The cost of replacing brake lines isn’t something most people think about. In fact, it’s probably one of those things a mechanic recommends that you agree to out of principle.
But what are brake lines? And what’s the cost of replacing them?
This article will give you all you need to know, including the potential damage to your bank account.
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What Is A Brake Line?
A brake line transports brake fluid from the master cylinder to each wheel. It’s also called a brake pipe (the main metal part) and brake hose (the flexible part attaching to the caliper/wheel cylinder).
They must maintain a constant hydraulic pressure without any leaks. If gaps, holes, or cracks develop, the brakes won’t activate. In other words, not good!
Think of it like a syringe. Assuming it’s already full of liquid, you know that pushing the plunger forces the fluid in the same direction. If there’s a leak (or air in the system), it won’t work well and will get worse quickly.
They’re made of metal (stainless steel or copper), apart from a small flexible section right at the end. This bit is typically made of pressure-resistant rubber or braided stainless steel.
In modern cars, there are technically two brake line circuits. Each line connects wheels at opposite corners (the front-right and rear-left, and vice versa).
If one brake line fails, this means your brakes should still work.
You can still refer to the system as having four brake lines – one to each wheel.
Which Part Needs Replacing?
When your brake line fails, you’ll need to pay for a new one. You can’t do this alone unless you have a friend and know what you’re doing! Working with the brakes always takes two people (or a brake bleeding suction tool).
It’s most common to see the rubber part of the lines fail. As you might expect, these are far less sturdy than the main metal part.
Over time, the rubber parts of the line become brittle. They can tear and twist and might eventually develop cracks and holes.
It’s also possible for the main metal part of the line to become faulty. The most probable cause is rust causing a leak over time. This is more likely in older cars that use standard steel instead of stainless and vehicles that have sat for many years.
You’ll need to replace whatever part of your brake line breaks. You can’t try to repair it. It’s responsible for carrying too much pressure, and it’ll immediately fail again.
How Long Do Brake Lines Last?
Many brake lines last as long as the car they’re fitted to. You can expect most to last 100,000 miles or more.
Most people won’t ever have to think about their brake lines. Moisture build-up or factory defects mean these things just happen. There’s nothing you could have done in any different way – there’s no need to blame yourself!
In general, it is difficult to determine the exact time that brake lines will last. They are not typically replaced during regular maintenance, and manufacturers assume that they will endure for a long time.
How Do You Know When A Brake Line Needs Replacing?
Here are a few signs you should watch out for. They’re all indications that a brake line on your car needs replacing.
Struggling To Stop!
Here’s a significant sign you should never ignore. It needs immediate investigation if it’s hard to bring the car to a stop using the brake pedal.
The dual-system design on modern cars means it should be safe to drive (gently!) to a nearby mechanic. That is unless both lines developed a problem at precisely the same time. Improbable.
Avoid driving at any speed in the meantime. Use engine braking to help you decelerate, too.
Low Brake Fluid Levels
The braking system should be sealed. Nothing in and nothing out. If air gets in, it forms bubbles. The hygroscopic brake fluid won’t work so well as a result.
If there’s a severe leak, the fluid will squirt out of the car every time you press the pedal. Unless there’s a colossal trauma and the line completely severs, they should continue working for a while. There’s a lot of brake fluid in a car.
Over time, though – especially if you’re often braking like in city driving – the stopping force will get less. Each time you press the pedal, the car becomes less able to stop.
Eventually, you’ll notice low brake fluid levels in the master cylinder when you lift the hood. Don’t just top it up and think nothing of it. That fluid has gone somewhere! It needs investigating.
ABS Light Comes On
When the ABS light comes on, it could be a problem with any number of things. One of the most important to check out is brake line leaks.
Check the wheel in question for any evidence of brake fluid around the brakes. Also, lift the hood to look at the level in the master cylinder.
If it all looks good, there could be another issue at play. It’s worth driving your car to a mechanic to get it checked out.
Brake Pedal Feels Funny
The brake pedal feels different when the hydraulic brake fluid system doesn’t work properly. You’ll notice there’s less resistance to your foot than usual.
A good way to describe it is “spongey.” It’s sort of soft and springy.
What you’re actually feeling is a lack of hydraulic pressure. This is usually due to air bubbles in the system. New brake fluid and bleeding the brakes might be all you need.
That said, it could be a sign of a leak in a brake line.
Signs Of A Fluid Leak Around The Wheels
Spotting liquid underneath the car often sends people into panic mode.
There’s often no need to worry. It could be water collected during your recent journey or from the AC.
However, yes. It could be brake fluid.
