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 Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!

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Miss Beth
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PostSubject: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:40 pm

A few weeks ago, my emergency brake warning light came on, and it started beeping at me. I stopped, put the brake down, then released it-- and drove off again. (The brake was NOT on but I thought maybe it had been hit slightly, and thought it was on.) The same thing kept happening, but it would quit once I got to highway speeds. Annoying, but not urgent.

The problem got worse, til it does this all the time now. I've had it to the shop 3 times, and they are baffled. They have taken all the fuses out and put them back in, and unhooked various wires under the dash. Today they put it on the rack, to check sensors on the tires (???)--with the theory that maybe one sensor was bad. But everything was encased in plastic and they could not isolate the beeping. They are speculating that the "brain" of all the electronics is bad and going to check with colleagues who may have encountered this before.

Has anyone else had this problem, or do you know what needs to be done? This is a 1996 Riviera, with 150K miles on it. It runs great-- and I am way too broke to consider buying a new car, but I really need this beeping to stop.

Thanks in advance for any help!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:26 pm

You have any of the following:

low brake fluid
frozen ebrake cable
bad rear caliper (not releasing properly)
badly warped rear rotors (you would notice the shuddering when you try to stop)
bad ebrake pedal switch

Any good mechanic should be able to figure this out!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:32 pm

Can you make the beeper stop by lifting up on the e-brake lever?
I know you've had a lot done already but you didn't mention whether the emergency brake cables have been adjusted yet.
Adjusting them properly will take up the slack in the lever and shut off the warning if the switch located at the top of the lever assembly is good.
If cables are tight and lever doesn't sag at all your mechanic can cancel that warning by splicing two wires together if the switch is bad.
I'm hoping they checked the simple stuff first!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:40 pm

Seems to me like low brake fluid. I would assume a (good) shop would detect this immediately, but wouldn't hurt to look under the hood at the reservoir. It's translucent, and has a mark to show "max" level. If that's the case, now you have to find where it's leaking from. Good luck.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:55 pm

Without more info, I'm leaning towards low brake fluid.

If you do have low brake fluid, the followup question is why - brake fluid shouldn't be low unless your pads are worn down, and it's time for new pads. In theory you should never have to add brake fluid. If you need to add brake fluid, it's gone somewhere and that means your pads are low, so the caliper pistons are now holding more of that fluid, which will be returned when full pads are installed, or there is a fluid leak and air in the system, which is another reason for your warning light to come on and be beeping.

Good luck!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:12 pm

Thanks for all the help-- y'all are awesome!

The emergency brake pedal and the brakes themselves both work-- if I push it down, the brake engages, when I let it up, the brake releases. The problem is that the car THINKS the emergency brake is on, when it's not-- so the light comes on and it beeps at me.

Regular braking is fine too.

I have made some notes to take back to the mechanic. Or to another mechanic. My regular guy seems really at a loss on this. puzzled
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:19 pm

Hey Guys,
Is there a float switch or some other type of low fluid level switch in the Master Cylinder, that if gone bad, would cause the warning light and beeper? or is located on the ABS Control Unit?
I can't remember and I'm not near my car or FSM.

And, Miss Beth, If a wheel speed sensor were bad you would be getting an ABS / Traction Control light.
That is one of the things your mechanic was looking at.


Last edited by Rickw on Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:29 pm

Miss Beth, your brakes can seem to work just fine with low fluid. The brake warning light is multi-function. It could mean your parking brake is on, or it can indicate when fluid is low. So what the car "thinks" will not be clear until we find out what the problem is. The only thing we know is something's not right with your braking system.

Did you check the fluid level?

In your original description, you make it sound like the brake light and bell comes on when you accelerate, but not when you are driving or stopped. Is this correct? Does the problem continue to occur when you depress the brake pedal?

