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25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello all,
'99 sable LS, with ABS, drum rear brakes.
Did Bias plug install 2 years ago.
Here's the story.
Hit the brakes they went almost to the floor.
I still had minimal stopping power.
I drove the car 10 miles home, the brake light did not come on until I hit the brakes to stop in the garage.
I had blown a brake line just in front of the driver side rear wheel.
(Seems this is a common spot on these rides.)
I replaced the line from the splitter block at the firewall to the proportioning valve.
This line runs to the passenger side brake.
When I went to bleed the brakes I started at the rear passenger side.
After a quart of fluid and 40 minutes of two man bleeding, I could get 3-4 good stong air free bleeds out of it and then back to the spitting and sputtering of air fluid mix.
Next time I got that far I stopped before it started to spit again and went to the driver side front.
Same thing quart of fluid, 40 minutes of two man bleeding and I could get 3-4 good air free bleeds, then back to the spitting.
Next time I reached this point on the front I stopped, before it started to spit again.
I then went to the drivers rear brake.
No air what so ever here, 5-6 good solid air free, shoot the fluid across the room bleeds.
Went to the passenger side front same thing solid air free bleeds.
Returned to the Passenger rear, nothing but air came out.
Got it back to the point of a solid stream and had to go get more brake fluid.
When I returned I was right back were I started, minimal fluid lots of air.
I rechecked all my connections for tightness, inspected lines, looked for puddles.
Nothing everything is dry and tight.
I see no fluid dripping or running down the booster either.
After sitting all day with the cap off the master, the level is the same.

So now I'm thinking the master cylinder is shot, I replaced it two years ago.
I talked to the mechanic, told him that fluid shoots back into the master, from the rear, when the brake is depressed he said that was normal.
He also told me the master on this car is like every other master, even though it has the diagnol circiut pattern.
The front half is for the rears, the back applies pressure for the front.
Being able to bleed one rear and one front means the master is good.

So I figure the master must be holding air some how.
I cracked the lines at the master and blead them seperately.
I got huge amounts of air out of both front and back.
When I got airless bleeds on both I thought I was good to go but.
When trying to bleed the rear passenger again nothing has changed, still spitting away.

I got two friends over now, one to pump, one to crack the bleeder.
This way I can move around and try to listen and look for leaks.
Everything still tight, leak free.
However now I can pour fluid in as it is being blead.
After each bleed air erupts from the front hole in the bottom of the master.
Shut bleeder, let pedal up, wait a few seconds then air bubbling through.
It bubbles up with enough force to almost over flow.

So no leaks, no puddles, everything is tight.
6 hours of bleeding, 5 quarts of brake fluid through the Right rear, front left brakes.
I have clean new brake fluid coming out.
What do you think?
Should there be a check valve in the master that would keep air from returning?
I've done 40 years of brakes and never had such an issue.
Need less to say I'm pretty pissed off.
Between lines, couplers, unions, brake fluid I'm into this for $70.
A new master would be another $40, that's a $110.
It probably wouldn't have cost much more to drop it off at the shop.

Any help is appreciated.

405 Posts
He also told me the master on this car is like every other master, even though it has the diagnol circiut pattern.
The front half is for the rears, the back applies pressure for the front.
Being able to bleed one rear and one front means the master is good.
The diagonal is split at the M/C - each piston pressurizes a diagonal pair.

The front/back pairing (what the mechanic is describing) is called a horizontal split system (typically rear wheel drive).

What you're describing could be a problem with the M/C, however I can't see how the M/C would have been damaged from what you're describing (meaning: I can't see why the M/C would fail when all you did was replace a damaged brake line).

Premium Member
7,050 Posts
Air is probably in the ABS pump and it needs to be cycled to remove the air. This is a Ford item I belive.
I agree.

To activate and bleed the ABS module, you either have to take it to ford, buy the specific tool (not cheap), or (like I do), take the car down a dirt road and get the abs to kick in.

