Whistling Brakes

Hi. I live in Philadelphia, PA. My mother, who is retired, has a Subaru Forester, probably a 2001 or thereabouts. It runs great, but recently whenever you let off the brakes, there is a high-pitched whistling sound that comes out of the dashboard on the driver’s side. My mother claims that she took this to a mechanic and they told her that there is a small vacuum leak in the power brake line. They also told her that the leak was small and that there was no hurry to fix it (that was in April). Now it is August and my mother is still putting off fixing it because of the cost. The estimate on the repair was $600 because they said they will have to pull out the engine and the dashboard to get to the leak. In the meantime, she continues to drive the car saying that the worst that will happen if it fails is that the power brakes won’t work, but she’ll still have her regular disk brakes, she’ll just have to mash down her foot a little harder. Is this safe? Does that estimate sound right?
“The Falconer”

“they said they will have to pull out the engine and the dashboard to get to the leak”

If that is actually what she was told, this is a sure sign that she needs a new mechanic, as that statement is simply bogus. Whether the repair involves replacing a vacuum hose or replacing the brake power booster, there is no way that removing the engine is necessary, and even removing the dashboard is almost surely incorrect.

And…yes, she will still have brakes even w/o power assist, but many people–PARTICULARLY–an older woman, will not have sufficient leg strength to stop the car w/o power assist for the brakes.

IMHO, this car needs to be taken to a different mechanic a.s.a.p., as this is a safety issue.
If your mother has an accident and it is learned after the fact that her brakes were defective, can you imagine the liability that this would result in for her?

Sounds as if it could be the brake booster. You could crimp the hose and see if the noise stops. I don’t think there are any vacuum lines in her system heating/air. They use motors now days for blend door actuation. The other thing is foam insulation around the ducting could be missing. My son said his Camry was whistling. His girlfriend shut the passenger side vent in such a way that it caused the whistle. A great 2 second fix for me!
Also, has the cabin filter been replaced? Could be anything stuck in there if not.

sounds like a vacuum leak from the power break booster or its vac hose. I m not familiar with her car model, but I ve never heard of pulling the engine to fix this problem. they are usually accessible

If this was my mother I would borrow the car and take it to a mechanic I trusted. Find out what was really wrong and have it fixed. She spent a lot more than 600.00 raising you.

@VDCdriver; is right about this being a safety issue. And she may not realize how hadr it would be to stop.
I hate to say this but, I think they saw your mother as an easy mark.
Go visit and take her car to another mechanic. You might want to do a little research and find a few names of mechanics and give them a call before the visit. Talking to them might give you a little more faith in who you’d like to take the car to.


Check the “mechanic files” above and take the car in for her if you can. My mom gets ripped off all the time. I remember one time they replaced the power steering pump for a squeak she had in the steering wheel. It cost her $800 at the Ford dealer and of course did not fix the problem. It was the brushes in the steering wheel for the cruise control buttons squeaking. I’m 800 miles away and she never tells me until after she’s been ripped off.