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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 05 E currently has just under 35K and still under "Honda Certified" Warranty.
Here're the symptoms:
- brake pedal is low/soft when the car is cold; gets high/hard after 15 min of driving;
- gas mileage is down to 15mpg from 21-22mph city-highway mix;
- steering wheel vibration at 50+mph, noise under the hood;
- brakes are hot;
- needs more pressure on gas to move;
- wheels hard to spin if lifted immediately after the ride; then cools down and ok;

Went to dealer ( under the impression that brake booster or master cylinder would be covered under the warranty).

#1 Charged $89 for forced balancing ( vibration was first noticed ) even after I told that balancing was done 10 days ago.
Claims that balancing resolved vibration issue ( not true ) and wants $109/hour for further diagnostics.

#2 Advised to replace front pads ( sure original pads are wearing out fast because of dragging ) and clean and lube calipers.
Cleaning and lubing calipers sounds like a good idea ( dealer wanted $300 for it ) but why would all calipers get stuck at the same time ( no pulling to the side noticed ). Also how stuck calipers would explain change in brake pedal feel from soft to very hard after 15min ride ?

Unfortunately I don't have skills or tools to do anything myself.

Any advise on how to deal with this would be greatly appreciated.
 

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yuryc,

It certainly sounds as though you have some dragging brake problems because of three things you said:

1. My mileage is down to 15mpg
2. My engine is working very hard (it takes more pedal to get up to speed)
3. My brakes are hot

Dragging brakes have many cause factors such as a malfunctioning master cylinder, sticking calipers, faulty brake booster, misadjusted parking brake, etc.
You should take this vehicle to a reputable Honda Service facilty and get it fixed right away. It is hard to believe this is a certified vehicle.

Jackson
 

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.... Also how stuck calipers would explain change in brake pedal feel from soft to very hard after 15min ride ?

Unfortunately I don't have skills or tools to do anything myself.

Any advise on how to deal with this would be greatly appreciated.
1st....you do have skills....seems like you've done a good evaluation so far.

2. Go look at the brake fluid. It should be nice a clear. If its dirty looking, or you want to check for sure, you can get "test strips" for brake fluid from a quality auto parts place.

I suspect you've got some sort of fluid contamination, causing swelling of the rubber components in your brake system. The swelling makes the pedal hard and causes the dragging. The dragging causes the brakes to heat up and wear. This also causes warped rotors, which is the likely source of the vibration.

If the fluid is contaminated, go have it professionally fixed...at a different place. Then demand your service mony back from the first place that missed it.

Re: Fluid

It should be replaced every 3 years acording to Honda. (2-3 years imho.) Yours is/was due anyway. Was yours ever replaced? Had you had any other service done lately? You mention balancing done previously....maybe a discount tire and lube place?

There have been 2 (as best I can recall) reports of contaminated brake fluid here on the EOC. Both low mileage cars, from '06 or so.

Good luck.

Will
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you fellow E owners

2. Go look at the brake fluid. It should be nice a clear. If its dirty looking, or you want to check for sure, you can get "test strips" for brake fluid from a quality auto parts place.

I suspect you've got some sort of fluid contamination, causing swelling of the rubber components in your brake system. The swelling makes the pedal hard and causes the dragging. The dragging causes the brakes to heat up and wear. This also causes warped rotors, which is the likely source of the vibration.

If the fluid is contaminated, go have it professionally fixed...at a different place. Then demand your service mony back from the first place that missed it.

Re: Fluid

It should be replaced every 3 years acording to Honda. (2-3 years imho.) Yours is/was due anyway. Was yours ever replaced? Had you had any other service done lately? You mention balancing done previously....maybe a discount tire and lube place?

There have been 2 (as best I can recall) reports of contaminated brake fluid here on the EOC. Both low mileage cars, from '06 or so.

Good luck.

Will
Fluid looks clean, was not replaced ( I couldn't find the replacement interval in my Service booklet) . No recent brake job. I don't think fluid contamination is an issue here.
First balancing was done in an attempt to cure vibration on the highway speeds issue.

