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Discussion Starter #1
I store my car in the barn over the winter. Last Spring, when I first took the car out, the brake pedal was squishy. I replaced the brake fluid and bled the brakes (twice with Ford Heavy Duty), but the pedal is still soft. Also, it seems like I have to push the pedal further down before the brakes start to work.

I would appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks.
 

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are you positive you bled the brakes properly? if so you may have an internally leakin master cylinder
 

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I bought one of those vacuum brake bleeder tools from JC Whitney. It is a one man operation, but you have to get up and check the fluid level often. I sucked the fluid out of the master cylinder with a cooking baster and filled it with the new fluid. The original fluid had turned dark, so I pulled fluid through until it came out colorless, and measured the amount of fluid I pulled from each wheel. After I tested the brakes and they were still soft, I got more brake fluid and did it again. I used almost two bottles of fluid total.

Are there rebuilding kits for the master cylinder?
 

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james has a very good point, there is something you can try as well. its called gravity bleeding. it takes a while but is painless and effective. simply crack the bleed valves top off the resivoir and let it drip. just make sure the resivoir never runs dry. or get a friend to help and do one wheel at a time by pumping the brakes, hold the pedal down and have your bud crack the valve open and tighten it back before you let off the pedal. repeat as required until the pedal stiffins up
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I bought my car new, and got a factory service manual from the dealer. I followed the instructions and bled them in the order given - Right Rear-> Left Front -> Left Rear -> Right Front. That's different from my previous car where you bled them by the longest distance to the master cylinder RR -> LR -> RF -> LF.

Come Spring I'll bleed them again like you suggest. It's just too cold here to do it until then.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
BadBoy91 said:
james has a very good point, there is something you can try as well. its called gravity bleeding. it takes a while but is painless and effective. simply crack the bleed valves top off the resivoir and let it drip. just make sure the resivoir never runs dry. or get a friend to help and do one wheel at a time by pumping the brakes, hold the pedal down and have your bud crack the valve open and tighten it back before you let off the pedal. repeat as required until the pedal stiffins up
You're kidding, right? I've bled brakes before, and never heard of a 'gravity' method. I'll be damned if I'll stand around watching the master cylinder drain. If it goes empty, I would have to start all over. Is this an initiation rite because I'm new?

The other method you mentioned is the standard method of bleeding brakes. My wife helps me do that, but I bought the vacuum bleeder so I could bleed them without any help.
 

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yeah gravity bleeding does work although slowly. ive used it while repairing mulitiple vehicles in a shop. i learned this from an old skool guy i worked with and it definitly works. its just very important to walk by every few minutes to make sure the resivoir isnt empty.
 

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May want to have it "Pressure Bled" at a shop. We have places here in Texas that are called "Brake Check" and will pressure bleed and change all the brake fluid for about 35 or 40 bucks. Sometimes those "one man" units aren't all they are described to be. Brakes is nothing to go half-ass on, so best bet is to have a shop like I mentioned pressure bleed them. If for some reason they can't get it all to work right, they will tell you exactly what is wrong and then you can go home and replace it yourself. Good luck regardless.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
scooterbob said:
May want to have it "Pressure Bled" at a shop. We have places here in Texas that are called "Brake Check" and will pressure bleed and change all the brake fluid for about 35 or 40 bucks. Sometimes those "one man" units aren't all they are described to be. Brakes is nothing to go half-ass on, so best bet is to have a shop like I mentioned pressure bleed them. If for some reason they can't get it all to work right, they will tell you exactly what is wrong and then you can go home and replace it yourself. Good luck regardless.
I hope you are wrong. I paid almost $50 for the brake bleeder/vacuum testing tool, and it was exactly what I expected. I don't know what could be wrong with it. It pulls the fluid OK.

I am wary of brake shops. I think they will tell you something is wrong when it is not just so they can sell you something.
 

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♪♫LooneyTune♫♪ said:
I hope you are wrong. I paid almost $50 for the brake bleeder/vacuum testing tool, and it was exactly what I expected. I don't know what could be wrong with it. It pulls the fluid OK.

I am wary of brake shops. I think they will tell you something is wrong when it is not just so they can sell you something.
You can check your MC via the instructions in your FSM (no need for tools or anything). Just make sure you follow them very carefully and if possible, have a friend go around and check for leaks on each of the calipers while you're testing.

Those pressure bleeding systems essentially do the same thing as the vacuum pump does. They just pull fluid out of the caliper bleeder nipples.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
ReVerm said:
You can check your MC via the instructions in your FSM (no need for tools or anything). Just make sure you follow them very carefully and if possible, have a friend go around and check for leaks on each of the calipers while you're testing.

Those pressure bleeding systems essentially do the same thing as the vacuum pump does. They just pull fluid out of the caliper bleeder nipples.
My factory service manual does not have a procedure for testing the master cylinder. It has procedures for testing the brake booster and ABS system(I do not have this option).

Ninety-Nine SE-L, how do I try a new MC without buying one?
 

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♪♫LooneyTune♫♪ said:
I store my car in the barn over the winter. Last Spring, when I first took the car out, the brake pedal was squishy. I replaced the brake fluid and bled the brakes (twice with Ford Heavy Duty), but the pedal is still soft. Also, it seems like I have to push the pedal further down before the brakes start to work.

