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96 Legacy wagon brakes hardly work

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I recently Purchased a 96 legacy postal, automatic. I replaced the pads and rotors and drums/shoes on the rear. Had spongy brakes still so I put a new master cylinder on and bled everything thoroughly.


Any advice on where to look next? The brakes won’t even lock up on gravel. They won’t hold the car still while giving slight throttle. Brakes are tight as long as the car is not running then once you start it up, they will pretty much go to the floor. The brakes do work but minimally.


Thanks in advance.

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Sure sounds like air in the system. The pedal should have minimal pre travel, and then once it starts to do something you should almost not be able to feel more movement, just that the force goes up.


If it had a lot of pre travel and then solid pedal feel I would say the drums need adjusting. The pre travel is the part where the pads and shoes are moving up to the metal contact surface, the movement once all four devices have made contact is from the flexible hoses expanding from the pressure, hence it is very small.


If the pedal never really builds firmness all the way to the floor that is what air feels like because air can continue to compress.


One pitfall with master cylinders is the bench bleeding step before you install it. That gets the air out of all the internal valves and check valves that give you front to rear proportioning and protection of two wheels if one of the other two wheels develops a bad leak.


As for the pedal being much firmer with the engine running, that is just how boosted brakes work and feel.


You didn't mention ABS, so at least you don't have to deal with air getting into its valve body.

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Air in the system is about the only thing I could figure. I did bench bleed the new master cylinder before I installed it. I had the rears adjusted pretty tight, just a couple clicks back on the adjuster before the drum was able to slide on. But I will double check that tomorrow. I will also try bleeding the system some more and see if it changes at all.


I do have minimal brakes but the only time the pedal really gets solid is when it hits the floor, lol. And yes you are correct, thankfully no ABS to deal with.

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I had a lot of issues with the proportioning valve trapping air, I had to bleed the master cylinder, proportioning valve and each caliper/drum. If you have ABS then that would also need bleeding.
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