Forum Thread

Brakes went out!

RUsum1 9,544 1,696 September 23, 2012 at 10:38 AM
While I was driving last night my brakes all of a sudden started to fail. I was approaching the road where I needed to turn and my brake pedal felt like it went into two stages. It worked fine at first but then it felt like something went loose and the pedal continued to go to the floor without stopping the car completely. The brakes partially work as in they slow the car a little bit but not completely. I don't know much about brake pressure but did something happen where I need to pump the brakes or just add brake fluid? I didn't really have a chance to do it last night since the turn was onto the road for the house I was visiting. I had another car that I added brake fluid to at one point but I think that caused a problem because shortly after I think it blew the lines from having too much pressure.

It sucks that this happens on a Saturday night because there aren't really any places open on a Sunday. If there are some things I can do to find out the problem myself that would be great.

edit: I did not notice any brake light in the dash come on before or after it happened.

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#2
Quote from RUsum1 View Post :
While I was driving last night my brakes all of a sudden started to fail. I was approaching the road where I needed to turn and my brake pedal felt like it went into two stages. It worked fine at first but then it felt like something went loose and the pedal continued to go to the floor without stopping the car completely. The brakes partially work as in they slow the car a little bit but not completely. I don't know much about brake pressure but did something happen where I need to pump the brakes or just add brake fluid? I didn't really have a chance to do it last night since the turn was onto the road for the house I was visiting. I had another car that I added brake fluid to at one point but I think that caused a problem because shortly after I think it blew the lines from having too much pressure.

It sucks that this happens on a Saturday night because there aren't really any places open on a Sunday. If there are some things I can do to find out the problem myself that would be great.

edit: I did not notice any brake light in the dash come on before or after it happened.
When was the car brake system serviced? Car model and year? When was the brake lines rebraided? What are the brake configuration (disk / drum at front/rear?). Where is/was the car located and when was the last time the underbody of the car got washed? Does it have ABS?

If there is spongy feeling when you step on the brake pedal while the car is on(running) and without ABS alarm, no Engine light on, and no squeaky sound when braking, it's 80% chance that the brake line has air in it or there is internal brake fluid leakage (failed seal) at the master cylinder or the distribution cylinders, especially if this happens more often at warm temperature than cold.

Solution (from less costly to more costly): bleed the brake fluid, replace the master cylinder, replace/rebraid the brake lines. And always reflush/replace the new brake fluid to spec.

Maintenance: at high salt/humidity area, use low pressure waterjet clean the underneath of the car body at least once a month.

Avoid opening the master cylinder reservoir cap if you don't have to. You can check the fluid level from the outside of the reservoir anyway. Different brake fluid could mess up the system and cause boiling or leakage.
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Last edited by teetee1 September 25, 2012 at 05:57 AM
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#3
Quote from teetee1 View Post :
When was the car brake system serviced? Car model and year? When was the brake lines rebraided? What are the brake configuration (disk / drum at front/rear?). Where is/was the car located and when was the last time the underbody of the car got washed? Does it have ABS?

If there is spongy feeling when when you step on the brake pedal while the car is on(running) and without ABS alarm, no Engine light on, and no squeaky sound when braking, it's 80% chance that the brake line has air in it or there is internal brake fluid leakage (failed seal) at the master cylinder or the distribution cylinders, especially if this happens more often at warm temperature than cold.

Solution (from less costly to more costly): bleed the brake fluid, replace the master cylinder, replace/rebraid the brake lines. And always reflush/replace the new brake fluid to spec.

Maintenance: at high salt/humidity area, use low pressure waterjet clean the underneath of the car body at least once a month.

Avoid opening the master cylinder reservoir cap if you don't have to. You can check the fluid level from the outside of the reservoir anyway. Different brake fluid could mess up the system and cause boiling or leakage.
Wow lots of questions. I'll try to answer what I can

2002 Buick Century.
Not sure of brake configuration
I have only had the car since Christmas 2009 and I don't think I've done anything with the brakes so far.
I live in Charleston SC so it is definitely high humidity and I guess since it's on the coast it can be a salty environment when downtown floods after a heavy rainfall.
I don't have any equipment to wash the underbody of the car so are there any car wash places that do this?
No sounds when braking
Engine light is always on but it is for an EGR valve or something that I'm constantly told not to worry about.
Not sure what exactly you mean by spongy feeling but it felt like a lot less pressure after pressing the pedal from halfway down to the floor


Hope this helps
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#4
Quote from RUsum1 View Post :
Wow lots of questions. I'll try to answer what I can

2002 Buick Century.
Not sure of brake configuration
I have only had the car since Christmas 2009 and I don't think I've done anything with the brakes so far.
I live in Charleston SC so it is definitely high humidity and I guess since it's on the coast it can be a salty environment when downtown floods after a heavy rainfall.
I don't have any equipment to wash the underbody of the car so are there any car wash places that do this?
No sounds when braking
Engine light is always on but it is for an EGR valve or something that I'm constantly told not to worry about.
Not sure what exactly you mean by spongy feeling but it felt like a lot less pressure after pressing the pedal from halfway down to the floor


Hope this helps
I say have the master cylinder replaced, brake fluid flushed and the lines bled. No specific brake complaints about brake fail prematurely (do have some ABS light complaints from service bulletin
http://www.obd-codes.com/tsb/2002/buick/century/

You can visit any autozone store to have them use OBD-II scanner to pull out all the ECM codes for free. Sometimes there are more than one thing wrong. EGR failure is common emission problem but not critical.

