This going to be a long post because it's time to summarise the history of this issue and make owners and buyers aware of the facts as this is a major safety issue. God knows how lucky I am to be here and circumstances could have been different had I been just a hundred metres down the road when I first searched for brakes when I needed them - but they weren't there.
Basically, you can do a search of these forums for Brembo Brakes but the issue is a characteristic of fixed calipers such as Brembos where flex in the mounting setup can cause the discs to push the pistons back into the caliper. Now, when you next push the brake pedal you have to take up this slack before you get any sort of stopping effect. I have attached a link below which explains in more detail:
I first discovered the extent of this problem when travelling on a country road at night and finding a wombat on the road. I left the road but thankfully only sideswiped the wombat and didn't hit anything else. A lady in a Prado helped guide me back onto the road and search for the wombat who obvioulsy got out of there quick smart.
My Approach to FPV
I contacted my servicing dealer who had not heard of the issue however given my experiences the vehicle was sent to the dealer with instructions to find out what the problem was. A new master cylinder was fitted. I received the car back however the pedal travel was only marginally better so I called FPV and had the car towed to City Ford with instructions to fix the problem BEFORE returning the car. I also discussed the issue at length via FPV CRC and sent a letter to FPV as follows:
On the 23rd May 2003 PA set off on a weekend trip from Sydney to Lue NSW. The weather was poor and the vehicle was loaded with an enduro motorbike, 'camping' gear, spares, fuel etc. The vehicle handled the drive to the Mudgee Road turnoff past Lithgow with no problems. However, turning off the main Mudgee highway to Kandos meant starting out on a road with 100km/h speed limits and sweeping curves with a very rough bitumen surface.
On these roads the previously noted brake pad knock off became very bad with pedal travel reaching approximately 50% before braking effect. However, on the last leg into Lue the road opened up and cruise control was set at approximately 110km/h in the 100 zone. This meant that braking was not required for longer stretches.
Coming into Lue there was a long downhill sweeping bend coming up to an overhead wooden railway bridge. Near the end of this turn and approximately 200m before the railway bridge PA came across a large wombat in the middle of the road. Going for the brake pedal PA was unable to get any braking after the pedal went at least 90% to the floor. After discovering no real braking was available to avoid the wombat PA initiated a swerve where the vehicle impacted the wombat with the right rear corner before leaving the road for an uncut grass verge. After a further 'pump' of the brakes PA was able to gain the normal braking and returned to the road before passing under the rail bridge and parking just beyond on a dirt side road.
After walking down the road to see whether the wombat was critical, the situation became more apparent. It was pure luck that at the point where the wombat was there was a grass verge that had not damaged the vehicle. Also, had this happened 100m further down the road the vehicle would have likely hit a bridge pylon almost certainly resulting in significant damage and probably injury.
On reflection the reasons for this event include:
1. The brake pad knock off effect of the fixed calipers was noticeably worse at highway speeds and on the very rough road
2. The driver had failed to pump the brake pedal despite knowing regularly doing this would ensure the brake pedal was effective if required
3. The reason why PA had failed to pump the brakes was the choice to use cruise control which meant regular brake pumping would mean constant resets of cruise speed
4. There was no consistency to the timeframe or values for the amount of pad knock off experienced. Sometimes the car could travel 5km with little issue, other times as little as 1km would mean a loss of half the pedal height
On the return leg PA travelled without cruise control and constantly operated the brakes using left foot braking.
This all raises questions about whether this 'known' effect lies in wait to trap the unwary. Customers are not told of this characteristic in any customer level documentation. Nor can they be guaranteed to know the extent of the knock off, the times when it occurs, what causes it, and above all they cannot reliably predict when action is required to counter the issue.
Furthermore, with today's Police speed enforcement cruise control is very much relied upon and can lead drivers to travel extended periods without using the brakes.
