Brake problems

How would you be able to tell if your brake lines are bad? I recently purchased a Ford Ranger and the brakes are basically non existent. There was no brake fluid in the reservoir and after filling and pumping the pedal I didn't see any leaks. The pedal did get harder to push and stops the truck a little but it still goes to the floor.
My car has an automatic transmission.
Experienced mechanics share their insights in answering this question :
Hi, thanks for writing in. In order to determine if your brake lines are functioning properly I would recommend having a brake inspection performed by a certified technician. This inspection will be able to tell if your brake lines have rusted through causing a leak or if your brake hoses are leaking. This brake inspection will also be able to tell you if your brake pads are thin if your rotors are in good condition and if your calipers are performing as they should be. Once this inspection is done you will be able to decide on the correct repair procedure for the brakes on your vehicle. Here at YourMechanic, we can have a technician come to your home or office to inspect and diagnose this issue for you, and make or suggest the necessary repairs.

How to Identify and Fix Common car Problems ?

Our sources include academic articles, blog posts, and personal essays from experienced mechanics :

Brake Pedal Pulsation: Warped Brake Rotors

If the brake pedal pulsates and you can feel your vehicle shudder and shake when you press the pedal, that often indicates a problem with your vehicle`s brake rotors. On most modern cars, the brakes function by the caliper clamping down onto the brake rotors.

This can be due to a number of problems: a leak in a brake line, a loss of pressure within the master cylinder itself due to a failed seal, or air being introduced into the braking system. Your first reaction to encountering spongy brakes should be to rapidly pump the brake pedal with your foot.
The first thing to check with any brake issue is the fluid level and condition in the master cylinder reservoir. If there is a leak somewhere the fluid level may be so low as to make even the redundant system ineffective.
The most common cause of failure is a leak in the brake lines. The brake fluid will slowly drain out, until there isn`t enough left to transmit the pressure from the pedal to the tires. The brakes can also fail when the discs or drums wear out, so they can no longer put enough friction on the wheels to stop them.
By far the most common problem with hydraulic braking systems is when the system is low on brake fluid. As the system is designed to function as a closed system, it requires a consistent amount of brake fluid in the system to function correctly.
The most common cause of brake failure is loss of brake fluid. The fluid transfers the force you exert by pushing down on the brake pedal to the brake disks that slow and stop your car`s wheels. You can usually detect a leak before getting on the road because you`ll see it underneath your vehicle.
Brake Booster Check

With the car turned off, pump the brake pedal four or five times until you get a hard brake pedal. Continue to hold the brake pedal down with moderate pressure and start the vehicle. The brake pedal should drop.

Typically, a vacuum leak will cause situations like hard starting, rough idle, excessive fuel consumption, and engine codes. You might even be able to hear a leak – sometimes a whooshing or whistling sound can be heard with the engine running.
Common signs of a faulty vacuum brake booster check valve include the brake pedal being difficult to engage, feeling spongy, or not working at all.
The common symptom around this fault is having the ESP light permanently illuminated on your dashboard speedo (instrument cluster) and pressing the “ESP OFF” / “DCS” traction control button will have no effect – in some cases, the button will also be illuminated but again, pressing this button will have no effect.
ABS sensors are attached to all four wheels, prevent the wheels from locking up at the time of braking, and improve steering control.
Air brakes are really three different braking systems: service brake, parking brake, and emergency brake. The service brake system applies and releases the brakes when you use the brake pedal during normal driving.
Turn off cruise control (if applicable) and slowly downshift to decrease momentum. Pump the brake pedal hard and fast. Most modern vehicles have dual braking systems that independently control the front and back brakes. Pumping the brakes aggressively may be enough to engage half of the brakes to slow you to a halt.
Semi-Truck Brake Failure

Reasons for the failure for large truck brake systems include: Lack of maintenance. Misaligned brake linings, sticky calipers, contamination by oil, leaky fluid lines, and other mechanical issues can build up fast and lead to a failure under load.

Most hydraulic brake failures occur for one of two reasons: loss of hydraulic pressure or brake fade on long hills. Loss of Hydraulic Pressure: When the system will not build up pressure, the brake pedal will feel spongy or go to the floor.
It could be that the brakes weren`t lubricated correctly in the service. Or, that new brakes weren`t broken in correctly. The driver may have unintentionally overheated the new brake pads to the point where the brake pads developed a glaze from overheating, which does cause squeaks.
Since the proportioning valve decreases the pressure sent to the rear brakes, the main symptom the valve is going bad is the rear wheels locking up when the brakes are applied. Furthermore, the wheels will lock up more easily on wet surfaces. The rear brakes may feel touchy when applied even gently.
The pressures generated in the brake system can be easily measured with a differential pressure transducer in the hydraulic brake test setup. A hydraulic brake system includes a master cylinder, wheel cylinders, hoses and brake fluid.
The ABS modulator is the hydraulic assembly in vehicles that use the anti-lock braking system (ABS) to optimize the brake pressure. A damaged modulator may lead to malfunctioning of the brake valve resulting in spongy brakes.
Yes master cylinders can fail without leakage, the clutch master cylinder has a piston inside and there are separate channels for hi-pressure line and return(low pressure) line and their location in the cylinder differs for manufacturers.
A: Yes. You can use regular WD40 to detect vacuum leaks. The impact it has on the engine may not be as dramatic as carb cleaner or starting fluid, but it will still work. Keep in mind that WD40 does offer carb cleaner, which is ideal for this test.
Start the engine and spray

Scope out all the vacuum lines under the hood. Then start the engine and spray each connection with a light stream of water. If a connection sucks in the water, you`ve found your leak. A vacuum leak can cause a rough idle, high rpm, poor gas mileage and even trigger a check-engine light.

