No brakes :(

Messages
2,688
Location
Elderly County, Florida
Greetings and salutations to all in the land of the great Bitog! So I'm coming home tonight from the family farm after a long and somewhat hot day doing farming things. I'm passing through a little town at about 35 MPH when the stop light at an intersection turns red. I apply the brake. The pedal goes practically to the floor. "Yikes" say I to myself, "I ain't got no brakes!" I manage to stop and see an "Auto Zone" about a block away up the road. When the light turns green, I creep up the road and pull into the parking lot. Again, hardly any brakes. I assume I must be low on fluid and since it's minutes away from closing time, I run inside and buy a bottle of brake fluid. Back out in the parking lot under a light, I pop the hood with brake fluid bottle in hand ready to top off and head home. When I remove the cap, I see that there is plenty of brake fluid already in the car's braking system with no way to add more. "Hummmmmmm . . . I'm 40 miles from home, 35 miles from the farm, what to do?" With great caution, I hop back it the car and ease back on the road. Thankfully traffic is light and I drive max 40 MPH all the way home always stopping well in advance of stop signs and lights and giving plenty of room to all vehicles in front of me. What I noticed as I got closer to home, the brakes started working better. By the time I pulled in my yard, they were almost as good as they were before things went south on the trip home. What would cause this strange experience? Master cylinder going bad? Brake booster not boosting? Air trapped in the lines? I installed new front pads about a year ago and have had no problems and the back brakes were done about 30,000 miles ago. I'm looking for ideas and suggestions on where I should start before I take the ever faithful "Bluesmobile" back out on the highway. BTW - said vehicle is a 1993 Ford Taurus GL with the 3.0 V-6 and an automatic tranny. Thanks in advance smile
 

GreeCguy

Thread starter
Messages
2,688
Location
Elderly County, Florida
Originally Posted By: dishdude
Master cylinder. Isn't this the car with the big tubular bumper? Just push people and things out of your way!
Yes - at that first light there was a large truck in front of me. I kept thinking two things, "I wonder how my bumper is going to work" and "I just installed a new radiator back in the spring." Thankfully, the blessed Saint of bringing things to a halt wasn't pre-occupied.
 
Messages
8,598
Location
Florida
When you remove the master cylinder, be completely sure that no brake fluid entered the power booster. If some fluid did enter the power booster, it may fail soon.
 
Messages
4,967
Location
Lima, Ohio, USA
When did you last change out the brake Fluid in said vehicle? could it have been full of Moisture, which over heated and boiled off, leaving a temporarily compressible gas in the lines, instead of a non-compressible fluid? just a spitball idea.
 
Messages
43,676
Location
'Stralia
There's no such thing as no brakes (well nearly). When I was about 7, we moved states, in a Datsun 1000 two door wagon, 550 miles. 1,000cc, two grown-ups, and us three kids. Said wagon had four wheel drum brakes, not much bigger than margarine containers, and as we were descending the mountains into Adelaide, our new city, something went on the hydraulics, and just like you, Dad had no brakes. So he descended using the gears, and the under-dash umbrella style e-brake, all a bit hairy to all in the car, as the thing crossed all over the road, tyres squealing, rear wheels locking with the e-brake...until the cable snapped. Not one to stop a journey (well he did, but for a few minutes), Dad lifted the rubber floor mat away, popped the drain bung, and pulled the severed cable up through the hole in the floor. My job (at 7), was to pull on the cable with all my might when he called for brakes, then try to stay upright as the car lurched into and through the next corner, all the time being reminded that my family's lives were in danger if the cable slipped from the pliers, I dropped the cable, didn't pull hard enough. There's ALWAYS a plan B...or C...or maybe even D.
 
Messages
3,203
Location
Southeastern, PA
Ah, NO brakes is NO fun. Reminds me of a time in my youth in a '68 International Harvester Scout. I had recently replaced the front drum brake shoes with a set of relined pads. Some distance from home, I applied the brakes to stop at a light. I was rewarded with a loud BANG and the right front wheel hopping like it wanted to come through the top of the fender. The vehicle lurched to a stop. Removing the wheel to investigate, I poured the fragments, bits and pieces of the brake shoe out of the brake drum. Well there we were with no brakes. We continued home. I figured I would use the parking brake. The first stop light I encountered, I confidently applied the parking brake. I clearly remember sailing through the light, probably had a look of shock on my face. Fortunately, it was late, traffic was light, and there was no cross traffic. I proceeded home with a great deal more caution. The parking brake is not really intended to stop a vehicle! Yours sounds like a master cylinder. I'd have the car running and apply pressure to the brake pedal. If the pedal drifts to the floor, most likely the master cylinder. When the seals in a master cylinder go bad, the brake fluid bypasses the seal and just kind of recirculates back to the reservoir, not applying significant pressure to the brake system in the process.
 