Bleed the best you can,
take down dirt road to get abs pump to cycle
bleed again

Repeat 3 or so times.

25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
So, I agree air is in the system.
Question is where?
I went out and bought a power bleeder from HF.
LR, RF still bleed perfect clean airless solid.
RR, LF are solid with an intermittent stream of tiny, tiny bubbles that I can not get rid of.
I blead two quarts through the RR, LF today.
The pedal sinks to were it should and is firm, I can not make it bottom out.
As hard as I can push it sits four inches off the floor and does not fade.
Start the car and I can push it with no effort to the floor.
So that means air still in the system.

I thought possiblly the MC was sucking air from the booster side, that's why I can not find a leak.

As for cycling the ABS I don't think I would have enough brake to drive the car.
Does anyone know how the wheels are synched in the ABS, rear to rear, front to front?
The car is up on four jack stands right now.
I thought maybe if the car was running, I could spin the wheels as someone else applies the brake lightly.
Causing the ABS to cycle, bleeding that wheel at the same time.
Think the system can be tricked?

Last thought two different shops have said it sounds like the proportioning valve is stuck to one side.
They are not talking about the one on the rear control arm.
So this must be part of the ABS solenoid block under the battery right?
I have wacked this unit with a rubber mallet numerous times trying to free it up.
Is there a better way?
Thanks for the help, I USED TO LIKE THIS CAR!
If you think of something else tell me.

5,820 Posts
When air gets into the ABS pump it can not come out unless properly cycled. I recently faced this when I replaced my ABS pump. The only way to get the air out was to get the ABS Cycle Tool which luckily some one had and I used it. I was able to get all air out of the system. This is probably your problem.
The only way to get the tool is from Ford or some one on EBay selling Ford parts.

The only other idea I have is you have a pin hole leak somewhere that is letting air in.

25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Well I still could not get the tiny tiny bubbles out of the RR, LF lines.
So I put her back together and started her up.
The peddle dropped but I got brake about an a inch from the floor.
I took it to the nearest dirt road and locked up the brakes 10, 12 times.
Brought it back and blead all four with the same results, air in RR, LF.
I adjusted up the rear brakes just cause I was out of ideas.
Nothing changed.
Took it down the dirt road a second time.
This time I got very synchronized bubbles coming through the line when bleeding.
5 inches of clear fluid, then half inch bubble, like clock work.
I ran a quart through the RR and never got to the tiny bubble stage.
Now, with car started the pedal goes to the floor and the brake light comes on.
I let it sit over night and had a beer or two.;)

Today I took the plunge and put in a new master cylinder, not a rebuild.
I was able to get the RR to the tiny bubble stage after almost a quart of fluid.
I thought I might as well see what the LF had in it and was able to bleed it clear of air for the first time.
At this point I ran out of time and brake fluid so I could not continue to bleed the LR, RF.
Now when started I have good peddle but it is still low, almost were it should be but low.
I've been driving around and even when I forget to watch my stops it brakes like I would expect it to.
Tommorrow I will buy more fluid and start my bleed over again getting all four wheels.
I hope I'm almost there, if I can just get that RR to bleed clean.
Thanks, I will post back with the results.

25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Well wish this had a happy ending for those who are having the same issues.
I ran quarts of fluid through the RR, always bubbles and never got peddle until I replaced the Master.
Once the master was replaced I got everything to bleed out proper.
My pedal is now firm and high best brakes since I owned the car.

I tried to get the old master to leak somewhere on the bench.
I pushed the piston in and out many times looking for a leak and could not fined one.
Best guess I have is that air was somehow being pulled in at the master.
Even though I could not find a leak.
Thanks for the help everyone!

22 Posts
Well Hound, no happy ending to my ordeal either, nor does the end seem to be anywhere in sight. This is posted here and on FordTaurus.net for the readers of that forum. Thank you for your generous response on FordTaurus.net.

Please everyone chime in if you have anything to add.