How do I explain brake pedal changing from low/soft to high/hard ? Hydraulics malfunction ?
 

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Fluid looks clean, was not replaced ( I couldn't find the replacement interval in my Service booklet) . No recent brake job. I don't think fluid contamination is an issue here.
Fine....not contaminated....replace it anyway. 3 years is the recomended interval. Your '05 model is 3 years old, you purchased it 2 years ago....I doubt it was done in the first year of ownership.

It is normal preventative maintenance, and if your situation improves after a bleeding, you've found your source. If not....it needed to be done anyway.
 

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Without looking at the vehicle, most vibrations at highway speeds are a wheel balance issue. Front drive axles or a binding propeller shaft universal could also be a culprit, but your Element is fairly new and all things being normal, it would be unlikely for them to go bad this quick. Also, most prop shaft vibrations I've seen at work are bad at city speeds or they make noise before they vibrate.

While the new "Road Force Balancing" machines are nice and fancy, my dealership still uses the regular electronic dynamic balancer which spins the wheel and gives you a digital readout of where to place the weights and how much. To my recollection, we are able to resolve 99.99% of our "vibration at highway speeds" complaints. I used the Hunter Road Force balancing machine at school and while it did appear to work well, I found it to be a bit overkill and another way so companies to make money. I didn't take physics in high school, but what I did learn at Honda Tech school is dynamic balancing is dynamic balancing plain and simple IMO. All things being equal, if the weight distribution is evened out around the wheel/tire combo both radially and laterally, it should not vibrate.

As for your brakes, when if at all was the last brake service performed? I see it a lot at work...vehicles come in where the pads are stuck in the caliper brackets and they can't move freely. When the brakes are applied they stay pressed against the rotor or apply unevenly, causing drag. Also, the sliders could be stuck or in need of lubricant as well which would not allow proper operation of the caliper. Not sure how much other dealerships charge for the work, but I know that you should ensure the brakes are serviced PROPERLY and THOROUGHLY before you begin to start looking to other areas and paying for diagnosis. You'd hate to start replacing parts if all you needed was a thorough brake service. And if the service doesn't fix it, then you have eliminated one item from both the diagnosis checklist as well as your recommended maintenance schedule.
 

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Just an opinion-

Honda uses a very straightforward brake design on the Element.

Any competent automotive technician can service the calipers, etc., so find a good independent shop to do the work and save some serious $$$ vs. the dealer.

Some issues need specific training and equipment only available at a dealership service department or Honda specialty shop- hydraulic brakes are not one of those.
 

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---it seems like most brake problems are being reported from snow areas----other than fluid contamination(diff issue), could road salt be hanging the caliper sliders up?---wa-da-think RD?:confused:
 

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Just an opinion-

Honda uses a very straightforward brake design on the Element.

Any competent automotive technician can service the calipers, etc., so find a good independent shop to do the work and save some serious $$$ vs. the dealer.

Some issues need specific training and equipment only available at a dealership service department or Honda specialty shop- hydraulic brakes are not one of those.
True, but the problem with a lot of independent shops is the trial and error you go through until you find one that DOES know what they are doing. And by that time, how many butchers have worked on your vehicle and at what cost?

Hondas are not hard to work on, however there is quite a bit of benefit to having a trained technician who knows about the vehicle work on it as opposed to a general service mechanic who may not see the same vehicle twice in one day. Honda has a GREAT support system for their technicians and you'd be hard pressed to be a Honda tech and NOT find something that Honda has put out to help you troubleshoot and diagnose a problem. Yes, a lot of it is common sense and knowing general repair theory, but between service bulletins, Shop Talk technical articles (like HSB/TSB's but they are not part of recall or warranty protocol) and the troubleshooting procedures they provide us as technicians, any good and honest dealership SHOULD be able to fix your car right the first time.

Not lashing out at anyone here, but it bugs me when people knock dealerships. Yes I work at one and yes I am proud to say I do and very much enjoy the work I do. Mind you, my work is a small shop (four techs including myself) and our city has a somewhat small but close-knit population (43,000) so it's like having your car worked on by friends or family.

