Year 2 Day 4 Look, Ma: No Brakes!

When we left the Fiat dealership yesterday, we drove off fat, dumb and happy: reunited with our cute little Fiat. We drove the 30 odd miles from Concord down to Livermore with everything working great.  With Mary Margaret driving the rental car and following me, we entered Livermore and prepared to return the rental car.  As I pulled into the middle turn lane so I could turn into the rental car property, I applied the brakes and discovered that I could not stop in time.  I sailed past the entrance of the rental car property as I pressed the brake pedal harder and harder.  I ended up using the emergency brake to bring the little Fiat to a full stop.  Whew!  I was sure that Mary Margaret must have thought I was nuts to drive past the turn.

I turned the car around and coasted into the rental car property and was able to stop and park the car next to Mary Margaret.  The brakes worked but felt soft and spongy.  It was raining and the first thought I had was that the brake pads were wet and maybe coated with oil.  Hmmm, was the newly installed engine leaking oil and did it take the duration of the drive to Livermore to give time for engine oil to drip down and impact the brakes?  It id not make sense but I did not have any other explanation.

After dropping off the rental car, we returned to our campground and LeuC.  During that drive, the brakes worked but still felt spongy and not fully working right.

This morning, I drove up to the top of the ridge that overlooks our campground so I could get Internet access and cell phone coverage.  At that time, I called the Fiat dealership and reported the problem.  They agreed that I should return the car and they would look into the issues with the brakes.

After returning to LeuC to tell Mary Margaret that I was going back to Concord, I slowly and carefully drove down the road.  In my drive down the freeway I left lots of room between me and the cars ahead and shift down the gears to slow down the car whenever the traffic slowed down.  I seldom had to use the brakes, instead relying on the technique of engine braking by down sifting.  This worked great and I was able to pull into the service center of the Fiat dealership with minimal use of the car’s brakes.

Within an hour, the service technician had test driven the car, inspected the brake system and solved the problem.  As it turned out, he had improperly reconnected our supplement tow braking system after installing the new engine such that the hose from the brake system’s vacuum pump had loosened and was leaking air.  Now, I do not really understand how these braking systems work but I do know that leaks in the system, whether an air leak or a hydraulic oil leak, is not good.  Fortunately, it was an easy fix, with the technician replacing the connection fitting which took care of the problem.

The resulting drive back to Mary Margaret and LeuC in our campground was great with the brakes, the engine, the transmission and the front wheel axel all working the way they should.  Yea!

Tomorrow, we start to prepare LeuC for our journey back to Arizona as we looking forward to our first major leg in our trip to Red Bay, Alabama.

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