The brake lines are probably due for replacing in a couple of years if it's not the problem. Have the garage to check them as well just to make sure. The line braiding takes time so if you do need to replace them be prepared to leave the car at the garage for 4 hours or longer.
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#5
Well when the tow truck got it onto the bed we could see brake fluid dripping from the line in the back so that seems to be the problem. Hopefully that's the only problem.

So I have an idea what to expect, what is a reasonable price to change some of the brake lines? They weren't able to get to the car today so I had to leave it there until tomorrow
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#6
Unfortunately, that's hard to say. Often one line is bad but when you try to disconnect it, the adjacent line fails because the connection is rusty. The lines are inexpensive, depending on your location and who does the work, figure about $80/hr x 3 hours and maybe $80 material/shop supplies. They will need to blead the system and with any luck, all the bleader valves will work.
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#7
if you have rear break cylinders;
you may want to replace all 4 lines and rear brake cylinders;
or at least inspect them; it maybe cheaper to replace cylinders vs trying to bleed old rusty cylinder.
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#8
You're lucky. Brake failure isn't fun.

So if it's just a line, they're simple to change. Of course, have them replace anything else that's questionable and change (flush) all the brake fluid. It likely calls for DOT3, some places will push DOT4 as being better and compatible. You want to total fluid change as it absorbs moisture and can cause brake lines to rot from the inside out. Also, use DOT3 as was called for when the car was built. DOT4 has been known to turn black quickly and absorb moisture or other bad things easily although it has higher operational specs. Google it for details. At least for my car, a 2000 Ford interceptor, DOT4 is strongly discouraged.

Good luck with it.
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#9
If the brake pedal went all the way to the floor, you may have to eventually replace the master cylinder even if the problem is nothing but air in the brake lines, because when the pedal goes that far, the rubber seals scrape against an unused part of the cylinder that's rougher than the area in front of it. So the result can be damage to the rubber seals, and after the air is bled out the same problem may reappear, in days or weeks. This is also why when bleeding brakes, you don't want to press the pedal more than about 1/2" - 1". Be sure any replacement master cylinder is high quality, preferrably brand new instead of rebuilt/remanufactured.

It used to be that the brake fluid reservior was sealed and kept out moisture, but every plastic reservior I've seen had a screw-on cap with a tiny vent hole, so humidity gets in anyway, and the fluid will turn dark in 6 months, even in a hot, dry climate.

Brake fluid is good paint remover and works fast, so rinse it off as soon as possible. A self-service car wash will let you spray under the car, and unlike automatic car washes it won't expose your car to recycled water that's full of fungus, bacteria, (ever notice the smell?) and salt poured on the roads in the winter months.

PopularMechanics.com has several articles about brake diagnosis and repair, and Books.Google.com has many issues free online. Popular Science is also available there, and issues older than about 1990 have car repair articles.
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#10
Look at brake fluid level under the hood
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#11
Meh...save yourself the headache and just cut a hole in the floorboard...
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Meh...save yourself the headache and just cut a hole in the floorboard...

That would require additional monthly budget on shoe wear.
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That would require additional monthly budget on shoe wear.
Nono

Real men don't wear shoes.

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That would require additional monthly budget on shoe wear.
Skechers Shape-ups.....when they wear down to normal size shoes, just wear them like normal shoes. win-win.
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#15
Turned out to be a busted brake line near the rear. The place wanted to charge over $400 to fix it which everyone told me was a complete rip-off. Luckily, a buddy of mine is neighbors with a mechanic who he said can fix it for probably half of that price. I guess he has all the stuff needed to do it.

Quote from JAB View Post :
Unfortunately, that's hard to say. Often one line is bad but when you try to disconnect it, the adjacent line fails because the connection is rusty. The lines are inexpensive, depending on your location and who does the work, figure about $80/hr x 3 hours and maybe $80 material/shop supplies. They will need to blead the system and with any luck, all the bleader valves will work.
Hmmm...$80x4 = $320. While it's still a good bit less than $400, I'm kind of surprised that your estimate was that high given everyone's reaction at my job.
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Last edited by RUsum1 September 25, 2012 at 06:13 PM
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