Brake Pedal Spongy

For about a month, my brakes felt like they were taking longer to stop. Brake pedal started to feel more spongy, i thought it was because of worn down pads. Shaking when stopping. I was also hearing squeaking from time to time when stopping fully from one side. I decided the other day i was going to change the front pads, as that was where the sound was coming from.

After getting the bottom caliper bolt I lifted it up and removed the pads. “Hmm thats weird they look good.” I thought to myself. I already bought the new pads so i went ahead and stuck them on. Compressed the calipers (did not take the lid off the master cyl) and went for a test drive.

I pumped the brakes really good before taking off in the car. Take off down my hill, and notice that the brake pedal is sinking quite a good distance to the floor. I give it several really good hard pumps, but it is still sinking relatively far, and taking a longer time to stop. I end up taking it down the local highway, stopping from 45ish mph to about 15. Taking longer then i think it should.

I end up getting home, and notice the passenger rim is way hotter than the driver side. This is also the side i had the squeaking from. I take off the wheel, and double check. Everything seems okay. I press the brakes really hard with the car in the air. Both wheels roll fine when i turn them. That to me was ruling out the caliper sticking. I let it cool overnight, then drove it around some more. Both wheels were the same temp and all’s good. Have not had that problem since. (i put that in there just incase it gives some insight)

3 days later, the brake pedal is still sinking to the floor. I did not open the bleeder screws when doing the brake pads, but i didnt open the master cylinder cap when compressing the calibers. I heard this can cause air to go into the system.

Is this a valid reason for the brake pedal slipping to the floor, or should i get the calipers and MC checked out? its only been doing this for the last month, but is much worse after the pad changing.

First make sure the calipers float properly. The calipers slide on two pins or bushings. If they don’t float, the outside pad will not pull back like it should and will wear faster and run hotter.

Now you will need to do a full bleed, including an ABS bleed cycle. That will take a scan tool with that feature built in or you will need to go to the dealer. The full bleed should be done with a pressure bleeder.

Welcome to the forum! What year is your Camry?

2001 toyota camry LE 4 cyl. 2.2

Ok I have a 2005, only a generation newer than yours. I did a quick Google search and your car has ABS. Mine does as well, but it’s a different generation. Not sure about the differences between them. Is your brake fluid black? I haven’t had this issue in my Camry, so I’m interested to hear what people say.

It actually is black.

@keith what exactly do you mean by floating? Sorry for dumb question, but I really don’t know what you mean by this. I love learning stuff from this forum

@rockyfeb821 sounds like you got lots of water or other contaminants in there. So water has a lower boiling point than the brake fluid, so it’ll boil.

Also they are pins, at least on 2005 so probably the same for 2001. I had this spare sitting around. The top one looks like the one above except it’s completely flat, the bottom one is like the one in the picture, the bottom has some kind of notch thing at the bottom

same thing happen to my 89 Camry, thinking i needed new brakes on front but ended up being the back brakes i let them go so long that the calipers were stuck down all the way, the back brakes are the ones first to apply when stepping on the brake pedal and right now i need to readjust them out some cause my pedal is getting lower to the floor. the shaking on mine was it needed inner tie rods i did get some but still haven,t installed them been almost a year now.

Can you explain why the back brakes would need adjusting after replacing the fronts? Or do they just need readjusted in general? do they get out of sync or something? Ive never messed with drums.

the back brake pads wear down and they have a star adjuster wheel on them. if you look on the back side of the wheel it has a rubber plug, take it off and with the wheel off the ground stick a screw driver or you can get a adjuster tool turn the star wheel out to were it just starts to drag the wheel when turning it by hand.

While you have new pads in, it is a little difficult to see. You can see it more when the pads are worn down. Try grabbing the top of the caliper and pulling it outward. This will push the piston back into the cylinder on the inside. Once the piston is pushed in, you can move the caliper back and forth on the pins.

