Mushy brakes feel after very hard stop

I have a Toyota Corolla and I had to press the brakes hard to avoid an accident on the freeway. The brakes smoked and squealed very hard. The dealer checked the brakes and said I had 6 mm left on the front pads and 4mm on the rear pads. But I still have strange mushy brake feel when driving. The car stops but doesn’t feel as responsive as before. Is it my imagination or is something going on with the brakes? Thanks

The brake fluid may be bad. Use a turkey baster and remove as much fluid from the master cylinder as possible then top it off with fresh and open the bleeder on the passenger side rear brakes and pump the pedal several strokes then check the fluid level and top it off. Do that repeatedly until the fluid leaking from the wheel is clean then do the same for the left rear then the right front then left front. That maintenance should be done every 2 to 3 years at a minimum.


Did the shop checked the system for leak? You need someone to press hard on the brake pedal while you check under the car for any wet spots.

I bet the shop didn’t even think to check for leaks. I did see some stains on the wheel well on the driver’s side. I might need to take it to my independent mechanic.

I’m not a good DIY mechanic. I will have to have my independent mechanic check for leaks and/or bad fluid.

If there is a brake system leak hopefully its not too expensive for my independent mechanic to do. I am supposed to do a lot of stop and go driving for work this week too. The brake warning indicator light is not on.

Any hydraulic leaks will leave wet stains for a period of time, there is no need to apply the brake on a vehicle that comes in for inspection to determine if there are leaks. The brake pedal feel may be due to the quality of the brake fluid in this aging vehicle.

The OP didn’t mentioned anything about the age of his vehicule and if the brake fluid was ever replaced.

Why wait for a good target @COROLLAGUY1? Just take whatever gets tossed up and give it your best shot. I keep my Fanner 50s ready at all times.

My car is a 2006. So 12 years old. It has been dealer maintained since new. I assume they changed brake fluid but I can’t remember. I asked the dealer to “check the brakes” during a full maintenance appointment on May 26 (a week ago) but the service advisor didn’t say a word about the brake fluid either way. Only mentioned the pads.

It’s a 2006. 12 years old. Dealer maintained since new. Dealer didn’t say a word either way on May 26th about the brake fluid or possible leaks during a full maintenance checkup. Only mentioned brake pads.

The other thing that could have happened is that the master cylinder went bad when you braked hard. You probably hit the pedal harder than you ever have before, which made the master cylinder piston travel farther than it ever has before. That dragged the piston seal past all the gunk that’s been building up at the end of the piston’s normal travel, and now the gunk is preventing the seal from sealing.

The solution is to replace the master cylinder.

A test for this is to (with the car not moving) press the brakes normally and note the mushy feel. Then slam the brake pedal hard and fast. If it doesn’t feel mushy, then that points to a seal problem – the fast hit doesn’t give the fluid time to flow through the leaky seal, so the pedal feels firm.

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Thanks for the tip

That’s a great procedure that if followed closely with great attention to the feel of the pedal can often preview a catastrophic failure @shadowfax. Hopefully the OP can and will be successful in carrying it out. Sometimes the problem can only be duplicated by using a minimal pressure while slowly depressing the pedal. But whatever the problem is here if it isn’t taken care of soon the sudden loss of brakes at an inconvenient time is possible.

And as for the dealership or any shop when someone wants their brakes checked I would think they would remove the brake fluid reservoir cap and visually inspect the fluid and open a bleeder to visually check the fluid there. When brake fluid is the color of walnut stain it’s past time for flushing and likely something is at the verger of failing.

When I do the pressing down hard and fast test does it matter if the engine is on or off? And does it matter if the car is in park or does it have to be in drive or neutral with the parking brake on etc? Thanks!

Lol. I just sent a text to my dealership service advisor asking if he checked the brake fluid and checked for leaks and checked the master cylinder when I brought it in May 26 and asked him to “check the brakes”. Hope he responds to my text.

The engine should be running, and the car should be in park only because then it won’t move on you.

Thanks for letting me know

Dealer service advisor just said there were "no visible leaks"from the brake lines or master cylinder when I brought it in to be checked on May 26

doesn’t mean the master cylinder is not bad.

To make that clearer, the master cylinder can be bad even with no leaks.