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Discussion Starter #1
2008 Honda Element 200K

Changed out calipers last November as brakes seemed a little soft and immediately I felt like I had more stopping power. 1 year later everything has been great until...

Car sat for two days in cold 10 degree (F) weather last week. I leave my work parking lot, no problems but I get on the freeway and as I go to exit pedal goes to the floor, pretty scary but I pumped a couple of times and brakes start catching. This happens multiple times on my way home.

I get home and park in the garage and check my master cylinder....fluid is very low. Damn. I figure I have a leak or some snow or ice damaged a brake line. I inspect everything and can't find any leaks anywhere. There is a bit of wetness under the front calipers but I also was driving in the snow. You'd think losing that much brake fluid you'd see where the leak is but I can't find anything.

I remove the calipers and the seal on one of them looks a little bubbled so I figure that's the issue and it leaked under pressure in the cold (although I can't get it to repeat it in my 40 degree garage). I return them to the auto store and get new calipers.

I bleed my brakes after caliper replacement but the brakes are super spongy. I get my wife to pump while I look for air bubbles on a second go. I do each brake in the honda order and not much in the way of air. I finish and jump in and the pedal seems to have some pressure while the car is off. I turn the car on and the pedal goes to the floor. I figure it's the pistons taking a second to push against the pads but nope it's spongy and no pressure pushing to the floor.

I turn the car off and bleed the brakes again (2nd bottle of fluid now) and my wife says she feels them get a little more pressure as I finish the last wheel. No air that I can see during bleeding though, like none at all.

I start the car up again and brakes as soft as a marshmellow.
  • Trying to decide if I'm screwing up something in the bleeding process. Been doing brakes for years on cars and never had an issue like this.
  • Could it be my master cylinder has failed? Is there any way for me to test this?
  • Could it be the brake booster? Any way to test?
  • How did my brake fluid get so low if I can't find a leak anywhere?
  • Is it a problem with the VSA?
Anyone else every have a issue like this start after extreme cold weather?

Pulling my hair out on this one. About ready to give in and have it towed and say goodbye to my savings $$.

Thank you for any suggestions and any links to inexpensive master cylinders for 2008 Element.
 

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For what you say you have 2 things;
-A LEAK.
-SPONGY PEDAL.
Check for leak between master cylinder and brake booster. I've seen a master cylinder leaking to the inside of the brake booster.
If you found the fluid very low, you have a leak and you must find it first.
Then, you could have a bad master cylinder ( not compressing) but also not leaking fluid to the outside.
Master cyl could be damaged (during bleeding) if pressed all the way to the very end various times. This only happens in old high mileage master cyl.
 

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So my plan is to replace the Master Cylinder at this point and hope that fixes the issues. I can't see a leak anywhere and everything else seems to be working correctly. Here's the next crazy thing -
Honda Element Master Cylinders are almost impossible to find locally right now. I'm in WA state and called my local dealer - they said the only one in the state is in Spokane which is 5 hours away on the complete opposite side of the state. I called every local auto parts store from Napa to Autozone to Oreillys, etc. No one has one in stock in my state (which is crazy considering WA may have more Honda Elements than any other state based upon my travels).

The only place I can pick one up today is across the border in Canada about an hour drive from my location and it's a 3rd party model ($220 CAD).

Pricing at the dealer is $190 and I'd have to wait a couple of days. Online from Honda stores its $165-180 with shipping costs and would arrive the same as the dealer one.

On Amazon there is one from DORMAN for $70 and I could have it on Thursday. So now I have to decide - do I pay $200 and drive to Canada today or wait for the dealer to get the parts or do I order the $70 one on Amazon and risk that it's not well made?

Also - if you are in Canada - the Honda dealers up there said their official Honda part is on backorder until February.

There is a serious shortage of official Honda Element Master Cylinder part # 46100-SCV-A71 right now. One dealer said the manufacturer may just be behind schedule but you better hope you don't need one of these ASAP right now.
 

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I talked to DORMAN and their model is made in the USA and they said it's actually the one sold by a lot of the 3rd party stores under the store brands. For $70 it's s steal compared to the Honda part - and it was in stock at Amazon with Prime shipping. Fingers crossed the quality is good. Not much else for choice right now on the market.
 

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Good luck with anything Dorman makes. As a shop we refuse to install their parts especially electrical.
 

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Of course the edit button is nowhere to be found...

For brakes, we use and recommend Centric, if OE is not available or out of budget.
 

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Good luck with anything Dorman makes. As a shop we refuse to install their parts especially electrical.
Yeah - it wasn't my first choice but I did some research and their reviews overall for master cylinders are okay so hopefully it's one of their better areas. Made me feel a little better that some national chains were private labeling them, but you never know. At least it's brand new and not remanufactured.
 

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I talked to DORMAN and their model is made in the USA and they said it's actually the one sold by a lot of the 3rd party stores under the store brands. For $70 it's s steal compared to the Honda part - and it was in stock at Amazon with Prime shipping. Fingers crossed the quality is good. Not much else for choice right now on the market.
I have used Dorman parts for various repairs and never had a problem. Fit and worked. Don't know about electric.
 

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Here's an update as I hate threads that don't show the resolution.

UPDATE: Never found the leak that caused the low fluid level in the first place that also caused the loss of brakes etc.

Replaced calipers, pads, and master cylinder. Bench bled master cylinder and bled brakes again RF, LF, LR, RR - still soft, and did it again and it was slightly better but basically still no brakes.

I had enough brakes to stop though and took it to the dealer. They checked over everything and then bled the brakes and ran the ABS/VSA system using their tool that activates it while bleeding. Afterwards they are saying that I now have proper brake pressure. I talked to the mechanic and he said that with the Honda's CRV/Element that if your reservoir runs dry and air gets sucked into the ABS system it's almost impossible to get it without with their tool that activates it.

So that made me feel better after a week of fighting with the brake system.

Unanswered questions -

Why/how did my fluid run dry in the first place?
Do I have a leak still that they didn't see?
Did I even need to replace my master cylinder or calipers?

On the plus side - I know that I've eliminated the master cylinder and calipers as the reason for leak so if it continues to leak I'll look elsewhere. Going to be checking my levels at every gas fill up for the next year though!!

** My master cylinder did have some gunk at the back where it mounts to the booster, looked fairly dry and no wet fluid in booster so still not sure if it had an issue in the cold weather.

Brake flush and inspection time by dealer - $195
My cost for new Dorman Master Cylinder - $70
The brake calipers were under warranty.
New brake pads (I changed since I had everything off) $50

So for $315 I have new front brakes, calipers, and a master cylinder, and it was pressure bled by the dealer. Not too bad I guess and I learned if you need to change your master cylinder or it runs dry just pay to have the dealer bleed it.
 
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