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The Brakes (oh no, not again!) - May 2001

The garage

My most recent adventure has been, again, underneath and in the car fixing the brakes. I discovered quite some time ago that I was losing brake fluid but couldn't pinpoint the exact cause or point of leakage, and it was only occasional too. After discussion with a mechanic I suspected the rear brake pistons so had a local garage renew the pistons and look for any leakage. The report was of no leakage anywhere and I was sent away with a bill and a message of 'good luck!'.

The brake fluid was still leaking, except now continuously (but slowly) and from the rear brake portion of the reservoir.

The discovery

While parked in the car park at my place of work I noticed rather a large patch of very fresh liquid under my car, and drips dripping from the central area underneath and next to the drivers feet, from the smell I could tell it was brake fluid. The puzzling thing was that the master cylinder, as was reported by the garage, was completely dry. It occurred to me to look under the foot rest plate behind the pedals, and behold! A little lake of brake fluid which could only have leaked from one source - the master cylinder. It had leaked directly into the car via the brake pedal pushrod.

The solution

I ordered a replacement and endeavoured to save myself some money by fitting it myself, with the help of my father of course. I was a little concerned when I noticed that the new one had only one connector for the brake light pressure switch, whereas the old one had two. Further investigation in the workshop manual revealed that there was such a thing as a brake failure warning light, but this was only half there on my car - i.e. pressure switch and connector but no dashboard light. The surplus connector was covered with tape and left dangling out of harms' way.

Master Cyclinder

Removal of the old master cylinder was a case of lots of sweating, grunting and bashed knuckles, but eventually it was retrieved, like a treasure from the Titanic it had rust growing on it which gave it an almost life-like form.

Master Cyclinders The new one was fitted, but only after one slight problem was overcome - the reservoir is connected to the master cylinder via two rigid metal tubes, at either end of which are rubber hoses that connect to the reservoir and master cylinder. The ones at the master cylinder end were old and weathered, and unfortunately one had split. What could we do? We needed to get hold of a replacement tube but this was Sunday afternoon, where is open on a Sunday afternoon? Well most places, luckily. We tried some cheap hose from an autocenter, but after much heating up and forcing it was clear it wouldn't do. A visit to our favourite MOT centre in Scarborough supplied two replacement hoses of exactly the right size and material which slipped on with no trouble at all. Job done! The pipes were reconnected and bolts tightened. The bleeding could now begin.

The Bleeding

The bleeding was quite a lengthy process but went without any real hitches, apart from the time that we realised the hand brake was on, and even after that the rear brakes refused to activate without a lot of bleeding. We also topped up the master cylinder, no doubt an essential part of the process but another that we made up as we went along.

Now I feel confident in my brakes, no fluid has leaked recently and the pressure is good. Probably needs another bleed sometime but that can wait for another day.