2010 Ford Fusion Brake Question
January 23, 2013 8:58 AM   Subscribe

The rear brakes on my 2010 Ford Fusion, which is still under warranty, have worn out in what seems to me like a premature and unusual way. I have included the details inside and would like your opinion on whether this is an issue I should press with the dealership and/or Ford, or whether I should just fix the brakes and move on.

I drive a 2010 Ford Fusion which currently has 34,000 miles on it. I am the car's only owner and I would characterize my driving style as fairly average, perhaps slightly on the gentle side with regards to acceleration and braking. About half of the miles are city driving, and the other half highway/freeway.

Last week, I noticed a grinding noise coming from the left rear side of the car when braking, and an intermittent "scrape scrape scrape scrape" type noise coming from the same area after taking my foot off the brake pedal. Without removing the wheel, I inspected the visible side of the left rear brake disc and noticed that some grooves were starting to be ground into it.

Thinking this was a bit premature, I took the car to the dealer, which told me that both of the rear brakes are down to "metal on metal" and that I need new pads and rotors, as the rotors were "too thin to machine and stay in spec". When asked, they said that this is normal and wanted about $300 to do the work. I declined to have the work done, thinking that I would either do it myself or find a less expensive mechanic to do it for me.

My specific questions are these:

1. Is it normal for brakes on a 2010-vintage sedan to wear out after 34,000 miles?

2. Is it normal for the rear brakes on a car to wear out before the front brakes?

3. Is it normal for brake pads to wear out without giving any warning? I was under the impression that they were supposed to make a squeaking/squealing sound prior to being fully worn down, but did not hear any such noise. I do not play my stereo loudly, and would expect to have heard such a noise if present.

4. Is it normal for rotors to wear out at the same time as the first set of pads that have been used with them?

5. Is it normal to hear a "scrape scrape scrape" sound under these circumstances after taking your foot off the brake pedal? I thought this might indicate a sticking caliper or pin but the dealership said that nothing was sticking.

6. My last oil change and inspection (including brakes) at the dealership was on 28 Aug 2012, at which time the car had 30,294 miles on it. The inspection report indicated that the brakes were at "green" status, not needing or nearing replacement. [The other statuses are yellow meaning "does not need replacement now, but may need it soon," and red meaning "needs replacement".] Is it reasonable that the brakes would have gone from this "green" state to "metal on metal" in the span of 5 months and 3,706 miles?

7a. The car has a 36,000 mile "bumper to bumper" warranty, but the warranty also states:

"Brake pad/lining replacements will be provided during the first 12 months or 18,000 miles in service, whichever occurs first"

So, clearly, my situation is not covered under the warranty per se. But, if the above are abnormal, do you think it would be reasonable for me to complain to the dealer or to Ford and ask for the repairs to be done at no or a reduced cost? If so, what specifically do you think it would be reasonable to ask for? I don't want to be "that guy," but I am disappointed with the situation.

7b. If, on the other hand, this situation is normal, are there pads and rotors that I can buy that will last longer than 34,000 miles? I plan to drive this car for a long time and would prefer to pay more for parts that will last longer than that if possible. Any advice on this will be appreciated, but specific manufacturer/model suggestions would be the best!

Thanks for reading this, and I look forward to hearing everyone's input.
posted by Juffo-Wup to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
1. this seems pretty fast to me unless you routinely forget to turn off the parking brake or something.

2. No, normally the fronts wear faster.

3. They're supposed to start to squeak when they get close to wearing out.

4. If you run straight through the pads to metal, instead of replacing them when they get thin, then they destroy your rotors. This is why the squeak when they're wearing out, so you replace them before you destroy your rotors (also, before the car becomes unsafe to stop).

5. This doesn't surprise me, brake pads sit close to the rotors anyway.

6. I can only see this happening if your brakes are stuck in some fashion, like the parking brake doesn't release all the way.

7. If this has some other underlying cause, like a sticky parking brake cable, you'd think they'd have to fix that and also fix the brake pads that it ruined.

I'd try taking it to a different dealer and see if they're more helpful. But, you don't really want to drive it too much with the brakes in the condition they're in. Also brake pads and rotors are easy to replace yourself.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, something very similar to what you describe happened to me shortly after my mother borrowed my car and drove around all day with the emergency brake on. As you might imagine the dealer didn't consider that to be normal wear and tear, but in fairness neither did I.
posted by mhoye at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2013

Brakes can degrade much more quickly if the car is left sitting for extended periods. But unless you are driving monster miles a few times a year it's hard to see that that would be the case with you if all the 34k miles are yours in two years. In my case, where my rear right brake did make a scraping sound it was a sticky caliper and a build up on the rotor itself from lack of use. The reason why it was the rear, I suspect, is that rear brakes do comparatively less of the stopping so crud wasn't scraped off as much under moderate to heavy braking.

I should add that it didn't get diagnosed immediately, nor did it ever really get fixed properly. I owned the car for 5 years, and bought it when it was 4 years old. It was an otherwise utterly reliable Toyota. But I was doing more like 5,000 miles a year and sometimes going two weeks without driving it. The scraping sound was worse in winter, went away after its annual service in March and came back towards the end of summer. At its worst, it was a high pitched, constant noise, at which point it was time to get the caliper greased. Heavy braking on empty roads did not seem to make a difference.

As to your third question: when I bought the car the brake pads were well worn. I discovered this a week later when, unhappy with the braking performance I took it to the mechanic to get them looked at.

One more thought - gritted, salty roads are hard on cars. If that applies to you then I think it will speed up the issues you mention.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2013

1) Yup, totally reasonable.
2) Depends on how the brakes are balanced.
3) Not all pads and systems have screech warnings built in. You should be having them inspected every time your tires are rotated - generally speaking this is every 7500 miles for the tires, but probably more like every 2 months given your mileage.
4) No, this is probably because the rotors were grinding on metal, generally depending on manufacturer they can be resurfaced if they need it at least a couple of times.
5) Well, given the shape of the brakes as described, it's hard to define normal here, but it's possible given the conditions described and a couple things could have remedied something like a stuck caliper, etc problem when they were taking the brakes apart.
6) Depends on driving habits. It's possible you have a mechanical problem with the brakes beyond driving style, but I just burned through brakes that were described verbally as fine but really were down quite a bit when actually measured in about 3k miles and about 3 months. I was very nearly where you are, they were down to 5% in the rear.
7a) You're beyond this by both measures, and unless you have something pointing to a brake master cylinder, line problem (which you don't) it's probably not going to get you anywhere, but feel free to press them on it, sometimes they'll give a bit just to get you out of the way. BTW if they aren't servicing this under warranty, there is probably a better deal to be found by a 3rd party working on the brakes.
7b) Your rotors wore out because you didn't change your pads, your pads wore out because you drove the car. There are aftermarket parts for both but really, they are consumable items from a car perspective, you're going to pay more for both oem rotors and pads that possibly have a longer life but if you don't get them inspected on a regular basis it's going to be the same story.

I'd make a deal with the dealership if possible: Get the work done by the dealership, articulate in writing you're concerned about the brake system and talk to the service manager about getting the work covered under warranty if after getting the brakes replaced there is another seemingly odd wear problem.

Tirerack.com is where I buy my aftermarket brakes and rotors when I feel like getting my hands dirty, but really I generally go with whatever OEM or slightly upmarket than oem stuff my shop recommends.
posted by iamabot at 9:12 AM on January 23, 2013

1: Not at all for rear brakes, no, especially given they were inspected 4,000 miles ago and were perfectly fine.

2: Absolutely not. Fronts will always wear faster unless something is wrong.

3: Yes. I've not seen any 'audible' brake wearing out system that is reliable nor are they even used across the board. I thought it was a myth until recently, such is the rarity of actually seeing it in action. Regular maintenance and inspection is the only answer that is correct for this.

4: Yes, if you wear the pads to the backing plates. In this example it is normal, although you should normally get more than one pad life usage out of a rear disc (2 -3 sets) before the disc needs replacing, but only if they are inspected near wearing out, not (as in your case) afterwards.

5: Yes, it can be. The pad is so worn it is deflecting and will quite likely still sit against the disc when normally running. It's just a side effect. It's unlikely to be a stuck caliper unless you have three good pads and one completely worn one (for instance) across the rear axle. The fact that it was all worn out says another cause to me.

6: No, it's not reasonable at all. My suspicion is the parking brake was left on slightly for some of the mileage. That is the most likely cause, but really the only way to be sure there is nothing else wrong is to inspect the brake system thoroughly, replace the pads and discs and be more careful of the parking brake. Only then will weird wear patterns be obvious. It is really easy to leave the parking brake on even just one click (or have the cable hang up on something) that it is most likely this is the cause - either through fault or accidental/fluke.

7a: No, I don't think you have a warranty issue. It's very likely this is user error (not through incompetence, it just could be).

