1 May 2006

Loss of Brake Pressure

Hydraulic Brake Maintenance and Makeover Car Covered: 1956 Chevy Bel Air 2-door Hardtop

What Went Wrong: I was headed out to a local car meet in early May. The Bel Air had been stored in my garage for the winter, and this was my first trip out. As I pulled out of the garage, the brakes failed. I quickly steered my car into the rock wall that borders my driveway (which is on a hillside no less) so I wouldn’t crash into one of my other classics parked on the driveway. The Bel Air’s front tires went over some rocks, the right front tire into the bushes and got wedged into the driveway.

Damage: The impact of the rock wall pushed the rear end into the doors, which then pushed the back end into the front quarter panels. Damage occurred to the left quarter panel, front fenders, rear bumper and exhaust. The adjustment of the doors and fittings were also off. Total Cost of Claim: $4,900.

Cause: It’s most likely that this vehicle lost all its brake pressure after a long hibernation. When storing a vehicle during the off season, older brakes can easily lose pressure.


  • Make sure to check your brakes or have them checked after storage, especially on vintage vehicles.
  • Before putting your car to bed for the winter, it’s a good idea to bleed the brakes and change the brake fluid. That cuts down on corrosion and soft brake pedals.
  • If you lose brake pressure while driving, try not to panic. Use the emergency brake. It uses a separate cable not part of the brake system.

2 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Rod Dahlgren Napa Ca. September 23, 2015 at 17:50
    I tell ALL my car-guy contacts that they MUST check brakes and fuel hoses constantly. On cars that are not DRIVEN for at least 30 minutes every couple months, there WILL be damage to these two critical areas. Brake fluid WILL absorb moisture from condensation. Fuel system does the same but also when exposed to oxygen, it will "decompose" leaving harmful byproducts and will also EAT away any hoses or fuel pump diaphragm that are not alcohol safe. THIRDLY, if the gas hose fails in your garage and a fire erupts, ARE YOU COVERED by insurance? Do you have an appraisal for your collector car? If not, GO GET ONE. Appraisers can NOT inspect and determine a replacement value for a burned out hulk.
  • 2
    Claude R Hughes St. Simons Island GA June 23, 2017 at 11:19
    Have a restored 1950 Chevy pickup Truck. Brakes will start getting spongy then go to the floor to stop truck. When you take off the brake fluid cover and pump the brakes a few times it starts working fine again,this will last about a month or so, then start to getting spongy again. What is the cause and fix?

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