Q: I had my oil changed a few months back. A few weeks later, I had to slam my brakes to avoid an animal in the road. My brake pedal went to the floor, and only my e-brake saved me from an accident. No anti-lock or brake lights came on. I got towed home. I opened my hood to find my brake reservoir cap on crooked in a way that prevented it from being sealed. I put the cap on properly and pumped my brakes back up; they seemed to work. I also let the garage know what happened. Well, now whenever I apply my brakes semi-hard over an uneven surface, they go right to the floor, again no warning lights. I explained this to the garage — they inspected my car and said they can find nothing wrong with my brakes. This problem is intermittent, it does not happen every time I brake over a rough surface, but has happened three times since the original incident. I can no longer drive this car safely. A retired mechanic told me a seal in my master cylinder was probably damaged when the cap was unsecured and the brakes were applied hard. As far as the garage goes, I offered to pay half of the bill to replace my master cylinder due to their error. They declined. What do you think?
A: I talked with this reader on the phone and found there is no brake fluid loss, and when the cap was not on tight, it was a very rainy day. I advised him to have the anti-lock brake system scanned with a computer and to also have a four-wheel physical brake check. I don’t feel there is a master cylinder problem. I do, however, feel there is a probability of water in the brake fluid. So I further recommended that if the problems mentioned above were not present, then a litmus paper test to check for water in the brake fluid was next. A thorough flush of the brake fluid would be the next step. By the way, brake fluid should be flushed at or before 60,000 miles.
Car Care Tip: Your car should be equipped with a flashlight. If it’s not, choose an LED flashlight. If you do have one, be sure to check it for operational condition.
Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to email@example.com.