Classic/Antique Car Repair/Brakes not right

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Question
Hi Brad-

I have a 1982 Chrysler convertible that I use as a summer cruiser. This spring when I got it out the brakes didn't feel right. They stop the car but it feels like you have to push the pedal all the way down, like there is nothing until the very end of the pedal travel. It will slow the car down and "lock" the brakes if I push super hard but there isn't much between this and just slowing the car down. I checked the wheels and the inside sidewalls are dry. I have had to fill one of the reservoirs (don't remember which one)on the master cylinder before putting it away for the winter but it didn't run dry.  The car has the 2.6 engine, auto transmission, and power brakes. Front disc/rear drums if that make a difference. I have driven it a few times this year around town but don't want to take it out on the highway at high speeds until I find out what is wrong.

Any ideas what to look at?

Thanks,
Jim

Answer
It could be a couple of things. First give the power brake booster a quick check. To do this hold your foot down on the brake pedal. While you are holding start the engine. As the booster feels the vacuum from the engine starting it will activate and the pedal will sink out from under your foot. If the booster works then it is in the hydraulic system. If the brake cylinder has never run out of fluid I would suspect a defective master cylinder. On a car that is stored all winter I would also pull the wheels and check for small leaks at the rear wheel cylinders and the front calipers. If everything looks good then bleed the brakes and see what happens. If the work good, fine but if not suspect the master cylinder.  

Classic/Antique Car Repair

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Brad Sears

Expertise

All automotive including antique and collectible. However if the car has been modified I can only answer in general terms and maybe get you pointed in the right direction.

Experience

Automotive tech instructor. Syndicated auto columnist 1970's though the early 1990's. Syndicated auto radio talk show, Ask Brad About cars, CBS Radio 70's through 90's TV Show "Last Chance Garage" 1980's PBS-TV syndicated. Auto instructor for the following companies: Fram Autolyte Holly Carter AMF Ford Motor University Of Conn Blue Hills Technical School Sugar River Technical Center Grew up in a family garage in Needham Mass and turned wrenches from the age of 14.

Publications
Manchester Union Leader, Nashua Telegraph, Motor Service Magazine, Yankee Magazine, Popular Mechanics (Saturday Mechanic early 80's), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and lots more.

Education/Credentials
More than I care to remember. Basically Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, Northeastern University, Fitchburg State Teachers College, Tufts University, and a lot of factory schools along the way.

Awards and Honors
Moto Award winner. And much more.

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