Leaky Brake Cylinders

Car is 1987 Accord, 189,500

About 2 months ago I was told one of my rear brake cylinders was leaking after noticing diminishing fluid levels in the master cylinder (I think that’s the correct terminology)

Today when I had my tires rotated I was informed that both cylinders were leaking.

Total cost to replace both: approx. $340.

I was told that the leaking cylinders could be a safety issue in the event that they seized up, I would have no stopping power.

The tire place wasn’t capable of doing the job anyway so it wasn’t like they were trying to sell me a repair (especially one I already knew was needed)

My dilemma is I only plan to keep this car a little while longer, say, into the spring of 09 when I plan to get something a little bit more modern, like post-2000.

I am not willing to invest any money into this car beyond basic maintenance and care. Am I an accident waiting to happen or can I get by just topping off the M/C with brake fluid every so often?

The problem with leaking brake cylinders is that the fluid will eventually end up on the brake shoes. This can reduce the braking effect or cause that brake to grab. With the winter time coming on, you don’t want to have a grabby brake that may cause the car to spin. Always keep the brake system in good repair as a brake failure can be catastrophic.


$340 sounds high for just replacing the cylinders, which run ~$25 each. I’m guessing that price includes new shoes etc.

My suggestion is get a second opinion on the matter. Brakes fall into the highest priority besides muffler and tires with regards to basic maintenance and care. They can kill you if they fail.

I suggest a 2nd opinion since this shop may not even be qualified for the diagnosis given they won’t perform the repair. I have heard it all from so called tire and oil change lube techs. I gave up long ago on listening to them and use a trusty independent.

" I am not willing to invest any money into this car beyond basic maintenance and care."
I’d say fixing brakes is basic maintenance and care. It is a basic safety issue. To use your words, if you don’t attend to this matter, you are an accident waiting to happen.

Yes, this is a safety issue. See if you can find another mechanic ($340 sounds a bit high, but this would include new pads and turned drums), try the Cartalk mechanic finder, you do need to fix this now, or get a different car (disclosing this to the new purchaser, of course!).

On Investing and Caring…

You state, “I am not willing to invest any money into this car beyond basic maintenance and care.”

  1. Cars are not an investment, they are transportation, excepting collector cars or classics.

  2. Since you put off necessary brake upkeep on your car because you don’t consider it to be “basic maintenance and care,” Just what in your opinon does qualify?

  3. Since I consider having my car stop safely as a major item on the “basic maintenance and care” list and the resulting safety of my family, please do me a favor and specify the roads you travel, by name and location, and a schedule showing times when you are likely to use them.

It didn’t go unnoticed that you waited 2 months after the first cylinder leaked, probably due to extremely worn shoes and drums, and lack of concern. When a second cylinder started leaking you began wondering if it’s safe.

Are you joking? Life insurance could be your solution. This would be an investment for your survivors (provided they don’t travel with you) and would show that you basically care. Also, when spring rolls around and your front brakes don’t work, you won’t have to worry about buying another car. The sad part is that you will miss being able to attend the funeral by 2 or 3 days.

You say, "My dilemma is I only plan to keep this car a little while longer…"
My dilemma is in trying to say this tactfully while keeping it in good taste. Get the brakes fixed, please.

Here Lies Jeff
He saved a buck
Today’s The Day
He Ran Out Of Luck

Thanks for all the fast responses. I’ll take care of this as soon as I can get the car to my indy.