One of the most likely places for leaks to develop is the connection where the rubber line meets the brake. The caliper or wheel cylinder for that wheel isn’t receiving as much brake fluid as usual.
Check this connection for any signs of leaking fluid.
Factors Affecting The Cost To Replace Brake Lines
The total cost you’ll pay is variable. It depends on the following:
- How much brake line needs replacing
- Where you live and the labor rates in your area
- Dealership or general mechanic
- Your car’s make, model, and specification
- Additional required components (e.g., new caliper)
Flexible Brake Hose Replacement Cost
If the flexible line is gone, you will need to buy a new part. These attach to the brake caliper/wheel cylinder and are created to fit their respective vehicle.
They’ll cost around $50 each. Replacing them is pretty simple. The mechanic will remove the old one and attach the new one before bleeding the brakes.
It’s that easy.
It’ll come to around $180. Most of this cost comes from bleeding the brakes.
Flexible Brake Hose Replacement Cost Breakdown
- Brake hose: $50
- Labor: $30
- Bleeding the brakes: $100
- Total cost: $180
It could be less, especially if everything goes smoothly and you own a popular vehicle.
Metal Brake Line Repair Cost + Breakdown
A metal brake line itself shouldn’t be too expensive. They usually cost around $50. Remember, they’re simple metal tubes. You’re paying for them to be shaped into the correct positions before installation.
Skilled mechanics can fashion brake lines themselves using metal (usually copper) piping. They’ll bend it into shape and install it on the car.
On top of the cost of the part, you’ll pay for the labor. Expect this to take up to an hour (depending on how bad the problem is). The national average labor rate is around $80 to $100.
Once the new line has been installed, the mechanic must immediately bleed the brakes. If they don’t, there’s only air in the system. As a gas, it’s compressible, so the brakes won’t work.
They’ll start at the wheel furthest from the master cylinder. The fluid in this line has the most distance to cover. They’ll then work on each wheel in turn, ending with the one next to the master cylinder.
The cost of parts for bleeding brakes is low, mainly just brake fluid. However, it can be a time-consuming task. On average, it might cost around $100.
Totaling all these costs gives a total cost of around $230 for a replacement metal brake line.
How Much To Replace Brake Lines: Breakdown
- Brake line: $50 (up to)
- Labor to remove and install new brake line: $80
- Bleeding the brakes: $100
- Total cost: $230
This seems about right for a total estimate. That said, how much you’ll pay depends on the factors above.
You’ll likely pay between $150 and $300 to replace brake lines.
Complete Brake Line Replacement Cost
You should know that this is rarely necessary, except in the case of an entirely rusted system. This would usually only happen when the car’s been sitting off the road for some time.
Brake line systems are installed in sections. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll only need to replace the particular affected part.
If you need an entire brake line replaced – from the master cylinder to the brake – the cost shouldn’t be too much more.
If it costs around $230 to replace part of a brake line, a complete replacement might come to $350 to $400.
The extra expense would come from the additional parts ($50 to $100) and labor (about another hour).
Again, these totals will vary depending on certain factors.
Complete Brake Line Replacement Cost Breakdown
- All brake line parts: $100
- Labor: 1.5 to 2 hours: $170
- Bleeding the brakes: $100
- Total cost: $370
Cost To Replace All Brake Lines At Once
If you need to replace every single brake line, it could come to about $550.
Again, this shouldn’t be necessary for almost everyone. The only situations where it might be done are:
- If you’re driving an old car with brake lines known for corroding. In this case, it’s a sensible expense, especially if the dual circuit is split front to rear.
- If you want new brake lines for aesthetic reasons. Very unnecessary, but whatever floats your boat.
Replacing All Brake Lines At Once: Breakdown
- Materials: $150
- Labor: about 3 hours – $300
- Bleeding the brakes: $100
- Total cost: $550
As you can see, an excellent way to save money is to work on your car yourself. You should only do this if you have the required skills! Getting your brakes wrong – that’s a potentially fatal mistake.
Rounding Up: How Much To Replace Brake Lines
In total, having work done on your brake lines shouldn’t cost too much. About $230 (including fitting and brake bleeding) is a reasonable estimate.
Usually, the flexible hose on the end of the brake line is what develops a leak. These are easy to replace and the cheapest part to solve when they go wrong.
If you suspect a problem with your brake lines, go immediately to an auto shop. Don’t worry whether it’s a dealership or not – you’re far more likely to crash without functioning brakes.
(Ensure the mechanic uses OEM, manufacturer-approved parts if your car is still under warranty.)
Before any work’s done, get a quote and agree on the total cost. That saves any surprises when the invoice comes your way.
That’s about it! Keep your brake lines and fluid in good condition, and you’re well on the way to good car maintenance.