Your brake pedal is designed to have a lot of give so that you can have maximum control over the amount of pressure that is applied to the brakes. Sometimes the pedal can become stiff and be hard to depress; in most circumstances the car will continue to brake correctly, but it’s an unnerving feeling for a driver and an issue that should be resolved by a mechanic.
How this system works:
Brake systems on modern vehicles are vacuum assisted via a brake booster. A vacuum diaphragm essentially multiplies the force that you are applying to the brake pedal, thus making it easier for you to brake, and giving you more control.
When the brake pedal is depressed, the vacuum source is closed off, which allows atmospheric pressure to enter one side of the vacuum diaphragm. This causes the master cylinder pistons to apply the brakes. When you remove your foot from the brake pedal, vacuum returns to both sides of the diaphragm, and the master cylinder pistons return to their normal position.
Common reasons for this to happen:
Bad brake booster: The most common culprit of a hard brake pedal is the brake booster. A bad brake booster will be unable to provide vacuum assist, meaning that you will be attempting to depress the brake pedal with no assistance.
Vacuum hose is leaking: Most often, the entire booster is broken, but sometimes it is one individual component at fault. In some cases, the booster vacuum line hose can begin to leak, which will limit the effectiveness of the vacuum assist.
Check valve malfunction: The check valve, which is responsible for allowing air to exit the booster but not enter it, can also malfunction or break.
Wrong-size parts: If your booster has been replaced recently, but your brake pedal is still hard, it could be that the replacement parts were the incorrect size. Adding a brake booster of the wrong weight, or a vacuum hose of the wrong size is a common mistake among inexperienced mechanics.
What to expect:
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to inspect your brake system, starting with a review of the brake booster, as that is the most common culprit.
After the inspection, the mechanic will provide a detailed report that describes the source and cause of the braking problem, along with the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
How important is this service?
Even though your brakes are hard to depress, chances are that they still work. However, the braking will be unassisted, meaning you’ll have to press the pedal a lot harder to get your vehicle to stop. Book a mechanic as soon as possible to diagnose the issue, as it’s not safe to drive a vehicle plagued by difficult braking.