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Soft Spongy Brakes again...Honda Element

OK. I’ve posted about this before - I know that. But, after $1500 of Brake Modulator, and $300 of Master Cylinder applied to this 2007 Elements warranty repair list, the problem is still there. The fluid’s been bled, the pads have been changed, the rotors have been either replaced (7000 miles ago) or turned. Nothing’s working. I’ve taken the car to no less than 4 dealers to be looked at, and 4 separate privately owned shops, all with good credentials. The problem persists, and the servicing dealer who did the M/C and the Modulator says, “That’s the best we can do”. All the peole that have looked at the brakes say the same thing: “That’s unacceptible”.

Please advise - OTHER THAN PERSONAL TASTE -what’s wrong here with the picture.

The vehicle is at 35,000 miles…30 moinths. Are they just trying to get rid of me?

Have the rubber brake hoses been replaced? Soft hoses can cause spongy brakes.

Circuitsmith makes an excellent point.

If someone ever had this vehicle serviced at a quick lube place, it is entirely possible that something other than brake fluid was added to the master cylinder, with the result that the rubber brake hoses are deteriorating on the inside from the effects of the wrong fluid.

yes, just this past monday I was driving to work entered my work parking lot( at a school no less )and I had absolutly no brakes down to the floor, luckily I was by a curb which I went over onto the lawn an almost into the building. I could have killed someone if they would have been walking along the side walk. I have a 2008 Honda Element that only has 13,000 miles on it, bought it brand new. Had it towed to the dealer & they have fixed it they said but just said there was air in the line they don’t know how it got there but was a defect at the factory and hopefully it won’t happen again. But if it does just pump the brakes to get the air out? Really! This is ONLY the third one that its happened to at that dealership. They said that there has never been a recall so there are Element owners drving around out there not knowing that thier brakes could go out anytime. I’m scared to death to drive it now but what can I do about it?

Pumping the brakes will help to build up some pressure for braking, but it will not “get the air out.” Only bleeding will do that.

The way the brakes work is that when you press the pedal the force is transmitted through the hydraulic fluid in the brake lines to push the pistons in the calipers and apply the brakes. Hydraulic fluid does not compress well, so the force is move through the system as designed.

The problem is that air does compress well, as evidenced in your tires. If air gets into the brake lines, when you press the pedal the the air simply compresses rather than transferring the forceto the caliper pistons. Pumping the brakes brings the pressure of that entrapped air up to where it becomes high enough to transmit the force forward.

But that does not fix the problem. The air remains entrapped in the system until it is “bled” out. It has no way to get out, no matter how many times you pump. And the air should not be there.

Your dealer’s shop should be completely bleeding the system. Since this has happened thee times, it’s clearly a safety issue, and they say they can’t fix it, tell them you’re reporting it to the National Highway Traffic Ssafety Association (NHTSA) and that you’re looking onto your state’s Lemon Laws. You can find them though the JD Powers % Associates website.

Don’t worry about other owners. and don’t accept this bunk. But do tell them that you’re dading their comments to your NHTSA complaint.

Get someone else to verify what I’m about to say, but what you are describing sounds like the classic symptoms of a gas – typically air – in the brake lines. Mountainbike has described it in detail. There would seem to be only a few possibilities.

  1. There is air in one of the brake lines that somehow is not being removed by normal bleeding. I don’t think that is your problem as at least one of the shops you have dealt with would have noticed it and told you about it even if they couldn’t fix it. This would not change from day to day and you’d probably have to pump the brakes every time you stopped.

  2. You have an incorrect or contaminated brake fluid in the system that is turning to gas (typically steam from dissolved water) when the brakes get hot. In this case, the brakes would feel OK when the car is first started, but they would get worse as your drive progressed and you started to use the brakes. It’s not clear whether you have had the brake fluid completely replaced. If not, maybe you should. The brake fluid is dirt cheap and the labor shouldn’t be all that high.

  3. You have uncontaminated brake fluid, but something in the braking system is getting VERY hot. Hot enough to vaporize your brake fluid. I’d expect smoke, burning smells, etc, but maybe not. Like 2. the brakes would be fine when the car was first started and would deteriorate as the drive progressed.

  4. You have some sort of weird leak that is letting air into the brake system. I’ve never seen or heard of this happening, but I suppose that all things are possible. In this case, the brakes would presumably be fine when they have just been worked on, but would get worse over the following days/weeks/months. I would expect to see some fluid leaking out, but it may be leaking where you can’t easily see it. And the level of the fluid in the reservoir under the hood would probably be dropping some.

  5. It is remotely possible that the master cylinder that pushes fluid out to the brakes when you step on the pedal is defective in some weird way. But it appears that you have replaced it, and the chances of two master cylinders both having this problem would seen to be vanishingly small.

As you can see, the symptoms of these different failures are different. Maybe with some research and experimenting, you can figure out which you have then get it fixed.

Did the brakes feel OK just before they failed? I just don’t see how air could get in so quickly.

If it happens again use the parking brake as an emergency brake. I don’t think anyone here will argue against it in that situation


I realize this is post is years old but was there ever a definite resolution to this issue?

My '06 Element EX-P has developed the same issue. I’ve learned I only need to bleed the right-rear brake line every 6-12 months which removes a lot of air. 6 months later, soft brakes again. The dealership checked the system and changed a leaking right-front caliper but the problem persisted. Now they say it’s a failing brake booster and recommends a new booster and MC but I remain unconvinced; when bleeding the right-rear brake line, air starts flowing out of the bleeder screw almost immediately…

Thanks in advance for any help or insight!