I thought long and hard about the power bleeder at HF and that you spent 11 more days and a new master cylinder before your ordeal ended. Technically this one pushes the fluid through with atmospheric pressure by creating a vacuum at the bleeder screw. So I guess somewhere between 11 and 14 psi differential depending on how good the vacuum is. I was hoping to find a pressure bleeder for less than $700. These operate at 40 to 45 psi at the fluid reservoir. Under mounting pressure from the primary driver of this car and others, I made the mistake of taking it to the Ford dealer to bleed out the rest of the air.

I got a firm price over the phone of $64.95 to bleed out the brakes, even if the HCU had to be purged. Then when I brought the car in on Tuesday he said of course he would have to add the cost of new brake fluid. Well, OK. Then he said that if he found something else at fault, fixing that would have to be extra. Well, that is reasonable. Fearing the HCU might have been damaged by driving a few times with the brake light on after the brake line blew, I asked if the HCU might need replaced (Haynes makes a firm warning to stop driving immediately if that brake light comes on). He said confidently that those are rarely damaged by air in the lines. So I’m thinking that nothing else could possibly be wrong because the brakes were perfect before except for that collapsed front brake hose. After all, the brake line blew two years ago and nothing else was damaged.

The next morning I get a call that my master cylinder is blown. I guess that would mean that a seal on one of the pistons is just gone. He wants to sell me a new original Ford M/C for $160. I find a new M/C (complete with reservoir) at Advance Auto for $65 and reluctantly ask if he can pick it up at Advance (less than 1 mile away from him) because it is too cold outside for the bad fuel pump on my truck. I tell him to be sure and save me the old M/C and he agrees to save it for me. He warns me that by not using genuine Ford parts, that he would not be able to guarantee it. I’ve never had a problem with parts from Advance or any of the other parts stores before, so I don’t see why there should be a problem now.

Thursday – no call from Ford. Friday – no call from Ford. Don’t these guys usually call you as soon as (or even before) they finish to impress you with their speedy service? Finally, I call them at 2:00pm on Friday because I had arranged my brother-in-law to drive half-way across the county (direct from work) to help me pick up my car (my truck has bad fuel pump). He says my car is ready to go. So I pick up my car and the $65 brake bleeding contract has now ballooned to $250! Not much grounds for me to argue though, with him having to replace that (supposedly) bad M/C (and pick up the new one for me). I ask to have the old M/C and he just says: “It probably got thrown out.” After I press the issue, he walks to the other end of the shop for a couple minutes, and returns to say that he is sorry, but the trash collector already came earlier that day. How convenient! Even if there was no agreement to return it to me, don’t they save these things to return to the manufacturer for core value? My brother-in-law drops me off at home, and my wife is happy to have her Taurus back for the first time in over a month. On the way home I realize that they didn’t give me the receipt from Advance Auto. Isn’t that strange! Without it I have no lifetime warranty.

Next time I drive the car I notice the brakes are awfully soft. I have about 2 inches of pedal travel before anything happens. Then with just moderate pressure the pedal sinks slowly to the floor. It gets firm just before touching the floor and with my leg nearly straight. I know this classically means a bad M/C, but I wouldn't expect it with the brand new M/C (supposedly) just put in! Is there anything else, anything else at all, that could cause these symptoms?????

I remember just before that brake line blew, the brakes were firm, but I thought maybe the pedal might be sinking slightly while I sat at a light. It just wasn’t enough to be sure, and I was trying not to press too hard with that front brake sticking at the time. Then when the brake line blew I just attributed it to a leaky brake line before it blew out completely. That new M/C and reservoir, except for being really clean, looks so much identical to the original that I cannot find anything at all that looks different. After looking at that thing almost every day for over a month I expected to notice a lot of differences. I don’t ever remember buying an aftermarket product that wasn’t noticeably different in appearance from the OEM part.

