Are you sensing some weird action when you apply your foot on the brakes and something just doesn’t feel right? It could be the master cylinder that broke and you probably want to learn the master cylinder replacement cost? If this is the case and this is the situation you are into, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic where we will learn a lot about this issue.
The master cylinder is one of the key components that should always be in check if you want to have a proper braking system on your vehicle. If the master cylinder doesn’t work right, braking will be compromised and you will experience a ton of problems while pressing on the brake.
These problems can also be so dangerous that they could even jeopardize your life. We need brakes to stop our cars and they always have to be in proper working order and up to their task if we want to be safe. Luckily when a master cylinder fails you will not completely lose the brakes since there are safety precautions. But you could still experience some symptoms that you really don’t want. But we are going to help you out with that.
First, we are going to learn what is a master cylinder and how the braking system works. Then we will cover the symptoms of a bad master cylinder. Later we will learn how to replace this component and also the master cylinder replacement cost. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.
What Is A Master Cylinder?
Before we delve into the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s first discuss what is a master cylinder in general. Since we have to start from somewhere and there is no better way to start from the basics so everybody knows what we are covering in this article. So, what is a master cylinder?
A master cylinder is a device in your braking system. This device has the task to convert the force that you are applying with your foot into a hydraulic pressure that makes the car stop.
As you know brake system is a hydraulic system that works with the help of a vacuum that is created inside of the brake booster. The big oval thing is usually mounted onto the firewall. The master cylinder is mounted to this brake booster.
Every brake master cylinder has two slave cylinders. In case one breaks, the other will keep working. Usually one of these circuits is controlling the left side of the car while the other is controlling the right side of the car.
Inside this master cylinder is where all magic happens. How the master cylinder work is fairly simple. When you apply the foot on the brake, you will activate the pushrod that is pressing the spring. The spring has a role to return the pushrod back to the original position once you release the brake pedal.
When you press on the pedal, the pushrod is pressed and the fluid moves where it needs to. When you remove the foot from the brake it returns it back to the original position. Later we are going to cover that in-depth. After, we will discuss the master cylinder replacement cost. But why the master cylinder is so important? Let’s see.
Why The Master Cylinder Is So Important, At Any Cost?
Before we learn the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s see why this component is of such importance?
And the answer is dead simple, this component is the brain of your braking system. The integral part is that without it your braking system would malfunction or not work at all, to begin with.
This cylinder is basically building hydraulic pressure into the system and this pressure is sent to the brake lines and thus the brakes are being activated. Then the car stops.
What is crucial for this component to work is hydraulic fluid. Also known as brake fluid. Brake fluid is not the same as your regular hydraulic fluid used in power steering and other applications.
The fluid used in the braking system is usually clear and doesn’t have any coloring to it. Meaning that this fluid has some special ingredients that make sure that the brakes always deliver when it comes to stopping the vehicle and you do not end up in a tight situation and put your life in danger.
But overall, the master cylinder is the brain that sends this hydraulic fluid around the brake lines. But have you asked how the brake system works in general? Let’s broaden up our scope and get the main picture of how everything is connected together. Later we will learn the master cylinder replacement cost. So, how the braking system works? Let’s find out.
How The Braking System Works?
Before we learn the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s learn how the braking system works in practice. Knowing this stuff works is quite essential when it comes to understanding these problems and how to diagnose a problem with the brakes in the first place. So, let’s elaborate on this topic and later see how everything works together.
The brake system is composed of a number of components. The core component is the master cylinder which is the brain. This component is connected to the brake booster also known as the servo and then this assembly is mounted to the firewall.
From the firewall, the brake booster is connected to the brake pedal, and from the other side of the master cylinder, there are hydraulic lines that go to the brake calipers. There are four brake lines since you have four wheels.
The master cylinder has two circuits. Meaning that there is one circuit from each side of the vehicle.
Then these brake lines are well connected to the calipers. So how does everything works together in practice? It’s really simple.
When you press on the brake pedal you are pushing the piston, then this piston is creating a vacuum in the brake booster to help you out with the braking.
Then when you press the piston the spring compresses, and brake fluid is sent to the brake lines from both circuits. This fluid then activates the pistons on the calipers that later press the pads to the rotors and aid the braking. Finally, the car stops.