Q1/ Can Ford/FPV verify the maximum amount of brake pad knock off for a loaded vehicle at highway speeds, on a very rough road, and under higher cornering forces in the multi modal case? (Does this meet customer observation of almost full travel of the brake pedal?)
Q2/ What measures can be taken to allow the use of the vehicle 'as intended' where safe motoring using the cruise control on secondary roads is required? (i.e. how can the owner use the cruise control and ensure brakes are effective?)
Q3/ What action will FPV/Ford take to ensure the vehicle has brakes in all required situations, and that any possible emergency stopping requirements are met with an effective (and in terms of human factors a consistent) brake pedal?
Q4/ Has FPV/Ford satisfied itself that all drivers and all owners are aware of this issue, that they know what to do if it occurs, and that they can safely address the characteristic in all possible scenarios?
Q5/ Will FPV/Ford notify the DOTARS vehicle certification and safety office of this event using the 'Report on vehicle Safety Related Problem or Defect' or equivalent process?
I received a warm reply a few weeks later although I cannot convey the frustration of trying to convey my concerns to identifier removed
Customer Comms Center who ended up being very abrupt and telling me the car was fine - basically get over it. I was also offered special tuition at the driver training day should I ever have my car in my possession long enough to attend one of these days.
10 July 2003
Dear Mr AP,
Thankyou for your recent contact and subsequent correspondence with this office regarding your concern with the operation of the Brembo braking system on your Ford Performance Vehicles Pursuit Utility.
We have thoroughly investigated your reported concern, and after our engineer's inspection of your vehicle at your FPV Dealer, City Ford, we are confident that your vehicle is operating to all manufacturer's specifications and similar to other vehicles in the model line.
We acknowledge that you have raised several concerns with the operation of the Brembo braking system and we can assure you that the brake pad knock off you have experienced while driving is an operational function of your vehicle.
Brake pad knock off may occur under different circumstances such as severe and repeated cornering loads, severe suspension inputs such as those generated when driving over large corrugations or on uneven surfaces, or a comination of the above. We advise that brake pad knock off will not occur under normal driving however is more likely noticeable when the vehicle is driven assertively.
At the time of the vehicle inspection we advised you that there were no abnormal braking characteristics with the operation of your vehicle. We now also advise that as there has been no manufacturing defect found with your vehicle we are in no doubt that your vehicle can be picked up from your dealership.
FPV remain interested in the on-going performance of our vehicles and we thank you for the opportunity to review this issue.
identifying details removed
It is worth noting that this letter implies that the car is perfect, has no safety issues, and is roadworthy and of course the customer can drive the vehicle from the dealer with no outstanding problems.
AP Tries Again
Noting that the reply failed to understand my concerns and especially the type of driving I described (not fanging the car) I chose to write a further reply:
15 July 2003
Ford Performance Vehicles
Attn; identifier removed
Customer Relationship Centre
33 Glenbarry Rd
Campbellfield VIC 3061
CC/ City Ford Sydney
Re; 2003 FPV Pursuit Utility Registration NSW FPV-290
I thank you for your letter of the 10th July explaining FPV's position with respect to pad knock off on my vehicle. I also refer to our phone conversation of today where we both acknowledge FPV's inability, for corporate reasons, to respond directly to my previous questions.
I now wish to counter your points in the subject letter. In particular, I find that some statements made in the letter are erroneous.
"..we can assure you that the brake pad knock off you have experienced while driving is an operational function of your vehicle."
My understanding is that FPV makes this statement in the context of the 'normal' behaviour of a fixed caliper. However, none of the statements, including this one, have directly addressed my observation of the brake pedal experiencing large amounts of travel after periods of no brake usage and on normal public roads. As stated previously I would accept this statement if the observed pad knock off was minor as I have experienced at other times.
"We advise that brake pad knock off will not occur under normal driving however is more likely noticeable when the vehicle is driven assertively."
