2001 Saturn SL1 soft brake pedal

Tiny
TOM1C
  • MEMBER
  • 2001 SATURN SL1
  • 1.9L
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 196,000 MILES
I just rebuild my calipers with new seals and dust boot along with new rotors and pads. Put the brakes back together and bled the lines but I still get a soft brake pedal when the engine is turned on. With the engine off, I can pump up the brakes and get a good hard pedal but as soon as I turn the engine on, the brake pedal goes almost to the floor. Any suggestions?
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Sunday, April 5th, 2015 AT 4:59 PM

19 Replies

Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
So how was the pedal before you rebuilt the calipers? Also do you have rear brake shoes or rear disc brakes?
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Sunday, April 5th, 2015 AT 5:03 PM
Tiny
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The petal was fine before rebuilding the calipers.
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Sunday, April 5th, 2015 AT 5:07 PM
Tiny
TOM1C
  • MEMBER
. And I have drum brakes on the back.
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Sunday, April 5th, 2015 AT 5:12 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
The pedal is applying alot more force on the master cylinder with it running with brake booster multiplying the brake force and pressure in the system. Do you have abs brakes?I dont recommend rebuilding calipers too many things could go wrong.I always replace them as well as wheel cylinders. There both pretty cheap and its not worth the headache of problems like your having as well as my safety or the safety of others. Also how did you bleed the system please explain step by step? Also look at the front calipers are both sides have the bleeder screw at the top of the calipers.
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Sunday, April 5th, 2015 AT 7:58 PM
Tiny
TOM1C
  • MEMBER
Thanks. I do not have ABS. I've rebuilt calipers in the past and never had a problem. However, since the only thing I've changed are the calipers I may take your advice and just go ahead and replace them with re-manufactured calipers.