After you finish braking, the brake booster vacuum brings back the piston to the original position and the hydraulic fluid retracts to the master cylinder. That’s it. But what does the master cylinder replacement cost? We will get to that in a bit.
Symptoms That Point To A Master Cylinder Replacement
Now before we learn the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s first learn the symptoms of a failing master cylinder. As you know, each component before it fails starts to show some symptoms that can be a dead giveaway on this problem and a clear indication that you have to replace this component.
So, what are the symptoms of failing master cylinder? Let’s elaborate in the following chapters where we will cover each of these symptoms in great detail so you have a good perspective of what to expect. So, let’s begin.
1. Brake Light Or ABS Light On Can Be From A Bad Master Cylinder
Now before we learn the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s first cover the first symptom that you are going to experience. And this symptom is the ABS light on the dashboard.
It is worth noting that not all vehicles that are running hydraulic brakes are having this sensor on the master cylinder. Meaning that if you are running an older vehicle, you will be left out guessing what could be the problem.
Never cars though, have this sensor also known as the brake fluid pressure sensor. And if the car detects that there is low brake fluid in the reservoir, a blocked hydraulic line, or a bad master cylinder, it will throw a code. In some cases, even the check engine light will turn on. Depending much on the vehicle that you are running.
In these situations, the problem will require deeper investigation with a computer to properly diagnose the problem. An OBD2 scanner will do the trick just right. After you diagnose the problem, you can move on to learn the master cylinder replacement cost.
2. Contaminated Brake Fluid As A Signal For A Master Cylinder Replacement
Before we dive into the master cylinder replacement cost let’s discuss the second most common symptom of a bad master cylinder and that is contaminated brake fluid.
A fluid that was rarely replaced can damage the master cylinder. The master cylinder is a sensitive device that can react whenever there is contaminated fluid inside. This fluid can get contaminated from the brake lines and other components. Also, there are rubber seals on the master cylinder that know to fail quite often and contaminate the fluid.
This contaminated fluid will not do any good to your master cylinder and brake fluid in general because this fluid is damaging.
So, whenever you see a dark fluid in the master cylinder, it is high time that you replace this fluid with a brand new fluid. If you delay this change, the fluid will damage the internals of the master cylinder and cause one of the circuits to fail. Whenever this happens you will experience one of the symptoms that we are going to cover later in the article. After, we will focus on the master cylinder replacement cost.
3. Low Level Of Brake Fluid Can Damage The Master Cylinder
Now before we cover the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s cover another symptom of a failing master cylinder. And that is the low brake fluid level.
A bad master cylinder can leak and develop problems down the line. These components are used and abused for thousands of miles. So, this component tends to fail once in 100,000 miles or so.
And this is something that you really don’t want because whenever there is no fluid and air gets sucked into the system, the braking ability will be compromised and you might put yourself in a dangerous situation. And you probably don’t want that happening to you in the first place.
So, if there is a leak from the cylinder better detect it on time and make sure that you solve the problem if not, braking will get compromised and you could lose your braking ability. When this happens, the best is to learn the master cylinder replacement cost and replace this component with a new unit. But let’s cover the other symptoms first.
4. Car Pulls Under Braking On One Side
Another symptom that we are going to cover before we discuss the master cylinder replacement cost is the situation when the car pulls on one side when braking. Why is this the case? Why does the car pull on one side?
The answer is simple, it pulls because one of the circuits that control the brakes has failed. As we can recall, these circuits control each side of the car. So, whenever there is a failure on one of these sides, it means that the brakes on one side will not work.
Imagine on one side the brakes contract while on the other don’t. In this situation under hard braking, it is obvious that you will experience the car pulling on one side. That’s why beware of this problem and whenever you notice this situation, check your brake fluid canister and refill the fluid if needed if the problem continues then you will have to replace the master cylinder. And more about the master cylinder replacement cost we are going to cover later.
5. Uneven Brake Pad Wear Can Be Attributed To A Bad Master Cylinder
Now before we learn the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s cover another symptom associated with a bad master cylinder. This is the symptom of uneven brake pad wear.
This uneven brake pad wear often happens along with the previous symptom that we have covered. If the pads on one side are worn and on the other side are not, it means that one of the cylinder circuits is dead and this is a problem.
You will have to do a complete brake job as well as replace the master cylinder in the process. A really expensive work. But more on the master cylinder replacement cost, we are going to cover it in a bit.
