How To Diagnose a Spongy or Soft Brake Pedal

Soft or Spongey Pedal

How To Diagnose a Spongy or Soft Brake Pedal

Does your brake pedal feel a little bit soft or spongy?

Here are some common causes for a soft or spongy brake pedal.

Common Causes of a Spongy or Soft Pedal:

  • Brake fluid leaks
  • Worn out brake hoses
  • Air in the system
  • Contaminated brake fluid


Brake Fluid Leaks:

  • Worn, damaged or rusted components in the brake system can cause fluid leaks
  • Checking the fluid level in the reservoir because a leak can be easily identified
  • Inspect each caliper, brake hoses and brake lines to the master cylinder for leaks


Worn Out Brake Hoses:

  • Swelling is an indication that a hose is worn out when there is swelling
  • Have someone press the brake pedal while you inspect the hoses for leaks or swelling
  • Any amount of swelling indicates a bad brake hose


Air in the Brake System:

  • If it is not properly bled after replacing a component, air can become trapped in a system
  • Air can be introduced to the system by overheating the caliper, causing the brake fluid to boil
  • If rapidly pumping a soft pedal restores pedal pressure, there is most likely air in the system


Brake Fluid Contamination

  • Rust or debris in the system will contaminate fluid
  • Always change fluid at the recommended intervals
  • Flush the system at least every two years


These tips can point you in the right direction if there are common issues with your vehicle:

  • Check for any recalls or TSB’s related to the symptoms or vehicle system of concern
  • Look up common complaints on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website


The brake system should be bled if:

  • Opened hydraulic system
  • Flushed brake fluid
  • Air is present in the system
  • Replaced a brake component


Not all vehicles have the same bleeding procedure. You should always refer your Factory Service Manual for the proper procedure.

  • Many newer vehicles require a scan tool to bleed the ABS unit. A soft or spongy pedal may remain, if this is not completed


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