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Cold Brakes in Winter = no function?

My wife got into the chevy prizm this morning. The temperature was -14 F, without the wind chill. She could not press the brakes down for the first 5 minutes of it warming up.

Well–I am making assumptions here. After 5 minutes of warming up, she pulled out of the driveway. My wife is a very safe person so I can only assume the brakes finally began to function.

Is it possible that the brake lines froze? If so, does this point to some other issue we should deal with? Or is this just cold weather stuff…I have spent all of my driving years (not many, admitted) in cold cold weather, but I have never had the brake not go down.

Thanks to the Great Hive of Car Knowledge.

Yes, it’s possible the brake lines froze. I’ll assume that the car is 10+ years old. The older the vehicle, the more likely that over the years that enough moisture has accumulated in the brake line (or, master cylinder) to freeze and block movement of brake fluid.
Use a baster, or hand pump, to empty the brake master cylinder. Refill with fresh brake fluid. Go to each wheel and loosen each brake bleeder screw. Bleed each brake until new brake fluid comes out each brake bleeder.

If the brake fluid has never been changed, then yes, it is possible for the accumumlated moisture in the fluid to freeze and result in short-term brake failure.

If the brake fluid has not been changed within the past 3 years, I would strongly suggest that you have this procedure done, because the long-term effects are even worse than what your wife experienced today. Long-term, that moisture can lead to rusting of brake lines with a resultant leak of the fluid. Also, driving in hilly/mountainous terrain can lead to brake failure when that moisture boils under heavy brake use. Either scenario will result in total brake failure.

For safety’s sake, have the brake fluid changed a.s.a.p.

Their advice is correct. Let me add the explanation. Traditional brake fluid simply absorbs moisture. That is part of its chemical nature. So, thus it needs to be replaced from time to time. Having moisture in it does not mean some sort of special problem with the car.

I agree with the others and I suggest you make an appointment with your mechanic to have the brake fluid replaced ASAP. If there’s moisture in the lines it could freeze while your wife is driving and the brakes will not work. This is not something to gamble with.

The only parts of the brake system that are warmed by the engine are those under the hood. Everything else is still exposed to the frigid air and will freeze and/or remain frozen.