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Sudden soft brakes: don't panic with these tips

Simple Answers from Protech Auto Service

Soft brakes, meaning a brake pedal that no longer offers the same reassuring pressure it normally does, can be an alarming thing to encounter while driving. This is especially true if your brakes go soft all at once, without any advance warning. Also known as spongy brakes, this brake pedal feel is almost always an indication of a problem with your vehicle’s brake fluid system, and it has several potential causes.

Check out these tips for dealing with a soft brake pedal as safely as possible.

1. Try to pump the pedal

Soft brakes arise because your vehicle’s brake master cylinder isn’t able to generate the full pressure required for maximum braking power. 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. Even if there is a defect in your braking system, this can usually generate enough pressure to stop safely on the side of the road.

2. Look for a leak

A sudden loss of braking pressure likely means that a leak or a seal failure occurred quite recently. Brake fluid is usually clear or yellowish in color. If it’s going to leak, it almost always does so where a line meets another component, such as the calipers at each wheel, the cylinder in drum brakes or the master cylinder in the engine compartment. Inspect the area behind each of your vehicle’s wheels for signs of leaking fluid, and also look under your hood to see if your master cylinder is leaking or damp. (It’s usually located on the firewall.) Next, check the master cylinder to see if it’s filled up to the indicator line on the side of the reservoir. If the fluid is low, try adding some and pumping the pedal to regain pressure in the system. It goes without saying that any leaking brake fluid represents a problem that should send you to ProTech Auto Service immediately for repair.

For more information, please contact the knowledgeable technicians or service writers at Protech Auto Service. They can be reached at (661) 822-1100 and are located at 410 W. J St., Ste. G, Tehachapi.