To bleed the brakes, I had another person help by holding pressure on the brake pedal while I opened the bleeder to release air and fluid. Had the other person continue to hold pressure on the pedal until I closed the bleeder. Once the bleeder was closed, had the other person release the brake pedal and re-apply pressure to the brake pedal and I repeated the bleed by opening and re-closing the bleeder valve. Continued to repeat this process until I had good fluid flow with no evidence of air in the fluid. Did this process on both front calipers multiple times. I also tired the gravity process when the two person method wasn't getting good results.
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Monday, April 6th, 2015 AT 5:01 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
When you bleed those brakes you go right rear left rear right front then left front. Also did you replace the copper washers on the hoses to the calipers? Also you never answered my question are the bleeder screws at the top of both front calipers?
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Monday, April 6th, 2015 AT 6:03 AM
Tiny
TOM1C
  • MEMBER
No, I did not bleed the rear brakes at all. The front brakes were bled left front and then right front. Sorry, yes, the bleeders are on the top of the calipers.
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Monday, April 6th, 2015 AT 6:21 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
I would pump the brakes up 5 times then start on the right rear wheel the left rear then right front then left front and see how the pedal feels then.I would also replace those copper washers at the calipers on the end line. Bleed each wheel atleast 5 times let me know how it feels.
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Monday, April 6th, 2015 AT 6:50 AM
Tiny
TOM1C
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Update - purchased a vacuum type brake bleeder and re-bled the front calipers. The left bled fluid just fine, no air in the collection cup. The right side however was different story. Couldn't get the right side to produce any fluid, only bubbles. Took the caliper off again and popped the piston out, visually checked the seal, reassembled the piston into the caliper and put the caliper back on the car, cleaned the copper washer, the connection boss and the attaching fitting before connecting the line to the caliper but no change. All I could get still was bubbles. So, I'm off to buy a new caliper.
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Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 AT 4:31 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
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Please replace the copper washers there ment to be used once.
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Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 AT 7:30 PM
Tiny
TOM1C
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OK, I'm back on this project. Here's what's been accomplished to date. New left and right calipers, new left and right front brake hoses, new left front hard line between left front hose and master cylinder (couldn't break the hard line nut free from the hose fitting), new left and right rear wheel cylinders along with new shoes, springs, and drums. All new copper washers on all four banjo bolts at the calipers and wheel cylinders. Bled the right rear, left rear, right front and then the left front. Used a suction type break bleeder and could see when the air was clear of the line and then went a good deal past the last bubble just to be sure I had all the air. Still when I start the engine, the brake pedal goes almost all the way to the floor. Is it possible something happened to the master cylinder? That's about the only part that I haven't replaced yet.
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Saturday, April 18th, 2015 AT 5:14 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
I just had someone that had a 2001 saturn sl1 that had there front and rear brakes replaced. After that pedal was real low almost to the floor. It was like that before the brake that was done. Looked it over and found the rear brake shoes wernt adjusted properly after the rear shoes were replaced. The rear brake shoe adjustment is critical on those saturns or you could have a low pedal or no pedal. After you replaced the rear brake shoes were they adjusted properly?If so tell me how you adjusted them?
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Saturday, April 18th, 2015 AT 11:42 PM
Tiny
TOM1C
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When I put the drums back on, I adjusted the self adjuster until the drum would just barely fit over the shoes
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Sunday, April 19th, 2015 AT 6:23 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
You adjust the shoes up till you get a light scraping sound while spinning the drums otherwise you take the risk of adjusting them too tight. So the pedal is only really low while the enginr is running?Anything is possible you could have rolled the seals in the master cylinder.I have also seen a bad brake booster check valve cause a low pedal with the engine running.
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Sunday, April 19th, 2015 AT 1:56 PM
Tiny
TOM1C
  • MEMBER
Yes. I can pump up the brake pedal and get a good firm brake pedal with the engine off but as soon as I turn the engine on, the pedal goes almost to the floor, not all the way, but to within an inch of the floor. I'm going to recheck the rear adjustment, they were rubbing the drums when I put them back on, but the shoes may have seated themselves when I applied pedal pressure. After that, I'm going to tackle the master cylinder. I picked one from AZ but it didn't include the bench bleeding parts. This all started when I opened the lines to rebuild the calipers. I'm wondering if my assistant pushed too hard on the brake pedal when I initially bled the brakes and somehow damaged a seal in the MC. Well thanks for your continued help. This has been a real challenge for what should be a fairly simple system.
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Sunday, April 19th, 2015 AT 2:18 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
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You dont have much left at this point have you tried gravity bleeding it?Where you open the bleeder screws till you get a steady stream coming out of them from them just being open?
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Monday, April 20th, 2015 AT 6:54 AM
Tiny
TOM1C
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Well I certainty feel like the fool! I think I was chasing a ghost. I went back and re-adjusted the back shoes out to the drums and then rechecked the brake pedal with no significant change in pedal travel. So I went and checked another GM product that I own and the pedal seemed to travel about the same distance. So I put the wheels back on and took it for a test drive. Seems like a near normal pedal when driving. Guess I was just expecting something different. Good news is that I now have an almost completely new brake system on a 13 year old car. Thanks for your help!
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Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 AT 5:10 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Glad to hear that you got it figure out your welcome thats what were here for.
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Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 AT 9:10 PM
Tiny
SNUTCHY
  • MEMBER
Same car, same year, same problem. My wife's front brakes started to grind, I so replaced the front rotors and pads. When I turned the car on and pumped the brake up, it got nice and tight and then lost pressure. I got out of the car and saw a leak in both of the lines leading to the rear of the vehicle in the very same spots. The car was bought and driven in snowy upstate NY so there was a lot of salt that had accumulated at this spot on the lines due to a bracket. I removed a 4 inch section from both of the lines and had some 3/16in line from an old job, which happens to be the correct size, and put them on with compression unions. I'm sure I'll get a talking to about piecing together lines instead of replacing the entire lines, but I'm trying to be within my means I guess.

I got them pieced together and can't find any sign of a leak anywhere. I have bled and bled and bled all 4 lines in the proper sequence, but I just can't get a stiff brake pedal. It just goes straight to the floor without resistance. Plenty of fluid. I've caught every drop as it comes out of the bleeders and it went from a dark grey to extremely clear. There appears to still be air in the lines. I'm going to hook a large syringe and some tubing up to each bleeder and attempt to slowly vacuum each line. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting air in somewhere, because it doesn't seem possible to have that much in there. And I have no noticeable leaks. Maybe I blew a seal in the master cylinder. How can I test to see if I damaged that? I also do not have ABS. I had great pedal until I did this work.
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Sunday, July 26th, 2015 AT 10:20 PM

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