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Old 02-22-2013, 02:59 PM   #1
Saturn9
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2001 L-Series 3.0L Wagon
Dizzy Brakes feel that they do not grip well

Would like some input from the helpful folks here.

The brakes on my 01 saturn lw300 just don't feel like they grip as well as the ones on my other car, a honda.

a relatively large amount of pressure has to be applied. the pads are new, and there seems to be some equivocation as to the benefits of having the rotors resurfaced.

I got a pressure brake-fluid changer which I plan to do as soon as I can find the time <g> but in the mean time wanted to see what some of you have to say about this and what can / should do about it

thx
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:54 PM   #2
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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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Old 02-22-2013, 07:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

I was hoping you would respond - you always seem to have the most considered responses!

Tepid is a good description. and I would suppose that the brakes on this car would be more 'grippy' than my other one - but it appears that its the car, not me.

As to resurfacing, I do not dispute what you say, but having previously checked other sources there was some thought that it was not an automatic change pads and resurface rotors. There were quite a few mentions that it is often something done to line the pockets of the shops, rather than a necessity.

I too notice the activation of ABS is rather often. This past weekend it was annoying in the snow storm I was caught in - I found better results with { and i know one is not supposed to do this } pumping the brakes effecting a better stop response.

Also as you mention, when someone else is driving my car they have remarked about the 'weak' brakes. I am used to it, and always keep several car length between myself and those ahead of me [ you know, so I'm not part of those lovely 5 car crashes ] and know what pressure to apply. Seems odd though that the car is designed that way.

And as this is not my first Saturn wagon, I think I'll keep it Last one drowned inadvertently in a hellatious down pour we had a few years back, water was too deep and no where for me to go. The engine apparently does not like to ingest water.

Thank you for the reply.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

If you replaced the front brake pads without changing the rotors (there is not normally enough meat left on the rotors to machine them) then this is the start of your problem. The pads wear into the rotors causing them to dish. Just replacing the pads leaves them riding on the outer and inner edges of the rotors. Everything would eventually wear into full contact but in the mean time your brakes are dangerous.

The other side of the issue is that many aftermarket pads do not provide the same stopping power as OEM pads due to different friction material.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:43 AM   #5
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

I usually replace rotors along with pads, but when I did brake service on my L300 for the first time since buying it, the pads were worn so evenly and the rotors in such good shape that I did not. I used AZ's best non-ceramic pads and think that they feel good and stop appropriately for the pedal effort. So, no complaints.
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:09 AM   #6
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

ssicarman,

I have never heard that pads and rotors need to be changed. Mostly it had been you need new pads, you need pads and the rotor is warped so it needs to be resurfaced, and once the rotors were so worn that they needed to be replaced.

But never that they are changed simultaneously. I guess every car is different.

Does your saturn l have soft or grippy brakes, as described by myself and fdryer?
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Old 02-23-2013, 12:24 PM   #7
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

Unfortunately, parts of our brake systems are not as robust as parts from yesteryears brakes. When I serviced my front brakes for the first time my initial mike measurements of rotor thickness showed less than 2-3mm material left for resurfacing. While I had time to consider the choices (resurface or replace) I decided it wasn't worth resurfacing. If I was on a budget I would find a brake shop to machine rotors. Replacement rotors @$25 each seemed for me the way to go. While there is controversy about foreign made brake parts, the reality is that they meet OEM specifications. 25k miles on these inexpensive rotors without issues, period.

Mike your rotors to determine whether they can be resurfaced or replaced.
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Old 02-23-2013, 12:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

I have a L200 and a 2010 Toyota Corolla. The Toyota's brakes start to grip within 1cm of pedal press, the Saturn's within 5cm. I've had both on the brake tester during the inspection and neither set of brakes has any kind of problem.

I also completely renewed the Saturn's brakes (everything except the servo!) and found it no better. Thankfully that job needed doing anyway so no money wasted!

I think the Saturn was just designed to have a good bit of pedal travel and that wonderfully spongy feel, which I hate, especially after driving a car which has next to none of either.

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Old 02-23-2013, 06:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

I generally get wear from 2 sets of pads from a set of rotors. I do not resurface. I replace them when warped or under the minimum thickness. Note that the FSM does not endorse resurfacing brake rotors. New pads quickly conform to lightly ridged rotors, in the first few stops of the burnishing process. The lack of bite here is likely due to worn/aged brake pads, old brake fluid, air, grease/oil contamination, or a failed brake booster, or (my bet) all or most of these. The L-Series I have both have excellent brakes that start to grab with nearly zero pedal travel and braking increases linearly with pedal force. It should be possible to either lock all 4 wheels or activate ABS if you have it with moderately hard brake pressure.

Note- these cars are getting to the age where brake line failure is possible. Another possibility to the list above is a worn master cylinder. I change my brake fluid annually, as this is a requirement of my car club prior to allowing track use.
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Old 02-24-2013, 03:06 AM   #10
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Default Re: Brakes feel that they do not grip well

Quote:
Originally Posted by born again View Post
I generally get wear from 2 sets of pads from a set of rotors. I do not resurface. I replace them when warped or under the minimum thickness. Note that the FSM does not endorse resurfacing brake rotors. New pads quickly conform to lightly ridged rotors, in the first few stops of the burnishing process. The lack of bite here is likely due to worn/aged brake pads, old brake fluid, air, grease/oil contamination, or a failed brake booster, or (my bet) all or most of these. The L-Series I have both have excellent brakes that start to grab with nearly zero pedal travel and braking increases linearly with pedal force. It should be possible to either lock all 4 wheels or activate ABS if you have it with moderately hard brake pressure.

Note- these cars are getting to the age where brake line failure is possible. Another possibility to the list above is a worn master cylinder. I change my brake fluid annually, as this is a requirement of my car club prior to allowing track use.
Please get your brake lines checked: After I replaced my rotors and pads, the extra thickness seemed to add pressure and out went my brake line. Most of my lines are severely corroded, and about to burst and leak throughout. I live on a tight budget and consider the risks but be aware the treatment on our brake lines does not last forever...I bought the cheapest pads/rotors at Autozone and while they work fine, there is considerable pedal travel. I wouldn't tow with my car, but it stops fine most of the time.
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