If your car's brake pedal feels loose and wobbly, and you find yourself needing to push down incredibly hard on it in order to stop your car, you have an emergency situation on your hands. A loose brake pedal is typically caused by an insufficient amount of brake fluid without your car's brake lines or master cylinder.
This problem can become worse if you continue to drive your car, and may eventually result in you becoming unable to stop your car at all — this is a very dangerous situation to be in when it occurs while driving at high speeds. You'll need to have your car towed to a nearby brake service shop and have your brakes inspected and repaired. To help you understand what causes a loose brake pedal and how it's fixed, read on for some helpful information.
What Causes a Brake Pedal to Feel Loose?
First, you'll need to know a little bit about how the braking system in your car works.
When you press down on the brake pedal, you compress the brake fluid located within the master cylinder slightly behind the brake pedal. The master cylinder is connected to brake lines which run to rotors located slightly above each wheel of your car. The compressed brake fluid presses against the rotors, which in turn causes them to press brake pads against your car's wheels, stopping your car.
Insufficient brake fluid in the system causes your brake pedal to feel loose and makes it difficult to brake without pressing down on the pedal with extreme force — when the fluid level is low, you need to work quite hard in order to compress it and engage the rotors.
What Causes Low Brake Fluid Levels?
The most common cause of a low brake fluid level is a leak in your brake lines. Brake line leaks aren't uncommon — after all, they routinely have high-pressure brake fluid running through them. Eventually, the pressure of the fluid can cause small pinhole leaks to form in the brake lines.
If you have a brake line leak, you'll make it worse every time you step on the brake pedal. Not only will some of the brake fluid leak from the hole, but the leak itself tends to become worse every time you brake due to the pressure of the brake fluid. This is why you shouldn't drive your car when the brake pedal is loose — attempting to drive it to the brake service shop can result in your brakes becoming increasingly difficult to use during your drive, which is a very dangerous situation.
Of course, a loose brake pedal isn't always caused by a leak in your brake lines. Rarely, the master cylinder behind your brake pedal either fails mechanically or leaks out all of its brake fluid. In this instance, you'll often find that your brakes are nearly impossible to use.
How Does a Brake Service Shop Fix a Loose Brake Pedal?
When you take your car to a brake repair shop, a mechanic will check your brake lines for leaks and inspect the condition of your master cylinder. Leaking brake lines or a damaged master cylinder will be replaced. Afterwards, your car's brake fluid will be topped up and your brake lines will be bled of excess air in order to remove any air bubbles that formed in them due to the leak. The repair will restore the function of your brake pedal and make your car safe to drive again.
If your brake pedal is loose, have it towed to a nearby brake service center. Don't take the risk of driving it yourself — not only will you likely cause further damage to your car's brakes, but your brakes may fail completely during the drive and cause your car to become uncontrollable.Share