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Old 08-29-2013, 09:28 PM   #1
TravelerL300
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Default 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

I am going to replace brake pads, rotors, calipers and brake hardware on my 2001 L300 this weekend. When I go to purchase calipers, I find that two different kinds are offered. There is the caliper with phenolic (non-metallic) pistons and the one with metal pistons.

Since I purchased this car used, I don't know which type was the original equipment. I would like to use original equipment products. So far, I bought Wagner semi-metallic pads and Wagner rotors.

Which calipers were original equipment for this car? Thanks for the help.
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:14 PM   #2
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

Good question!? I didn't know there were two materials used for pistons. I do not know which is original. One site's info does explain it;

Are steel pistons better than phenolic, which are plastic?

Phenolic pistons have an advantage over steel pistons;
  • Phenolic pistons do not rust
  • Phenolic pistons maintain original size regardless of age. They are not affected by heat or moisture in the brake system
  • Phenolic pistons do not transfer heat to the brake fluid
  • Phenolic pistons are lighter than steel
  • Phenolic pistons are fuel efficient and noise dampening
...
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:35 PM   #3
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravelerL300 View Post
I am going to replace brake pads, rotors, calipers and brake hardware on my 2001 L300 this weekend.
I've used Wagner's Thermoquiet line of pads twice on my car and am very happy with them. I would recommend against using their price line set of pads (QuickStop, or ProSolution). What has happened to the calipers which warrants their replacement?
...
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

The OEM calipers have steel pistons, but that doesn't mean you have to stay with steel, and the phenolic pistons seem to offer some advantages.
...
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"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies."

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Old 08-30-2013, 12:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

Thanks for all responses.

The car is in very good condition but it sat for a long time before I bought it. The piston seals are cracked and one of the bushings popped out when I removed the caliper. I would just rebuild the caliper but for a few more dollars, I prefer to just put everything back new.

S3, how did you confirm the OE piston caliper material? I couldn't find this info anywhere.
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Old 08-30-2013, 07:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

I go with the 'if it's cheap then it's on our cars' rule. So figure out the price of Phen Vs Steel and you'll have your answer!

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Old 08-30-2013, 07:58 PM   #7
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

^ ^ ^ ^...........
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:08 PM   #8
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

Happy someone questioned this. I was never able to figure it out the why and what of it all, but after seeing some advantages, I think I know what I will go with the time comes to change... and it may be soon
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:14 PM   #9
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

Well, I ended up buying the calipers with phenolic pistons. I believe that phenolic was the original material but I'm not sure. I called a Chevrolet dealer, gave him my VIN and asked the question. He said that he had no way to confirm. All he could do was quote me a price of $360 each with a delivery time of five days! Mercy!!

I like to buy my parts at O'Reilly Auto and I paid $59.99 each with a $25 refundable core charge and lifetime warranty. They say I can wear the parts out over the next several years and return them for free replacements. I don't even need to keep my receipt because they have my name and phone number on file. I'm keeping my receipts any way.

The metal piston calipers were $69.99 for the left rear and $82.99 for the right rear. That's the Saab/Saturn asymetrical design. The phenolics cost a bit less money but it's not enough to break the deal when it comes to something as important as brakes. Every other vehicle I have owned were full sized cars and trucks and they had metal caliper pistons. Being built for fuel efficiency and light weight, I think the Saturn probably came with phenolic brake caliper pistons.

The other reason I think so is because the metal versions were special order at most stores I checked while the phenolics were in stock.

Another reason is that I found that Wagner and Bosch were the OE supplier of brake systems to this car. Wagner offers only the phenolic version in a loaded caliper, that is, a caliper with brake pads pre-installed.

Alas, I will install the phenolic units, the only difference being the piston material. The iron casting and seals are the same in each case. I might see some improvement in corrosion resistance but some say the phenolics don't last as long in a car that does heavy towing, racing and other abusive driving scenarios. I can believe that but this car is just a gas-saving commuter so I expect good results with with phenolic.

If there are any issues, I can return them under the lifetime warranty. I will report my findings after doing the installation this weekend and I will update this thread if any problems surface later.
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Old 08-31-2013, 12:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2001 Saturn L300 Rear Brake Calipers - Phenolic or Metal?

Nice work TravelerL300!
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