1996 GMC Suburban C2500 - Front Brake Problems

Discussion in 'Chevy Suburban Forum (GMC Yukon XL)' started by nvestysly, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. nvestysly

    nvestysly Member 1 Year 100 Posts

    I'm at the repair shop this morning and I'm faced with yet another brake job on my 1996 GMC Suburban C2500. What gives? Why does this vehicle eat up front brakes so often. The Suburban has ~150k miles and this will be the 5th time I've had major brake work performed - this time it's just pads and rotors. The last time (only 20k miles) it was calipers, pads and rotors.

    I'm a pretty easy-going driver - I don't ride the brakes, I don't stop quickly (at least not on a regular basis). I like almost everything about this vehicle but the brakes are a problem. Is this a known issue? Is there anything I can do to make the pads and rotors last longer?

    As I said, last time the brakes were repaired the calipers were replaced. At the time the service tech noticed the calipers were not retracting and this was thought to be the reason the rotors were getting hot spots. Well.... the rotors have hot spots again and I'm feeling a wobble in the front when I apply the brakes.

    My new (to me) 2005 K2500 Suburban has great stopping power. It has four-wheel disc brakes so that helps. At 86K miles it has never had a brake job! Is the brake system on a 2005 that much better than a 1996?

  2. Conlan Rose

    Conlan Rose Rockstar 3 Years 1000 Posts

    I think the shop you are going to may be using lower quality rotors and pads. As my truck, a 96' Tahoe, hit 200,000 miles I had to replace a decent about of the factory brake parts but thats normal. I still have factory rotors and drums on the truck. Having pads and rotors done 5 times in 150,000 miles is not normal. I think you should find out what parts they are putting on your truck and see if they meet or exceed the factory parts which were built to last a minimum of 100,000 miles or go online and buy the parts you want on the truck that you know will last and have them install. If those high quality parts wear out again then in that amount of time again then the shop is doing shotty work and jipping you.
  3. nvestysly

    nvestysly Member 1 Year 100 Posts

    Unfortunately, the work has not all been performed at the same shop. That fact may compound the problem. However, most of the work has been performed at Chevrolet/GMC dealers - some would question whether that's good or bad. I have faith in the dealers I've used and believe they've used OEM/Delco parts. The one variation on that is the brake job and rotors that were installed by a local repair shop but they specifically used OEM/Delco rotors. I have to admit I did not see all the parts removed and all the new parts installed but I do make a point to look at the car after the work is complete to verify new parts have been installed.

    So that's a long way of saying I think the parts have been good quality. Of course, anything can happen and maybe they are taking advantage of the situation. But I follow a similar approach with my other vehicles (I have five vehicles and a travel trailer) and don't have similar problems.

    Now that the new components are installed I'm going to keep a close eye on them to monitor the results.
  4. zuki82

    zuki82 Member 1 Year 100 Posts

    And how are the back brakes doing? I'm thinking they are drums? If they aren't kept up, then all the stopping power is going to the front! If the calipers aren't retracting properly, then I would look into new rubber lines for the front! If they are old and breaking down inside, they can restrict the back flow of fluid causing the brakes to hang up!
  5. nvestysly

    nvestysly Member 1 Year 100 Posts

    The front hoses were replaced recently. So I don't think I'm experiencing the "check-valve" problem that sometimes occurs with old brake hoses.

    I looked through all my service records today and I don't see any indication that the rear brake linings (drums) have been replaced. That surprises me. I suspect they may have been replaced once but I just didn't find a record of that. The rear brakes were inspected today and they looked fine although they did need adjustment.

    In the next few months I'll pay closer attention to both front and rear brakes. It certainly could be that the rears wear to a certain point, causing the front to take more of the braking load, and the rears just sit there and take it easy. I guess what I'm saying is... I'll make a point to adjust the rear more often to ensure they are doing their portion of the work. That should make the front last longer.
  6. Jamm3r

    Jamm3r Member 2 Years 100 Posts

    Many things affect brake life

    For me, in Minnesota, corrosion is a huge problem because of the road salt. I replace brake pads and rotors as often because of a stuck caliper as because of basic wear. If the wear is uneven left wheel vs right wheel maybe that's part of your problem.

    If you are towing something heavy well you'll go through brakes faster, no two ways about it

    Usually the stealership's shop will use ac-delco parts but not always and they will not always fess up. Ask me how I know. At least some of the time they will go to the napa across the street particularly if their own parts shelf is empty that day

    I have a 1997 and a 2004 and yes the newer ones do have better brakes, with the hydra boost and the rear discs. But the old brakes weren't that bad

    I have someone pull the drums every two years, inspect, check that the adjusters are free, no leaks, etc. Got ripped off last time I did this and as a result I have the brakes apart now as the rears have frozen adjusters and leaky axle seals. Independent shop not the stealership. Well at least they only charged $15 to not actually pull the drums. No way they could have gone to hell this fast.
  7. nvestysly

    nvestysly Member 1 Year 100 Posts

    An update on the original post...

    It's been 1-1/2 years and the vehicle now has 182,000. The pads still have a little life in them but the rotors are worn and will need to be resurfaced. I've made it a point to have the shop inspect the brakes regularly when I come in for oil changes. In addition, I looked at the pads and rotors recently.

    In about 5,000 miles I'll need new pads and hopefully the rotors cleaned up.

    Anybody out there have a suggested for a brand of pad to purchase? I'm willing to go aftermarket if I can improve stopping and increase life.
  8. RayVoy

    RayVoy Rockstar 3 Years 1000 Posts

    I suspect you have a problem with the rear system, if the rear isn't doing it's job, the complete lead is on the front brakes.
  9. nvestysly

    nvestysly Member 1 Year 100 Posts

    That's certainly something to consider. I've not done anything to the rear brakes except to inspect them and adjust them periodically. They appear to be working. Perhaps the front/rear proportioning is not working as designed. I'll do some more investigating on that topic.

    Just the other day I asked a shop to perform a front end alignment because I had replaced the upper ball joints on my 1996 Suburban. I asked the guy what his suggestion would be to solve my brake problems and he said to buy a 2001 or newer Suburban since the brakes are so much better on the newer models. He recounted how the 3/4 ton (and even 1/2 ton) GM trucks in the mid 90's have poor front brake rotors and pads. I've heard nearly the same story from other shops. I know from experience that our 2005 Suburban with nearly 100,000 miles stops much better (yes, it has 4 wheel discs) and has never had the pads replaced and I tow the same trailer and same weight in the Suburban.

    The front hubs and rotors are different on a 1996 and a 2005. I suspect the calipers are different too and there are probably other differences.

    But, can I buy a replacement rotor/hub and replacement pads for my 1996 that will at least bring it closer to the performance and life I see on my 2005 Suburban?
  10. vncj96

    vncj96 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Do you have excessive brake dust up front?

    Do you smell hot brakes right after new pads and rotors?

    yes all pads and rotors have a little wear in time, but if you still are smelling them after a week of daily use and you get lots of dust then they are using bottom of the barrel pads n rotors. Do them yourself, its super easy with basic tools, nothing special needed to change rotors n pads on your suburban. (atleast in the 96)

    Even though your newer suburban has rear disc brakes thats not the difference in better stopping power between the 2 models. the system used in the 88-99 bodystyle SUVs was crap (single piston caliper), while they didnt completly deal with it in your 05 model (dual piston caliper) its still better. the best thing for your 96 is to add stainless steel brake lines up front, this will help eleminate line expansion during braking, you can usually find a set of them for $100 online at truck part websites.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015

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