but in our case, just resetting everything with their software, and my discontinuing the use of a Scanguage hooked up to the OBD port, problem did not repeat. Mechanic suspected constant ScanGuage connection to OBD as the culprit.

    Your mention that the brakes feel weird is the smoking gun: when the brake electronics get messed up, the system goes into a default mode (again, according to the Service Manager). They still "work", but effort is noticeably more, and they aren't as responsive, linear.

    Whenever there's warning lights, there should be trouble codes stored.
     
    #6 Mendel Leisk, Nov 14, 2017 at 10:57 AM
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 3:08 PM
  7. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    This is probably checkable by hand for most people old enough to have learned the way hot things feel from a few inches away before actually grabbing them.

    My technique is to scout out a route I know where I'll encounter very little traffic for 10 or 15 minutes of driving, so I won't need to touch the brake, and it ends in a big parking lot that I can swing into using only B to slow down, circling around a bit, shifting into R around 6 or 7 mph and only stabbing the brake at the instant the car is stopped, before it picks up speed backward. Healthy Prius brakes will feel stone cold to the hand after such a test. (Using no brakes to come to the stop is important; even light use of the brakes at the end will mess up the test by leaving the rotors noticeably warm.)

    Just reach for the rotor slowly enough that if it isn't stone cold, you'll feel the warmth hitting your hand before you actually touch it. I suppose some people might have a sensory deficit as to feeling radiant heat, and if you're one of them, maybe more caution is in order.

    I once took an old Ford SUV to the dealer for brake work, and they misadjusted the master cylinder pushrod so all four brakes dragged on the drive home, which I noticed as soon as I got out because I could feel the heat radiating from the wheels through my pant legs as I simply walked past them. I could also see the air shimmering, as it does over a grill.

    I did not reach down and touch those.

    -Chap
     
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