---it seems like most brake problems are being reported from snow areas----other than fluid contamination(diff issue), could road salt be hanging the caliper sliders up?---wa-da-think RD?:confused:
I think that has A LOT to do with it hotrodder, especially areas which use a significant amount of road salt or sand. Driving the vehicle in any sort of moist conditions will eventually cause brake issues from water penetration and/or rust buildup, but I know areas which use salt in winter accelerate the condition exponentially.

Rear brakes by nature and design take the most abuse of the two braking systems. If you think about it, all the road brine and debris gets stirred up by the front wheels and where does it go? To the back. I have seen vehicles come through my shop with front brakes that were fine but rear brakes that were all but completely seized.
 

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Could you tell me what is the best DIY procedure for replacing the brake fluid? I'm always concerned with disturbing the ABS function. Also, the threads I've found suggest Honda OEM Fluid (I assume is DOT 4?)
 

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The best DIY procedure to change the fluid is still the two-person method. Basically, you want to suck as much fluid as possible out of the master cylinder with a turkey baster (don't let it go below the intake port on the m/c), clean the screen with brake parts cleaner if needed, then refill it with fresh fluid. Then, bleed the brakes using the two-person method (one person in the car pressing on the pedal, the other at the caliper/wheel cylinder opening and closing the bleeder screw). Once you have ensured that fresh fluid is in the lines (it will be clean coming out of the bleeder), then suck out the fluid again from the master cylinder with your turkey baster and refill with clean fluid and you're done.

There are new pressure bleeders, vacuum bleeders as well as DIY speed bleeders (like a one-way spring loaded bleeder screw which allow you to bleed your brakes yourself) but the first two require clean and dry compressed air whereas the third might not work well if used improperly. IMO the two-person method is still the easiest and most thorough by far, although it is probably the most time-consuming.

I'd have to check what is the proper sequence for an Element but most of the Hondas with the diagonal split brake system go farthest to closest starting with:

  1. RIGHT REAR
  2. LEFT FRONT
  3. LEFT REAR
  4. RIGHT FRONT
 

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Could you tell me what is the best DIY procedure for replacing the brake fluid? I'm always concerned with disturbing the ABS function. Also, the threads I've found suggest Honda OEM Fluid (I assume is DOT 4?)
DOT 3--do not-repeat do not use DOT 4 in your E.
 

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I've siphoned out most of my old fluid and replaced it with fresh Honda DOT 3. Hopefully I can get my wife to help me bleed the system on her next (nice) weekend off.
 

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Thanks Gen X & loco, that is the same way we did it in the old days. I will do it that way and with DOT 3. Again, is the ABS system O.K. with this method? Thanks a bunch, R.K..
 

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Blackstone Labs tests brake fluid for water and petroleum product (P.S. fluid, motor oil, etc.) contamination. Do a Google search. They are easy to find. They will send you a container that you can ship via US mail. The cost for brake fluid tests is $48. I have used these guys for my investigations for trans fluid and motor oil analysis.

IF you need proof weather or not your brake fluid is contaminated, use these guys. Otherwise just flush the system and eliminate the possibility. Like it had been said, your E is due for the service, anyway.
 

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DOT 3--do not-repeat do not use DOT 4 in your E.
DOT4 is okay to use in Honda braking systems, it simply has higher dry and wet boiling points. So long as it is the same ehtyl glycol-based formulation of regular Honda DOT3, your brakes will be okay. Do you absolutely NEED a DOT4 brake fluid with higher temperature ratings? Probably not. The Honda DOT3 will be more than fine for street use. But if you do heavy driving, a lot of towing or just want a fluid to withstand higher temps, DOT4 is okay to use. It's the silicone-based purple DOT5 fluid you want to steer far and clear of.

