Camry Untraceable Brake failure

I believe it was just some. I know that the Brake light remained on after the brakes started working again and the display monitor still said the VSC thing. I did not drive the vehicle after I parked it - I had it towed. The Firestone told me that they pulled codes but nothing was coming up and that the brake light and the display monitor (which were lit Friday night) were normal as of the next morning. Toyota couldn’t pull anything either besides an “engine start failure” code (This is new info, I asked about the codes today). Just got off the phone with the dealership and they still have no ideas. They are looking into the brake booster/vacuum issue though. The men who towed the vehicle and all of the technicians who’ve worked on it say that the brakes are completely fine, whether the lights were on or not.

Mountain bikes post makes the most sense…

"Another typical cause of these symptoms is an engine that momentarily stalls. That also affects the feel of the brakes, because your vacuum is temporarily lost and when you’re looking for a parking space and constantly using the brakes the residual vacuum in the booster disapppears almost instantly.

Bottom line: it sound to me like the brakes aren’t the problem. It sounds to me like possible intermittant stalling. In the absence of codes, I’d want to look at areas like the Idle Air Control. "

If you lose vacuum from the engine stalling, the pedal should get hard, not mushy, because you don’t have any vacuum assist helping you to push it down.

I going to add a slightly different thought here that may explain why no codes. Cold slushy conditions leads me to believe that you were driving at a slow (sane and reasonable) speed with your lights on and the heater/defroster fan on high. This causes a drain on the battery, the alternator cannot keep up with the load under these conditions.

This can cause a low voltage condition which can affect sensors and cause momentary ignition cutouts. If after parking, you shut down the engine and then tried to restart it, it might not have started, or at least was slow to turn over. After the tow, the battery will, through chemical action, partly recharge itself so a jump was not necessary. Tis could be the root cause of your problem, the descriptions above are the results.

Your brakes are fine, but that does not mean that the pads aren’t worn down. They may be getting to the point where they will need to be replaced, but not right now. You should ask the dealer how much life is left in the pads, just so that you can get an idea of when they will be at their minimums, but that does not mean that you need to replace them now. Its just good info to have.

BTW, I have heard (a long time ago) of a situation like yours where some moisture somehow got into the brake booster and iced up causing a similar condition as yours, but the boosters are much better sealed now. Just a thought. The ice would temporarily unseat the vacuum seal, letting all the vacuum out of the booster and killing the engine momentarily.

+1 on shadowfax comment. Not sure what is meant by ‘losing the brakes’.

Not sure if a car won’t be able to keep up with load under normal circumstances. That’s what they have ELDs (Electric Load Detector) for. Those things adjust the output of the alternator so you can turn stuff on with impunity – unless you’re running some huge audio amplifier. You should be able to idle your entire gas tank empty with all accessories on. We test that function five days a week, ‘commuting’ on i95 near NYC. :wink:

Regardless, please do report back as to what it is. That is a weird one.

would the fact that this car is a hybrid change anything? Should’ve mentioned that from the get-go…

+2 re: Shadow’s comment.

As a matter of fact, the accepted way to quick test a booster is to repeatedly pump the pedal, then while holding the pedal down turn the engine on. When pumping, the pedal will get hard, and when you turn the engine on you’ll feel the pedal soften.

Yes, that may change things. As a matter of fact, since the brakes have to be functional when the ICE isn’t running, the barking system may be different. And, that fact may complicate the problem of diagnosing an electrical problem it it is one. I’m not personally knowledgable in these new hybrid systems, and will defer to those here who are.

Sincere best.

Yes, that makes a difference. I suspect your brake stroke sensor may be bad. It’s what tells the regenerative brakes how far your pedal is pushed. A failure can cause dash lights as you described, and a perceived pedal mushiness as your pedal quickly travels through the regenerative range (which now applies no force because the sensor isn’t telling it that you’re hitting the brakes) before it hits the standard disc-brakes range. Have them check for that.

Thank you! I am getting so much peace of mind!

Let us know what happens :slight_smile:

The Firestone shop may have erased the stored faults making this problem a mystery for the Toyota shop. You should not take this car to a tire shop for hydraulic/electrial brake system problems, brake pads maybe. The hybrid Camry does not have the conventional vacuum booster/master cylinder like the non hybrid Camry does.

Susanna, hybrid makes a huge difference. Firestone is not capable of handling any kind of issue and repair on this car. You really are stuck with using a dealer for any problem that triggers a dash warning light. The brakes on your car first engage the electric motor for “braking” and use that energy to recharge the batteries. Then if you need to stop faster and push harder on the petal a mechanical braking system does engage as well. All of this transition from one braking system to another is very complicated and controlled by a sophisticated computer and loads of sensors. These systems are unique to the hybrid and regular mechanics simply don’t have the equipment to read the codes, repair manuals, and extra training needed to repair a hybrid when something is truely wrong.

It’s been at the dealership since Saturday and they can’t determine a single issue with the vehicle. I don’t know if I should pick up my car and wait for it to happen again or leave it there until they run out of options as far as testing.

It would scare the crap out of me if the dealer didn’t know what to do with the car. It being a hybrid, they likely are the only ones that can help you at at this point.
Perhaps suggest that they drive the car a bit, maybe by letting their most senior mechanic drive it home and back for a couple of days.

They’ve done the driving it home thing and the told me they’ve put about 150 miles on the car.

Hate to say it but it will likely happen again, if they didn’t find anything.

Not sure if this would help hybrid cars, but there is this gadget out there called “Carchip” that records the last 300 hours of ECM data. It looks like a large plug that you plug into the diagnostics port of your car and it records when codes are tripped and also records several parameters that may have lead up to it, logging the time and date.
It does not interfere with the use of the car and it does not reset codes unless you tell it to do that. To read the data, you take the carchip out and plug it into a PC’s USB port. A provided program dumps the data in a nice graphical format that you can save and print.
I’ve used it to determine where weird intermittent problems come from. They cost about $150. For me, that tool has paid for itself several times – but none of my driving appliances are hybrid cars.

You may want to ask your dealer about that carchip device for your car. It may not have occurred to them to use it as a tool in cases like this.
If the codes and protocol on hybrid cars is the same as gas cars, it could help them find weird intermittent problems like this.

I have a question for Susanna… When you said the brake felt mushy, did it by any chance vibrate a little, maybe very gently kick back on your foot… Did you happen to hear any strange noise when all of this happened??

You have mice. Or at least I think you have mice.

have you heard any scritching? little animal noises? Holes chewed?

Thats why the lights are all wierd sometimes.

Mice have chewed on your wires - and they get wet and that makes everything act wierd because they are shorting.

Wierd electronics in a regenerative braking car means wierd brakes.

This is my theroy.

+1 gsragtop

I couldn’t tell you. I was more in panic mode than anything… What would that indicate?

I am wondering if your ABS kicked on and that is what you interpreted as soft brakes, or brake failure. Its a very strange feeling if you have never felt it before. I know I have been on ice before with the ABS active and it feels as if the car just will not stop. It is also possible as one of the above people mentioned that a build of slush caused the brake sensors to read incorrectly, and the car applied the ABS pump. Then realized it should not have done it, and through your fault light on telling you to check it out. Assuming firestone cleared the codes by accident, this could be very plausible.