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Old 08-26-2011, 05:17 PM   #1
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Lost Master Cylinder Going Downhill

Hello,
We live full-time in a 2003 - 33' Itasca Suncruiser. Great motorhome.
We were out here in Seattle on our way up to the local campground for a weekend stay. On the way there we had planned a stop at an RV repair facility we do business with called Chuck's RV in Silverlake, WA. We were getting an estimate for replacement of our carpet.
About 3 miles out from Chuck's RV, going down a long, not too steep grade.....I pushed down on the pedal to slow down the coach just before hitting the hill.....and wooooo....my pedal hit the floor. Not good!
I hit the pedal again and this time I got some brakes. We were on a road with very little traffic. I slowed down and crept along again wondering what would happen as I approached the upcoming stop light....same thing....pedal to the floor then I get some brakes back on the second push. I knew this would not keep up and I would eventually lose all braking.
Now at this point I am as ignorant as the next person when it comes to stopping this monster. I used to think the emergency brake was just an extra cable that attached back to my brakes on my wheels. I have since learned that the emergency brake is in fact a whole different brake. It is actually a "fifth brake" if you will. In my case it is a drum brake that sits on the drive axel just rear of the transmission. The transmission is an Allison and has its own capabilities to help in this mattter also if used properly.
If you use the emergency brake properly, the truck mechanic who explained this to me felt that I should normally be able to slow down the coach significantly with this brake. It operates completely independent of the brakes on the wheels. It is supposed to have quite a lot of stopping power. You would just need to be sure that you hold the emergency brake lever out so you don't lock the brake into position and burn the thing up.
OK, well and fine. I am a firm believer in preventative maintenance on our coach so every year we have taken it in before winter sets in and have the coach looked over top to bottom. We have a complete chassis\engine inspection as well as the RV House itself. So mind you, I was quite shocked that my brakes were out when I had just taken the coach in few months back and had hardly any miles on it.
Our coach has only 10,000 miles on it.
The master cylinder in this rig has two sides. A left and right side. Each side controls either the front brakes or the back. The side that failed was the side controlling the back brakes.
Chuck's RV Shop only does RV work, not chassis work so I called Kenworth Truck Repair out of Marysville, WA and they came right out even thought it was night time on the weekend. They came out and checked out the problem and ordered the part and then came back and fixed it. Great job Kenworth of Marysville.
One more interesting thing I learned from the repair person was that if the engine stops there is a special feature of the master cylinder which will keep it working without power. It is some sort of booster that kicks in and will still work if the engine goes off. Great safety feature. You would still have your normal brakes and the emergency but steering would of course be stiffer with the engine off but manageable.
I can't thank Chuck and Marlene Presser of Chuck's RV in Silverlake enough for their hospitality. They saw that our brakes were out and let us stay on their property for several days as we worked through this. They are super people and we are very grateful for their kind hospitality. We were really in a jam since we both work full time and had to navigate the logistics of living on their Alpaca farm while we were quite a long ways from home.
I think we need to support RV shops that go this far out of the way to help us fellow RV people. Here is the li<x>nk to Chuck's shop: http://chucksrvpartsandservice.com/
Keith and Elaine Caravelli
keith@caravelli.com
Kirkland, WA
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Old 08-26-2011, 08:30 PM   #2
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I wouldn't take to the bank what was told you about the emergency brake. It is a "parking brake" to lock the rear wheels after the veh. is stopped. It is a set of 2 small brake shoes in a small drum and wouldn't take long to burn out if you tried to use it to stop a motor home. Better to try to avoid a crash but not to try and drive home with.
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Old 08-26-2011, 09:30 PM   #3
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Sure glad it ended well and everyone is ok!

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Old 08-26-2011, 09:57 PM   #4
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Ricko is right. When I had a Suncruiser on a Workhorse chassis. The parking brake wasn't good for much. The mechanic was right in that there are two halves to the braking system. Some have half on the front and the other half on the back. Others have one front and one rear diagonally opposed in each half.

If the pedal went to the floor and you didn't get any braking, both halves had failed. If you pumped the pedal and got some stopping ability, you have air in the hydraulic system. If it wasn't too steep a grade and you weren't riding the brakes, you probably didn't boil the brake fluid.

Either way, you should inspect the master cylinder. If the seals are worn, you may have rust in the bore. If that's the case replace it. I always recommend that you don't use a rebuild. We used to manufacture new ones and sell someone else's rebuilts. I have seen too many rebuilts with bad bores right out of the box.
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Old 08-27-2011, 09:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrschwarz View Post
Ricko is right. When I had a Suncruiser on a Workhorse chassis. The parking brake wasn't good for much. The mechanic was right in that there are two halves to the braking system. Some have half on the front and the other half on the back. Others have one front and one rear diagonally opposed in each half.

If the pedal went to the floor and you didn't get any braking, both halves had failed. If you pumped the pedal and got some stopping ability, you have air in the hydraulic system. If it wasn't too steep a grade and you weren't riding the brakes, you probably didn't boil the brake fluid.

