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Brakes don't work in cold weather

Hello Everyone!

Thank you for any help you can offer! I have a 2000 Nissan Altima that works great except when the weather becomes cold in the winter. The brakes don't work when I turn on my car. The brake lever will not press down at all and once or twice (before I realized this was happening) my car went sliding down the road without an ability to stop. I can't tell if they start working after the car warms up or after I've pumped them for a while because they'll start working again at random times. Sometimes it takes a few seconds and sometimes it takes a few minutes. Thank you for any advice! Have a wonderful day!



  • edited October 2012
    Sounds like a bad brake booster or maybe the vacuum line to it is leaking. Not sure why it would be more prevalent in cold weather to the point you are describing, though.
    If you are physically not able to press the pedal down without having power assist, is a very dangerous condition so please get it taken care of soon.

  • Does your engine start and run smoothly in cold weather? Do you live at high altitude?
  • edited October 2012
    Good question. I see where you're going with that, Caddy. That could very well point to a vacuum problem.
  • I think the engine runs smoothly it is only the brakes. I live at ~8,500' elevation and work at ~10,000' elevation. I've looked it up online before and it seems to be a common problem with Altimas in cold weather.
  • Like RemcoW said, I think the problem is that there is no power assist to your brakes. You should be able to press the brake pedal to get the car to stop, but it may require much more power--maybe even both feet depending how big and strong you are. Try pushing on the pedal really hard and see if it moves next cold morning. If so, you have a problem with the power booster or vacuum system to the booster. Whatever the case, if you are unable to safely brake the car, have it towed to a shop. Don't drive it and risk damaging the car, you, or someone else.
  • Does cold weather mean below freezing? Does this happen when the air temperature is above freezing? If it only happens below freezing, then I suspect that you have water in the booster or in the vacuum check valve to the booster.
  • Automotive engines operating at those altitudes produce greatly reduced manifold vacuum especially at cold start-up..At those elevations, early morning temperatures are much lower than most of us experience. I suspect your power-brake booster, a vacuum operated device, was never tested to operate at 10 below zero and 8500' elevation. Other than a heated garage, this could be a tricky problem to solve...
  • edited October 2012
    Why isn't the car in the hands of a brake specialist as we speak. You can't stop and you're getting our opinion from afar ? Just asking. Don't drive it again and have it trailered or towed.
  • I'm assuming all the wheels have been pulled and the brake components given a visual inspection, are within specs, and that the brake fluid is ok. If so, I expect it as the others say, this is a defective brake booster. This should be easy and relatively inexpensive to fix.

    The only other thing I can think of is a problem with the ABS system, if the car has one.
  • If the temperature is near freezing and the humidity is relatively high ice may be accumulating at the vacuum booster vent or check valve.
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