Squishy brakes? Here’s why
Dive deep into the world of hydraulic brakes … and all of their problems
Troubleshooting hydraulic brake problems is generally pretty simple: You find the leak, replace the part and bleed the system. Sometimes, you don’t see a leak, but that’s never stopped me from replacing parts. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll generally find why your brake pedal doesn’t respond quite the way it should. Of course, there are the few times that you run through all of the common problems, and you’re left scratching your head.
At least that’s where YouTuber This Old Tony was with the rear brake system on his trials bike. I know what you’re thinking: Modern automotive brakes are significantly more complex than the simple setup on this trials bike, and you’re correct. However, you’ll find that every problem This Old Tony addresses on his small motorcycle will translate to your car.
This Old Tony also brilliantly shows how, and why, the air in your lines will give you a squishy or soft pedal. At around 8:35 in the video, This Old Tony breaks out a pair of syringes, colored fluid and some clear lines. Using the syringes, he shows how a hydraulic brake system works by depressing a plunger and using the fluid to push out the other plunger: just like your master cylinder and your brake caliper’s piston(s). Then, he introduces air to show the impact of air in a hydraulic system and why it makes your pedal softer than normal.
If you’ve fixed your fair share of brake systems, or haven’t ever spun a wrench, you will learn something from watching this. For the more experienced hands, you’ll learn not to jump right in with throwing parts at a problem. For the less experienced, this is a great crash course on brake systems. Oh yeah, and if you want to know what Tony’s problem was … you have to watch the video above.