In the absence of a definition for 'normal' driving I offer my experiences where I observe this behaviour on local suburban roads at speeds not exceeding 60km/h, an unladen vehicle, and where the brakes are not used during or immediately after cornering, and over bumps typically seen on all roads, every day. Similarly, the most extreme event I have experienced was traveling 'normally' with cruise control set on a secondary highway and observing the posted speed limit +/-10%.
"we are confident that your vehicle is operating to all manufacturer's specifications and similar to other vehicles in the model line"
This is of great concern to me. If FPV is saying that customers can expect large amounts of brake pedal travel on the entire model line, why aren't customers told of this characteristic before purchasing, and certainly at the point of delivery. I use my example where this characteristic led to my vehicle leaving the road in an emergency situation because I was NOT aware of the possible severity of this characteristic, nor was I aware that this would greatly degrade the vehicle's ability to respond in an emergency stop.
This specific issue is even more concerning when the statements made by FPV to prospective customers specifically state:
"FPV braking is characterised by a firm, progressive pedal feel that is engineered to remain consistent under high braking and suspension loads, adding a reassuring safety margin to Boss 290 performance" and "The front calipers are mounted along the neutral axis, the optimum position to minimise pad knock-off through suspension movement, thereby reducing pedal fade" (FPV Press Release Jan 24, 2003).
I ask you to reconsider FPV's position in light of the above comments. As a consumer I was led to believe that I would, after paying $6000 extra for Brembo brakes, receive a braking system that is "characterized by a firm, progressive pedal feel that is engineered to be consistent under high braking and suspension loads". This is clearly, even by FPV's own admission, not the case. FPV admit that due to brake pad knock off the system is definitely NOT consistent, nor can the brake pedal be relied upon to be firm or progressive.
The above observed behaviour of my FPV vehicle has not been observed in my experience of driving HSV and CSV (Commodore core) vehicles fitted with fixed caliper braking systems.
From the above I state my current position:
A. I would not have optioned the Brembo brakes for $6000 had I known about the severity (or even the existence of) the observed brake pad knock off.
B. The Brembo brake option was one of the key elements in my decision to buy an FPV vehicle over an XR8 (as per my previous purchase).
C. I based my understanding of the expected performance (including braking) of my prospective vehicle on statements made widely by FPV on their engineering integrity.
D. I experienced an emergency situation that was a result of the vehicle's characteristics. This was exacerbated by the fact that, as a consumer, I was not told by the manufacturer that such a characteristic existed. Only now am I being told what action I need to take when driving the vehicle to ensure brakes are consistently available.
In summary, I ask that FPV consider, and address the contradictions and erroneous statements made to this date. I especially implore FPV to reconsider its position in respect to the safety of customers who are not yet aware of this characteristic built into their cars.
The Forum Widens
In the absence of proactive and satisfactory responses from FPV I contacted the Department of Transport and Regional Affairs (DOTARS) in Canberra via their vehicle safety office. A vehicle safety problem form was lodged with them on the 15th July 2003.
Presumably DOTARS contacted the designated Ford representative who happened to be the Head of Ford Service Engineering, Mr RP.
At a later date I received a phone call from RP where we discussed the previous letters and the exact circumstances of the problem. RP was extremely good during the call and we agreed to work the issue. Ray contacted FPV and a team were put 'on the job'.
In order to evaluate the problem Ford via RP, and FPV, decided that a perfect scenario would be to instrument a car and drive it over the same roads where I experienced the worst pad knock off. An FPV engineer flew into Sydney and picked up my car, driving it out past Lithgow and up towards Mudgee. An FPV pilot vehicle was also sent for comparison.
The results were eye opening and at last AP was proven to be right. pedal travel was extreme and certainly not within the realms of what FPV had described.
My car was returned and FPV subsequently developed tests to duplicate the condition at the Ford proving ground. This then allowed FPV to develop a fix within their own facilities.
