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Signs of a Bad Master Cylinder – Here’s What You Need To Know

Signs of a Bad Master Cylinder

Everyone knows the importance of stopping your car when you want, and having your car respond appropriately. When you step on the brake pedal in order to slow down your vehicle, the braking system within your car uses a brake master cylinder to change the physical pressure you are placing on the pedal into hydraulic and mechanical pressure. 

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The change of pressure between physical and hydraulic occurs due to the brake master cylinder transferring brake fluid to the braking circuit. The average price of replacing the master cylinder cost comes between $250 and $300, but it can be more depending on the fix’s severity and scope. As soon as you notice any bad master cylinder’s signs, you need to bring your car to a mechanic. 

What Is A Master Cylinder? 


The master cylinder in your vehicle plays a vital role in the performance and safety of your vehicle. The master cylinder is the braking system’s initial mechanism, activated by the driver pressing the brake pedal. Once the driver presses the brake pedal, the master cylinder engages the pistons to place enough friction against the wheel hubs and the wheels to stop the car. 


The master cylinder must supply pressure to both brake circuits in the car, with each circuit designated to two cars’ wheels. This device uses two pistons to ensure the cylinder is failsafe in the occurrence of an accident or extensive damage. The combination valve is in charge of alerting the driver to any issues within the braking system. 


However, if there is a leak in one of the circuits, the circuit will not maintain pressure. This leak can cause problems with the master cylinder and the braking system. Let’s find out the main signs of a bad master cylinder so you can keep your car running safely. 

Bad Master Cylinder Symptoms


Once the brake master cylinder starts to break down over time, you will begin to notice a bad master cylinder’s signs. If you see the brake master cylinder shows signs of wear and tear, there will be certain noticeable symptoms in your vehicle. If you suspect an issue with your brake master cylinder due to other symptoms you are noticing, you should address the problem almost immediately to prevent any further issues. 


It is very dangerous to drive without brakes that work correctly since this can increase the risk of a crash and cause you not to stop the car when needed. We have gone over the top symptoms of a bad brake master cylinder that you will notice, enhancing the master cylinder cost


  • Warning light



The first main symptom that can influence the master cylinder replacement cost and longevity is that the brake warning light illuminates the dashboard. This warning light is usually the most unmistakable sign to notice and immediately alerts the driver to their car’s problems. This light indicates some kind of concern within the braking system, whether with brake pedals or brake pads. Make sure you bring your car to a mechanic so they can find out if this light refers to a direct issue with the brake master cylinder directly. 


However, suppose the braking system sensors detect that the brake fluid pressure is dropping significantly during use. In that case, it will more often than not be due to a bad brake master cylinder, which can result in the warning light coming on and enhancing the master cylinder cost. If the ABS light comes on, the main cause and the root issue could be the brake master cylinder, especially if the master cylinder is leaking brake fluid into the system. The ABS light and the warning light can clearly show signs of a bad master cylinder. 


  • Brake fluid leak 


The brake master cylinder needs a certain level of brake fluid to maintain the hydraulic pressure. This hydraulic pressure is in charge of slowing down the vehicle when you want to stop immediately. If the brake master cylinder is leaking brake fluid, or if the reservoirs are unsecured and holding too much brake fluid, you are experiencing signs of a bad brake master cylinder. 


If you have a brake fluid leak and do not have enough fluid to correctly stop your car, this can impair your ability to slow down the vehicle and stop it. You would need to replace the brake master cylinder in this situation, which increases the master cylinder cost.


  • Spongy brake pedal 



When the brake pedal feels spongy, and if you feel that you are having a soft brake pedal as you press on the pedal with your foot to stop the car, this will be a sure sign and symptom that your brake master cylinder is having problems and can be damaged over time. If the soft brake pedal has issues, this is a sign of a bad master cylinder and the potential for replacement.


The cylinder contains rubber seals that keep the brake fluid inside of it. If these rubber seals were getting worn down over time, become damaged, or succumbed to wear and tear, an internal brake fluid leak causes a higher master cylinder cost. The result of this would be a spongy feeling in the brake pedal, which can make it difficult to stop. 


  • Contaminated brake fluid 



Another issue that can happen to cause the sign of a bad master cylinder is the result of worn-out rubber seals. When the rubber seals breakdown over time, their secure connection is damaged. The destruction of the secure connection can lead to the contamination of the brake fluid. 


If you have contaminated brake fluid, the fuel filter can get clogged and cause issues. The seals not only help keep the brake fluid from coming out, but they also prevent dirt, debris, and other contaminants from mixing with the brake fluid and causing a higher master cylinder cost and signs of a bad master cylinder. 


