NuBrakes Blog Damaged Brake Lines - How to Spot Symptoms of a Bad Brake Hose Image

Damaged Brake Lines - How to Spot Symptoms of a Bad Brake Hose

Brake lines are an essential part of any vehicle's braking system. When the brake master cylinder generates hydraulic pressure, the brake lines transfer this hydraulic pressure to the wheel cylinders and calipers, ultimately enabling the braking action.

You can count on a steady and leak-free supply of brake fluid thanks to these lines, which are typically made of steel or reinforced rubber. However, brake lines can corrode, wear out, or become damaged over time, reducing the braking system’s effectiveness or causing complete brake failure.

Learn how to spot the common signs of a bad brake hose.

We will also explain the causes of brake line failure and what happens when you ignore the signs.

Key Takeaways

  • Brake lines are an integral part of your vehicle's braking system, as they carry hydraulic pressure from the brake pedal to the calipers and contribute to the car’s stopping power.

  • A soft or spongy brake pedal, an illuminated brake warning light, fluid leakage, and uneven brake pad wear are all indicators of a brake line issue.

  • If you ignore brake hose damage, there could be dangerous consequences like increased stopping distance, brake failure, and life-threatening accidents.

  • Regular inspection, timely maintenance, and the use of high-quality brake lines are essential to preventing brake line damage and failure and ensuring optimal vehicular safety.

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How brake lines work

The brake lines connect you, the driver, to the brakes on your wheels. Designed to transfer pressure, these slim, tubes stand up to high temperatures, tension, and pressure. They shield the sensitive inner components of the braking system from dirt and humidity.

When you press the brake pedal, you activate a piston in the brake's master cylinder. This pushes brake fluid, under high pressure, through the brake lines, all the way from the master cylinder to the brake calipers at your wheels.

Fluid transfer in brake lines

Brake lines are designed to handle high-pressure fluid transfers. 

  • When you apply force to your brake pedal, it causes the brake fluid in the master cylinder to pressurize. This pressurized fluid then travels through the brake lines, carrying your 'stop' command to the brakes at each wheel.

  • Brake fluid cannot be compressed. That means it sends the force you put on the brake pedal almost instantly to the brake calipers, even though they are some distance away from the brake pedal.

Brake line's connection with calipers and pads

The brake calipers are at the end of the brake lines. They are like clamps for your brake rotors, and inside them are the car’s brake pads.

The pressurized brake fluid squeezes tightly when it reaches the calipers, causing the brake pads to push against the brake rotors connected to your wheels. This set of actions creates enough friction to slow down your wheels and make your car come to a complete stop.

4 signs of damaged brake lines

Like any other vehicle component, brake lines can wear down and become damaged over time. Recognizing the warning signs of faulty brake lines early can help avoid accidents. 

Look out for the following common signs of damaged brake lines:

Soft or spongy brake pedal

Does the brake pedal feel softer than usual? Or does it depress farther than it normally does before engaging the brakes? That could be a sign of a problem with your brake lines. A potential cause is air in the brake lines or a loss of hydraulic pressure due to a leak.

Brake warning lights

Never ignore your car’s warning lights, which are designed to alert drivers of any possible issues. A brake warning light illuminated on your dashboard means it’s time for a vehicle checkup to discover any faulty brake lines.

Brake fluid leak

Your brake lines cannot function properly without brake fluid. Check if a puddle of fluid forms beneath your vehicle, indicating leaking brake lines. Normally, brake fluid is clear to yellowish in color, and it feels slightly oily to the touch.

Uneven wear and tear on your brake pads 

An issue with the brake system can cause brake pads to wear unevenly. In many cases, a brake line issue that leads to uneven pressure distribution is the main culprit for uneven brake pad wear and tear.

What happens when you ignore signs of damaged brake hose?

It’s not worth the risk to drive around with faulty brake lines. Here are the typical consequences of ignoring brake line problems:

Increased stopping distance

Faulty brake lines can have a huge impact on your vehicle's stopping distance. If your brake pedal feels soft or spongy, it means you're not getting the necessary amount of force on your brakes when you need it. Your car takes longer to stop, which can be extremely dangerous when you need to make a panic stop at high speeds or in emergency situations. 

Risk of total brake failure

Faulty brake lines can lead to complete brake failure. For example, if your brake lines are leaking fluid, you're gradually losing the hydraulic pressure needed to operate your brakes. If the brake fluid level gets too low, the brakes may stop working completely.

Risk of accidents

Accidents are the worst possible outcome of ignoring faulty brake lines. Without dependable brakes, you put yourself and your passengers at risk of colliding with other cars, pedestrians, or roadway obstacles. Everyone else on the road is in danger, not just you and your passengers.

5 main causes of brake line damage

Brake line failures can happen for different reasons. Here are the most common culprits:

Normal wear and tear

Just like any other part of your car, brake lines experience normal wear and tear over the years. Constant pressure changes and exposure to the elements can weaken the brake line and cause brake line failure.

Corrosion and rust

Brake lines, particularly those made of steel, are vulnerable to corrosion and rust. Because salt accelerates corrosion, cars are more prone to brake line failures in areas where road salt is commonly used. Over time, rust can weaken the lines and cause them to leak or break.

Physical damage

Brake lines are susceptible to physical damage from impacts or bending, especially if they are handled roughly during installation, maintenance, or repairs. Leaks and a drop in hydraulic pressure due to physical damage can eventually cause the brake lines to fail.

Poor quality materials or manufacturing

Not all brake lines are built the same. Those that are poorly made or manufactured with low-quality materials are more likely to break down quickly. This is why it's crucial to choose only high-quality replacement parts for your car.

Lack of maintenance 

Brake lines need regular inspection and maintenance to last as long as possible. Brake line failure is one of the many consequences of ignoring maintenance needs that can go undetected for a long time.

Final thoughts

As any expert mechanic would tell you, proper maintenance and regular checkups are critical to keeping your car in tip-top shape.

If you spot any of the warning signs we discussed above, call a trusted car technician immediately to evaluate the condition of your car.

A dependable mechanic like the ones you can find here in Nubrakes will help pinpoint the culprit of brake line issues and fix the problem to ensure your road safety.

Remember, when it comes to brake lines, prevention is always better than cure.

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