Brake lines are a critical part of your vehicle’s brake system, responsible for carrying brake fluid to apply brakes and stop your vehicle. When brake lines become damaged or worn out, you’ll need to replace them. While some opt for preformed metal brake lines, using rubber hoses for brake lines is a flexible, durable option.
Overview of Brake Lines
Brake lines are hydraulic lines that connect your brake pedal to the individual brakes at each wheel. When you press the brake pedal, it transfers pressure through the brake fluid in the lines to activate the brakes.
There are two main types of brake lines:
- Metal lines – Typically preformed steel tubing that runs from the master cylinder to the brake calipers or wheel cylinders. Provides rigidity.
- Flexible lines – Usually rubber hoses that connect the metal lines to the individual wheel brakes. Allows suspension and steering movement.
|Metal||Durable, rigid||Can rust, less flexible|
|Rubber||Flexible, absorb vibration||Can deteriorate over time|
Rubber brake hoses see the most movement and vibration, making them more susceptible to wear and damage.
Can You Use Rubber Hose for Brake Lines?
Yes, rubber hoses are well-suited for use in brake line systems. Here’s why:
- Durability – Rubber hoses are designed for strength and longevity. EPDM and NBR rubber compounds have excellent tensile properties.
- Flexibility – Easily bends and conforms to allow suspension and steering system movement. Easier to work with than rigid lines.
- Resistance – Rubber is resistant to brake fluids and corrosion. Provides a tight seal.
- Absorbs vibration – Dampens vibrations from road and braking forces, reducing noise and wear.
- Non-conductive – Does not transfer heat like metal lines. Helps avoid brake fade.
When selecting a rubber hose for brake lines, choose a high-quality reinforced EPDM or NBR rubber hose rated for automotive brake line use. Avoid cheap, poor quality hoses.
Installing Rubber Brake Lines
Follow these steps to safely install rubber brake hoses:
- Purchase correct rubber hose for your vehicle’s brake line type. Ensure proper inner diameter for brake system pressure.
- Review vehicle service manual for proper routing and installation. Avoid tight bends or kinks.
- Clean brake line fittings thoroughly. Inspect for damage or wear. Replace if necessary.
- Cut hose to needed length with sharp utility knife or hose cutter. Keep cut smooth and straight.
- Install proper end fittings following manufacturer’s instructions. Use proper tools to avoid damage.
- Connect hose ends to brake line fittings. Tighten securely to avoid leaks but do not overtighten.
- Before operating, bleed brake system thoroughly to remove any air. Check for leaks.
- Road test vehicle, using brakes normally to ensure proper operation.
With the right materials and proper installation, rubber brake hoses can provide long lasting safety and performance. Be sure to inspect regularly for wear.
Benefits of Using Rubber Brake Hoses
Switching to high-quality rubber hoses provides some key advantages over older, worn out rubber lines or rigid metal lines:
- Easily contours to route around suspension and steering components
- Absorbs vibrations rather than transmitting them through the frame
- Less likely to crack or break over time
Improved Pedal Feel
- Provides consistent pedal pressure thanks to flexibility
- Dampens hydraulic pulses for smoother braking
- Rubber material helps minimize brake squeal noise
- Does not transmit noise & vibration like solid metal lines
- Protects against rust and corrosion from road elements & brake fluids
- Non-conductive material reduces risk of overheating brakes
- Rubber withstands weather extremes without becoming brittle
Upgrading old brake lines to newer rubber hoses is an affordable way to restore braking performance in older vehicles. Always consult your vehicle repair manual for proper parts and procedures.
Common Problems With Rubber Brake Hoses
While very durable, rubber brake hoses can develop issues over time. Stay alert for these potential problems:
- Abrasion – Rubbing against suspension, tires, or wheels can wear away the hose exterior. Inspect for damage regularly.
- Cracking – Hardened, cracked rubber from age can cause leaks. Check rubber for brittleness.
- Swelling – Brake fluid absorption can cause hoses to swell and leak. Keep fluids fresh.
