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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I recently has a brake service done on my Ford Explorer at a local Ford dealer. Because I was still having trouble with my brake pressure after the service, I returned to the dealer. The dealer discovered that the mechanic put coolant flush into the brake system rather than brake fluid. The coolant flush was in the system for six days. They replaced the flush with brake fluid. Could the coolant flush cause damage to the brake system, particularly the rubber seals, that would require repair and/or replacement of the brake parts? The dealer has assured me that the vehicle is safe to drive.
B.P. Sacramento, CA

A. I've never heard of any compatibility tests done on brake fluid and coolant flush but my guess is that they won't work as a mixture and will eventually do damage to your Ford's brake system. Brake hydraulic systems are very convoluted in modern vehicles and I don't think all the coolant flush can be removed from all the devices (ABS, pressure accumulators, etc.) that are part of it. Find out what brand of coolant flush was used and contact its chemical engineering department. Then do the same with the manufacturer of the brake fluid that was used and tell them the same story. Be sure to get all the particulars documented on the dealer's letterhead repair order, too. I hope I'm wrong but I think that you have some big problems coming up. It's bad to have a vehicle that won't start but it's much worse if it won't stop.

Q. We took our 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan with 104,000 miles for routine maintenance this week. We had a radiator flush, an oil change, the wheel bearings packed, a tire rotation, the automatic transmission flushed, the air filter replaced and the PCV valve replaced. The next day, after I drove the car for about 45 minutes, it started leaking coolant profusely. I took it to the same mechanic and was told that the water pump was bad. I think he may have inadvertently done something when he flushed the radiator. The mechanic says he didn't do anything wrong so he won't absorb the cost of replacing the water pump. A couple of years ago, my husband flushed the radiator himself and afterwards, the water pump had to be replaced. He assumed that he had done something wrong. What could be causing this and should the mechanic replace the water pump at no cost to me? We are new to this area and finding a reputable mechanic is a challenge every tine we move (along with doctors, dentists, hair dressers, etc.).
S.G. Virginia Beach, VA

A. I've never been in favor of power-flushes on automotive devices because they sometimes remove the varnishes and other "stuff" that's been sealing up the systems. Brake flushes on older (and not necessarily high-mileage) cars and trucks can sometimes lead to cylinder and caliper seals and cups that leak a short time later. Antifreeze and water mixes (a 50-50 blend) should be changed every couple of years but power-changes can lead to problems like yours. A lot of cooling system problems could be averted it the radiator cap was one of those that have a sacrificial anode attached to them. It would cut down a lot of the system corrosion that occurs. Sorry, but I can't recommend a good hair dresser in Virginia Beach.

Q. I had a 1954 Ford sedan that I bought new and was happy with for several years. It was comfortable and easy to drive and didn't cost a lot to buy. Why can't the car people make cars like that any more? They were great.
J.R. Adventura. FL

A. My best reply is to suggest that you attend the next old car meet that is held in your area and try to get the owner of a car of similar size and weight as your old Ford to let you drive it a bit. Parallel parking on a hot day with no air conditioning will answer your question.


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