How to fix a spongy brake pedal – A complete Guide

A spongy brake pedal is a common problem that many drivers experience at some point. The result can make your car seem unsafe, but the problem is usually easy to fix and avoid in the future.

What causes a spongy brake pedal? 

Slime buildup inside wheel cylinders or wheel cylinders with excessive air pressure can cause brakes to lose their effectiveness and make your footwork feel “spongy” at the brake pedal. It may feel like the brake pedal is spongy because there is air in the hydraulic system. There might also be dirt or metal bits, which can cause air bubbles to become stuck under the pad and create a spongy pedal.

What should you do if you have a spongy brake pedal? 

How to fix a spongy brake pedal

When you press on your brakes, you are using hydraulic pressure to push the brakes pads against the rotor. so,

  • Make sure that your vehicle has been properly serviced for any recalls of defective parts and fluids. 
  • Plug all leaks with clear silicone sealant or petroleum jelly.
  • Check the brake fluid level and top off the fluid if necessary.
  • Clean dirty or corroded metal lines with a wire brush.
  • Replace all worn parts and have the system checked out by an expert.
  • Make sure that your vehicle has been serviced for any recalls of defective parts and fluids. 
  • finally, you might want to consider replacing your brakes.

How to fix a spongy brake pedal – steps to steps guide

Check the brake fluid level and add brake fluid if necessary:

Add fluid to the reservoir, if necessary. Use a funnel to avoid spillage.

Remove the brake master cylinder and bleeder screws, then pump the pedal rapidly ten or twelve times.

Wait one minute and check the fluid level again and add more brake fluid if necessary to bring it up to the “Full” mark on the top of the reservoir.

Re-install bleeder screws and put a clear plastic bag over them to prevent contamination by dirt or other particles when you tighten them back down.

Check the brake system for contamination – use a flashlight to look under the hood for dirt, loose metal shavings, or other items which may be contaminating your system. Start with the rear brakes as this is where most brake problems originate.

When you find contaminated brake fluid and/or contaminated air, remove them using compressed air or a vacuum hose. If you need to drain and replace damaged brake lines, do it now.

Check for leaks in the brake system and repair as necessary

If you suspect your brake system is leaking, check for leaks with soapy water. If you find a leak, fix it as soon as possible. Have a professional repair any leaks to avoid having air trapped in the brake cylinder, which can cause a spongy pedal.

How to fix a spongy brake pedal - Check for leaks in the brake system and repair as necessary

Here are few steps to Check for leaks in the brake system and repair as necessary:

  • First remove the brake fluid reservoir cap, but don’t let any brake fluid drip down.
  • If there is no leak, check for leaks with soapy water. Let soapy water run into one of the wheels at a time to detect air bubbles that could be trapped in the brake cylinder.
  • If there are bubbles, fix any leaks that you can find in the hydraulic system (wheel cylinders or valve body) and  repair the leaking area on your car’s system.
  • If no leaks are found, then you may have a defective master cylinder and need to replace it.

Check that your brake pads are adjusted properly – if they aren’t, they may be contacting the rotors

The brake pads should be touching, or almost touching the rotors when brakes are applied. Make sure that the pads are not rubbing against rotors. If they are, your brake rotors will need to be machined or replaced.

The two tips below are to make sure that the pads are contacting or about to contact the rotors:

Tips 1: First check for leaks with soapy water and wipe off any water that is left residue on the pads.

Tips 2: If there is no leak when you apply pressure, then you can use a liquid penetrant, such as PB Blaster, to check for brake pads that are worn and have metal shavings on them.

Drive cautiously and avoid hard braking until the problem is fixed

Spongy brakes can get worse if you drive too fast and brake hard. Change your driving habits until the brake problem is resolved.

The first step to fix a spongy brake pedal is to determine whether the problem is inside or outside the car:

There are two places inside your car hydraulic system where a spongy brake pedal can occur: inside the wheel cylinders (A) or in the master cylinder that supplies pressure to your entire car’s hydraulic system (B).

