When you put your foot down on your car's brake pedal, it should feel firm and resistant. That's why a soft, spongy-feeling brake pedal that doesn't resist pressure and goes straight to the floor is a common sign that something's gone wrong in your brake system.
Inside your brake lines is a liquid called brake fluid, which transfers the force of you hitting the brake pedal to the brake rotors and pads to immobilise your car. When there's a problem with this fluid, it won't transfer enough pressure to stop the vehicle.
If your brake feels spongy underfoot, here are three possible brake fluid related problems you could be facing.
Picture yourself driving to your office. You didn't hear your alarm clock, so you try to make up for lost time by subtly accelerating along back roads. You know the road turns sharply several kilometres ahead, and you wisely decide to decrease your speed in preparation.
But when your foot hits the brake pedal, nothing happens. The car continues to hurtle along the road at high speeds, and your heart races along even faster. For a few brief seconds, you wonder if this is how you'll die.
Don't panic just yet.
Although complete brake failure rarely occurs, you can take steps to slow your vehicle to a safe, albeit bumpy stop.
Brake fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid. Most likely, the fluid your car uses comes from a glycol-ether base. Glycol-ether solvents combine with other elements to change a liquid's boiling point.
Some brake fluid uses a mineral oil base. This base comes from the process of distilling petroleum and other fuel types. This transparent, odourless liquid reduces brake fluid's conductivity.