Brake problems on 2002 Honda Accord

My daughter has a 2002 Honda Accord. She recently took the car in to an independent mechanic because the car was not braking properly. As she applied pressure to the brake pedal, she needed to push the pedal farther down to get the brakes to stop the car. The brakes finally got to the point where the brake pedal went all the way to the floor and she had to engage the emergency brake to stop the car.

She took the car to a pretty good independent mechanic that we have used for quite a few years and he was not able to fix the problem. Here are the steps he took.

1. Replaced Master Brake Cylinder 3 times with the last being a Honda original part.

2. Replaced and bled the brake fluid several times.

3. Checked and replaced brake calipers.

4. Replaced the front brake system with second hand parts twice.

After and during the above steps, the mechanic tried to diagnose the problem by separately clamping hoses to the front and rear brake systems. While clamped, the brake pedal was firm and did not drop. The brake pedal remained firm when the clamp to the rear brakes was released. But the brake pedal dropped when the clamp to the front brake system was released. Because of this our mechanic is convinced that the problem is with the front brake system. I am not worried about cost yet because he was able to return all of the replacement parts he used except for the Honda Master Cylinder. However, he suggests that the next step is to replace the front brake system with a new Honda brake system that costs $1,000. But if that does not work the part cannot be returned and we will have to pay it.

Our mechanic and his techs have talked to various Honda service people and they indicated that they took all of the right steps. After all this the brakes are slightly better in that she no longer needs to use the hand brake to stop the car. However the car is not safe.

Does anyone have any ideas or had a similar experience before we commit to spending $1000 on an experiment.

One other thing, the car has recently also had some elctrical problems in which interior lights have not been working properly. Could the electrical problem be related to the brake system problem?

Does this Accord have an Antilock Brake System? If it does, maybe the problem is in the controller. I have seen weird problems with the controller units even when they are passive i.e. not activated and operating.

Hope that helps. Get back to us when the mechanic finds out what is the problem.

Have the front brake hoses been replaced? They could be expanding.

We replaced all four hoses, front and rear and that corrected the problem. Although the brake pedal is not as high as the mechanic wanted it, the brakes do respond and the brake pedal no longer drops to the floor. My mechanic did not replace these hoses earlier becasue he beleived that if the hoses were expanding then he would be able to see the expansion. However, a long term Honda mechanic suggested to him that since the hoses are double lined that it was probable that the interior lining of the hose that was wearing away and causing the expansion. Thnaks for the tip. It put us back on track.

The car has ABS. When I described the problem I said that my mechanic replaced the front brake system twice. I was wrong. He actually replaced the Controller Unit twice. We did not change it again because we felt that it was unlikely that we encountered 3 bad controller units. Instead we replaced the brake hoses as described below which fixed the problem. Thanks.

Does this car have rear drum brakes instead of discs? If so, worn or out of adjustment rear brake shoes can mimic a failing brake master cylinder.
Inspecting the rear drum brakes should always be the first step before replacing brake hydraulics.
If the car has rear disc brakes then this does not apply near as much.

Some issues I have with what has been done.
One does not replace the same part 3 times, or 2 times, in an effort to cure a problem. This is wild guessing.

The other issue is they’re “clamping” the brake hoses? No way on earth should this be done with what I assume is a pair of Vise-Grips. Expect a brake hose failure, or worse, in the future. That’s a horrible thing to do.

Thanks so much for the follow up post. It’s a rarity around here.

Are you sure the proper brake bleeding procedure was used? Most have you start with furthest wheel from the master cylinder, but in this case that’s not true. The brake bleeding procedure on this vehicle is, Left Front, Right Front, Right Rear, Left Rear.


Guys, the OP said the problem was solved. Why is it so hard for you frequent fliers to acknowledge that someone else, namely me, has already nailed the diagnosis?

What exactly has been “solved” up to this point?

Repeated replacement of parts along with the comment that “the pedal is not as high as the mechanic wanted it” and the “the brakes do respond and the pedal no longer drops to the floor” does not inspire much confidence in this repair.

To me, this repair sounds pretty iffy and I would be willing to bet a problem still exists.

Spongy hoses are a known issue with Hondas.

Wow! I guessed right when I replaced my brake fluid this summer!

One more thing about the brakes. Honda warns you to use only their fluid. I read up on it and it appears that you can substitute a high quality, synthetic DOT4 fluid with as high a boiling point as you can find. Silicone fluids are not acceptable. The fluid I used filled the entire system for under $10.

I’m still not buying it; not on an '02 Honda in which the pedal sinks entirely to the floor.

Any mechanic who replaces a master cylinder 3 times and applies the Vise-Grips to brake lines should turn in his tool box.
As far as I know applying Vise-Grips to brake lines can very well ruin them, go figure.

At this point the OP has a daughter out there driving around with a partial pedal. If it were my daughter I would want her to have a FULL pedal and that begs the question; if the hoses have been replaced (along with everything else) then why does the car still not have a normal brake pedal?
(The answer would be to check the rear brake adjustment)

It sounds to me like the OP is accepting mediocrity by taking delivery of a car with what could be a very serious brake problem. Hopefully the OP’s daughter will not wind up with no pedal at all during a panic stop.