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Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Help, Advice and DIY Tutorials on Volvo's extremely popular car line -- Volvo's 1990s "bread and butter" cars -- powered by the ubiquitous and durable Volvo inline 5-cylinder engine.
1992 - 1997 850, 850 R, 850 T5-R, 850 T5, 850 GLT
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Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby nadz » 22 Mar 2010, 17:34

Ever since I bought my 95 Volvo 850 I would have to basically push the brake pedal almost all the way down for the breaks to work, this is getting really annoying, pedal has to be pushed almost half way down for me to feel the breaks engaging.
Please let me know what could be causing this,
Thanks.
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby jblackburn » 22 Mar 2010, 18:05

It sounds like you need a new master cylinder. Air is being let into/is circulating through the system, and much more pressure must be put on the pedal to activate the booster and force the fluid down the lines to squeeze the brakes.

This is dangerous from a personal experience I had with one...I would have it looked at or repair it as soon as you can.
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby C@lvin » 22 Mar 2010, 20:04

jablackburn is probably right, but I'd look for other potential (less coslty) issues first. You didn't mention anything about your brake fluid. Is it at the proper level? Have you checked at each wheel for leaks? When was the last time the brake fluid was changed? Did you try bleeding the brakes to get any air out?

If there is no leak, but you don't know when the fluid was last changed, I'd try changing the fluid and see if that fixed it. It should be changed about every 30K anyway.

I definately agree that fixing this problem should be a very high priority since it's a life safety issue. In fact, if were mine I'd park it until it was fixed (although I realize this may not be an option for others).
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby IVIUSTANG » 22 Mar 2010, 20:11

C@lvin wrote:jablackburn is probably right, but I'd look for other potential (less coslty) issues first. You didn't mention anything about your brake fluid. Is it at the proper level? Have you checked at each wheel for leaks? When was the last time the brake fluid was changed? Did you try bleeding the brakes to get any air out?

If there is no leak, but you don't know when the fluid was last changed, I'd try changing the fluid and see if that fixed it. It should be changed about every 30K anyway.

I definately agree that fixing this problem should be a very high priority since it's a life safety issue. In fact, if were mine I'd park it until it was fixed (although I realize this may not be an option for others).


+1, this seems like the first logical process then go for the master cylinder if all else fails.

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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby nadz » 22 Mar 2010, 22:02

C@lvin wrote:jablackburn is probably right, but I'd look for other potential (less coslty) issues first. You didn't mention anything about your brake fluid. Is it at the proper level? Have you checked at each wheel for leaks? When was the last time the brake fluid was changed? Did you try bleeding the brakes to get any air out?

If there is no leak, but you don't know when the fluid was last changed, I'd try changing the fluid and see if that fixed it. It should be changed about every 30K anyway.

I definately agree that fixing this problem should be a very high priority since it's a life safety issue. In fact, if were mine I'd park it until it was fixed (although I realize this may not be an option for others).



The brake fluid is at the proper level, I do not know of the fluid ever being changed, is it a difficult task to change out the brake fluid because I have no clue on how to do so,
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby charlyW » 22 Mar 2010, 22:10

It's not a hard job to change the brake fluid just takes a bit of time. Couple of hours will do it but you will need a few essential items

Spanner to undo bleed screws 9 at the rear 10 front [going by UK Spec 850]
Suitable container to catch old brake fluid [jam jar works fine as long as you can prevent air going back up the pipe]
Suitable length of clear pipe to bleed the calipers off
You can buy numerous different bleed kits from simple to complex vacuum ones [vacuum ones take all the manual labour out]
couple of litres of brake fluid Dot 4 minimum NOT Dot 5.0 its silicone

Try to bleed the brakes off first to see if its just air you have in the system if it is you've saved money if not then it is possibly the master cylinder or a hard pipe.
bleed sequence 850.JPG


You bleed the brakes by opening a bleed screw in sequence by a quarter turn and as you press the brake pedal slowly down it expells fluid and air along with any contaminates, once that caliper is thoroughly bled move to the next and repeat topping up the brake fluid bottle as you go. It is essential you dont allow air to return to the brake system so the pipe needs to be either in the old fluid or fitted with a suitable one way valve.
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby Volvofix1 » 22 Mar 2010, 22:23

Try pulling the master cylinder forward without disconnecting the brake lines,look at the rubber boot. If it is wet with brake fluid,the master cyl. is N.G. Good luck
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby polskamafia mjl » 23 Mar 2010, 02:33

Couples of hours seems like a little overkill. :D I would say hour and half for the first time at most.
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby nadz » 02 Apr 2010, 07:07

I bled the brakes today with a friend (there was no air in the system since the fluid came out in a nice stream), but still the pedal feels the same I have to push it far down to brake, my friend says it's not the master cylinder? Could it be because I barely have no rear brakes?
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Re: Why is my brake pedal so squishy?

Postby phils94850 » 02 Apr 2010, 07:31

thats probably the winner ! LOL. If you have very little pad left then then your having to push further down on the pedal to get the pads to contact the rotors giving you the low pedal feeling.

Id say, put new pads on the car and go from there. Volvo's are known for having noisy brakes so make sure you have the rotors turned if they look mirrored, and use anti-rattle grease on the pads and that'll help keep down the squealing.

My wifes s70 would squeal alot, i took the brakes apart and applied anti-rattle grease and no more squeal :).

Heres a great write up on brake repair...

http://www.volvospeed.com/850rbrake1.php
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