98 Windstar brakes grabbing

My wife called me in a panic. Suddenly the left front on our 98 Windstar is making grinding noises.
I went over to where she was and carefully drove the mile home. The
brakes, at first, were quiet but after my first hard braking (with an audible "scrunch") they dragged the rest of the way home.
The rotor is hot to the touch.
I pulled the wheel and looked around. The brakes look like one big hunk of metal and I can't find any landmarks.
The brake pads seem OK, lots of wear left, but they seem to be against the rotor. My best guess is that the spring that pushes the calipers apart when the pedal is released is somehow broken.
Possible?
Any other ideas? I'm not by any means a mechanic but I'm handy with tools and can do minor stuff.
-Mark
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I'd check to see that the sliders on the caliper are lubricated and are allowing the pads to move freely. You don't say how many km are on the van or when the brakes were serviced last. Good info for us to know. Are the pads worn evenly inside and out? Even with normal brakes after stopping and touching the rotor it will be hot. There is a ton of energy being absorbed by the brakes and as the fronts do most of the work they take the hit. Ford has made a less than ideal rotor caliper too so that can make matters worse. Replacing the pads and rotors is not a huge job toolwize or knowledge. If in doubt, take it to a brake shop close by and ask for an inspection. Usually they're free.
Cameron

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There's a lubrication "nipple" on the caliper - would stuffing some more grease in there be the way to lub the sliders? Just regular grease or something special? I used to lub my old lawn tractor and would just push enough grease until I started to see it come out somethere, is this a good technique for cars, too?
We got a lube and oil just 4000 miles ago or so, I don't know if they do this lube point or not. It's just Wal-Mart oil change so its hard to know how dedicated they are.
My wife says the pads are about a year old.
From what I can seen the pads are worn evenly - it's really hard to see in there, though. Lots of meat on the pad - I can see the metal backing plate. Perhaps an eighth of an inch of pad. No previous squeaking or other brake noises - this symptom came on rather suddenly.
There's enough gap between rotor and pad on the outside pad to see a sliver of light from my flashlight. I can't see any gap at all on the inside.
The wheel, when stopped after my wife drove it five or six miles, stank of burning brake pad. We live in mountainous areas so we're well acquainted with the unique smell. My drive was a very careful mile-or-so of travel back to my house so I don't think I got them cooking that much.
Thanks for the reply! -M
On 9 Oct 2003 13:13:06 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@vianet.on.ca (Cameron) wrote:

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There is a special lubicant for the sliders which you can purchase at most auto parts stores. Tell them what you're doing and they'll point you in the right direction. I would doubt if any lube place would do that during the standard lube but I could be wrong. The sliders will have undo once the caliper is off the rotor. A box wrench is all you'll need.Make sure you put the sliders back the correct way as I think there is a hollow along the shaft for the lubricant to travel. I'd bet the nipple you speak of is actually the brake fluid bleeder, not a lubrication (zerk) fitting but I'd need to look for sure.

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