NAPA let me down

gary__November 25, 2007

Had to order a rebuilt master cylinder for my car last week. Fluid pouring out the back was the original problem.

Install the replacement on Saturday expecting it to take less than an hour. It did, except I couldn't seem to get the air out of it. Bled and bled and bled it, always little bubbles. Gave up and took the car for a drive. Felt normal. Head down town to take the core back. Get a couple miles from home and the read light comes on and front brakes slowly lock. Limp to a parking lot and start to walk home. Frosty out, no coat, slippers for shoes. &%^$#@!! Make it home, grab some tools and have wife take me back to the car. Open a brake line to release the pressure. Brake light goes out, all feels normal. Limp back home using the emergency brake to stop till I get close to the house. Step on the brake, feels fine, keep driving, front brakes lock again. Five hours of bleeding checking and test driving to no avail. Tell the parts guy I think that master cylinder he sold me is a piece of junk...I'm angry, he's scared. Say's another one won't come in till Tuesday. !@#$%!!! I'm angrier, he's looking for an escape route. Nobody else can get one faster. Put the old leaker back on to make sure the problem wasn't me. Bled the air out of the old one bubble free in 10 pumps or so. Drove it around all day with no brake issues. Hope the next rebuild works.

I've usually gone with NAPA because I used to think the quality was a notch above the rest. The pricing usually is. With this master cylinder problem plus about 3 B/O rebuilt starters in the last few years, I'm beginning to wonder if they're no better than AutoZone. Could be the same bunch of drunks on an assembly line somewhere rebuilding parts for all of them for all I know. GRRRRR!

Ok, I'm done ranting. I'll thank the parts guy for getting me another one assuming it works ok so he won't hide from me every time I walk in the door.

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"Could be the same bunch of drunks on an assembly line somewhere rebuilding parts for all of them for all I know."
A 12 year old in a Southeast Asian sweatshop earning 10 cents per hour is more likely. We can thank NAFTA for that.
I'm always amazed that people will take the cheapest possible route when repairing life-or-death systems such as brakes. Too little money is left after purchasing the 22" rims and 1,000 watt sound system, I suppose. But I digress...

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 10:57PM
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Gary are you bench bleeding the master before you install it?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 8:27AM
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I've never had much luck with rebuilding or buying rebuilt master cylinders. Year or so and I'm replacing it with a new piece, that lasts forever.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 11:17AM
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**Gary are you bench bleeding the master before you install it?**

When my son moved away a couple years ago, he took his workbench with him. My vise was bolted to it so I let him keep it and haven't replaced it yet.

What I'm doing to bleed is to bolt it up to the car, run a line from the fittings back to the reservoir with parts provided with the master cylinder. Use the brake peddle to pump the air out. Same thing as you'd do on the bench with a vise. I also have a pressure bleeder that I used on it. Problem isn't air. Peddle was high and firm every time I tried it. Someone some how inadvertently built a line lock into it. There's probably a piece of junk of some kind bocking a passage in it. Or maybe they used the wrong parts to rebuild it and a rubber cup is blocking a hole were it shouldn't. It's got to be something like that.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 11:39AM
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Hi Gary.

First thought, this sounds like the problem could be the pushrod length in the brake booster. Many of them are adjustable, and if it needs to be shortened for the replacement master cylinder, the symptom would be exactly as you described, the brakes slowly locking and not releasing. To tell, all you would of had to do is once the brakes were dragging, simply loosen the master cylinder from the booster and see if they quickly released. BTW, a missadjusted brake light switch can cause this symptom too.

The brake light switch might be adjusted correctly for the original master cylinder, but may need readjusted for the replacement.

FWIW, I don't install remanufactured master cylinders, unless I have no choice, and then I'd prefer an O.E. one.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 12:04PM
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Hi John,

I did check the rod as you said and that's not where the pressure was coming from. It was a hydraulic problem. By brake light, I was referring to the red brake failure/parking brake light in the dash. It was being tripped by the proportioning valve I'm sure.

A new master cylinder for my car is pushing $300. For me, that would be the last option behind what I did, buy a kit and rebuild the one I have myself, and getting one out of a junk yard.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 12:26PM
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2nd rebuilt master cylinder worked like a charm. Took maybe an hour for me to do including a good long test drive and putting my tools away as it should have.

Parts guy told me these rebuilds are hardly ever bad. I told him this makes two in a row for me. Last time was for a '77 Ford truck I had. On that one, the divot in the back where the push rod goes was something like 1/2" deep on the original, something like 1 1/2" deep on the one they gave me. Goofed around with that half the night wondering why the pedal wouldn't pump up. Felt fine, but the pedal would go almost to the floor. I had turned in the core when I bought the rebuilt so I couldn't compare. Finally figured out what was wrong and went back to the parts store. Told them they gave me the wrong one. They said they didn't per their book. Told them to bring out my core and I'll show them. They laid them both out on the counter thinking they were showing me they were identical. Asked one of them for a pencil which used to demonstrate how it would go a lot further into the rebuilt one than my core and told them that ain't going to work. They dug out two more boxes, one had a deep hole, the last one was like what I needed. All boxes were marked with the same number. That stuff gets me so frustrated!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 10:03PM
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If the only thing I had to deal with in situations like this is a little frustration I'd have to search for something else to fret about!

Imagine this problem causing not just a little lost time from duplicate work, BUT.

A lost customer. (It's so easy to blame us, even when it's totally out of our control)
Maybe a rental car expense.
Lost revenues. (While doing this a second time, instead of working on the next car, which BTW could upset a second customer)
Damage to other vehicle components that the customer would wnat us to be responsible for.

The list goes on and on. That's why I go NEW components, and only when forced do I use a remanufactured, and then preferrably from a dealer source.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 8:29AM
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I fully understand what you're saying John. I used to work for commission. You as a business owner are too in effect.

One time I put a clutch and throw out bearing in a truck. The new throw out bearing was noisy. Told the parts guy about it who said it's not a problem, he'd warranty it. I said something like, hec with the warranty, I'll pay the additional $12, you put it in. He said, no no no. We were friends. I was just jerking his chain, though the point was a valid one I thought.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 1:48AM
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Just changed a master cylinder on my daughter's Honda. The rebuilt from NAPA didn't include the bolt that holds the reservoir and the internal threads were messed up. The bolt in the original was frozen up. Luckily I had a another bolt and tap in my truck. This is probably more of a remanufaturing issue than a NAPA specific issue. Overall, I've had good luck with most remanufactured parts and the service from our local NAPA stores is excellent compared to the discount auto parts chain stores. Some of the guys working at NAPA have been there for decades unlike the teenagers working at some of the discount auto stores. When I was at one of the discount auto stores, one of the employees was recommending compression fittings to make multiple splices rotted brake lines.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 11:49AM
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Anytime a rebuilt master cylinder is used, one is rolling the dice with luck. You may get a good and then it might go the other way. Before NAFTA and the import junk deluge, rebuilt parts were nearly always ok, of course cars and their components were simpler then and the rebuilding was done by American workers. Today you may be buying a part that was rebuilt in a far east sweat shop by a 12 year old, or some convict under pressure to meet his quota. after all who cares they will never see the purchaser. If one can afford it new is best, if not all one can do is buy rebuilt and pray.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 10:56AM
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