Break pedal needs to be pressed down farther

I have a 99 Toyota Camry and recently the breaklight has been coming on and off sporadically. I assumed I had done some damage to my E-break, as the other week I tried to back out with it on (cut me some slack, I just moved to PA after having only really driven in FL lol). I wasn’t worried about it since I didn’t notice any issues with my breaks, however the last few days I randomly have to press the pedal down almost to the floor to come to a full stop. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency to this, sometimes it happens when the light is on but usually not. It does it both when I am stopped (causing me to move forward slightly till I depress it farther), sometimes when I am stopping normally, both when I’m going straight and right after turning, ect.

I checked my break fluid level and it is at the minimum line so I doubt that is the issue. I did some research and saw many saying that it was likely just air in the lines and that the system needed to be bled. But some also mentioned replacing the master cylinder so I wanted to see what response I might get on here (I don’t know very much about cars myself). I’d also appreciate it if I could get a ball park on how much various potential issues might cost. I should be getting about $300 back when I do my taxes, but I’m a recent college grad who hasn’t found work yet so I’m basically broke outside of that.

I don't know very much about cars myself

Here’s a start…it’s BRAKE.

Sounds like you need a new master cylinder.


Since your brake fluid level is low, the first thing I’d do is visually look at ALL of your brake shoes and pads

As shoes and pads wear down, the fluid level in the reservoir goes down

It’s quite possible they are worn and need replacing

On some cars, when you have a very low brake fluid level, the red brake light will remain on

If the pads are worn “metal to metal” that would explain why the car is hard to stop

While you’re checking all this stuff out, make sure you don’t have a visibly leaking wheel cylinder, line, hose or brake caliper

While the car is on jack stands, have somebody step on the brake pedal and keep their foot down. Make sure you don’t have a bulging brake hose

If you don’t have a jack and jack stands, or don’t have much car knowledge, I recommend taking the car to a reputable independent shop

The big name chain stores are okay for tires and maybe oil changes. But I wouldn’t expect any real diagnosis.

Some of your symptoms could point to a bad brake master cylinder. But check out those other items first

Rear drum brakes? Maybe the rear shoes are worn or out of adjustment. That can mimic a master cylinder problem.

The brake system should have a pressure differential switch

The red brake light can come on in the case of a leak. The leak will cause a pressure differntial, which will cause the switch to move out of its normally centered position, which will in turn cause the red brake light to come on

Just one more thing to consider, in addition to the other things already mentioned

FYI . . . I’m not implying the red brake light is bogus. And I’m also not implying the pressure differential switch is bad. I’m just saying there may be valid and dangerous reasons for the red brake light to be on

Good advice above. If you can’t afford to fix your brakes yet, suggest at least you have the front pads inspected to see how close to the wear limit you are, and the rear drums adjusted. Asap. For yours and others safety. If the engine conks out as you approach school kids walking across the street, that’s an annoyance. If the brakes conk out, that’s dangerous.

I checked my break fluid level and it is at the minimum line so I doubt that is the issue

What the ??? If the brake fluid is at the minimum line then that is almost certainly the issue, or part of it? Even if you don’t know much about cars I would think that a fluid at the minimum mark would warn you that something isn’t right. At least you should try to top the fluid up to the maximum mark.

More than likely you’ve got some worn out brakes, a small fluid leak somewhere, or a failing master cylinder. Get them checked.

Recent college grad who can’t spell brake . Give me a break already.

I must respectively disagree about the brake fluid level @asemaster . If it’s definitely at the minimum mark or above, car parked on level surface, that shouldn’t cause the brakes to misbehave. On all my cars, past and present anyway, the brake fluid has to be significantly below the min mark before it affects braking performance.

I don’t ever top off the brake fluid when it gets toward the min mark. Doing that causes a mess when I later replace the pads b/c the fluid then overflows the top of the bottle.

You need to get this fixed or stop driving it. This is worth borrowing money for. A tip on job hunting, right now you need A job, not necessarily THE job. Take something that will leave you daytime hours to look for a better job but get on a payroll now.

As several others have already mentioned, you need to get this fixed immediately. There’s a very good chance that one of these times the pedal will go all the way to the floor and the car won’t stop.

I wasn’t going to say anything but now that you mentioned it, 10% of college grads think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court. Of course 13% of the general public thinks the same thing so that’s an improvement.

I told the story before but the local paper had a back to school “break” special by one of the repair shops. I thought this was a little ironic and emailed the editor. She changed it before the electronic version got printed in the paper version. Nothing like confusing kids.

Many families have enough trouble just keeping everyone reasonably healthy, cars running well enough at least to get to work, and enough food on the table so they don’t go starving. These families don’t spend much time thinking about supreme court issues. I expect the people who think JJ is on the supreme court either didn’t understand the question, don’t know who JJ is, or don’t know the difference between the SC and night court. Or they’re just playing a mind game with the questioner.

@GeorgeSanJose brake fluid at the minimum line does not cause problems, but it can indicate that there is a problem. Most people do not only fill to the minimum line, and so when you see fluid at the minimum line you know that either you are losing fluid somewhere, or that the pads have worn down enough to cause the fluid level to drop. Either way, the brakes need to be looked at.

yeah, yeah I realized I spelled brake wrong, just didn’t bother to edit it. Anyways, normally there would be nothing I could do but thankfully I have relatives willing to loan me money. I may have to drive it to an interview on monday, and to the mechanic on Tuesday (That was the earliest they could do without conflicting with the interview) but I don’t have to drive it till then. I’m going to try to borrow a relatives car for the interview as well, hopefully I won’t even have to drive it to that.

Thanks for all the input everyone!

People should focus on the question and not the spelling. He is asking for car repair advice not help spelling.

Give the guy a brake!!

People should focus on the question and not the spelling. He is asking for car repair advice not help spelling.

Totally agree w/ @“Joe Guy” on this one. Those forum posters who are interested both in cars AND spelling/grammar topics, they’d serve the Car Talk forums better by restricting their spelling/grammar comments to a spelling/grammar forum elsewhere on the internet. Posts about spelling here clutter the Car Talk forums posts, making it more difficult for those interested in the particular car topic to find the information they are looking for.

  1. STOP DRIVING THE CAR UNTIL THE BRAKES ARE REPAIRED. If you don’t repair the brakes you will break something else, like a life.

  2. Don’t attempt to repair it yourself.

  3. Air does not mysteriously appear in the lines. It only appears if there is a way for air to be introduced into the lines. Like low brake fluid. It could have sucked air into master cylinder because the fluid was too low.

I don’t think I often say anything about spelling but word usage is like the screech from chalk on the blackboard sometimes. To’s, there’s, brakes, especially. The other thing is that it really reflects on the person doing the writing. There is an immediate discount on what the person says. That’s just the facts. Typing fast, it happens to everyone but when it is repeated three or four times in the same paragraph it just has a negative impression on the reader. Same thing with no paragraphs.

Can also happen sometimes on phones when they auto correct you and you don’t pay attention… I do it all the time. Hope everything gets resolved with the car OP :slight_smile: