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1996 Ford Econoline Brakes simply failed

My Ford’s brake pedal sank all the way to the floor quite suddenly while coming to a stop sign. This hadn’t happened before in years … (I brought the car new in 97) and I have maintained it every 3000 miles diligently. Luckily I pumped the brakes wildly and got the beast to stop inches from an accident…

part from the trauma of a very near miss and an rather irate another driver I was perplexed: could the master cylinder fail so quickly without a warning? Is there a warning I should have been on the lookout for?

The fluid is good AND I had the brake pads replaced about 1000 miles ago AND had the rotors resurfaced when the pads were replaced. The mechanic who did this work never mentioned anything about the master cylinder. Should the mechanic have caught this?

It is somewhat unusual for the master cylinder to bad like this all of a sudden. Usually, with this much age, the master cylinder will give you a warning, like giving you a soft pedal for a while, before crapping out altogether. But, the van is 13 years old, and anything can break at anytime. Seems to me that if you didn’t notice the master cylinder getting bad, a mechanic would have missed it, too. There is no visual inspection to know if a master cylinder will fail like that.

Unless it failed when he was doing his road test there’s no way he could have known it was ready to fail.

I’m curious about your choice of words “this hadn’t happened before in years”. Did you have this happen previously?