Textbook case of failing master cylinder.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a little problem with the brakes on my '95 Buick LeSabre with 30,000 miles on it. The problem does not happen often, but often enough for me to be concerned. When approaching a stop sign or driving slowly in a parking lot, when I depress the brake pedal lightly, the pedal goes almost to the floor before I have braking power. At the dealer's garage, the two rear-wheel cylinders were replaced. I was told they were leaking. That did not solve the problem. Back to the garage. Now the brake lines were bled and the brakes were adjusted. They said that should do it. Wrong -- the problem is still there. What advice do you have for me? -- Sebastian

TOM: Go to another garage, Seb. These guys sound like they're at least one taco short of a combination plate.

RAY: You have what sounds like an absolute textbook case of a bad brake master cylinder. You have all the symptoms: It's intermittent, the pedal slowly goes to the floor, and I'd be willing to bet that it happens more often in cold weather. The only thing that would have made it more obvious is if you had driven in with a banner on your windshield that read "BAD MASTER CYLINDER INSIDE."

TOM: And this is serious business, Sebastian. Your brakes could fail completely, which, needless to say, could be fatal ... or worse! So get yourself to another shop and ask them to put in a new master cylinder. The part costs just under 300 bucks, so the whole thing, with labor, should cost you between $350 and $400.

RAY: And don't go back to those other guys. Even if you really needed new rear-brake cylinders, they put you in great danger by failing to catch the master cylinder. They don't deserve your business anymore.

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