7b: Stick with the OEM brakes. They're just as good as most of them out there and certainly better than pattern aftermarket alternatives for the most part. Something happened to the brakes, I suspect, so don't try and fix the issue with the components. Just watch for the most likely cause and get your brakes inspected again in 5,000 miles to check that wear is still normal.

I'd make a deal with the dealership if possible: Get the work done by the dealership, articulate in writing you're concerned about the brake system and talk to the service manager about getting the work covered under warranty if after getting the brakes replaced there is another seemingly odd wear problem.

That's probably how I'd suggest you approach it. Ask him to inspect the braking system as you want to be sure there is no fault and then plan your next check early so if the problem remains it won't take the discs with it next time.

The only other thing I'd consider - the only way the rears would prematurely wear if there is nothing wrong with the rear brakes and the hand/parking brake was not an issue is if the front brakes are not effective. Does the dealership have a brake tester there? If I was doing belt and braces I'd just check that the rears haven't worn so much because they were doing ALL the stopping.
posted by Brockles at 9:52 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd have them check out the parking brake... I've actually had an issue on another make and model with the cable sticking even tho the lever is released. It's impossible to go thru a set of pads, especially rear pads, in 35k miles unless you or the manufacturer messed something up.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:17 AM on January 23, 2013

It's impossible to go thru a set of pads, especially rear pads, in 35k miles with predominately US-style freeway driving unless you or the manufacturer messed something up.

Important qualifier added (to keep this question accurate within its own context). It isn't hard to go through a full set of pads well inside 35K miles, but it's pretty hard to find the sort of roads that make it easy in the US.
posted by Brockles at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: with predominately US-style freeway driving

I suppose I should have mentioned that I am in southeast lower Michigan.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 1:37 PM on January 23, 2013

As a 2010 model, your car is probably equipped with some sort of electronic stability control (as US regulations required phase in of ESC systems from the 2009 to the 2012 model years, with 2010 fleets required to have ESC on 3 out of 4 cars delivered in the U.S.). An ESC system that is misbehaving can quickly wear brake components as it mistakenly tries to "correct" for non-existent loss of traction or falsely sensed high vehicle angular displacements. You should have this system checked out, particularly wheel and yaw sensors, when replacing brake components, to maintain proper function, and you might even find that you have a more subtle underlying problem like a misalignment or a bad tire, that is triggering excessive rear brake activation in what should be normal driving situations, through over-activation of the ESC.
posted by paulsc at 2:08 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some models available these days do use the rear brakes up pretty quickly; my 2010 Volvo is one of them, and it is a model designed under Ford ownership using a Ford/Volvo shared platform, so it isn't unreasonable to think the same thing might happen in some Fords.

Specifically: at 23,500, after lots of brake dust on the rear wheels, they did the scheduled maintenance and replaced the rear brake pads as a warranty matter, calling it normal. Surprised by this, I did some research, and apparently the brake pads on these cars are soft and often come into play when the stability control is kicking in. It makes the car much safer to drive, but it also uses those pads up pretty quickly. Or so I'm told.

In my case, the repair was relatively inexpensive (for the dealer, because of the warranty) as it was caught before metal-on-metal. If I keep the car out of warranty, I will certainly be learning how to swap the rear brake pads, and will plan on doing so every 25,000 or so. Oh, and I drive on the freeways of Los Angeles, but I admittedly am a bit brisk through on- and off-ramps, so I'm certain to be engaging the stability control more often.

Is this great? Nah. Is this normal? For some cars with stability control, perhaps. Is this a sign of a malfunctioning system? Hard to say at this point, but I would think (in my case) the dealer would rather execute a more profitable system repair than a cheap brake swap on the manufacturer's dime.
posted by davejay at 2:51 PM on January 23, 2013

For what it is worth, I had the same problem on my 2007 Fusion. I'm 90% sure I had left the handbrake on just enough to cause drag but not enough to make the warning light go on. I replaced the pads and the problem did not reoccur since I make sure the hand brake was fully released after that.

The good news is that the front brakes lasted until about 80,000 miles.
posted by leaper at 10:00 AM on January 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input, I really appreciate it.

For what it's worth, I did not have the handbrake deployed, even a little bit. (I checked, and when I did, I found that a warning indicator comes on if the handbrake is deployed by even a tiny bit.)

I ended up discussing it with the dealership again and then getting the brakes fixed for quite a bit less money at an independent shop.

So, we'll see how she does...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 4:17 PM on February 8, 2013

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