The brake lines may be one of the most important hoses in your car, when looked at in terms of safety. Their job is simple – they allow brake fluid to move from the master brake cylinder to the calipers. This fluid then causes the calipers to expand so the car can come to a safe stop. When a line goes out, the brakes cease to work properly, which can make it hard – if not impossible – to stop the car with the brake pedal. Fortunately there are usually symptoms warning of an impending problem – you just need to know how to recognize them.
Symptom #1: Soft pedal
The most obvious symptom is a soft brake pedal, which is also sometimes called mushy brakes. You know you have a soft pedal when it feels like you have to push harder on the brake pedal and the brakes still don't feel as responsive as they should be. The cause is usually a leak in the brake line, which means that the calipers aren't getting enough fluid to quickly engage. The fix for this problem is to replace the brake lines and top off the brake fluid.
Symptom #2: Low brake fluid
The braking system is a closed system, which means that you shouldn't have to top off your brake fluid unless there is an issue with the hose. While a soft pedal usually indicates brake line damage, you can't be sure until you either inspect the lines or check the brake fluid. In some cases the pedal may feel soft because the brake pads are badly worn. The brake fluid is usually easier to check than the lines. Simply locate the fill valve under the hood that is labeled as brakes. Open it up and use the dipstick to verify the level of brake fluid is at the fill line. If the level is low, then it's time to get the lines replaced. Otherwise, it's time for a pad inspection.
Symptom #3: Line damage
If you know where your brake lines are, you can inspect them for damage as well. The most obvious signs of damage include a collection of leaking fluid beneath the lines, sticky lines caused by slow leaks and the buildup of brake fluid, or signs of corrosion on the lines. Crimps and other damage may also be obvious with a visual inspection. Keep in mind, though, that slow leaks may not be immediately obvious with a visual inspection, which is why it is better to check for the above problem symptoms first.
Contact an auto parts supplier or check it out online for more information about the brake line replacements you need for your car.