Test: after checking the fluid level, try engaging the parking brake while rolling about 25 mph (you can disengage while moving). The brake light and bell should come on with the P-brake engaged. If this is the case, the sensors, cables, and brake are probably functioning correctly.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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Miss Beth
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:04 pm

Aaron,

Ah ha, I did not know it could be for any braking function! The brake light and beeper don't immediately come on, but start up after less than a minute of driving. Once it's on, it stays on whether I'm in drive or park, accelerating, braking or coasting. (When it first started, it would stop if I stopped and put the car in park, but now it's more persistent.)

I will see if I can locate the brake fluid and check the levels. I may not be able to do the test you suggest-- since I might not be able to get to 25 mph without the light/beeper coming on by itself-- but will try.

thanks!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:42 pm

I'm going to go out on a limb and tell you what's wrong: you have a slow brake line leak. I could be wrong, but I'd rather raise the red flag now and be wrong than have you driving the car thinking the brakes are fine. I don't think they are.

Also, find a new mechanic. Any competent professional should have checked the fluid level first thing. He/she also should have noticed any leaks.

When you check the fluid level, betcha a dollar the it is low. Your description of the car's behavior in the beginning up till now tells a story. The low fluid sensor is located at the front end of the reservoir. When fluid gets low enough to trip the sensor, it will begin to do so during a acceleration (after a minute of driving perhaps?), because the fluid is shifted to the back as you speed up. This explains why the light and bell would go away once you got up to speed, and during braking. The fluid leveled out and the sensor was happy again.

As the problem progressed, the fluid level dropped even more, so now you don't need to accelerate for the sensor to to think it's low, because it is, even when you're not moving. Eventually, the fluid will be low all the time (maybe that's now) as all the fluid leaks out. This is why you get the light and bell constantly.

The car is trying to tell you there is a problem - with a red light and warning bell that signifies a potential failure of your braking system if left unchecked. I would not drive the car anywhere before checking the fluid reservoir. If low, fill up to max level and take to a mechanic for inspection, and take it easy using the brakes on the way. A slow leak can turn into a bigger leak during a panic stop, and that can lead to an accident.

Best of luck. Let us know what you find out.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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Miss Beth
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:18 pm

OK, I did it. I was not at all certain I could find the brake fluid, but it was clearly labelled-- had more trouble opening the hood than finding the fluid! You were right. It's low. Not deperately low, but below the full line for sure. The engine coolant tank is also low. nono gripe cold mad headbutt

Now this bothers me. The mechanics had the hood up, but did not see this? I saw it! I have used this guy for several years and have a level of trust in him-- or had a level of trust in him.

I am taking it back for fluids to be added, partly because I obviously need fluids, but also because I want them to know that they overlooked this. The shop is only 5 miles from the house, so I'm not worried about making it there. I hope the fluid fixes it. I do not want to try "potluck" on a new shop, nor is this a time when I have a pile of money sitting around for a big bill.

Thank you, very much for your help. I know lots of words, but am not sure I can tell you how much I appreciate it.
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:49 pm

Good idea. And make sure they find the leak. Brake fluid does not evaporate or "go away" at all with a healthy brake system. It really has no place to go. This means adding fluid will stop the warning light for a little while, but eventually the problem will return, and it will probably come back more quickly next time around, because the leak doesn't get any better over time.

The thing I'm worried about in your case is the possibility of sudden brake failure during driving. Brake lines and hoses contain enormous pressures each time you hit the pedal - and I mean seriously high forces in those little lines. A tiny leak in the system can turn into a BIG problem really fast, and when you least expect it. I've been the victim of burst brake hose in a past vehicle. Without warning, the pedal sank to the floor as I slowed for a red light. I tried pumping the brake, but instead went right through the intersection with no ability to stop. A very awful feeling; luckily no one crossed my path that day.