I would appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks.
I think your pump bleeder should work fine, but have you done the standard two person method after the pump bleed and made sure there are no bubbles in the caliper/wheel-cylinder?

Also, did you empty the MC? If so, you may want to bench bleed it.

I have never tried the gravity method (it's not a joke), but other people swear by it.

One last thing, when you're bleeding the caliper/wheel-cylinder (rear drums?), you may want to try to jack up the vehicle at the wheel you're working on and even tap the caliper a couple of times with a rubber mallet to knock loose any air that may be trapped somewhere.

Just some thoughts.

PS I don't know how you would test a MC (except to look for leaking fluid or dropping MC fluid level), but that's what it sounds like to me too, sorry. Oh, if they are power assist (likely), how are the vacuum lines to the booster? And, have you pulled the wheels to make sure that fluid isn't leaking at that end?
 

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One more thing to consider (later on when you get things straightened out): if you store the vehicle for extended periods of time, have you ever considered switching to DOT 5 fluid (silicone based)? It doesn't absorb water, so the system is less prone to corrosion. You do have to flush any DOT 3/4 fluid out because they're not compatible and some people don't like the pedal feel afterward (I believe it's stiffer, but I can't remember for sure). Just something to consider.
 

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♪♫LooneyTune♫♪ said:
My factory service manual does not have a procedure for testing the master cylinder. It has procedures for testing the brake booster and ABS system(I do not have this option).

Ninety-Nine SE-L, how do I try a new MC without buying one?
I think he means go buy one and install.
First comment, if you can get one a re-build kit should work OK, done that on other older cars. ( yes our cars are getting old !!!)
I agree the pressure or vacuum method does the same thing. When I worked at Ford on the assembly line they used pressure because it was faster.
Also I used the one man gravity method on my Sentra when I installed new front calipers with no problems.
I think this is either a master cylinder or the vacuum booster. Master cylinder is lower price so replace that first.
Check under the carpet below the brake pedal to see if there is any fluid leaking. Then as others suggested check the whole system for leaks including the rear brakes.

I also had the pedal go to the floor on a Z28 Camaro, not pleasant, was very lucky nothing was coming at the light. It was of course the master cylinder so I encourage you to be careful.
Good Luck.....
 

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jerryp58 said:
One more thing to consider (later on when you get things straightened out): if you store the vehicle for extended periods of time, have you ever considered switching to DOT 5 fluid (silicone based)? It doesn't absorb water, so the system is less prone to corrosion. You do have to flush any DOT 3/4 fluid out because they're not compatible and some people don't like the pedal feel afterward (I believe it's stiffer, but I can't remember for sure). Just something to consider.
Switching to DOT5 is almost impossible because DOT 3/4/5.1 brake fluid is stubborn. Getting all of the old brake fluid out of your system is extremely difficult and DOT 5 is actually more likely to corrode your MC seals and brake lines if they've been exposed to DOT3/4/5.1 before. And despite the fact that DOT5 doesn't absorb water, it is still possible for air bubbles and water bubbles to get inside the lines.

It's a lot of trouble for very little gain. I wouldn't bother doing it. Instead, I'd reccomend getting speed bleeders (bleeder screws with a check valve) for all four corners (about $14). and using that Valvoline DOT4 fluid (it works pretty well on the street, it's really cheap, and it's sold almost everywhere).

♪♫LooneyTune♫♪ said:
My factory service manual does not have a procedure for testing the master cylinder. It has procedures for testing the brake booster and ABS system(I do not have this option).
Whoops, sorry. I'm confusing it with something else. Let me see if I can't scan the procedure or find a writeup online somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
jerryp58 said:
I think your pump bleeder should work fine, but have you done the standard two person method after the pump bleed and made sure there are no bubbles in the caliper/wheel-cylinder?
What's the sense of that? If I bleed them again after I bleed them with the vacuum pump, why bother with the pump?

jerryp58 said:
Also, did you empty the MC? If so, you may want to bench bleed it.
Yes, I emptied it with a food baster as I said previously. I thought bench bleeding required the removal of the master cylinder, or at least disconnecting the lines to the master cylinder. If I go through all that trouble I might as well get a new master cylinder.

jerryp58 said:
I have never tried the gravity method (it's not a joke), but other people swear by it.

One last thing, when you're bleeding the caliper/wheel-cylinder (rear drums?), you may want to try to jack up the vehicle at the wheel you're working on and even tap the caliper a couple of times with a rubber mallet to knock loose any air that may be trapped somewhere.
I put the car on jack stands to bleed the brakes. Tapping the caliper has already been suggested, and I plan to do it when I repair the brakes.

jerryp58 said:
Just some thoughts.

PS I don't know how you would test a MC (except to look for leaking fluid or dropping MC fluid level), but that's what it sounds like to me too, sorry. Oh, if they are power assist (likely), how are the vacuum lines to the booster? And, have you pulled the wheels to make sure that fluid isn't leaking at that end?
I will pull the wheels next time (it also makes it easier to bleed) and look for leaks. The fluid level has not dropped, though.
 
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