Messages
36,528
Location
ME
Does sound like a master cylinder. However, I had this happen on my Mercedes 240 diesel: Was cruising with the pedal to the metal, as one does with 65 HP in a two-ton tank. Car seemed even slower than usual but I thought nothing of it. Turns out a rear brake pad seized in its hardware and was overheating the fluid nearby so much that it boiled. Pedal got very soft, but it still stopped. Later on, after cooling down, it was firm again. Remember, it's a 27 year old car with unknown history. However, the brake bleeders opened right up, weren't rusted. I unjammed the hardware, bled the system, and was on the road again.
 
Messages
36,528
Location
ME
Does sound like a master cylinder. However, I had this happen on my Mercedes 240 diesel: Was cruising with the pedal to the metal, as one does with 65 HP in a two-ton tank. Car seemed even slower than usual but I thought nothing of it. Turns out a rear brake pad seized in its hardware and was overheating the fluid nearby so much that it boiled. Pedal got very soft, but it still stopped. Later on, after cooling down, it was firm again. Remember, it's a 27 year old car with unknown history. However, the brake bleeders opened right up, weren't rusted. I unjammed the hardware, bled the system, and was on the road again.
 
Messages
2,011
Location
War Eagle
Brake fluid absorbs moisture over time. You might have contaminated fluid that needs to be changed, might have some air in the line also. If you change it, bleed it well. That is not an expensive fix if it is the problem
 
Messages
18,201
Location
NH
Pedal went to the floor, but eventually came back to life? If it was a dragging brake it might have done that, then released while at Autozone and the system cooled off, thus restoring itself. Or a pad fell off. I've had one rust off, and no brakes until the system pumped back up. Should not be that, not with 1yr old pads in your region. Not sure I could recommend driving it, but driving it to see if a wheel is dragging would be one test, as would pulling each wheel and checking the current condition of the parts. Might do the latter first, then a road test.
 
Messages
1,515
Location
Ohio
If the pedal was going to the floor and eventually started working again, possibly you have one or more dragging brakes and overheated them to the point of boiling the brake fluid. Then after things cooled off it condensed again.
 
Messages
8,051
Location
Michigan
Could be that the friction material came off the pads. I've had that happen on a defective set of Hawk racing pads. The pedal goes to the floor, then many pumps of the pedal are required to push the piston out to contact the backing plate of the pad. Then the brake grinds metal-on-metal and makes a terrible racket. It doesn't really sound like a bad master cylinder. I had master cylinders go bad on Vega's before, and the pedal just goes to the floor with almost no resistance. That happened to me once in heavy northern New Jersey traffic, and I got home by downshifting a lot and by doing repeated fast jabs on the brake pedal. In this case, jabbing the brake pedal allowed it to build up some line pressure before the fluid leaked past the seals.
 

GreeCguy

Thread starter
Messages
2,688
Location
Elderly County, Florida
First of all, thanks guys for all the replies and well wishes smile Raining here today so I was not able to check out the ever faithful "Bluesmobile." But . . . . when I did pull into the yard last night, I did notice a slight dragging sound from the passenger side rear wheel - I thought it might be sand since I had driven it around on the farm during the day in both mud and sand. AND - about a two weeks ago, an elderly lady pulled directly out in front of me and I had to hit the brakes really hard so as not to run into her. I'm wondering now if something might have let loose. I plan on pulling the rear tire and brake drum this Saturday if all goes well - meanwhile, "Thunder the Wonder Pig" is all I've got - and it's still kinda "burpy." Will keep all posted.
 
Messages
1,555
Location
Oregon coast
Sticking ABS solenoid dumping pressure? Was it raining causing the abs to cycle at all? I once under steered in a fiero (no surprise), and hit the curb breaking the brake disk from the front hub. I was able to pull the hub off, remove the rotor, and shove a chisel between the pads and duct tape to stay there. The worst part was the bent tire rod pulling like a mofo. luckily I had just bought a parts car for the transmission. I swapped the whole front subframe into it.
 
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