Does your brake pedal go all the way to the floor when braking?
Does this mean brake failure?
Without internal pressure in your brake system, there is no resistance to your braking. The lack of pressurization requires you to press harder and further on the brake pedal to get your vehicle to stop.
So, why does this happen?
This article will cover seven possible reasons why your brake pedal goes to the floor. We’ll also explore if it’s safe to drive with a pedal that goes to the floor and what to do in that situation.
This Article Contains:
- 7 Possible Reasons Why Your Brake Pedal Goes to the Floor
- Is it Safe to Drive When Your Brake Pedal Goes to Floor?
- What Should You Do If Your Brake Pedal Goes to the Floor While Driving?
- How Do Brakes Work?
Let’s get started.
7 Possible Reasons Why Your Brake Pedal Goes to the Floor
There are several reasons explaining why your brake pedal goes to the floor.
Here are seven possible causes:
1. Lack of Brake Fluid
A low brake fluid level in your brake fluid reservoir occurs either because of brake fluid leaks or natural attrition. If the brake fluid level remains low, it can cause a decrease in braking system pressure and cause your braking ability to diminish or disappear.
2. Brake System Leak
Unresponsive brakes or the ‘brake pedal goes to floor’ symptom is a possible indication of a leak in your braking system. With a leak, an incorrect amount of hydraulic fluid will flow through your brake system— hindering your braking ability.
A brake system leak could stem from many sources.
For example, brake fluid leaks can occur at a brake hose or a brake caliper. A leak in your caliper can decrease your system’s brake fluid and brake pressure. The pressure loss from a loose or damaged brake caliper seal can cause you to push the brake pedal right down for it to work.
One obvious sign of a brake fluid leak is a small puddle of fluid underneath your parked car. Another easy way to identify a fluid leak in your braking system is to check the brake fluid reservoir — if fluid levels have dropped below minimum, then you have a problem.
Want to know what brake fluid looks like?
Brake fluid can be light yellow or dark brown, depending on age. It’ll also feel slick and oily, like canola or vegetable oil.
3. Bad Master Cylinder
The master cylinder pumps brake fluid into each brake line. It may fail due to wear and tear. A failing brake master cylinder won’t allow your lines to get the necessary brake fluid.
If you’re experiencing a spongy brake pedal, check if you’re dealing with worn-out master cylinder cup seals. Faulty cup seals result in a loss of hydraulic pressure, which can cause a fading pedal.
The pressure ensures there’s resistance when you press the brake pedal. Without that resistance, your brake pedal goes to the floor. As a result, your vehicle will inch ahead at stop lights.
4. Bad Brake Booster
Brake boosters are situated between your brake pedal and master brake cylinder, with a connection that extends to your engine. Your brake booster provides power to your braking system to engage your brakes.
With a failing booster, your brakes may not engage even when you push the pedal, causing either a soft or spongy pedal. There simply won’t be enough pressure for your disc brakes to clamp the brake pad on your brake rotor (or drum brakes to activate the wheel cylinder to push brake shoes against the brake drum.)
A brake booster usually becomes faulty due to age and wear. But, it could become worn out if you often slam on your brakes or drive in stop-and-go traffic.
Once you identify a bad brake booster as the cause of your brake problem, replacing the booster is the only option.
5. Air in Your Brake System
Air in your brake lines causes a soft brake pedal. Air can enter your brake lines when it undergoes repairs or when your mechanic adds fluid to your brake system. It can even enter your brake system as your car runs.
Brake fluid travels through your brake lines, delivering the hydraulic force that makes your brakes work. Since air is more compressible than brake fluid, hydraulic pressure is lost. As such, the air in your brake lines results in you pushing the brake pedal down to the ground.
You’ll need your mechanic to bleed air out of the brake line. Bleeding the brakes will help restore the brake fluid pressure in your braking system.
6. Your Driving Habits
Brake fluid gets hot as you use your brakes, and the hotter it gets, the more liquid and the less viscous it becomes. It can start as a thickish liquid and become thinner.
Your brake system may not be able to create enough pressurized force to operate the brakes if your brake fluid is thin and hot.
So, evaluate your driving style if you frequently feel a mushy pedal — especially when dealing with ineffective brakes but can’t find a mechanical reason. Always ensure you disengage your parking brake before you head out, and you don’t ride your brakes.
We now know that a sinking pedal can stem from a bad master cylinder, a fluid leak, to something as simple as your driving habits.
But is it safe to drive with a spongy pedal?
Let’s find out.
Is it Safe to Drive When Your Brake Pedal Goes to Floor?
You should never drive with a brake problem.
That “brake pedal goes to floor,” or soft brakes situation can quickly escalate to your brakes failing. If there’s been a steady drop in brake pressure or your fluid level with a side of a spongy brake pedal, assess the situation and contact your mechanic. Do not ignore the problem and expect it to go away.
Whether your brake system utilizes power brakes or something else, knowing how to stop safely in case of brake failure is vital.
What Should You Do If Your Brake Pedal Goes to the Floor While Driving?
Stop applying gas immediately and try to pull over safely. Do not simply yank on your emergency brake.
Slow down by downshifting to use engine braking and only apply your emergency brake once you’ve completely stopped. Then call a towing service or mobile mechanic and have your vehicle inspected and repaired.
Never continue driving if you experience brake issues, as you risk injury to yourself and others. Additionally, you’ll probably not get insurance coverage due to negligence.
We’ve briefly discussed how brakes work, but let’s take a more detailed look at how your braking system works.
How Do Brakes Work?
Understanding how your brakes work will help prevent possible brake failure:
- Pressing on your brake pedal creates a mechanical force that the brake booster amplifies.
- Your brake master cylinder then converts the mechanical force into hydraulic pressure.
- Hydraulic brake fluid is then pressurized through the master brake cylinder into your brake lines and hose, which carry the fluid to your wheels.
- In a vehicle with disc brakes, the brake fluid pressure causes the caliper piston to press the brake pads against the brake rotor.
- Vehicles with drum brakes (usually the rear brake) have a wheel cylinder that presses the brake shoes, in this case, instead of pads, against the brake drum.
If you notice any faulty brake symptoms, call a mobile mechanic company like AutoNation Mobile Service.
AutoNation Mobile Service has professional technicians available seven days a week who come to you!
We offer a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty and upfront pricing for all repairs. Easily book our services today for any maintenance or repairs your vehicle might need. From installing a new master cylinder, fixing a stuck parking brake, or looking at your ABS unit, we’ve got you covered.