Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Power Brake Booster

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The purpose of a brake booster is to provide power assistance to the braking system, meaning you do not have to put a lot of force on the brakes for them to actually engage. The brake booster is located between the brake pedal and master cylinder and uses a vacuum to overcome the fluid pressure in the brake system. If your brakes are not working properly, the vehicle should not be driven. The brake booster is an essential part of the braking system, so keep an eye out for the following 3 symptoms so you can have them repaired right away:

1. Hard brake pedal

The primary indicator of a bad brake booster is an extremely difficult-to-push brake pedal. This issue may occur gradually or appear all at once. In addition, the brake pedal will not return to its original position after being pressed. As soon as you notice your brake pedal is hard to engage, contact a professional mechanic to have your brake booster replaced. It is critical that brake booster faults are repaired quickly — the car is not safe to drive with a failed brake booster.

2. Longer stopping distance

Along with a hard brake pedal, you may notice it takes the vehicle longer to actually stop. This is because you are not getting the actual power boost needed to properly stop the vehicle. A longer stopping distance can be hazardous in all types of weather because it can make your car unpredictable. This issue should be looked at by a mechanic as soon as you notice it.

3. Engine stalls when brakes are applied

When the brake booster is failing it can draw excess vacuum from the engine. This occurs when the diaphragm inside the brake booster fails and allows air to bypass the seal. The brakes are then pressed, the engine feels like it will stall, and the idle can drop. In addition to the decreased brake performance, a stalling engine can cause serious issues.

Test the Booster

Since most vehicles use a vacuum system, the brake booster can be tested at your home. Observe the following 3 steps:

  1. With the engine off, pump the brakes — about five or six times is sufficient. This depletes the stored vacuum.

  2. Turn the engine on while pushing down lightly on the brake pedal. If your brake booster is working normally, the pedal will fall away a little, but then become firm.

  3. If your brake booster is not working correctly, nothing will happen, or the brake pedal will push back against your foot once the engine starts. This could be a sign of a brake booster problem or an issue with the vacuum hose.

If you notice the brake pedal is difficult to push, higher than normal, and your vehicle takes longer to stop, have a mechanic inspect it to be safe on the road. If needed, the mechanic will replace your brake booster in a timely manner so you can safely drive your vehicle again.


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YourMechanic Brake Pad Replacement Service

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Number of Reviews

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Rating Summary
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10,490
331
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85

Richard

15 years of experience
60 reviews
Richard
15 years of experience
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Fremont, California
Excellent communicator, walked me through the fixes and even gave me an idea of what might be next on the fix list.
Dodge Grand Caravan - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Union City, California
quickly diagnosed the problem but knew it would take longer than appt time to fix. since we had appt the next day for brakes he rearranged his schedule to do it all together the next day. very knowledgeable, friendly, and professional.

Tung

14 years of experience
285 reviews
Tung
14 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Mableton, Georgia
Very detailed and customer service oriented. Did an amazing job fixing my back brakes and even set-up a schedule of future appointments for my car!
Ram 1500 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Marietta, Georgia
Tung showed up on time and was very friendly. Changed my brake pads in about 30 minutes and gave me recommendations on when to change the rear pads. Will ask for him by name next time.

Horus

9 years of experience
103 reviews
Horus
9 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Antonio, Texas
Horace worked on my Land Rover today. Showed up on time and was professional and courteous. Replaced front and rear break pads. Great job!

Juan

11 years of experience
37 reviews
Juan
11 years of experience
Dodge Avenger - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Mountain House, California
Was very thorough in explaining the condition of the car and how the repairs will impact it’s service.

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