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Vacation Save or How I Repaired Bad Brakes 300 Miles From Home

Now that we’re here enjoying the beautiful beaches and gorgeous weather of St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park, it all seems sweeter after being faced with the possibility of having to cancel the vacation on the trip down.

Yes. That’s right.  Just over the Kentucky border I noticed a problem with the van brakes.  When I braked, it initially felt fine and would begin to decelerate, but then after a couple seconds the pedal would become rock solid and the brakes would completely fade away.  This is what we refer to as a vacation “show-stopper”.  Fortunately, I avoided rear-ending anything because the four wheel disc hydraulic brake system in the trailer provides enough braking power for a rig three times my size.  This is how I was able to backtrack to my brothers place in Indiana, where I could diagnose and repair the problem.   Plus, my kids getting to visit with their cousins would soften the blow of a scrapped Florida trip.

Full fluid reservoir seemed to indicate it wasn’t a leak.  But, the red “BRAKE” dash light meant there was a pressure problem.  Was thinking it was a power booster or master cylinder, until I pulled the main tube from the vacuum pump to check for suction- there was none.  That would also explain the HVAC controls acting up.

Diesel engines don’t produce any vacuum on their own, so a mechanical pump is used on the serpentine belt.  The replacement is pretty straightforward.  Tools you’ll need:

  • 10mm socket
  • 14mm socket
  • Pliers
  • 1/2″ Breaker bar
  • Pulley remove/install kit


 Remove the intake filter shroud, and cover the air intake (don’t want to accidentally drop anything down there).  Remove the bolts that attach the top of the radiator and auxiliary cooling screen.  You’ll need to pull the shroud/radiator away from the front of the engine to make room for the pulley-puller.  Pull the vacuum pulley.  If you’ve got another set of hands, having somebody use the breaker bar to release the tension on the belt will help.  Remove the main vacuum hose from the pump that leads to the manifold.  There’s only (3) bolts holding the pump, remove those and you’re in the home stretch.  Reverse for installation, and you’re done.

  It was immediately evident the old pump was bad when I checked suction on the main tube.  It’s not like golf ball thru a garden hose suction, but it’ll grab your thumb.  That’s my scientific measurement.  Start to finish, about 3 hours, and that was never doing it before.

So, we’re back in business, with Yours Truly as the hero for the week.
See You Down the Road

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