If the brake pedal feels spongy when pressing down on it, but the problem goes away when you step hard on the brake pedal, it’s likely that your brakes are simply overfilled with fluid and need to be bled.

To bleed your brakes, you must remove air from your hydraulic system. To do that, you must lift up the car, remove the wheels and drain excess fluid.

It’s a great idea to have a professional mechanic perform this procedure because they have the special tools and training needed to keep your car from being damaged by working on brakes. 

If you find that there is dirt or metal bits in the fluid, consult a mechanic to determine which brake parts need replacement.

Have the brakes inspected and repaired by a qualified mechanic if necessary

Brake fluid is the lifeblood of your braking system. It has a tendency to absorb moisture, which can cause the feel of your pedal to change. When this happens, it’s important to have the system flushed out immediately by a qualified mechanic. Another common reason for brake fluid leak is worn down brake lines or hard lines where the rubber flexes and breaks or cracks over time. When this happens, new brake lines need to be installed for safe operation of your car.

Although you can follow the methods described below:

Clean the brake pedal:

Dirt and grime can accumulate on the pedal, which can cause slippage. Before removing your brake pedal, clean it thoroughly with a solvent-soaked rag. The best way to prevent this is by making sure that you always keep your car clean and maintain your car regularly. If you see dirt or mud on the brake pedal, wipe or brush it off immediately.

Adjust the brake pedal:

If you feel that the brake pedal needs to be adjusted, so it matches how much effort you need to apply to stop your car, remove the bolts on the pedal and adjust it accordingly. The distance between the two holes for the mounting bolts is 7/8 inches and this distance should be used as a rough guide when adjusting your brake pedal.

Brake pedal adjustment:

If after adjusting the brake pedal, you still feel that it’s too short or long, there are other alternatives to your standard brake pedal (which is the one you see in most cars). One is a hydraulic brake master cylinder and another is an electric brake control unit installed where the regular brake pedal usually sits.

Install a new brake pedal:

If none of the above solutions work, a new brake pedal is a good option to fix your spongy brake pedal.

Do not use antifreeze or windshield washer fluid as it can cause corrosion of your brake lines.  Brake fluid is the lifeblood of your braking system. It has a tendency to absorb moisture, which can cause the feel of your pedal to change. If you feel that the old brake pedal is damaged beyond repair, you can replace it with a new one. This will make your car better to drive and safer to stop.

Have the vehicle’s suspension checked if the brake pedal is spongy when the vehicle is not moving

The first thing a driver should do if the brake pedal feels spongy while driving is to have the car inspected by their mechanic. If the problem has to do with an issue with the vehicle’s suspension, then this would be easy for your mechanic to spot.

A spongy brake pedal is a common problem that many drivers experience at some point. The result can make your car seem unsafe, but the problem is usually easy to fix and avoid in the future.

so find out;

Locating the source for a spongy brake pedal:

The spongy feeling of your brake pedal or “squishy” feeling of the pedals are often caused by insufficient fluid levels in master cylinders and/or calipers causing too much pressure on the brake components. A spongy brake pedal is a common problem that many drivers experience at some point. The result can make your car seem unsafe, but the problem is usually easy to fix and avoid in the future.

Locating the cause of a spongy brake pedal:

The easiest way to locate the source of your spongy brake pedal is to use a fluid level gauge for each master cylinder fluid reservoir on both sides of the vehicle. Each of these levels should be between full (nearly empty) and zero (flat).

Brake fluid level controls (check/fill/bleed) :

If the brake fluid is not between the two levels, you can use a bleed valve to remove some of the old fluid and replace it with new fluid. This process can usually be done in less than 30 minutes by anyone.

How to fix a spongy brake pedal – A short summary

Check the brake fluid levels in each caliper and master cylinder before doing anything else.

Check the caliper piston sliders and seals. If they are worn or damaged, replace them with new ones. Check the brake fluid levels in each of the four calipers and the master cylinder before doing anything else.

