Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Jody asks: I read an interesting article of yours posted on lewrockwell.com and saw the link about car questions. Are you familiar with Dodge Grand Caravans eating up brakes? I have a 2009 and the brakes don’t last more than 20k. Usually even the calipers have to be replaced. I do live in the northeast (road salt) and also sometimes tow a boat (1,500 lbs with trailer). I’m wondering if this is normal for these vehicles. Do newer models still do the same thing? I’m considering getting a newer one because I like the features but am spending a lot of money (about $1,200 every 20k miles) on brakes.My mechanic doesn’t have any clear answers.
My reply: Minivans are heavy – and hard on brakes; towing is also very hard on brakes, especially if the vehicle towing hasn’t got upgraded brakes. Overheating can warp rotors and, of course, the pads wear faster when used harder. Do you do a lot of downhill driving? If so, that would account for the rapid wear – though needing new pads (and rotors/calipers) every 20k or so is extreme.
A couple of suggestions:
Consider changing pads from whatever you’ve been using to something heavier-duty/higher-performance. You may notice the brakes don’t “bite” as well initially – but they will bite better as they warm up and they shouldn’t wear as rapidly.
Make sure about the weight of your trailer – and that your van is rated to comfortably handle it. Your van should be able to pull up to 3,500 pounds, assuming it is properly equipped. Make sure that it is. If it isn’t, that could be your problem – rather than the brakes.
Finally, I’d consider another mechanic. Unless you destroyed the brake system, $1,200 for a routine brake job is excessive. Assuming you didn’t wear the pads down to the wear indicators and score (or warp) the rotors, all you ought to need are new pads – which ought to cost a lot less than $1,200.
Please keep me posted!
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