Hi everybody. I drive a '95 Saturn SL2 with ABS and traction control. It has about 78,000 miles on it. It seems to be having a brake problem.
Before I start, let me explain that I have neither the skills nor the facilities to work on a brake problem myself, and I will be taking it to a shop. But I haven't lived here long enough to have found a reliable place that I trust, so I would rather go in with some idea of what is wrong, so that I'll have a better chance of recognizing if someone gives me complete BS. Also, my problem seems to be intermittent, so we all know that it will NOT do it at the shop, right?
And then, if they can't tell what the problem really is because it's not doing it, they're even more likely to start suggesting I replace random parts that probably don't need replacing. So I like to go in armed with as much information as possible. And I'm just as happy to hear what it probably isn't as what it probably is -- again, so I'll recognize BS.
This problem doesn't happen all the time. The first time was on Monday morning, only a couple of minutes after I first started the car. I was stopping from maybe 10 mph and it felt like I was pressing on the pedal but almost nothing was happening. The pedal was not squishy or going to the floor; if anything it was harder than normal. But as I drove around (slowly and carefully!) it seemed to get better. I wondered if maybe the brakes could have been very wet. It was extremely foggy that morning and absolutely everything outside was dripping wet from it.
It seemed ok the rest of that day and yesterday. Maybe not quite normal, but it's so hard to tell if there's really something going on or I'm just imagining it. Certainly nothing like the initial incident.
It snowed last night and I went out in it today. I tested in an empty parking lot to make sure things seemed ok, including the ABS and traction control. Then on the way home I had to stop a little faster than usual, and again I had that scary sense you get when you're trying to stop but it isn't happening. The road was slick, and the ABS seemed to be activated as I would expect (it's quite noisy in this car, you can't miss it). It still didn't feel right though. It's hard to be sure, because it was slick, and ABS is not magic, so you can still need a longer stopping distance even when everything is working. But again I think maybe the pedal felt harder under my foot. If I'm not imagining it.
I barely avoided running into the car stopped ahead of me, and then I went the rest of the way home, and as far as I could tell the brakes were back to behaving normally the rest of the way.
There are no unusual indicator lights when I start it or just while it's running. The traction control light flickers on and off as the traction control is activated, which is normal. I don't think I've ever noticed if there's a light when ABS is activated. During the times the problem happened, I was not looking at the dashboard, obviously,
so I can't say if there is anything lighting up then.
The research I've done so far suggests this could be a problem with the power brake system. But I haven't seen any suggestion that it could be intermittent. One site suggested the following test: with the car off, pump the brake pedal a few times until it gets stiffer. Then hold down the pedal and start the car. I tried this, and as soon as the engine started, the pedal got softer. If I read it right, this means the power booster is working (at least at that moment). But this could be completely the wrong track anyway.
I will be very grateful for any suggestions anyone has as to what is going on. Let me know if I've left out some important piece of information.