If this were going to happen in your car, the brake pressure would not be as strong as if you step on the brake pedal to stop your car and slow down the vehicle. This can result in your pressing down harder on the pedal to get the vehicle to slow down like normal, requiring more physical pressure on the brake pedal and causing a higher master cylinder cost for a repair or replacement. 


  • Sinking brake pedal



Along with these other symptoms, you will start noticing the brake pedal not springing back up to the top after you have removed your foot from the brake pedal. The damaged brake pedal shows clear signs of a bad master cylinder. The damaged brake pedal causes the pedal to sink slowly to the floor, making it hard to repress the brakes when needed. The soft pedal can become a real driving hazard since you cannot re-press the brake to stop the car. This is a clear sign that you need to fix the master cylinder right away to prevent any additional signs of a bad master cylinder. 


  • Bad brake bias



Brake master cylinders usually have two different circuits used to separate brake fluid to the wheels in two different pairs, to the front and the rear wheels. The two different circuits prevent a complete loss of braking on the occasion that there is a leak on one side of the braking system. More often than not, these brake circuits will control one front wheel and the opposite rear wheel. 


The distribution of the braking circuits prevents a complete failure if one circuit has failed. If one circuit has failed, you might notice the car pulling to one side when you're braking. This will be most apparent when you press down on the brakes really hard, as the front brakes have more power of stopping than the rear brakes. By preventing a complete failure, this can avoid any further signs of a bad master cylinder.  


  • Uneven brake pad wear



If only two out of four wheels can apply the brakes to stop the car, you will notice that there is uneven brake pad wear in your car. For instance, the vehicle might pull to one side and cause uneven brake pad wear that can harm your vehicle and your braking system. 


Failure of multiple or just one of the pistons seals in the master cylinder or the brake line leak can cause one circuit to fail. If you notice that your car has uneven braking or uneven pad wear, then the brake master cylinder could be the culprit. As soon as you see uneven braking or uneven tread wear, you should think of this as a bad master cylinder sign. 

Master Cylinder Replacement Cost


If you have a brake master cylinder that goes bad, this can cause the master cylinder cost to be higher. The average cost to replace the master cylinder will be around $320 and $500, with the cost of the parts is between $100 and $210, and the labor costs to be between $230 and $300 on average. 


If you have an idea of how to do this yourself, then you can save the money on the labor costs by doing this yourself. Make sure you bring your car to a trusted mechanic as soon as you notice a bad master cylinder’s signs. 


However, it is a critical job that requires you to have a fair amount of car repair experience to prevent making anything else worse in your vehicle. You can figure out how to replace the master cylinder and reduce the master cylinder cost by unbolting the master cylinder from the firewall, disconnecting the brake lines, and reinstalling the new unit. 

Sample Master Cylinder Replacement Cost


To figure out how much you might spend on replacing your master cylinder cost, we have laid out some average prices for various types of cars that you will commonly find.


  • Ford Explorer


First, one of the least expensive cars for the master cylinder cost is the 2008 Ford Explorer, costing around $256 for the master cylinder replacement, with the parts cost coming out to about $127 and the labor cost coming out to the same amount. 


  • Chevrolet 


The next least expensive option is the 2012 Chevrolet Orlando, with the total cost of around $301, with the parts being around $197 and the labor being around $103. 


  • Kia Rondo and BMW 545i


The middle of the road options in pricing involves the 2009 Kia Rondo and the 2005 BMW 545i. The Kia Rondo comes out to around $452, with the parts cost coming out to around $347 and the labor being about $103. The BMW 545i has a parts cost of $160, while the labor cost is around $127. 


  • Jaguar Vanden and BMW 550i


The most expensive options for the master cylinder cost feature the 2009 Jaguar Vanden Plas and the 2012 BMW 550i xDrive. The 2009 Jaguar has a total value of around $509, with the parts cost coming out to $308 and the labor coming out to nearly $200. The total BMW price comes out to around $578, with the parts cost coming out to $450 and the labor being around $127. 



As you can see, there are many benefits to getting the master cylinder repair in your car. The master cylinder works with your entire braking system to ensure everything runs smoothly, preventing fluid leaks and any future issues. By preventing signs of a bad master cylinder, you can keep your vehicle safe and keep the braking power high. 


The master cylinder functions to distribute brake fluid evenly to all braking units within the system. When the seals are broken, this will damage the entire system. Keeping your brake master cylinder in good condition ensures a long lifespan of your vehicle. When you notice any signs of a bad master cylinder, you need to bring your vehicle to a mechanic so they can fix the root cause of the issue. 

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