If the brake pedal feels hard while the engine is running, the power brake booster is not operating correctly.
Power Brake Booster Test 1
- With the engine off, pump the brake pedal to remove any residual vacuum in the booster.
- Hold pressure on the pedal while you start the engine. When the engine starts, the pedal should drop about a 1/4″, this indicates that the booster is working properly.
Power Brake Booster Test 2
- Run the engine a couple of minutes.
- Turn the engine off and press the pedal several times slowly. The first pump should be fairly low. The second and third should become slightly firmer. This indicates an airtight booster.
Power Brake Booster Test 3
- Start the engine and press the brake pedal, then stop the engine with the pedal still pressed. If the pedal does not drop after holding the pressure on the pedal for 30 seconds, the booster is airtight.
Inspect the Check Valve
- Disconnect the vacuum hose where it connects to the intake manifold. Do not disconnect the vacuum line from the booster. Air should not flow when pressure is applied, but should flow when suction is applied. If air flows in both directions or there is no air flow, the valve needs to be replaced.
- Check the operating vacuum pressure when the engine is at normal operating temperature. There should be a minimum of 18 in. of vacuum. Vacuum may be increased by properly tuning the engine, checking for vacuum leaks and blockages in vacuum lines.
Why Old(er) GM Power Brake Boosters Mount at an Upward Angle
The primary reason is for correct brake pedal geometry. Back in the day, most GM vehicles were offered with both standard manual brakes as well as optionally with power-assisted brakes. The optimum manual-brake pedal-to-master cylinder pushrod ratio (aka “pedal advantage”) is around 6:1, compared to about 4:1 for power-assisted brakes which don’t need as much pedal advantage because they “boost” the force generated by the average human leg. GM used a common brake pedal with two pushrod holes located about 1 to 1½ Inches apart; the upper hole was for the 6:1 manual brakes and the bottom hole yielded the power-brake 4:1 ratio. When the brake pushrod was installed in the lower hole for use with power brakes, achieving the proper pushrod arc of travel, center of force, and proper alignment with the brake booster/master cylinder assembly piston centerline required a firewall mounting bracket that positions the assembly at a fairly sharp up-angle.