Traveling at Warping Speed
I escaped from my local Ford dealer the day the other day, but sans shirt. The brakes had been acting up for months, a little at first and then a lot. Now, at 90K miles, they were grabbing at one or more spots as the wheels rotated, with too much stopping power alternating with too little. Pretty jerky, though they could still do a firm stop when necessary. But, it was to the point where the rapid vibrations needed to go away. There was no pulsing at the brake pedal, and no wobbling of the steering wheel, but the Mighty Furd is pretty dead in this regard. Feedback is not its strong suit. I’d recently had the wheel lugs reset to spec, using a torque wrench, since I couldn’t break them loose with a star wrench in order to be able to change a tire. Many repair places simply jam them on hard with a pneumatic driver which, at least with drum brakes, can warp the drum and cause the same behavior. It was worth a try. No soap, though. It was just as bad afterward.
I was hoping that the rotors (disks in the above illustration) were warped and could be machined back to a nice, flat shape. No soap on that, either. The dealership vowed that there wasn’t enough rotor thickness left to avoid going below spec on the minimum thickness allowed. As measured, the runout (disk wobbling) was bad, preventing any meaningful correction. I needed four new ones, which cost a pretty penny indeed, and I had them change out the brake fluid as well, which looked unhealthily dark. The pads, still the originals, were fine, which surprised me. Brakes have not been a trouble-free area for M. Furd. I’d had to have the rear calipers replaced quite some time ago due to freezing up and staying engaged, the result of letting the thing sit for weeks at a time over one winter. That promotes corrosion, which jams parts up and the brakes/wheels get pretty hot. Today, I was hoping that the cashier would not notice the tear stains on my cheeks as I swiped my overheated credit card.
What had happened? I wanted to figure that out in order to avoid a repeat at 180K miles. I was stumped, because my sporty car driving days are long gone, and I now drive like an old man in order to keep the bucket rolling. Overheating should not be an issue in this case. I did some research, and found that disk brakes don’t warp, so my old school thinking was out. Hopefully, the runout on the new rotors is better than the originals. Turns out that for the Super Duty, letting it sit for weeks, as I did in its early life over winter as well as when boondocking with the Defiant TT, doesn’t just rust the brake pads into the calipers. It promotes corrosion on the rotor surfaces except where the pads are sitting. Then it more recently sat in Indy over the humid summer months, which may have finished them off. What you eventually get is a rotor with uneven friction surfaces, which comes out as what I had. It’s possible to catch it way early by swapping in semi-metallic pads at the first hint of grabbing, but really, not letting it sit idle for more than a week, and braking a little more aggressively may help me avoid this kind of Service Dept trauma quite so soon. I’d rather be replacing pads than rotors.
At this particular dealership, the sales people are required to chase down and chaperone anyone outside on the property. Doesn’t matter if you are “just looking” or are waiting hours and hours for your car in Service. They cannot leave your side, just in case you have a question or get a sudden, impulsive urge to buy a car right then and there. Their manager beats them soundly if they don’t. For Service customers facing trauma, maybe it’s also to keep you from wandering across the lot to the Chevy dealer next door, to the west. The Toyota dealer to the east is owned by the same guy as where I was at, so they probably don’t care so much when you go out that door. It’s kind of a forced intimacy, and the youngish salesman who followed me out sized me up and asked tentatively, “I…don’t suppose you’re thinking about replacing your truck.” That was a good guess on his part. I wasn’t. I don’t particularly look like an impulse buyer, nor do I look like an elderly version of a player. I don’t look like I have much dough either, truth be told. Short of a major engine failure or the impending signs of doom, the Mighty Furd shall retain the high honor of serving me until the day that it’s better off being dragged out and unceremoniously shot. But its memory shall live on, both in fact and in legend. Oh yes. So, we talked about how great it is to retire and tour the country most of the year, then winter in an RV park in Yuma. Tour here and there. Everywhere. He left after awhile. I couldn’t tell if he was more bored or depressed.