Might as well stop with my feet through the floor.

Once again I am turning to those learned members of Arrse for your expert advice.

I have a 1999 Mk1 Ford Focus 1.8 Zetec and have come back from a 2 week holiday to find the brakes are next to useless: spongy as hell and bring the car to an ever-so-gentle stop with the foot to the floor. Prior to going on leave there were no problems whatsoever. I don't check my fluids as often as I probably should but it wasn't that long ago, and there have been no stains on the driveway. There is definite braking taking place, just with far less effect on the inertia of the car.

I looked in the fluid reservoir to find a puddle in the bottom so topped it up with DOT.4. Whilst doing so half a dozen or so bubble rose to the surface. This made no difference to the brake performance so I've done a little more investigating. With my foot hard to the floor I could hear and feel one of the tyres locking up so stopped to check which one. It turns out the near-side front tyre is locking up and the disc is baking hot while the disc on the front offside is barely warm. Hand brake works as expected.

Any clues as to what has gone wrong?


You need to top up and bleed the brakes, all of them, properly, not just top up the reservoir, you are currently braking on just one circuit. Once you've bled the brakes and everything is tightened up, pump the brakes on the spot and check for leaks, you won't see puddles under the car, brake fluid is volatile and it only leaks when you apply pressure, i.e brake. Once you've done all that and there's no sponginess or evident leaks, get it brake tested, it doesn't cost much and could save your life, or mine.
Right, cheers cernunnos.
Check for wear on your linings while you are at it!

When you bleed, the typical method is to start with a full master cylinder (topping up frequently; keeping the cap on the master between top ups) and bleed the wheel furthest away from the master cylinder.

There is a sequence to observe, furthest away first.For diagonally split dual circit brakes on a left hand drive car this is normally RR, LF, RL, RF in that order. If you're not sure how, try you tube!

I would do a manual bleed of all corners and test the brakes again. If you get a hard pedal after successfully bleeding all four corners (flushing the system can't hurt either, especially if the system has been closed for a few years since last serviced) it should still be hard with the engine running.

ABS can complicate things, I would check the workshop manual on that.
Also don't have someone topping up for you as you bleed them, chances are some fluid will drip through the engine bay into your eyes and that person will be too busy laughing to help any further. The fun with land rovers!

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first post so take this with the intention it was made (I have no connection with any of the services except for failing a medical, so I did try)
have spent 6 years on fords and have never come across a master cylinder leaking into a servo, not saying it not happened but unlikely, first step you need to take is bleed the system, then check for leaks, very likely there is a pipe rusted through and weeping, run the engine to get the servo kicking in and with someone standing on the pedal look underneath for leaks, if nothing then check for seized pads or (unlikely) seized wheel cylinders, as most of your braking effort is sent to the front. If you have a problem there it makes quite a difference, if there is still a problem, check them first and if there is still a fault repost with whatever is still wrong and I`ll try and advise next step
Thanks for all your advice guys. Needed the car urgently this weekend so took it into a spanner monkey this morning rather than spending hours/days doing it myself. By midday he replaced two corroded rear wheel cylinders and the shoes as they were paper thin. All sorted with 3 hours labour.

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two corroded rear wheel cylinders
You're lucky you had any brakes at all.

An old mate of mine had a similar thing happen on a pug 405, and he had no pedal at all. Had to drive round a corner on the pavement to avoid crashing into the traffic queue at a set of lights. Then he drove about 40 miles with nothing but gears and a shit handbrake, to the garage he always went to, because it was cheaper than any where he lived.

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