Uh-oh, noticed your brake pedal feeling a little mushy lately? That could be a sign of a problem with your brake line. We know a busted brake line may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually super dangerous to drive when your brakes aren’t working properly.
This article will clearly explain why a damaged brake line is so risky, what can happen if you keep driving, and how to stay safe if you suspect an issue. Don’t worry, we won’t judge if you made a mistake – we just want you to have the knowledge to avoid a disaster and get back on the road smiling.
Let us lend a hand by walking you through this critical brake safety info.
Dangers of Driving With a Broken Brake Line
Driving with a broken or leaking brake line is extremely dangerous and puts the driver and others at grave risk. Here are some of the major risks associated with driving a vehicle with a damaged brake line:
- Total brake failure – Even a small leak in the brake line will eventually lead to a total loss of brake pressure and fluid. This means when the brake pedal is depressed, there will be no stopping force exerted on the wheels. The car will not slow down or stop no matter how hard the pedal is pushed.
- Impaired braking ability – If the brake line is not completely broken but has a minor leak, the braking performance will still be severely compromised. The car may take significantly longer to stop. Brake pedal feel may be “mushy” or “soft”. Hard braking may cause pulling to one side. These are all signs of low brake pressure due to fluid leakage.
- Increased stopping distance – With reduced braking power, the car’s stopping distance from highway speeds can be nearly doubled. At 60 mph, for example, normal stopping distance is around 300 feet. With a broken brake line, the stopping distance may extend well beyond 500 feet.
- Loss of control – With limited braking ability, the driver can easily lose control of the vehicle, especially when trying to slow down or stop suddenly. Abrupt steering maneuvers at speed are also much more difficult with compromised brakes. Loss of control often leads to crashes.
- Collision risk – The significantly increased stopping distance, combined with loss of control, makes rear-end collisions much more likely for drivers with a damaged brake line. Side impacts are also more probable if the car pulls violently in one direction under hard braking.
- Rollover crashes – SUVs and other vehicles with a higher center of gravity are more prone to rollovers and tip-overs. Damaged brakes only heighten this risk during evasive maneuvers or loss of control at high speeds.
In summary, driving with any kind of brake line damage can lead to catastrophic consequences, including severe accidents, injuries, and even death. The safety risks extend not just to the driver with the brake issue but also other motorists, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians sharing the road.
Can You Physically Drive With a Broken Brake Line?
If the brake line is completely severed, the vehicle may still start and drive normally. However, as soon as the brake pedal is pressed, it will go straight to the floor with zero stopping power. The car will not stop no matter how hard the pedal is pressed.
Attempting to drive a car in this condition is extremely foolish and reckless. The vehicle may move under power, but it cannot be safely slowed or stopped. Driving without brakes even for a short distance to a repair shop is far too dangerous and is never recommended.
If the brake line has only a partial leak or pinhole breach, some braking function may remain, at least temporarily. The driver may be able to limp the car short distances by pumping the brakes repeatedly. However, this is only a temporary fix.
The braking performance will quickly deteriorate as more fluid is lost. It is still incredibly risky to drive any meaningful distance with this type of damage. The wisest and safest choice is to not drive the car at all and call for repairs.
Can a Bad Brake Line Cause Pulling?
A brake fluid leak does not always produce obvious symptoms right away. Small leaks often go unnoticed for some time. One early sign of a potential leak is a car that pulls strongly to one side when the brakes are applied.
This pulling effect occurs because the leaking brake line results in low pressure on just one side of the braking system. For example, a leak in the front left brake line will reduce pressure at the front left brake caliper. When the brakes are applied, the right side brakes engage normally but the left side has diminished power. This imbalance results in the car pulling to the right under braking.
If brake pull is noticed, the vehicle should be stopped immediately and the brake system inspected for damage or leaks. The uneven braking effect makes the vehicle much more challenging to control. Continuing to drive with brake pull greatly amplifies the safety hazards.
Is It Possible to Temporarily Fix a Leaking Brake Line?
While it’s never advisable to drive any significant distance with a known brake fluid leak, some temporary fixes may help stem minor leaks in a pinch:
- Add brake fluid – If the leak has resulted in low fluid level, adding more brake fluid may provide very temporary improvement in braking power. However, more fluid will just keep leaking out.
- Tape or epoxy – Wrapping something like duct tape or epoxy putty around a small pinhole leak can temporarily plug it. This is NOT a permanent solution but may help buy a very short time to get to a repair shop.
- Hose clamp – For leaks at the brake line fittings, a hose clamp wrapped around the connection point may stop the leak for a brief period, allowing the driver to limp to a mechanic.
Again, these are NOT recommended long-term fixes. They are only meant to possibly stop a tiny leak very briefly in an emergency situation. The proper repair is to replace the damaged brake line completely.
Symptoms of a Bad Brake Line
Here are some common signs that may indicate a problem with the brake lines:
- Brake pedal goes to floor when pressed
- Longer stopping distance
- Delayed brake pedal response
- Brake pedal has soft/mushy feel
- Brake warning light illuminated on dash
- Brake fluid visible leaking under car
- Brake fluid reservoir lower than normal
- Brakes pull strongly to one side
- Hissing sound from brake fluid leak
If any of these symptoms are noticed, stop driving the vehicle immediately and have the brake system inspected. Continuing to operate a car with these issues can lead to brake failure and a serious crash.
What Can Cause a Brake Line to Fail?
There are a few common causes of brake line damage or deterioration:
- Rust – Brake lines corrode and rust over time, especially in cold climates where salt is used on roads. Rust weakens the lines and causes cracking or pinhole leaks.
- Wear and tear – Normal driving vibrations and brake pressure pulses can eventually cause stress cracks and leaks in old brake lines. Rubbing against other components also wears away protective coatings.
- Collision damage – Front end crashes or heavy impacts on the underside can bend, kink, or rupture brake lines. Collision damage often leads to complete brake failure.
- Incorrect installation – Improper installation or repair work that kinks the line or fails to seal fittings can introduce leaks over time.
- Age – Most brake lines deteriorate and are prone to cracking after around 10 years. Older cars often need preventive brake line replacement before failures occur.
Neglecting worn brake system components like old brake lines is asking for trouble. Any detected damage or leaks in the lines should be addressed immediately before attempting to drive the vehicle again.
The Bottom Line
Driving with any kind of damaged or leaking brake line is an incredibly foolish and hazardous idea. Even if the vehicle can physically move with a bad brake line, it will not be able to stop properly. No temporary fix is sufficient – the brake line must be replaced entirely before the car can be safely driven again.
If brake damage is suspected, the wisest choice is to not drive at all until comprehensive repairs can be made by a professional technician. Putting lives in jeopardy to move a car with compromised brakes is never worth the risk.