Get this fixed soon, Beth. We want you to be safe in your travels. The leak needs to be diagnosed and repaired. While they're at it, might be a good time to have all the old fluid drained out and replaced with new.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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Miss Beth
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:53 pm

Oh geez you are right. I have to find and repair the leak. Is that something reasonable, like simply replacing the lines? How much should this cost? Please tell me I can do this for a reasonable price??? I have had some medical expenses, a toilet that had to be replaced, and the porch rotted and had to be torn out. It's been tough times lately.....
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:09 pm

It will all depend on where the leak is coming from. First, see if filling the reservoir makes the warning light go away. Then have them put the car up and pump the brakes. There should be a dark, wet area around where the fluid is leaking.

How long has it been since you first heard the warning bell?

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:31 pm

Miss Beth,

You don't say how low it is. I would expect the brake fluid to be a little below the 'full' mark, but if it's down near the bottom of the plastic tank you have a more serious problem. A picture would help us decide!

The red brake warning light and beeper is an alarm for a serious problem - either your ebrake is still on, or you are low on brake fluid.
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:14 pm

might want to check for:

- rusted brake line
- leaking wheel cylinder
- frozen/damaged ABS valving (under hood, drivers side below airbox)

my guess it costs $75 in shop time just to find the leak.

Albertj
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Miss Beth
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:40 pm

The problem started about 2-3 weeks ago. It was very intermittent at first, and I've been out of town (in the truck) for part of the time.

The fluid was below the full line, but there was a good 2.5"-3" of fluid in there, less than one inch from "full" line. I stuck a little twig in there to check the level.

I really needed to go about 70 miles tomorrow, but if I still go, will take the truck even though the fuel cost will be high. I'm really grateful to be able to get good advice here-- and at the same time it makes me mad that my mechanic did not know this stuff! This may be the end of my doing business there.
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:42 pm

Oh-- the traction control function on this car has been out of order for years. I left it parked at a friends when I moved to an island for a while, and when I came back, the paint was shot, and the anti-lock light was on. I was told it would cost $600 to fix it, and it was only needed when driving on ice.... so I just lived with it. Literally, it's been about 5-6 years. The light is always on for that.... saying "traction off".
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:57 pm

If this happened over a couple weeks, that's pretty fast. It's really seeming more and more like a moderate leak. The leak area should be visible to a trained mechanic.

The brake fluid sensor knows when you get a little low, and tells you ahead of time. This way you can catch the problem before you enter danger territory. And inch below the max fill line is probably about right.

Sorry to sound blunt, but: NO TWIGS IN THE BRAKE FLUID RESERVOIR FROM NOW ON!!!

Smart move taking the truck. A little more in gas, but you really shouldn't drive a long distance in the Riviera until this problem is resolved.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:58 pm

Here's a tip, never open the brake and steering fluid reservoirs, or try to do it as rarely as possible. Especially don't stick anything in there like the twig you used to measure. Something as insignificant as a couple grains of sand could completely ruin your brake system, same with steering.

EDIT: I was typing this response at the same time AA was making his, so sorry for the redundancy but it's certainly important to know!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:07 am

Ooops. It was a clean twig. I got it off a bush, and stripped the leaves off so hopefully nothing got in the fluid. The plastic container for the brake fluid was opaque enough that I was not totally sure where the fluid level was, so I needed to stick something in there.

I won't do it again.... thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:16 am

At least you didn't drop it in! I'm sure no harm was done. wink

In the future, you may find it easier to see the fluid level by griping the reservoir (keeping the cover on) and slightly rocking it back and forth. The reservoir is mounted on a rubber base to allow some movement. Rocking it makes it easier to see the fluid level because it's moving. Another trick is to shine a flashlight from the opposite side you are trying to read, like candling an egg.

Miss Beth, you'll be a shade tree mechanic before we're finished with you.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:28 am

Aaron,
you (and the others!) are very kind to be so patient with me. You all clearly have a lot of expertise, and I have NONE in this area. I did think to rock the reservoir, but tried to do it by rocking the whole car. It did not occur to me to that I could move the part, so I was leaning on the side of the car, trying to rock it!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:50 pm

joy

Thanks to the great information I got on this forum, I now have a car that does not beep and drive me crazy.

