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Old 07-10-2016
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Icon5 Both front brakes dragging

(1994 Ranger 2.3L 5 speed 4x2 Long Bed)

I took my Ranger for about a 20 mile ride Friday afternoon, about half way there I could feel something dragging, then a strong pull to the right developed. When I got where I was going both front wheels were super hot and I could smell brake pads burning.
I let it cool down a bit, then I pulled both front wheels and checked the calipers, I was able to compress both calipers with a pair of channel lock pliers and the pads are only about 20% worn. The slides, pads, and brake hoses were new two years ago or about 3,000 or so miles ago.

Both calipers moved freely and I coated the slides and pins with Never Seize compound.

On the way home, they did it again. Keep in mind the drive home included only two stops, the calipers seemed to be tightening as I drove.

When I got home, both front wheels were hot again. I backed into the driveway and I could hear something break free as I backed up the first few feet. After backing into the driveway, I stepped really hard down on the pedal and the pedal felt fine but after planting the brakes down hard, the truck would not move. No amount of prying with the wheels off would release the calipers. I used a huge bar and pried them free of the rotors, then took a 6" C clamp and again, I was able to compress the calipers fine.
I put it back together and ordered new front brake calipers, pads, rotors, bearings, hoses, and a master cylinder.

This morning I went out to move the truck, and the brakes are fine, I took it for a ride and no issues at all over a 30 mile ride. It wasn't quite a hot today as on Friday but it was still over 90 outside.

The truck sits a lot but it sits inside, its got about 55,000 miles on it and the under carriage is clean with no rust. It still looks good for a 22 year old truck. The brake issue came up all at once, and seems to have vanished just as fast?
When the brakes were last done, about two years ago, the fluid was flushed, and the calipers were reused since they looked like new. It got new slides, and new pads and has been 3000 or so miles since.
The calipers have the original phenolic pistons.

I can't for the life of me figure out how the brakes could have tightened up just while driving? The fluid is clean, the calipers seem fine, and the slides are clean and lubed. The pads on the truck now are original equipment, they were bought when the truck was new so I'd have a few OEM sets for future use, the same for the brake shoes in the rear. I have four sets of each in factory Ford boxes. (I did this for all my cars and trucks after not having very satisfactory results from aftermarket pads on my 1990 Town Car.
When driving the truck, it stops fine, the pedal feel and travel is normal with no pulsation or noise. I tried stepping down hard on the brakes both cold and warm today and had no issues.
When the brakes were dragging, I had proper free play at the pedal and the pedal felt fine, it didn't seem like a master cylinder issue, and the fact that it released after backing up a few feet has me puzzled. It wouldn't release in reverse the first time it did it, but did the last time.


Any ideas?
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Old 07-10-2016
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How old are the rotors and calipers you're currently using?

I honestly have absolutely no idea what would cause such a problem, but I'll throw two things out there. For something like this to happen, it would seem logical that something, somewhere, is applying pressure on the braking system. Does your Ranger have ANY kind of anti lock brake system on it?

Something I'll throw out there, cars and trucks alike do not like sitting. Cars that sit fall apart. Id be willing to speculate that the guys at Ford didn't plan on it only having 55k on it after 22 years.

Suppose I should elaborate on the antilock theory I have, huh?

Of course, the whole point of the antilock system is to prevent the brakes from locking up during extreme braking by modulating the pressure to a given caliper/drum by reading the wheel speeds and acting accordingly.

Given this unit has the power to mess with your braking system, it serves to reason that if something is shorting out or whatever is going on (going on the assumption your Ranger is equipped with ABS) it could think that you're either applying the brakes or one of the wheels isn't turning when it really is.

Granted I'm comparing apples to oranges here but, bear with me for sake of example. My mother used to own a 2003 Buick Rendezvous, which was equipped with ABS. During turns, when braking was used, it would often activate the ABS module even on dry pavement, making it very difficult to stop/slow the vehicle. The culprit? Bad signal wires. The wheel speed sensors would lose their connection making the computer think one of the wheels locked up.

However, in the case of our beloved Ford Rangers, when something goes wrong in the ABS system, it's supposed to disable itself, store a code, and wait until you fix the problem before coming back, like in the case of my 1999.

