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Old 02-22-2013, 05:54 PM   #2
fdryer
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: NYC
Posts: 43,517
 

2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

Incorrect brake servicing would be slapping on new brake pads/shoes without either replacing rotors/drums or resurfacing them. Poor bedding results from mismatching new pads/shoes to worn rotors/drums. Brake shops do it correctly as they're in business to ensure their work never results in liability issues, aka an accident caused by poor brake service. By not taking any short cuts, a brake shop will repair/resurface/replace any questionable parts so a customer drives out with new brakes and never returns for any reason. Taking the high road in business is one way to success. Not many DIYers understand the concept except to save money and forget safety while taking short cuts.

Resurfacing can be done as long as material is left for machining. All rotors and drums are stamped with dimensions for brake shops to know minimum thicknesses before discarding. Proper brake service requires looking at the whole brake system including brake bleeding. Where DIYers fail to fully understand that there's more to brake service than simply replacing parts. Add ABS misconceptions and many shy away from brake fluid replacement altogether. Ignorance is bliss until something goes wrong.

Personally, when I serviced my L300 for its first brake repair, I chose to replace rotors (front) and pads at the same time. Prior to this I have what I can describe as tepid brakes. Car was bought with 15k miles and needed new pads at 45k miles. I thought the fluid should be replaced and did so. Rear discs and pads were fine and still had many miles to go. Well, after a full brake service and flush the brakes were fine. Still felt tepid but, and here's the important fact, my brakes will activate ABS when needed and when not needed as any imperfections in road surface and light or moderate braking will activate ABS at the right moment even when I wasn't expecting it. Yes, even when I wasn't expecting ABS to activate until I sat down and thought about each ABS incident. It became clear that ABS is working and is standing by all the time while driving to react to braking instantly whether I need it or not. Overall, my brakes are no better or worse before or after brake servicing and corroborated by someone else that has experience with many cars and their braking systems. We came to the conclusion that L300's have tepid brakes but are more than adequate for braking while not as sensitive as other cars. To wit, my sister's Nissan Sentra brakes better, almost slamming me into the windshield if I'm not careful - they're more sensitive than my L300. This isn't to say L300's aren't sensitive as much as they need more leg muscle to brake. It was like this when bought it used and remains this way with 76k miles. I have no doubt as to braking capability as I'm comfortable driving my car at any speed (and then some) and relying on braking to slow down appropriately. Some family members are terrified of my car's braking insensitivity but they don't drive it often and my brakes pass state inspection easily.

If you aren't comfortable with less sensitive brakes like the L300's then change cars or spend money experimenting. I have used OEM pads and ceramics with little change in braking sensitivity. I will not buy slotted/drilled rotors as my car is not for racing and do not stop/jam brakes following behind other cars. While I enjoy higher speeds I feel fine with these brakes.

A complete brake fluid flush and complete brake service including servicing the rears will be the correct way to ensuring your brakes operate as they were designed. There is a possibility that the power vacuum boost unit is sized a little smaller for L300's but I'm not going to buy a replacement or experiment to find out. Other L300 owners may add their comments.

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