Or you can remove the caliper. Now there are several designs for the pins or bushings. Older calipers fit over a bushing. The bolts that hold the caliper in place go through the bushings and the caliper slides on the outside of the bushing.

Newer models, the bolts that holds the caliper in place are about 2" long with threads just under the head for about 1/2" or less. The rest is bare and gets greased. The caliper rides on the smooth section of the bolts, AKA pins.

The newest use a short bolt that bolts the caliper to a bushing that runs through the caliper bracket. You can remove the caliper and slide the bushing to make sure it slides freely.

This design is called “floating calipers” because the piston pushes the inside pad in against the rotor while at the same time it pushes the backside of the caliper away from the rotor, thus pulling the other side of the caliper in. That pulls the outside pad up to the rotor on that side.

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Do the rear brake drums not self adjust when you back up and apply the brakes anymore . :thinking:

No they do not. They haven’t worked that way since the days of all drums. The rear brakes on disk/drum systems self adjust when you set the parking brake. On all disk with a drum parking brake, there is no self adjuster, you have to manually adjust them, at least on a Subaru with electronic brakes.

Self adjusting brakes don’t self adjust very long in places where they salt the roads. Also as stated by many posters on theis forum, many people don’t use their parking brake.

Disc brakes don’t need adjusting, drums do, and drums that need adjusting can cause your pedal to go all the way to the floor.

First, I am not a mechanic.

Black brake fluid is a red flag.
Along with the comments about the rear drums, I suspect all the flexible brake lines should be replaced. The hot passenger side rim may have been due to deterioration of the flexible line not allowing return of brake fluid. I would also recommend inspection/replacement of the rotors.


Old calipers can get damaged and start to leak by compressing the piston. If you see evidence of brake fluid loss or you smell brake fluid on either side,the brake pedal will slowly sink to the floor.The only way to remedy this is to buy a new caliper.

Since the vehicle is a 2001 or 19 years old… and One side was very hot and the other not - I don’t believe that it is air in the system. The heat from the passenger side - is that the brakes were staying ON… the fluid than gets hot and starts boiling; which becomes a VAPOR in the lines - and your brakes become soft and spongy and do not work… Brake fluid absorbs water (moisture) from the air and becomes ‘diluted’ and the boiling temp becomes lowered quite a bit. You should probably have the brake fluid changed out.

However - WHY did the one side become so Hot and start interfering with your brakes? This could very well be caused by the age of your brake hose lines. The brake HOSE going to the caliper is subject to deterioration - and can get to the point where when you release the brakes (take your foot of the pedal) - the brake hose COLLAPSES or PINCHES - and the brake fluid is NOT released from the Caliper. This causes the brake to stay ON and it becomes very HOT - which causes the fluid to boil; which causes you to lose your brakes. When you apply the brakes - the hose is FILLED with fluid (pressurized) and moves the caliper - and the brake hose is EXPANDED; and when you release the brakes - the deteriorated hose COLLAPSES just a bit and causes a pinch - and fluid is not released - and you get the situation you are describing. I suggest you replace both caliper brake hoses; and any brake HOSE (not steel tubing) - in the same vicinity - on both sides of your brakes; get the fluid flushed… and you will probably be fine after that. I apologize if this is not it - I did not read all the previous comments - but this specific incident did happen to me - on a 1992 truck that I own… If this does not fix it - you should definitely take it to a good mechanic. But a simple deterioration of the brake hose can cause the pedal to sink to the floor - because the hose pinches when the pedal is released; the brake fluid becomes hot and starts to boil - and now you have VAPOR and not fluid in your brake line. And Vapor compresses; while fluid does not! And when it cools - it becomes a fluid again…

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Old brake fluid tends to look VERY dark, particularly if the car is 15 or 20 years old and the fluid has never been flushed out

So that to me doesn’t necessarily indicate that all the hoses and seals are shot and/or crumbling internally

And it’s subjective

What op might describe as black might be described as brown, tan, light brown, dark brown, dark green or what have you . . . by me or others