If there are signs of a leak or damaged seal, replace it while driving.

[NOTE: If a liquid leaks into the system, it can damage system parts and make it dangerous to ride.]

Make sure there are no fluid leaks from the seals or bleeder screws. Make sure there are no leaks from the master cylinder at the port cap. If none of the above prevents the car from moving while driving, then it’s time to replace a part. You can find the fluid needed to repair these leaks at your local auto parts store. Good brake fluid cannot be overfilled and should be replaced if lost or if there is a visible leak. Finally, make sure the parking brake is working properly.

In addition to replacing worn parts, check all hoses and cables for damage or improper connections. The same goes for the lining of the shoe; If they are broken, they must be replaced.

Check the master cylinder for leaks and have it replaced if necessary

How to fix a spongy brake pedal - Check the master cylinder for leaks and have it replaced if necessary

Turn off the engine and allow it to cool down completely, this will make the pedal feel firmer.

Use a straight edged object like a screwdriver to push down on the master brake cylinder and remove any air bubbles or fluid that might be lingering inside it: 

Replace your brake pedal if these steps do not work:

  • Turn off the engine and allow it to cool down completely, this will make the pedal feel firmer.
  • Use a straight edged object like a screwdriver to push down on the master brake cylinder and remove any air bubbles or fluid that might be lingering inside it:
  • Replace your brake pedal if these steps do not work.
  • Applying the compressed air to a stray valve can be a good idea when you are unable to push down on the pedal.

Widening the air holes can be a good idea to allow more air to enter, when applicable.

Replacing the master brake cylinder is generally the best way to go towards fixing a spongy pedal.

Other methods could work but are not as reliable and sometimes they can even worsen the problem. It is always best to have your car inspected by a mechanic especially since this problem may have other causes that need checking as well.

Check for air in the brake lines if the problem persists after bleeding the brakes

1. Put the vehicle in gear, park on a level surface, and shut off the engine.

2. Locate the brake fluid reservoir cap and loosen it slightly with a screwdriver or socket wrench.

3. Open a bleeder valve to relieve pressure in one of the brake lines 

4. With clean hand, push down on each side of the reservoir cap to manually pump brake fluid out and into a catch basin or onto pavement below if you have one 

5. If there is still air in the brake lines, 

6. If there is no more air in the lines, shut off the cap and loosen it further until you can remove it.

7. Remove and hold down any plastic caps or protective shields covering the brake lines to relieve pressure in them

8. To check for air in a line, squeeze the rubber bulb attached to the end of a bleeder valve on that line. 

If air bubbles are visible, replace one or more of the following items:

  • Brake fluid reservoir cap,
  • Brake line,
  • Brake line to the master cylinder,
  • Brake lines to the caliper,
  • Caliper pistons or piston boots,

Caliper Piston Seals There are many other sources of air in brake lines, including coils, hoses, and rubber boots on calipers, which can be checked with a vacuum pump and tube adapters to reach places. hard to reach, such as around axle nuts. (easy with 4WD).

Have the vehicle’s braking system checked by a qualified mechanic if the problem persists

How to fix a spongy brake pedal - Have the vehicle's braking system checked by a qualified mechanic if the problem persists

The vehicle’s brakes may not have been repaired properly or not repaired at all. If the vehicle has only three or four wheels and is equipped with an anti-lock brake system, it may roll onto one of the front wheels when braking. This can cause sudden hesitation when turning, which can lead to a serious loss of control.

The Corvette’s factory-installed sway bar should be checked every 1,000 miles to make sure it doesn’t shift position. If the dipstick is bent or cracked, it should be replaced immediately by a qualified mechanic.

Vehicle safety systems, such as stability control and electronic stability program, should be repaired by a qualified mechanic and should not be modified to make unsafe driving conditions more comfortable. For example, removing traction control can reduce understeer, but it also makes cornering more difficult.

When a car’s brakes begin to have irreparable problems, the tires should be replaced.

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