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1999 Forester
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I have a 1999 manual (stick shift) Forester. Around a year ago a mechanic changed the brake pads. Immediately following this procedure the left front brake developed a mind of it's own. When going up a hill the brake would squeak as though it had been briefly engaged (without the brake having been applied). As time went on the problem got worse. Eventually the front left brake started to lock on completely. Fortunately this only ever happened at low speeds. It seemed to be more likely to happen after a sequence of heavy braking. When the brake locks on it is only ever the front left that locks. The break disc is red hot by the time the brake gets locked completely. Every time this happens the problem corrects itself if the car is left to cool down for an hour.
My old mechanic was (is) totally clueless unfortunately - and seemed to even question that it was happening at all until the day I felt the wheel locking near his garage and managed to coax the car to his driveway, where the brake went into full lock. He jacked it up, disconnected the hydraulic line and the brake released (and he demonstrated that the calipers were moving freely). He recommended replacing the brake pump and the hydraulic lines, which I agreed to for a big fee. This did not solve the problem.
At this point I decided to take the car to a Subaru dealer. They followed my instructions to bring on the lock, so had first hand experience of it themselves. Even then though they didn't seem totally convinced by their own diagnosis - which was that the problem was probably with the ABS pump. As the price that they quoted to replace it was almost equal to the value of the car, I said I'd get back to them and went to another mechanic.
This third mechanic says that he doesn't think it is the ABS pump (but he'll change it if I like for a second hand spare part). His reason for suspecting this is that when the brake lock occurs the clutch and brake pedals lose tension (drop flat to the floor). He thinks it may be something to do with the clutch master cylinder.
I'm not mechanically competent myself. Having searched this forum I've found some interesting stuff but nothing that seems to be the same as my problem.
Is there anything I can do to narrow down the field of possibilities?
I've read on here about disabling the ABS - would pulling the ABS fuse and seeing if I could get the brake to lock or not prove or disprove the faulty ABS pump theory?
I've also read about ABS sensors here - could this be the issue? What could I do to find out?
The brake disks themselves look a bit rusty round the edges - could this be a problem?
At this stage I feel a bit like a gambler that can't cut his losses and walk away. With the cash and inconvenience that I've been through up to this stage, I have to find the answer somehow. So, if anyone has any ideas of what could be causing the problem I'd be massively grateful.
 

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1999 Forester S Turbo 5MT
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1,960 Posts
I have something very similar on the drivers side rear brake but I have a very competent and trustworthy mechanic. He removed the caliper and stripped it down to discover the rubber seal had cracked allowing dirt and rust to set in around the piston causing it to seize above light usage. The piston was removed and with some sanding and packing with copper grease, I'm good to go but, I am on the look out for a s/h rear caliper (if anyone has one for sale) as the situation is terminal. I am also driving a 99 UK turbo. When the brakes are cold, it may not be too obvious but if the caliper is starting to seize, your symptoms should become more pronounced. The check I was told to do was to drive a bit using the brakes modestly, then pull over and check the temp of the wheels with my hand and if possible, put my fingers through to feel the hub. If your front left wheel is hotter all the time compared with the drivers side, seizure might be worth investigating and a lot cheaper than ABS pumps (main dealers really p.ss me off). Very annoying problem though, good luck.
 
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