Either way, you should inspect the master cylinder. If the seals are worn, you may haHTTP/1.1 200 OKAccep0bore. If that's the case replace it. I always recommend that you don't use a rebuild. We used to manufacture new ones and sell someone else's rebuilts. I have seen too many rebuilts with bad bores right out of the box.
I agree with the statement that the PARKING BRAKE isn't going to do much stopping a 20,000 lb+ motorhome. Considering the swept area is less than 1/2 that of each service brakes that doesn't give you much stopping power. Add onto that there is no multiplication of force as with the hydraulic system and it makes a pretty poor substitute.

Even though it may have been that the master cylinder failed I would still flush the system. If there isn't water in the system there certainly is air and possible debris from the failed cylinder. Both Workhorse and Ford recommend flushing the brake system every 2 years.

Another vote for a new vs. rebuilt master cylinder. When I was in business I replaced hundreds of master cylinders over the years. The failure rate of rebuilt parts was as high as 20% while the new ones were in the .5% range. Keep in mind the rebuilt has already failed once necessitating the rebuild. You're betting the person who did the work was able to diagnose and repair the fault without ever seeing it in service. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
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Old 08-27-2011, 02:00 PM   #6
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Did this happen before or after you had the Workhouse brake recall work done?
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Old 08-27-2011, 02:39 PM   #7
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? here, since your dealing with a 2003 - 33' Itasca Suncruiser. My sister-n-law called me last night asking me about a used 01 or 02' Itasca Suncruiser for sale. They have no experience with RV's. She did not know if it had a the Workhorse chassis, just that it had a V-10.....I told her I will find out if that was the only chassis for 01' or 02'. And how can she make sure it had the recall done if it was on the list. The price she said they were asking seemed on the low side compared to the ones I Googled online last night....
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Old 08-27-2011, 05:03 PM   #8
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Another thing about "Parking brakes"

They operate ONLY on the rear wheels... Now normally the front wheels do like 70 percent (More or less) of the stopping, the rear wheels do 100% of the "Go-ing" as it were.

you lock those rears up and the rig may desire to "Swap ends"

This can turn it into a "Roll-a-matic" and that makes one mel-of-a hess.

Just so you know. I've had to use the parking brake on a car or two, ON a car the parking brakes are usually the same as the service brakes, just rear only and NOT hydraulic.
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Old 08-27-2011, 07:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superslif View Post
? here, since your dealing with a 2003 - 33' Itasca Suncruiser. My sister-n-law called me last night asking me about a used 01 or 02' Itasca Suncruiser for sale. They have no experience with RV's. She did not know if it had a the Workhorse chassis, just that it had a V-10.....I told her I will find out if that was the only chassis for 01' or 02'. And how can she make sure it had the recall done if it was on the list. The price she said they were asking seemed on the low side compared to the ones I Googled online last night....
If it has a V10 it's on a Ford F53 chassis. Workhorse has never made a V10.
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Old 08-27-2011, 11:38 PM   #10
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John, your point is well taken, however at a time when you feel you have no brakes as I did or you are in danger of losing your brakes...anything would help to slow the coach down so I will take what it gives me at that point. I agree that it is no substitute for a brake but it has a fair amount of "slowing down" power as was explained to me by a veteran Kenworth Commerical Truck mechanic.
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Old 08-27-2011, 11:43 PM   #11
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Michael,

Thanks for that.

Kenworth truck did replace the master with a brand new one...not a rebuild.
By the way can you elaborate on having air in the brake lines. The mechanic said it seemed like the fluid was circurlating within the same rigth side cylinder and not getting back to the rear brakes. He said when he got down under the rig he noticed that the brakes were rusted and so there was NO contact with the brake shoes that would have worn away the rust with contact. He also noted that there was not much fluid loss in the master.
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Old 08-27-2011, 11:49 PM   #12
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Good question. I had the coach chassis inspected thoroughly earlier this year and had them actually pay special attention to the braking system because we had the right rear brake smoke up in heavy traffic up on Mount Ranier, Washington. While we were up there and that had happened I had stopped into the local ford dealershp and has them inspect the brakes. Everything was fine. I felt I had maybe ridden the brakes a bit too hard in the traffic. The right rear was extremely hot at that time of course but cooled off and never gave me another problem. Once we got down the mountain and home here near Seattle I had Roy's RV in Marysville to the chassis inspection and as I said pay special attention to the brake. More to your point, at that time the service manager said they were backed up several months in getting the Workhorse brake upgrades done for that recall.
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Old 08-27-2011, 11:55 PM   #13
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Suncruisers are a super good coach in my opinion. Note that I am more of a utiliarian and do not care about coriander counter tops. Suncruiser has been so successfull that they have made very few changes in the years this model has been out and they still sell quite well. They are a middle of the road coach for fit and finish. Tell your sister she is more than welcome to email us if she has any questions.
As for the brake job...I would insist on invoices and a paper trail from a reputable dealer. And I would have it checked out by an unbiased RV shop before bying.
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Old 08-27-2011, 11:59 PM   #14
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I have no intention of depending on a parking brake to stop a motorhome. I think the point here is being missed entirely by several people.
The fact is, I was unaware that the parking brake was an option at all in an emergency. I would have not even conisered it on a MH as I would think of it as a car brake as you mentioned.
Now however, it is one more albeit small but useful tool in an emergency to use with skill and caution so as not to lock up the wheels.
Good ponts but remember there was not brake at all at one point and if the parking brake is all I had to work with along with downshifting...I would by all means use and use it carefully.
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