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All of sudden breaks that have to be pumped or slammed down

In June I bought an 83 Ford Escort. The first thing I did was take it to Les Shwab to have my breaks checked. I was told my breaks were in good condition. In September I started noticing my breaks were not always working, I had to pump and really slam them down to stop. My break fluid was going through fast, possibly leaking. So I took the car back into Les Shwab. They told me I had $600 worth of break repair. I do not believe this, I think that I just need a new break fluid tube or a flush. What do you think, and what do you think the real cost is to fix the problem. Thank you.

Tina, don’t drive this car. You have a serious brake problem and right now that car is dangerous to you and anyone on the road around you.

Brake fluid should not be going anywhere. You have a leak.

As I understand it, Les Shwab is a “car care” chain. These kinds of places are known for not doing very good work and for “upselling” people on things they don’t need. Ask around among friends and relatives for a good, local, owner operated shop - like the kind of place where the guy who fixes the car is the same guy on the name of the business. Have your car towed there to have the brakes checked.

Thank you. I did decide to stop driving my car early October, so no worries. Do you know of a good, local shop I could take my car to in the Portland, OR area?

Thanks again for the response.

Is it really a 1983 Escort?

Try “The Mechanics Files” on the Cartalk home page to locate a mechanic in your area:

One of the drawbacks of driving a car that age is that anything could fail at any time. It’s entirely possible that the brakes were fine in June and sprung a leak in September.

What exactly did they say it needed? It would not surprise me of they suggested $600 worth of work. If you have a caliper blowing fluid, or a master cyliner, the bill could easily get that high. If I were looking at a, '83 and one front caliper blew, I think I’d recommend canging them both. The other is probably at its life’s end also.

With an Escort of that age I would certainly look for a leak…the first places to look are the INSIDES of all of your wheels…if one or more look wet or very clean and shiny…you found the leak. If not then follow your brake lines down your vehicle…They start under your hood where the brake fluid goes…Tell us what you find.

You can add fluid at this time and pump your brakes until you do find a leak…you stated that you had to add fluid a few x…this means a leak that you will be able to find…

IF you find no leaks at all…which is VERY DOUBTFUL…then it is your Brake Master Cylinder…the part under the hood where you add brake fluid again…