Pedal and hold

Hold. Bleed. Repeat. Loud callouts of “pump it up” or “pressure” and “hold it down” can make the garage or driveway sound like a Sunday morning at the Waffle House, but the two-person procedure is a tried and true way to get the brakes bled quickly.

Relevant Questions and Answers :

the most relevant questions and answers related to your specific issue

When I put my foot on the brake my back left brake light goes off, when I take it off the brake the brake light comes on
ANSWER : I would suggest trying to disconnect and reconnect the wiring to the rear lights. I have seen these older Toyota vehicles rear lighting short out on the lights themselves due to the way the light circuit was made on the lamp housing. Look at the housing circuit on the light to see if one is touching another, and that could tell you why it is malfunctioning. There could also be a problem with the brake light switch. If you are not comfortable dealing with wires, I recommend getting in touch with a certified mechanic who can look at your brake light issue for you to see what’s going on.

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Low brake pedal and anti-lock brakes are not kicking in.
ANSWER : The brake pedal is working to stop the vehicle, but there may be air in the controller unit causing the ABS brakes to not function. I recommend bleeding the brake system from the farthest location from the master cylinder to the master cylinder including the ABS unit. If the brakes are still spongy after a full bleed, then the controller will need to be replaced. If you need further assistance with your brake pedal being spongy, then seek out a professional, such as one from Your Mechanic, to help you.

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EPC light on 2004 Jetta. Code said brake switch faulty, but brakes lights worked. Replaced brake switch, now no brake lights.
ANSWER : Hi there. The first thing that pops in my mind beyond of what you have listed is perhaps the electrical harness attached to the brake switch. Perhaps the harness itself is damaged or you have an exposed wire, loose ground wire somewhere. You might want to have a professional mobile mechanic come to your location and complete a brake lights not working inspection to help you diagnose this issue.

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Supportive bar attached to brake pedal interrupts proper braking process
ANSWER : It’s possible to have someone alter the brake pedal or adapt a brake pedal from a different vehicle. You may call around to some customization shops to see if anyone is interested in taking on the project. But first, I would try reaching out to the selling dealer with your concern – especially since it is a new model. Good luck.

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Do I really need 4 new brake lines if no brake light is on and no visible brake problems while driving?
ANSWER : Hello. Depending on the area you live in, it is common for brake lines to corrode over time and need replacement. It is not too common, but in areas that have a lot of road salt this will occur. If it is the rubber lines then they just need to be replaced. If you want to have repaired, consider YourMechanic, as a certified mechanic can come to your home or office to replace the brake lines for you.

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When braking the entire front end rattles really badly, is this a brake problem or something else?
ANSWER : Hello, thank you for writing in. Considering the issue only happens when braking and there are no other signs of a suspension or steering component failure, you will want to check the brakes and the tires. The front brakes should be rotary, and you will want to check the pads for excess or uneven wear. You will also want to check the condition of the rotors and see if they are obviously warped or damaged. You may want to have them machined so they are even. While looking at the vehicle from the bottom, check the steering and suspension components to make sure they appear to be in good condition, and are free from blown out seals or bushings. For more diagnostic help, contact our service department to schedule an appointment.

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I replaced the brake light switch. Gear lever unlocked because it had locked. Now the brakes feel hard.
ANSWER : Hi, thanks for writing in. You need to check the brake switch install adjustment. You may have the switch adjusted too tight and it is holding the the brake pedal partly down. This will cause the brake master cylinder to not release the brakes when you let off the pedal. Readjust the switch away from the pedal until you feel some free play again in the pedal. This should fix the problem. If you would like help, consider having an expert automotive technician from YourMechanic come to your home or office to inspect and diagnose this issue for you, and make or suggest any repairs as needed.

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Hard brake pedal and rear brakes locking up.
ANSWER : Hi. I will help you with this issue you are having with your 2001 Durango. Unless you bled the master cylinder, it is possible there is still air in the system. If you car is equipped with ABS, air could have also gotten trapped in the ABS modulator. If ABS equipped, a bi-directional scan tool would be essential to manually activate the ABS system to clear air from that segment of the lines while you are bleeding the system. It is also possible that in all of this work somehow the proportioning valve has been affected causing the desired pressure differential, front versus back, to get out of spec. Using a 2,500 PSI gauge, you can check the pressures at each wheel and that will definitely give you a clue as to which brake circuit is the issue (or both), whether the proportioning valve is working properly and whether the line pressures at each wheel are within spec. Should you need a second opinion, by all means feel free to contact YourMechanic for assistance and we will diagnose and repair the issue for you.

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