Question about 1996 Mercury Sable

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Pulling up to an intersection and the brakes went out. I can only build a small amount of pressure when I pump them, no brakes when I go backwards. It has brake fluid. Maybe a master cylinder?

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Hello. You could have a leak in any one brake caliper, or a bad master cylinder, leading to air in your brake fluid. You can start by looking behind wheels and around master cylinder for any signs of brake fluid leaks, it does not wash off easily. If fluid was changed recently and your brake parts are all fine you will at least need to bleed all the calipers to get rid of that deadly brake line air.

It doesn't take much of a leak to cause all this trouble, as it also lets air into your brake fluid. Once it does the problems you mentioned occur.

These problems can lead to disaster of course so at this point you don't want to take chances on the road, it happened to me once, yikes!

Posted on Oct 23, 2009

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If it was mine, I'd take it outside of town to somewhere with little or no traffic and test the brakes pretty brutally on a straight road with a loose grip on the steering wheel to check for directional problems.
Something that might have happened is that one wheel had a stuck wheel cylinder that suddenly got unstuck, causing a drop in pressure momentarily. I have also had the entire brake material on one pad separate from the backing plate which caused the same thing - at an intersection, with a very busy highway that wasn't crowded for once. I shot right across the intersection, drove home carefully and checked my shorts.
If you can't find anything yourself, I wouldn't hesitate to take it to an honest service shop (in the US, check local BBB) since that is something that shouldn't be put off. 

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