6. Brake Pedal Feels Mushy Or Falls To The Floor When You Stop
And the last symptom before we cover the master cylinder replacement cost is the symptom when the brake pedal feels mushy.
As you know, the brake pedal should always be hard and with little effort, you should be able to brake. If it’s not, then there is a high chance that there is something wrong with the master cylinder or the piston that you are pushing every time you brake.
And considering that the piston is inside of the cylinder. It is a logical move that you will need to replace the master cylinder and you need to learn the master cylinder replacement cost. And that we are going to discuss in the following chapter in depth.
How To Diagnose A Bad Master Cylinder
But before we discuss the master cylinder cost, let’s first cover the diagnosing process of this problem. How you will know that the master cylinder is broken?
If you have a modern vehicle, then this is possible by connecting the OBD2 scanner into the OBD2 port and getting some readings that are produced by the car. The brake fluid pressure sensor must produce some sort of an error message to tell you that there is something wrong with your system.
And based on this input you need to determine what is causing the problem in your car. Whether is the master cylinder or there are some problems with the brake lines. A good inspection of the brake system is also essential to inspect it for leaks. If there are no leaks, then you should definitely focus on the master cylinder.
Having no leaks, the pedal feels mushy and sinks to the ground. You get an error message on the dash. All this means that the master cylinder is faulty since there isn’t anything else possible that could cause a problem like this to happen. But what does the master cylinder replacement cost? We will cover that in a bit after we learn how to replace a master cylinder.
How To Replace A Master Cylinder?
So, finally, before we dive into the master cylinder replacement cost, let’s first learn how to replace a master cylinder? How you can pull this off at home using common tools and knowledge? Let’s find out.
The first thing you will need is to get a replacement master cylinder. This should be an OEM component specific for your vehicle since if you install a different master cylinder things might not work as they should from the factory. And you want to return your car to factory spec and not something aftermarket.
And replacing a master cylinder is dead easy to do. As you can see in this video. You first need to unbolt the brake lines and then the master cylinder itself from the brake booster.
Then the next step is to mount the new master cylinder and tighten the cylinder to the brake booster. The following step will involve you removing the air in the system.
Fill up the master cylinder and ask somebody to press the brake pedal until all of the air is removed from the system. You can do this all alone like in the video. But it will take a while to do so. That’s why getting someone to help you out will be a good idea. Now, let’s cover the master cylinder replacement cost.
Master Cylinder Replacement Cost
Now we came to the important bit and that is the master cylinder replacement cost. How expensive is it to replace the master cylinder? Let’s find out.
The cost of the master cylinder is not that expensive. On average, a master cylinder is somewhere between $150 and $300. Are there more expensive master cylinders? Well, definitely.
Some makes and models are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, you can expect the parts for these vehicles to be far more expensive than the ones found in your regular Toyota Camry. That is expected. A master cylinder in a Benz or an Audi will for sure exceed that $300. So, you need to be prepared for this price. We are talking here about commuter cars, non-luxury vehicles.
The labor on the other hand is fixed, they ask as much money as the job demands. Which in this case is between $150 and $250. These are the average costs for most of the places. So, overall, this is the master cylinder replacement cost. Not as expensive as you thought it to be. Still, these are only brake components, nothing that complicated after all.
Can I Keep Driving Like This?
We covered the master cylinder replacement cost, now let’s see if you can continue driving like this. And the answer is yes, you can keep driving as-is for a limited time. But you are risking your life in general. Why I’m saying this?
Well, this is a crucial component that makes your car stop, so you should definitely replace it as soon as possible. Not to mention that you are risking some increased wear of the brakes if one side is working and the other side isn’t. This will also require a brake job as well.
So, better pay the master cylinder replacement cost and enjoy driving your car for the upcoming future than paying a ton of money on defects that happened because of this master cylinder.
Conclusion To Master Cylinder Replacement Cost
In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the master cylinder replacement cost. First, we learned what is this component all about and how the braking system works in general.
Then we have covered other important bits and pieces like the symptoms that are involved in this problem and these can be the sinking brake pedal and the car pulling on one side when braking, uneven pad wear, and more.
Then we learned how to diagnose this problem quickly and effectively and also how to replace this master cylinder. We finally covered the master cylinder replacement cost and as we can see, it is not that expensive. It could cost you about $300 if you do it at a shop or $150 if you do it at home.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.