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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone,
I've got an issue with my brakes on my 4.3 V6 Base RAV4. The brakes are very spongy. I feel I need to push down way to hard compared to any other vehicle I have ever driven.
I have replaced all rotors and pads. During my last rear brake job I noticed one of the caliper pins was stuck, so after an hour of struggling with it I finally got it removed and I replaced both pins.
After that the brakes felt "better" but still not great.
I got a brake fluid flush done at the dealer yesterday in case there was air in the lines. It needed to be done anyway, but still have the spongy feeling.
I also double checked all front caliper pins. None were stuck, but I pulled them all and regreased anyway. Still no luck.
I'm getting pretty frustrated with the bad braking in my RAV4.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what I could do next, other than bring it into a shop? I'd like to save as much $ as possible if I can.

Thanks,
Matt
 

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There is a chance the brake hose has a leak. Was it spongy before the brake service?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes, it has been spongy for quite a while.
The fluid level has never been low though.

Any pointers on how to look for a leak?
 

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I also have a 2010 V6 Limited, and brakes are also spongy compared to my wifes CRV 2009. Way a lot different. The only time I felt the breaks was so great was the last time I had the brake pads and rotors changed by Mavis. That only great braking experience didn't even last a year,,,, back to spongy feeling. I got used to it but it would be great if worked better.
 

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Yes, it has been spongy for quite a while.
The fluid level has never been low though.

Any pointers on how to look for a leak?
It is usually through visual inspecting for any fluid around the hose. All the brake hoses need to be checked carefully.
 

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Yes, it has been spongy for quite a while.
The fluid level has never been low though.

Any pointers on how to look for a leak?
I wouldn't bother, other than a quick look. If you've had this for quite sometime, and no change in fluid level, it obviously is not leaking. Moister or condensation in the fluid can cause this. It may be worth bleeding the brakes and replenishing the fluid.
 

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Just had a brake fluid change done yesterday. Still have the spongy feel...
Sorry I missed that. Possibly a little air left in line? I'd ask whoever did the work to check again and let them know and drive the car and see what they say.

I will add my brand new 2016 feels "a bit" spongy right off the showroom floor. I drove 3 total and noticed this also. More so than any Toyota I can remember driving which is quite a few.
 

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if all the things did not fix the problem then, i remember seeing from the Rav4 user/service manual that the brake master cylinder had to be changed once every 8 years or so.
The master cylinder piston seals will get old and start to bypass the oil when you press the brake pedal and the piston tries to make pressure.

i am not 100% sure if it was 8 or 10 years... or even a milage (kilometers) limit when it had to be replaced.

i will recheck the manual.
 

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The problem with finding a leak is that brake fluid evaporates very fast. You literally need to see it dripping out while a helper is pushing the pedal.

And for those who had their brake system flushed or bled...Was the ABS unit properly bled too? I'm told you need Techstream or something similar to properly bleed the ABS unit, otherwise air could be stuck in there.
 

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Spongy "feel" and stopping performance are not directly proportional. I find that these cars stop fine but the brake pedal feel has always been mush.

If you want to firm up the brakes get some stainless steel braided brake lines.
 

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My 2012 Rav4 V6 also feels weak when braking. Weaker than my last car, which was a 2013 Hyundai Elantra. I eventually got used to it. The brake just doesn't bite hard until you are half-way through the brake pedal. However, no problem with emergency stopping. I think you just have to get used to it. I changed all 4 sets of my brake pads to OEM pads and did a brake fluid change, and it's still the same.
 

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Her RAV has the spongy pedal that makes you wonder if you're going to stop in time and has always been that way. Mine has a very firm pedal feel that requires little pressure. Go figure......
 

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Her RAV has the spongy pedal that makes you wonder if you're going to stop in time and has always been that way. Mine has a very firm pedal feel that requires little pressure. Go figure......

More "go figure" - the brake pedal feel on my RAV is somewhere between those on your and your lady's RAVs.

Then when I drive my wife's CR-V if I were to use the same brake pedal effort as I do with my RAV, hers would come to as near to a screeching halt as the ABS would allow . . . .
 

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I too have experienced this with my 2012 Rav4. Much more travel in the brake pedal than I would like, and they never seem to give confidence when the need arises to press hard on them. I took it back to the dealer shortly after purchasing to see if there were a problem with the brake system. They found none. I then drove another new (then) 2012 Rav4, and the brakes felt the same. Spongy with long travel in the pedal. Compared to other Toyotas we have owned (2012 Camry, 2014 PriusV, 2016 Highlander), the brake system on this Rav4 is way worse.

I've thought about taking it to a brake specialist to see if anything outside of the Toyota mantra can be done to improve them. I know that others have tried changing pads and rotors to no avail. I'm still researching to see if someone else has found a solution. If I find something, I will let you know.
 

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I used to own a Corolla and those brakes were great. They were a bit spongy but you could relax your foot on the brake and the car would slow down quickly and smoothly with a decent bite. When it came time to replace them I tried aftermarket which turned into a disaster of being over hard and not having any initial bite. I went back to new Toyota pads and it was excellent again.

My 2012 Rav4 had this nice initial bite and ease of braking when I bought it close to a year ago but I'm noticing now more and more that I have to exert a fair amount of effort and the feel you all are mentioning is there. I miss when I first had it and it took only the weight of my foot to brake. Like others of have said my car will brake fine when you lean into it, and it certainly is responsive if it were an emergency. My girlfriend owns a Ford ST and I love those brakes, there is lots of firm bite and they are very reassuring. Whenever I drive it I'm always accidentally brake checking us because I'm used to the pedal travel and light spongy feel of our Ravs.

Side note, metal braided brake lines in most cases are marketing and hearsay more than fact of adding any significant value. In everyday cars the lines flex very little and it is not in the interest of car manufacturers to produce lines that flex and potentially cause accidents or become soft in heat and expand etc. That is a lawsuit and bad press waiting to happen. There are some good write ups and videos about this on the interwebs that describe this better if you're looking for some evidence to avoid them.
 

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It's a shame they only put the larger brakes on the V6 and 3rd row models. The larger calipers, pads, master cylinder and brake booster on mine have never felt spongy.
 

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The first thing I would do is go back and check all the slider pins again, make sure you can move them back and forth by hand. They will often develop a spot of cooked grease that seizes them. Second I would do something the dealership likely never does, push the pistons all the way back into the calipers with a C-clamp before bleeding the brakes, and if possible use a pressure bleeder. I have found nothing works as well as a pressure bleeder on a car with an ABS manifold, vacuum bleeders just don't always have the juice to dislodge smaller bubbles traped in the manifold.
 
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