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Old 12-12-2008, 08:13 PM   #1
RDave
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1995 SL1
1995 SL1
Default Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

I have a '95 SL1 with ABS and 40,000 miles on it. I had the front brakes and rotors done about 6 months ago, and I had to have the left ABS sensor replaced about 4 months ago. I was pulling out of my driveway and going to make a U turn on the Boulevard and the brake pedal suddenly went all the way to the floor and the ABS were clicking, but the ABS warning light did not come on. There was about 1" of snow on the ground, so I could not get a feel if I was getting any braking at all at the bottom of the pedal. My 11 year old daughter was in the back seat. I was only about 200 feet from my house and was able to idle home using drive to neutral and the emergency brake. It was dark and snowy, so I couldn't see much. I didn't see any sign of brake fluid leaking on the drive, and I took a flashlight, and everything looked fine under the hood, and the brake fluid resevoir was full. Does anyone have any idea where to start looking? I search the forum and I didn't see any posts with this type of problem.

RDave

Last edited by RDave; 12-12-2008 at 08:21 PM.. Reason: sp

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Old 12-12-2008, 08:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

One possibility is the drums are out of adjustment. Though why it would happen suddenly is a mystery.

Did you recently drive around with the parking brake on (even partially)?

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Old 12-12-2008, 08:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

With your description of brake pedal to the floor and ABS activating with no braking taking place, this may require a trip to Saturn or at least back to the shop that did the brake work. The question is, with so little mileage, were the brake lines ever flushed completely so new fluids replaced old? It should have been done at least once after a major brake job but if not the old fluid may have retained moisture, enough to corrode the brake master cylinder and cause this problem from erosion of the master cylinder wall allowing fluid to lose hydraulic pressure. Coupled with the pedal falling to the floor and ABS operating, may cause more problems with future ABS use. This requires more expertise than just a brake specialist and Saturn should be able to handle this if the brake shop can't. The brakes and bleeding are simple to perform but exercising the ABS unit (internal valves) to bleed/flush fluids from the unit requires ABS equipment to do properly. If the brake shop can do it, then have them check the entire braking system including the ABS unit to be sure that it will work when its needed. If it doesn't operate correctly the ABS indicator will turn on and disable ABS use until its repaired correctly. This isn't a normal brake job anymore.

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Old 12-12-2008, 08:53 PM   #4
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

My initial thought is internal failure of the master cylinder. But I couldn't figure out why the brake warning light didn't go on. I checked, and it seems like I have some brake at the bottom of the pedal. Like Fdyer suggested, I think it would be best to bite the bullet and have it towed to the Saturn dealership. Ironically a bought another non ABS '95 Saturn for $900.00 to have a third car in case one of our other 2 cars broke.

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Old 12-12-2008, 09:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

Does it hold pressure with the car off?

and there are no signs of any fluid on the driveway?

...
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Old 12-12-2008, 09:50 PM   #6
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

If ABS fails, the ABS light will turn on. Cars will still brake without ABS. If brake fluid doesn't go below a certain level in the brake master cylinder, the brake light won't turn on, just as you described with normal brake fluid level. The pedal sinking is a bad sign of a brake system failure even if the brakes miraculously recover. All the right fluids and ABS operating isn't going to make the brake system work if the basic hydraulic system isn't working - the brake master cylinder.

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Old 12-12-2008, 10:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

I am guessing that the brake fluid is the original 13 year old fluid that came with this car (older than my daughter!) and the system has never been flushed. This old fluid might have caused the master cylinder to fail. I'm just glad it didn't happen on the freeway coming home from work today. Are ABS master cylinders different than non ABS?

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Old 12-12-2008, 10:18 PM   #8
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

Honestly, I don't know but I would guess that there are no separate brake masters, one for non-ABS and another for ABS unless specifications call for more volume output for ABS use. Just a guess on my part.

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Old 12-13-2008, 12:02 AM   #9
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

They are different I believe.

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Old 12-13-2008, 12:46 AM   #10
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

Last spring the boy was driving the 93 SC1 when the pedal went to the floor. he used the E-brake to aviod a wreck and parked the car. It needed a new master cylinder, and I replaced the rotors and pads as well. Brake Masters wanted $600. for the master cylinder. No problems since!

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Old 12-13-2008, 01:44 AM   #11
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RDave View Post
I am guessing that the brake fluid is the original 13 year old fluid that came with this car (older than my daughter!) and the system has never been flushed. This old fluid might have caused the master cylinder to fail. I'm just glad it didn't happen on the freeway coming home from work today. Are ABS master cylinders different than non ABS?
Yes. You cannot put a Non ABS cylinder in your ABS enabled car. You need to get a new one or rebuild your current one. Im not sure if there are rebuild kits for ABS master cylinders though.

