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Discussion Starter #1
I'm worried about this. I like my Malibu and I'm not ready to replace it yet. I had another car that would heat up the front brakes, that I could only fix by replacing the car. Another car had the front wheel catch on fire. Don't remember what we did to fix that one. Neither were Chevys.

This is a base Malibu with drum rears and no ABS.

My front pads were worn down to steel. The new pad were thick enough that the caliper had to be fully retracted as far as it could go to fit over the new pads. It took a lot of pressure from a vicegrip type welding clamp to retract the caliper and with pressure on it it retracted too slow to see it move, but it did finally fully retract. Put it together and did about a 6 mile test drive and the left front wheel wheel was smoking. This was not the normal smell of new pads braking in. The thing was near the point where it could burst into flame. The whole steel wheel was hot enough to steam water as it was sprayed on it.

I took it apart to check to see if the pads were somehow binding and saw no problem. The pins the caliper slides on are not sticking. Did another test drive, this time using the brakes as minimally as possible and this time I got home without them heating up. I thought maybe it's okay.

Next day we did a longer drive to get groceries, maybe 16 miles, and we could smell the brakes heating up. We got home with near flames again.

I just installed 2 new calipers and the brakes are still heating up. The new calipers have the complete new mounting bracket and new slider pins. After about 6 miles, using an infrared thermometer, The left front wheel & hub was 238f degrees, the right was 120 something. Used a water hose to cool it again. If the wheel is 238 degrees imagine how hot the brake parts are.

I previously replaced the front pads at 77497, pads & rotors at 117768 with no problem, now at 151000. The last set of pads lasted 33000 miles. I never any dragging or heating before. The left wheels pads were a little more warn than the right as it was the only one down to steel. Both sides pads were pretty much used up. We didn't drive much with steel on steel so I think the rotor damage is minimal.

The calipers did seem difficult to retract. the calipers should have been the problem.
I know bad hoses can cause this, but replacing hoses has never solved anything for me before. Could it be that the new pads are just too thick?

The car can not be used like this. 20 miles and I'd have a fire.
 

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2011 Malibu LTZ 3.6L V6 Red Jewel Tintcoat
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Things that come to my mind, in no particular order of severity:
  • How old is the brake fluid? If it has any moisture or dissolved metals, that could be making things worse.
  • Have the bleeders been exercised? There may be something in the caliper that could be removed with the use of the bleeder.
  • Do the brakes feel spongy in any way? There may be air in one or more lines.
  • Are there little nibs on the back of the pads? They may not be inserted into a hole or slot fully, or may be the wrong size.
  • Were the calipers cleaned, especially where the pads and pistons meet? Any excess material could be an issue.
It's not impossible that the pads are too thick. At the store, ask to see 2 or more brands. Use a caliper to measure the overall thickness, including the metal plate.
 

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DrivenDaily has made some good points that should be considered but do not discount the fact that the brake hose could be deteriorated on the inside and preventing the reverse flow of brake fluid back to the master cylinder allowing the caliper piston to retract. I have seen it first hand. Replacement of the hose requires bleeding of the that brake line. Good luck.

edit: The flexible line is inexpensive. If you are going to change it I suggest spraying the connections/fittings at both ends of the line with penetrating oil the day before. Be careful when undoing the line. You do not want to twist or deform any hardware.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Calipers are new. Actually I have only installed one so far so the left side has new caliper and the right just has new pads. I bled the brakes for the one new caliper. The brake fluid looks fairly clear but the only fresh is the little bit I topped off.
Brakes are not spongy and do stop the car well.
Parts were from Amazon so I can't take the pads back to compare. I'm gonna measure the pad thickness the next time I work on it.

I ordered new hoses and another set of pads from Amazon. I found some cheap enough. I can compare the pads. If the makes it to 180k It will need them again, so it won't be a bad thing to have spares. Pads were only $14.36.
I got 2 other cars to drive, and retired, so I can wait for shipped parts.

There was one other thing. I started to install the wrong side caliper. Saw my mistake. I removed the caliper only, leaving the new bracket in place. Than put the correct side caliper on. The brackets look the same. Everything fit. Now I see different part numbers for the left & right bracket. I'm gonna switch the brackets. The other side is not installed yet. I don't think this is the cause of the problem, but if there are different part numbers they need to be on the correct side. I'll do that today. I'll let you know what I find. Maybe something is interfering with something.

Another thing that came out of the bracket fiasco. The new caliper/ bracket assemblies were sent with the caliper to bracket bolts not tightened. I never would have checked that if I hadn't swapped a caliper off the bracket.

Just took my minivan for groceries & gas. About 12 miles of gentle driving, several stops at intersections, with a couple 20 minute stops. Can't check the wheel temp with the wheel covers on, but the lug nuts are too hot to touch for more than a second or two. The van did a 5200 mile road trip last fall, but it spends a lot of time sitting unless we have a special need for it. I don't know what normal is. Still the Malibu's wheel is getting to a temperature that leaves no doubt that it's too hot.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Okay, correct bracket is swapped in. There's one little nub cast into the brackets that's different on each side. I couldn't see where it's in contact with anything. I inspected the caliper seal to see if it looked burnt. Did a short test drive. Left side was 20 or 30 degrees hotter than the right. I don't want to drive it far enough to let get extremely hot. I gave the brake hose connection and attachments a spray of penetrating oil, on the side that i'm working on.

I'll do some short trips with it until the new parts get here, in case something just needs to wear in.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
New hose is on the left side. The side that been giving me trouble heating up. When I took things apart before not much fluid came out of the caliper end of the hose. Fluid dripped out of the new hose and out of the open bleeder screw. All this suggests the old hose was restricted. With the one man brake bleeder thingy on it the bubbles and fluid flowed out by gravity. I gave the peddle a few pumps to make sure.
After my 6 mile test drive the front wheels were near equal temperature, like 125f to 130f degrees. No burning smell. My infrared thermometer is not very precise.
I gotta drive further before I can say it's fixed. The right side still has the old caliper & hose. I might leave it alone. I was lucky to get that hose off without breaking something. I had to use some heat on the brake line to hose connection.
 

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Arent these calipers the screw type? Meaning you wreck them if you try and compress them? Not 100 % sure though. If they are thougn and you did squash them with vise grips..... probably ruined them.

If not next time open the bleeder screw when compressing them
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Don't know nothin about screw type calipers. Anyway the new calipers installed did not need retracting and the new caliper did not fix the problem.
Now have new pads, calipers & hoses on both sides. Drove about 40 miles today. Left side is still warmer than the right but it's not smokin hot. Maybe it's fixed. I'm just gonna drive for a while and see what happens. I believe the left hose was restricted cus it did not drip fluid when disconnected from the caliper. New hoses did drip. If it's still not fixed, I don't know what else to do. Maybe could bleed the lines again in case there's still some air in it.
Found a bad boot on the right inner tie rod but that's another project
 

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Also to let you know there are different sizes too..... when I did all my brakes recently..... pads rotars calipers ALL required my VIN number To check which parts were needed. Possible you have the wrong ones....or a combo of right and wrong
 
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