I have a '95 Civic which I am building for street/track use and my friend has a 2001 Civic sedan with a K20A2 RSX Type-S engine swap which he tracks as well and we both run ATE Super Blue DOT4 fluid. I ran 40 laps of a small but quick track (lots of turns, quick acceleration and hard braking) and I had a firm and full pedal all day long. That would never have happened with the Honda DOT3 and I know this because our friend also came out with his '01 Civic coupe and he runs the Honda fluid (it is serviced at my work). Faded his brakes after only a few sessions.

Thanks Gen X & loco, that is the same way we did it in the old days. I will do it that way and with DOT 3. Again, is the ABS system O.K. with this method? Thanks a bunch, R.K..
Just make sure you bleed the proper sequence and you should be okay. In most cases, to bleed the ABS system you need to cycle the pump which requires a scan tool. But if you haven't replaced your ABS modulator/pump unit or opened up any of the lines from it and exposed them to the air, then you'll be fine to flush the regular lines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
update

My 05 E currently has just under 35K and still under "Honda Certified" Warranty.
Here're the symptoms:
- brake pedal is low/soft when the car is cold; gets high/hard after 15 min of driving;
- gas mileage is down to 15mpg from 21-22mph city-highway mix;
- steering wheel vibration at 50+mph, noise under the hood;
- brakes are hot;
- needs more pressure on gas to move;
- wheels hard to spin if lifted immediately after the ride; then cools down and ok;

Went to dealer ( under the impression that brake booster or master cylinder would be covered under the warranty).

#1 Charged $89 for forced balancing ( vibration was first noticed ) even after I told that balancing was done 10 days ago.
Claims that balancing resolved vibration issue ( not true ) and wants $109/hour for further diagnostics.

#2 Advised to replace front pads ( sure original pads are wearing out fast because of dragging ) and clean and lube calipers.
Cleaning and lubing calipers sounds like a good idea ( dealer wanted $300 for it ) but why would all calipers get stuck at the same time ( no pulling to the side noticed ). Also how stuck calipers would explain change in brake pedal feel from soft to very hard after 15min ride ?

Unfortunately I don't have skills or tools to do anything myself.

Any advise on how to deal with this would be greatly appreciated.
Just wanted to post an update.
Went to an independent mechanic and he told me that all calipers are frozen/stuck ( never seen it ). Can't roll it on neutral.
He did:
- replaced front and rear pads;
- replaced front rotors;
- replaced brake fluid;
- serviced calipers;
AND
- put washers between brake booster and master cylinder, creating a small gap between them. When I asked to explain this he said that he can't explain but he's done it before ( on other makes/models ) and it helped.

Did he essentially "adjusted" push rod ?
E seems to run better. No more dragging.
Thank you fellow E owners for your support.

Over last few weeks I've read on this Forum a lot about all kind of troubles E owners are having with brakes and no real solutions. It's all sounds like a design issue to me.
 

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Just wanted to post an update.
Went to an independent mechanic and he told me that all calipers are frozen/stuck ( never seen it ). Can't roll it on neutral.
He did:
- replaced front and rear pads;
- replaced front rotors;
- replaced brake fluid;
- serviced calipers;
AND
- put washers between brake booster and master cylinder, creating a small gap between them. When I asked to explain this he said that he can't explain but he's done it before ( on other makes/models ) and it helped.

Did he essentially "adjusted" push rod ?
E seems to run better. No more dragging.
Thank you fellow E owners for your support.

Over last few weeks I've read on this Forum a lot about all kind of troubles E owners are having with brakes and no real solutions. It's all sounds like a design issue to me.
So basically he replaced parts and serviced everything else. Alot of the time a good servicing is all that's needed so long as you have ruled out seized calipers or collapsed lines.

Also, by spacing out the master cylinder from the booster I would think he has pretty much performed the equvalent to a pushrod adjustment. And my question is why can't he explain it to you? If I can explain hard starting due to high volatilty winter fuel still being in the gas tank on a very unseasonably warm winter day to a lady customer who doesn't know anything about cars, he should be able to explain to you the reason for his modification.

Hard to tell in all that work he did what really ended up fixing the problem since he replaced and/or services almost everything.
 
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