However, your ranger is a 1994. This makes any and all diagnosis much more difficult, outside of visual inspections. In 1996, OBDII became the standard for all vehicles in the united states. With that, you could look at live data and all that. Of course, pre-96, things worked a lot differently, but I digress. Hopefully you see where I'm going here.
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Old 07-19-2016
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The problem seems to have gone away as mysteriously as it appeared, I bought new rotors, pads, calipers, and hoses for it but the one's on it are only a two years old at best. The day it did it the outside temp was near 100, the pedal felt 'crunchy' as if the calipers were crushing chalk or something. I stepped down hard on the pedal to 'test' the brakes before leaving for home and they locked up and wouldn't release. I jacked it up, cracked the hoses and found no pressure, I then pried the calipers off and used a huge pair of channel lock pliers to compress the pistons, they went back in with normal pressure.
I sanded the slide surfaces with sandpaper, lubed the pins up with never seize compound and made sure the pads weren't stuck in anyway. (The pads have at least 90% remaining.
The wheel bearings are properly adjusted as well with no free play.

I put it all back together and headed home, about four miles down the road, after the first turn, the front brakes again started to drag, by the time I got home, I was having trouble getting the truck to move at all. When I pulled up to my drive, I could smell the brakes. When I went to back down the driveway, it wouldn't move at first then all at once I heard a pop sound and they freed up and the truck would roll fine?
I've been driving it since with no issues?
The caliper slides are not rusty, they are not worn in anyway, the calipers are clean and since they have phenolic pistons I doubt they're rusted or stuck.

The only ABS is Rear ABS, which really can't affect the front brake system.
The RABS seems to work fine. I've since tried several times to make the calipers stick again but the issue seems to be gone???

I've owned this thing since new, other than a broken rear brake spring about 15 years ago the brakes haven't ever caused an issue.

In fact, I just got back from a 34 mile drive with the truck and there was no sign of the issue at all. But its also not nearly as hot as it was the day it acted up.
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Old 07-19-2016
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The RABS system in the 1994 consists of a module, rear axle speed sensor, and a RABS valve which sort of recirculates or bypasses fluid to prevent rear wheel lockup. There is no pump that can create pressure.
This system does away with the older proportioning valve, the front brakes are directly applied by the master cylinder. Fluid flow is from the front portion of the master cylinder to the steel lines, to the rubber brake hoses, then into the calipers.
It could have been that the master cylinder somehow was staying applied, only on the front portion somehow but in 35 years of working on Ford trucks I've not had that happen.
There is normal free play in the pedal, and the pedal feels normal. When the problem occurred, the brakes felt chalky so to speak when I applied maximum pressure. The fluid is clear and clean as well and filled to the fill line in the resovoir.
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Old 07-19-2016
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Well, that blows my theory out of the water. Unfortunately I've got nothing else I can offer, other than the temperature itself may be the issue. Why, idk. Considering the potential of this problem, I would advise seeking a mechanic or ford dealership.

I only say that, because considering what may happen, and also a fresh pair of eyes on the subject can reveal the problem, or at least offer some insight.
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Old 07-19-2016
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A tech rep at a local dealer said maybe the fluid was expanding and applying pressure but it was bled out when the hoses were changed within two years. Its clean and clear fluid. Another theory is that the front piston of the master wasn't returning all the way while the rear piston did. With that thought in mind I changed the master cylinder today just in case. Only time will tell. Either way I've got double of at least every part on this truck on the shelf. I bought out a company a few years ago that ran a few dozen of these trucks that had lots of spare parts left over.

By the way, my Ranger isn't the only older Ford with low mileage, my 86 F150 has only 72,000 miles, my 2003 F350 diesel has only 12,200 on it, my 2000 Explorer has only 56,000 miles, my 2001 Crown Vic has only 52,000 miles, 4,800 miles on a 2005 Grand Marquis and I've got only 8,100 on my 2003 Town Car. I just sold a 1990 LTD wagon with 88,000 miles and a 2010 F150 with 67,000 miles. I'm looking for a replacement for the F150 but haven't decided what to buy next. Basically, when I find a vehicle I like that's reliable, I'll most likely die with it. If it give me grief or I don't like the vehicle for some reason, it gets sold. I also let them go before they hit 100K.
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