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Q: Brake system malfunction

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My car has gone around 160,000 miles. Lately, the braking system started malfunctioning. Brake pedal is kind of spongy when I press it. Ocassionally, even though I floor the brake pedal, it doesn't work. Also, I've noticed dragging and smoking of the left front caliper. So, the brakes sometimes fail completely while other times work very poorly. I've checked for leaks and there are none. The fluids look fine and are at proper levels. What might be causing this? What repairs should I do?

The master cylinder is likely worn out and should be replaced. The rubber cups simply allow the brake fluid to slip past, rather than compress, when the brake pedal is pressed. I would also replace all of your brake hoses - front and rear. They may look fine externally, but have internal weakness that are contributing to the behavior you describe. They are 22 years old after all! A YourMechanic professional can help with both of these repairs.

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