One-time failed brake problem

We have a 2003 Volvo V40. Yesterday, when pulling into a parking place, I pressed on the brake, nothing happened, and I rolled into the curb. ( This was definitely a brake failure. If I had hit the accelerator by mistake, the car would have accelerated. It didn’t; it rolled.) I immediately put the car in reverse, braked, it worked, put the car in forward again, and again the brake worked.

I drove over to our local mechanic with no problem. He said the only explanation he knew of was the master cylinder, but the problem should recur. He has driven it several times with no recurrence.

I also spoke to the service manager at the Volvo dealership. There was a previous recall of the 2000 Volvo V 40 for a brake problem caused by a faulty vacuum hose, but this only caused a brake failure after a cold start, which was not my problem. He also thought if it was the master cylinder, it should happen again in a short time.

A master cylinder is expensive, but I would gladly spend the money if I knew this were the problem. Has anyone had a similar situation?

What exactly happened when you hit the brakes? Did the pedal go to the floor or further than normal? Did the pedal feel harder than normal?

It felt normal.

So when you pushed the brake pedal if felt normal and it was a one time event? And during this one time event the brakes did not work at all. Because of the design of modern brake systems, this scenario is pretty much impossible.

I’d have to guess that you were unknowingly pushing the brake and the gas pedal at the same time, which can give the sensation that nothing is happening. I’ve done it before and it felt like the brakes were not doing anything, and I did not accelerate.

Again I have to say that no matter a bad vacuum hose or a master cylinder issue, the brakes will work to some degree. Also if one of these components had an issue the the brake pedal would not feel normal, and they also would not fix themselves. You pushed the brake and the gas at the same time, no big deal.

If it happens again, suspect the master cylinder. I had this happen once on a 1965 Rambler that I owned. The master cylinder was worn and once in a while not pump the brake fluid.

I absolutely didn’t push the gas pedal and the brake at the same time. I’m used to driving stick shift, so I NEVER use my left foot to brake. Besides, both our mechanic and the Volvo mechanic were familiar with the problem as I described it, and only knew the cause to be the master cylinder. As I said, though, if it were this, it should happen again sometime, and it hasn’t.

How long was it for you, until it happened again?

It was about a one-week period. As I remember, after it happened the second time, I had my mechanic check it out. He drove it around and could find nothing wrong. He was pulling it into the service bay to do some other work and it happened to him. A new master cylinder cured the problem.

During the one-week period before it happened again, did you do a lot of driving?

Hmmm. Volvo V40 brake failure. See the discussion here:

I am going to post there also to see if we can get the OP to tell us what happened.

Good luck.

Your 65 Rambler probably had a single piston master cylinder since doubles were not required until 67. Yeah, cars with single piston master cylinders could have complete failures which is why the change was made. It is virtually impossible for a duel piston cylinder to fail completely, especially then to cure itself.

The OP in this thread has a normal break pedal and no ongoing symptoms. The other thread sounds like a bad master cylinder.

I meant you were pushing the gas and break both with your right foot. Heal on the gas toes on the break.

Yes, the connection is a little tenuous, but maybe the failure over there will give a hint about what to look at – or think about – here.

Does this vehicle have ABS?

No, the 1965 Rambler did have a dual master cylinder–the front and rear brakes were independent. This was one of the selling features of the Rambler over other makes. Now it might have been the case that the front brakes weren’t operating and the rear brakes were. It’s been quite a while since I had the car. I do remember that the pedal dropped and I did a quick pump and brought it back up.

I suppose I put about 250 miles on the car–I averaged about 1000 miles per month. I sold the car 36 years ago, so it’s hard to remember all the details. I do remember that the pedal dropped and I did a quick pump of the brake pedal and it brought the pedal up and I stopped the car. I checked both compartments in the master cylinder and I was not low on fluid.