Don't believe the dealer, there IS something wrong with brakes that fail just one time.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

My wife and I are the reluctant owners of a 1987 Olds Delta 88. When I say reluctant, I mean we hardly dare to drive the thing. My wife was travelling through town the other day, and when she approached an intersection, she says, she stepped on the brake and presto, no brakes! Thankfully, she remembered the parking brake, and even though she hit the car in front of her, only minor damage was done. After she limped on to her destination--about two miles--the brakes gradually began to work again. I am beginning to wonder if she missed the brake pedal, but considering the size of her feet, that seems impossible. We took the car to our Olds dealer, and they could find nothing wrong. Meanwhile, we are hesitant to drive it. What should I do?

TOM: Well, the first thing you should do is apologize to your wife for that comment you made about her feet. Now everyone in the country is going to know what huge clompers she has!

RAY: The next thing I'd do is go out and get a new brake master cylinder. Despite what your dealer says, there's no question that SOMETHING is wrong. And if it happened once, it's probably going to happen again. The master cylinder would be the first thing I'd suspect.

TOM: Another possibility is the proportioning valve, although in my experience, that's less likely to be it.

RAY: It could also be overheating brake fluid from a sticking parking brake or caliper, or something else unusual like a brake hose that's getting pinched or collapsed.

TOM: But I wouldn't let them off the hook by telling you they couldn't find anything. They're going to have to start replacing things until they figure it out. Even if your safety isn't important to your Olds dealer, it IS important to us, Paul. Our editor told us we can't afford to lose any more readers!

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