If the fluid level is good, the pedal will not hold pressure when the car is off, and you see NO signs of brake fluid at all on the ground--> you master cylinder is gone.

Which honestly is very odd and ive never heard/seen this happen before. Time for a new one i would say

...
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Old 12-13-2008, 12:02 PM   #12
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1995 SL1
Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor. Diagnosis found.

Went out to check the car in the bright sunlight this morning. There was a stream of brake fluid near the rear passenger tire. When I looked under the car, I could see a slow drip of fluid about 4 inches inward of where the black flexible brake hose connects to the brake hard line. What to do now? I thought about replacing the line myself. I have a 1969 Torino GT with a 428 Cobrajet engine in my garage that has not been on the road since 1982 that I am replacing all the all the brake lines on. The problem with replacing the line myself is that since this car is a 1995 with only 40,000 miles, it probably sat a lot, and all the lines might be ready to go. Brakes are the one thing I usually don't want to tackle on an everyday car that my family will ride in. I guess it would be best to have it towed to my local Saturn dealership about 5 miles away and have them go over the complete system. Since I have owned this car, I have never taken it to the Saturn dealership for any routine maintenance, like the 30,000 mile checkup, ect. When they check the maintenance records, they will probably freak. Any opinions on what to do?

RDave

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Old 12-13-2008, 12:18 PM   #13
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

You always have options. Since you already understand brake systems and don't think its unusual to replace the lines on the Torino, what's the difference? Brakes are brakes when done properly. If the brake hose let go then all that's needed now is a replacement hose, a quart of DOT-3 brake fluid, and time to replace the line. If you're already familiar with brake bleeding then remove the old fluid from the master cylinder with a turkey baster and refill with new fluid; then bleed the master through the front/side fittings for the dual/diagonal brake lines. Once the master is bled you can now flush the entire system of old fluid. All that's left is a complete flushing of the entire brake system, starting with the right rear followed with the left front! Perfect! Then do the left rear and right front. Hopefully, if none of the bleed screws are seized you'll have flushed and bled the system and the master hasn't suffered any corrosion damage. You won't know unless you stand on the brake pedal with the engine off to see if the pedal sinks to the floor. If it does, then either a rebuild is needed or replacement of the master. Remember, the entire system contained old fluid so other cylinders may be corroded. Something to keep in mind throughout this dilemma.

ABS, if compromised, may have to be serviced by Saturn. By compromised I mean loss of fluid within the ABS unit when all the valves are closed, in standby, until an ABS event requires activation. The brakes are already pressurized (full pressure whenever ABS activates) but a leak like yours allows a loss of pressure, effectively making ABS useless and possibly introducing air into the system. Normally nothing like this occurs as your brakes worked prior to this and no air entered the ABS unit so when it shut off it still retained the same brake fluids. If you're fortunate you'll only have to replace the broken brake hose and flush/bleed the system. This should bring everything back to spec, including the ABS. However, the ABS retains old fluid and cannot be flushed by you or me and its done by Saturn or the brake places specifically having ABS equipment to activate the ABS unit for bleeding out fluid.

Last edited by fdryer; 12-13-2008 at 12:27 PM..

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Old 12-13-2008, 02:42 PM   #14
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

If you dont feel confident in doing the brakes, then bring it to the dealer. Its not that hard of a job, but can be time consuming. Your call really.

The only thing that makes the ABS little harder is that once you are done and have bleed the system, you need to take the car out and activate the ABS (aka slam on the brakes). This allows the fluid in the unit to rotate with the new fluid in reservoir. You must then re-bleed the entire system.

http://www.stoptech.com/tech_info/wp_bleeding_abs.shtml

The saturn dealership has a tool they can hook up to the car and have the PCM engage the ABS. A luxury most dont have

For 5 miles, call AAA

...
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Old 12-13-2008, 02:48 PM   #15
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Default Re: Brake pedal suddenly went to the floor.

+1^ fdryer

seriously ive worked on brakes ranging from a 55 chevy truck to 00+honda civics drum and disk abs and not, abs does get complicated and some stuff you just can't do without expensive equipment

i would try to bleed it and replace the hose then take it to a (close) parking lot late at night and try to kick on the abs and see what it does, the hose will be cheaper for you to replace than the dealer so you should do that no matter what. (and like you said checking all the hoses is not a bad idea at all)

and if you do find your abs is filled with air now your only out a bottle of dot3 and its time to take it to the shop or dealer and you can know whats wrong with it and not let them jerk you around

...
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