I called Advance Auto to see if they still had one of these M/C’s in stock (yes). Then I asked if one had been sold on the days he had to do this and she said they had, but would not tell me who it was sold to, or if sold to a business or individual. It was sort of a loaded question because I told her the days and that I suspected my mechanic pulled a fast one. I should have been more general. She told me a leaky booster diaphragm would cause these same symptoms. I don’t think so.

Needless to say, the current situation just doesn’t make sense!

Now I’m gonna have to take it back to that guy very soon, and if I don’t have all my ducks-in-a-row, I’m primed to get really hosed. Please provide all the information you can. I’m gonna need it!

25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Damn, It sure sounds like the stealership sucked you in.
I also bought my master from Advanced.
As you said it sounds like the brand new master is bad.
Check that heavy plastic cover that sits on the master to booster bolt.
I left some pretty deep gouges in mine taking it off, it wasn't easy.
This might give you insite as to weather they removed the master or not.
I'm sure the shop did not save the receipt but if they purchased the item on there account, Advanced would have a record of it.
So at least you would only pay labor again.
You could also go to Advanced and look at what they are selling I think it's Cardone?
Then see what is in your car.
I feel for you, I was so close to taking it to the shop many times.
Good luck.

22 Posts
Here's an interesting post I ran across that might help next time you are in this situation: FSB Forums - View Single Post - Ghetto 4WABS HCU Bleed Procedure Not sure if the Taurus/Sable would be exactly the same. When he says "Perform conventional brake system bleed" I wonder what he means because we both know that without some sort of pressure/vacuum assist that the traditional method may not even be possible.

This is also interesting too (in the same thread): FSB Forums - View Single Post - Ghetto 4WABS HCU Bleed Procedure I'm finding it hard to buy that the HCU is effectively not there since air seemed to continuously appear in the lines without us ever engaging the ABS feature. Maybe this wasn't exactly what he meant to say. He should be an expert. Did you notice how many posts both of these guys have?

On that plastic cover, how did you know it could be pryed off? Do you know what it is for? Does it just snap back on?

Did your new M/C and reservoir from Advance look exactly like the original? Is the mfgr. "Cardone" stamped anywhere on it?

Does anyone on this forum know if a Ford dealership would throw a M/C in the trash? I thought they returned those to Ford Motor Co. for a few dollars each to be overhauled and sold as "rebuilt" units.

22 Posts
No deep gouges on that plast cover, just a couple light scratches on the booster plenum behind it. I might have left those myself probing around with a screwdriver. If they took this thing off, they sure didn't pry it off! Not even any indentations on the top edge of that cover.

One thing it is though, is really really clean around that M/C. Unless their mechanic has a grease phobia (or they wanted an old part to look like new), I don't know why they would go to so much trouble.

The cap is definitely different which proves that it is a different cap. It's the loosest fitting cap I have ever seen on any automotive reservoir. I can take it on and off with light fingertip pressure.

Now I see brake fluid oozing down the front of the booster plenum. Logic tells me there has to be at least 3 seals inside that M/C: one for each piston to apply pressure to the separate circuits, and one at the rear to prevent leakage into the booster plenum. I know at least one of the piston seals is bad because the pedal sinks. Now it's leaking out the back too! Two separate seal failures in a brand new M/C? What are the odds?

25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hey, Sburtchin.
I'm not at home so I can't look at the master.
It did look almost identical.
I have read that unless you replace the HCU there is no way that air can get trapped.
I've read many that say it gets trapped if the brake light comes on.
I'm of the mind that if you are getting fluid through to the bleeder you are bleeding the HCU.
If a solenoid was stuck shut then fluid would not flow.
The manually cycling the HCU link is gold, very nice.

I had a though after my last post, maybe they rebuilt the original master.
That would explain everything being clean and the fact that it now leaks.
I have only tried rebuilding a master once, it leaked.
After that I figured it wasn't worth the hassel, I just bought an OEM master.

Advanced does not have a core charge on there NEW masters.
The plastic cover had a hole that was pushed on over the bolt.
There maybe a way to actually take it off proper I lacked the patience at that piont to figure it out.
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