- Kinking – Sharp bends can restrict fluid flow. Keep brake lines routed properly.
- Corrosion – Rust and dirt buildup inside the lines reduces flow. Flush regularly.
- Air bubbles – Tiny holes allow air to enter, causing soft brakes. Signs of a failing hose.
Any degradation in braking performance may indicate a problem with the rubber hoses. Address issues promptly to avoid safety risks.
Signs Your Brake Hoses Need Replacement
To maximize brake system safety, inspect rubber brake hoses regularly and replace them if you notice any of these warning signs:
- Bulges, cracks, abrasions, or cuts in the rubber
- Dry rot, stiffness, or brittleness indicating aging
- Swelling or dripping from fluid absorption
- Corroded or rusted fittings at the ends
- Brake warning light stays on with no other cause found
- Sudden loss of brake pressure or pedal sinking to the floor
- Require pumping brakes to build pressure
- Brake pedal feels soft or spongy
Rubber brake hoses typically last 4-7 years depending on use and climate conditions. Schedule a brake inspection if hoses are over 5 years old. Proactive replacement prevents safety issues.
Maintaining Your Rubber Brake Hoses
Proper maintenance is key to ensuring a long service life from your rubber brake hoses and protecting your safety. Follow these important maintenance practices:
- Inspect the hoses at least twice per year by looking for any signs of cracking, bulging, leaks, corrosion, or damage from abrasion. Check where hoses may rub against other components.
- Gently flex the hoses while inspecting to reveal any cracks or weak spots. Stiff, brittle rubber indicates a deteriorating hose needing replacement.
- Replace any hose that shows signs of wear, cracking, or damage immediately rather than waiting for it to fail. Damaged hoses are a major safety hazard.
- Only use new brake fluid from a sealed container to refill your brake system. Old fluid absorbs moisture which damages hoses and valves.
- Flush old brake fluid out at recommended intervals to reduce contaminants. Brake fluid should be clear, never dark or murky.
- Closely inspect fittings for leaks or seepage that allows brake fluid to escape onto hoses. Clean up any drips which can damage hoses.
- Avoid routing hoses where they could rub regularly against suspension components, wheels, or sharp edges. Use retainers to keep hoses separated.
- Keep hoses well away from heat sources like the engine, exhaust, or catalytic converter to avoid premature aging.
Proper installation positioning and routing per your vehicle repair manual will also boost hose lifespan. Take care not to twist, kink, or stress hoses during replacement.
Rubber Brake Hose FAQs
Are rubber hoses better than metal for brake lines?
Rubber and metal both have pros and cons. Rubber is better at absorbing vibration and is more flexible. But metal resists damage like abrasion. Using rubber close to moving parts and metal for protected runs combines the benefits.
How long should rubber brake hoses last?
With proper maintenance, quality rubber brake hoses can last 5-7 years or 70,000-100,000 miles before needing replacement. Check for cracks and damage regularly.
What problems can bad brake hoses cause?
Deteriorated brake hoses with bulges, cracks, or leaks will cause loss of hydraulic pressure. This leads to spongy pedal feel, sinking pedal, and reduced stopping ability.
Can I use fuel hose for brake lines?
No, fuel hose is not rated for brake system pressures. Always use hoses designed specifically for automotive brake line use.
Should I replace all my brake hoses at once?
Not necessarily – inspect each hose and only replace any that are cracked, damaged, or leaking. Staggering replacements spreads out costs.
Rubber brake hoses provide flexibility, durability, and performance that make them well-suited for use in brake line systems. Their ability to absorb vibration, resist corrosion, and conform to components makes them an ideal choice over rigid metal lines in many instances.
While rubber hoses have some vulnerabilities like cracking and abrasion over time, proper installation, maintenance, and replacement at intervals will maximize their safe operation. For critical brake line repairs or upgrades, trust rubber hoses to restore responsiveness and safety to your brake system. Their qualities contribute to smooth, consistent braking control.