I went back to the same guy and told him I had an idea, that I checked the brake fluid and it was low. He had me pop the hood and looked at the tank, said it was fine. I told him it just looked that way, that it was an inch low. (the sides are hard to see through) Sure enough, he added more and was surprised how much it took to bring it to the max line. Then I asked him to add engine coolant, since it was also low. He did.

Now this man knows I'm dumb as a rock about vehicles-- all I can do is describe the problem! So I admitted I got help from some Riviera enthusiasts online. He did say that sometimes the fluid just gets low, seemed to poo poo the idea of a potential leak. So I told him I'd try it-- drove around the station, no light, no beeper. Offered to pay for the fluids, which they declined. I could tell he was embarassed, but I was nice. He never charged me for the time he'd spent on it before today either.

Now, are you guys SURE I must have a leak, that should be checked? Would it be safe to drive it, and monitor for a bit? And if the light/beeper came on again, take it to have the leak found?

I love my old car. I know it's 13 years old, and has 150,000 miles on it. But I have owned it since day one, and I love this car. It just suits me. I know it won't last much longer. Lately I've been so busy that I'm past due to clean it up-- it needs washed, and the inside cleaned up. I'm going to do that this week.

I am SO releived and happy and excited that brake fluid worked!
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:38 pm

Thanks for the update. I need to say this again: find a new mechanic. He may be a nice guy and even a good friend, but the things I'm reading here are cause for serious concern. The braking system is THE MOST IMPORTANT system on a car, period. If you aren't able to stop for any reason at any time, your life is in great danger, and that's not good.

Consider a few things:

Your mechanic was NOT able to determine your fluid level was low with the car in his shop, yet a few members on a bulletin board, hundreds of miles away, who've never even seen pictures of your car, we could tell you exactly what was wrong!

Your mechanic supposedly inspected the car for problems, but came up without a clue. Do you really expect him to find a problem if he can't determine the fluid level in the reservoir? If there's a leak (i think there is), do you expect him to be able to find it?

Your mechanic was surprised at how much fluid it took to bring it to the max line? Shouldn't he be more familiar with these kinds of things? The fact that he refused payment says to me that he knows he didn't do his job right. Why doesn't he want to look for a leak? Maybe it's because he's afraid he might find one. Then things would look worse than they already do.

And the part about him saying that brake fluid "sometimes just gets low" is just simply not true. In fact, brake fluid is not considered a "top-off" fluid. If it's low, there is a problem, and it's usually a leak. The other possibility is that your pads or rotors are so worn that the fluid has dropped as a result. Either way, it's not good. Shame on this guy for his lack of consideration for your driving safety. Miss Beth, if anyone's dumb as a rock about vehicles, IT'S YOUR MECHANIC!

If you really love the car, take it somewhere else for a quick inspection. See if they can find a leak. Or if you want to try driving it for a while - go ahead at your own risk - but the second you hear that bell again, you know what to do! And that will be a good thing knowing the problem finally gets fixed.

Best of luck. Let us know how things turn out.

_________________
'98 SC Riviera 268k miles 298 HP/370 TQ 0-60: 5.79s ET: 13.97 @ 99.28 4087 lb 20.1 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:30
3.4" pulley AL104 plugs 180 t-stat FWI w/K&N 1.9:1 rockers OR pushrods LS6 valve springs SLP headers ZZP fuel rails
KYB GR2 struts MaxAir shocks Addco sway bars UMI bushings GM STB Enkei 18" EV5s w/ Dunlop DZ101s F-body calipers
EBC bluestuff/Hawk HP plus SS lines Brembo slotted discs DHP tuned Aeroforce Hidden Hitch


'05 GTO 49k miles 0-60: 4.8s 16.9 avg MPG Nelson Ledges Lap: 1:26
Because fun
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PostSubject: Re: Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!   

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Emergency brake light/beeper won't stop-- driving me crazy!
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