The Problem Described
It is important to note that it was at this point that Ford/FPV were able to determine this was a ute specific problem. If you have a sedan you are not affected by this severe form of pad knock off although you WILL STILL experience minor pad knock off on Brembo equipped sedans.
On the ute the solid rear axle housing is used as the mounting point for the calipers. However, the discs are mounted on the inner axle shaft and on rough roads or under even moderate cornering the inner axle moves/flexes differently to the outer axle housing. The result is that the rear caliper pistons are pushed back into the calipers by large amounts. The result is a large required brake pedal travel when the brakes are next applied (it feels like a brake pedal when bleeding brakes - i.e. when the caliper nipple is loosened off).
Knowing this the options for a fix became a case of pros and cons with FPV ultimately deciding on the caliper piston springs. This involves disassembly of the caliper and the insertion of springs into the cavity between piston and caliper. The springs therefore force the pistons, and of course pads, onto the disc. When pad knock off occurs the springs immediately work to push the pistons back out.
Of course that is the pro side of the equation. Unfortunately, the con side means slightly (?) increased rear pad wear (I have noticed that the rear wheels are now more susceptible to pad dusting) and drag. More cons later.
Status of the Issue
The fix has been fitted to my car and is scheduled for PRODUCTION on all new utility vehicles fitted with Brembo brakes (read Pursuit). A note will also be added (or already has been added) to all FPV vehicle Owner's Manuals describing pad knock off and the effects it has on driving (including the sedan).
On the ute (I have not driven an FPV sedan) the fix dramatically improves the issue. However, presumably some pad knock off occurs in the front end similar to sedans and in the case of my ute the firm pedal I had before the fix is gone. The pedal is now comparatively dead in its feel all the time and the pedal feels spongy despite bleeding (compared to before the springs being fitted).
For current owners Ford signalled an intention to provide the fix to owners who complained about pad knock off. However, my stance is as follows:
- all production vehicles should be fitted with this fix from factory
- all owners manuals should accurately detail and warn drivers of pad knock off and its effects on braking performance and pedal height
- all vehicles already delivered should be immediately recalled to fit the caliper springs as this is a significant safety issue that owners may only discover in an emergency situation (particularly as it is exacerbated by country driving)
- the fix should also be applied to all BA and AU utilities fitted with brembo brakes as it is presumed the AU Pursuit has the same hardware
- owners of current vehicles should be compensated for the defective product and given cash or equivalent to cover the increased costs of fuel, pads, and discs resulting from the required caliper springs
I am very disappointed that it took an approach to DOTARS to steer FPV towards a fix on this issue. FPV were uncooperative, they didn't listen to what I was saying, and they negligently forced the return of an unsafe vehicle before adequately investigating the concerns.
The saving grace was the involvement of RP who quickly took measures to find the problem. Under this program the FPV engineers did a great job investigating the issue and duplicating what I had described.
I did everything possible to fight for a fix. I lent my car to FPV for testing which involved adding significant kms and of course a few stone chips. I also had my car off the road for well over two months in total during this issue and fighting FPV. To this date no one from FPV management has followed up this issue nor even thought about (?) apologising for forcing me to fight so hard to get THEIR product put right.
Hopefully, in the near future the recall will occur. Until then, I implore any owner of a ute fitted with Brembos to contact your dealer as soon as possible and ask for this fix.
I apologise for being so hard on FPV, however sometimes we have to fight for what is right. FPV need to look hard at themselves and learn from this!
Just an aside thought. In the dark on a country road an FPV ute travelling on its own leaves the road exiting a bend and ploughs into whatever happens to be in the way. The driver is killed. The Police attend and seeing the car, the bend, the road in general, have to explain what happened. What do you think would be the presumed cause of the accident? (The 'S' word anyone?)
Do you think the Police would have found the real cause? Brake failure symptoms caused by pad knock off?
I'll edit this post if anything further occurs but that's a rough history of where we sit right now. I can verify other ute owners have experienced this issue and it will be interesting to see how their cases are handled.