Day in and day out, you step on your vehicle's brake pedal with little to no thought. One day, you step on the brake pedal, only to notice that it's gotten much softer than you're used to. A soft brake pedal could signal any number of common brake system maladies. The following goes in-depth into each one and what can be done about them.
Air in the Brake System
One of the most common causes of that spongy brake pedal feeling is when air manages to infiltrate the brake system. This usually happens when there is a leak somewhere within the system or air makes its way into the brake master cylinder when brake fluid levels are low. Air in the brake lines not only contributes to corrosion, but it can also interfere with the brake system's hydraulic components, such as the calipers.
The only way to remove air from the brake system is to bleed it out of the brake lines. This can be a tough do-it-yourself job, so you might want to leave this one up to the professionals for the best results.
Bad Brake Lines
Brake lines made from rubber can weaken over time, allowing the hydraulic force of the brake fluid to swell and bulge the weakened area during a stop. Eventually, the line may develop a slow leak or rupture completely. Brake lines made from steel can also corrode, especially in areas well known for rust caused by road salt.
It's important to check the brake lines near the calipers for any signs of wear and damage. You might also want to have your mechanic take a look at the other rubber and metal brake lines, just in case you've missed anything.
If you own a car with rear drum brakes and the brake pedal happens to be soft, then chances are the brake shoe self-adjusters aren't working properly. It's not uncommon for the self-adjusters to become frozen in place because of corrosion or long-term neglect.
One way to free up the self-adjusters on your own involves making a hard stop in Reverse gear. Simply find a large, open expanse of parking lot, accelerate to a reasonable speed in reverse gear and firmly press and hold the brake pedal until the car quickly comes to a complete stop.
A Bad Master Cylinder
A worn-out or defective brake master cylinder can fail to hold enough pressure to maintain firm pedal travel. In some cases, the brake pedal may even sink to the floor, creating an extremely dangerous failure mode for your braking system.
Master cylinder replacements should be left in the hands of a skilled and properly trained brake repair mechanic. This way, you'll have peace of mind that the job was done correctly.Share
8 July 2015
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