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Suddenly mushy brakes

Feels like I can almost put my foot to the floor. From where it engages to where there’s strong resistance is 2 or 3 inches. Seems strange, what do you think?

Most likely a fluid leak or a bad master cylinder. What’s the year/make/model?

Next time you’re in the car, try an experiment which you can do with the engine on, but the car not moving (which is important because the car is dangerous right now).

Start the car. Press the brake to verify it’s still mushy. Now take your foot off the brake and then stomp on it hard and fast. Is it firm now? Then you have a bad master cylinder.


In my experience mushy brakes are either due to air in the system or a worn master cylinder which allows fluid to pass and lets the pedal sink to the floor when pressed hard enough.

Get a competent shop to go over it. This is not something to postpone.

I’m with doc on this. Brake problems of unknown cause are not something to procrastinate on. Remember,
if your car won’t start it can ruin your morning.
if a car won’t stop it can ruin the rest of your life… and those of all your family members too.

There are some things I just can’t understand. If I have a problem like this and am concerned that the brakes are not what they should be I am looking for a brake shop, not going on the internet to ask what I should do. There are a lot of knowledge on this site but brakes are not something to mess with.

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Had that symptom with a stuck caliper.

If it only happens after driving for a while, the brakes could be overheating and boiling the fluid.

It is normal to be able to press the brake pedal 2 to 3 inches while stopped, there is about 8 inches in total travel so you are not going to the floor.

How does it react when moving and you press the pedal down 3 inches?

It’s really bad the first thing in the morning, then less bad afterward. First stop sign I start to slow down pressing the pedal down 2 inches, but it takes another 3 or 4 inches to really make the car stop. Then afterward it’s not as bad for some reason. I took it into the shop today, we’ll see what they say.

It’s been a month and it’s still not fixed? I hope you haven’t been driving that thing all this time.

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Yes. I’ve been driving it. It’s only bad first thing in the morning. Shop said they couldn’t find anything wrong. Except rear drums needed adjusting.

Did they keep the car overnight and test in the morning?

Besides the more common ideas posted above, there’s some other things that can cause this symptom.

  • Bad wheel bearing allows the wheel to move too much and can interfere w/the caliper. Ask your shop to check for play in the wheel bearings.

  • Improperly adjusted or missing steering stop can do something similar. If you’ve had any suspension or steering work done, sometimes a part gets replaced (like a control arm or something) and the new part is missing the steering stop. The shop is supposed to move the old stop to the new part, but sometimes forget to do that. And suspension/steering parts can get installed upside down or on the wrong side of the car.

Removable steering stops? What kind of car is this?

On a Nissan

Or a Ford truck

The OP is driving a truck? Can you be more specific?

I seem to recall Ken Berthiaume drives a 1995 Corolla . . . ?

No, can’t be any more specific. Just offering some ideas to help the OP discover what’s wrong is all. If you are interested further, I think this podcast is where I heard about removable steering stops as a possibility.

Also, normal pad wear will sometimes cause the fluid level in the master cylinder to drop. My van has this issue. Sometimes just filling the reservoir works - sometimes I have to bleed the system.

yes, it’s a 95 corolla. Sweet ride. Anyway it would only do it really badly first thing in the morning, very bizarre. The shop said the only thing they could find was that the rear drums were out of “adjustment”. So they fixed that. Today at the intersection where it was really bad first one in the morning, it was fine. So…maybe they fixed it? Or maybe I’m crazy? I don’t think I’m crazy.

Thanks for help!