1999 Subaru Impreza Wagon, soft & pulsing brakes, now brake line blown

I have a 1999 Subaru Impreza Wagon that I have owned for about 2.5 years, and I love it. I travel for work and I use rental cars alot. I have noticed in the past year that my brakes feel softer than most cars I drive, but I figure…hey, they are new cars, and my car is pretty old.

In the past 2-3 months I have notices a pulsing in my brakes…it sounds/feels kinda like the ABS, but I was thinking it would be worth getting my brakes inspected soon.

then this past week, I totally blew a brake line when I was driving.

The car has about 140,000 miles on it and the mechanic says a brake line alone could be $2-300 and that it may not be related to the pulsing sounds…because brake lines usually go because of rust…

so…thoughts on things I should be looking at?

what could the pulsing be a symptom of?

if one brake line blew, and it is rust, is the other one not far behind? (this was a new england car up until 2 years ago)

If the brake line gave up due to rust then it’s quite possible based on the locale that one may end up replacing a number of lines. If the line that gave up was a flex line on the front calipers then that could be due to aged rubber with rust being a lesser concern.

The pulsing would be a different issue and a pulse may have a different cause as compared to a shudder.

If you feel this through the steering wheel that often points to a front rotor problem. If it’s noticeable in the seat that may point towards the rear.

The car was available with disc or drum brakes on the rear and that factors in also. If this is a pulse and based on the soft pedal complaint it could be that the rear shoes are worn and/or seriously out of adjustment. Excess movement of the wheel cylinder pistons due to wear/misadjustment can mimic a failing master cylinder (soft pedal) and brake drums are also far more prone to distortion from overtightened wheel lugs. (pulsation)

Hope some of that helps. It’s impossible to be precise without car in hand.

The brake line and the pulsing are unrelated. And I agree with OK4450, as a matter of fact I would ask that the entire system be looked at. The lines are subjected to a lot of pressure, and when one rots out they all need to be evaluated. The results of not doing so could be tragic.

As to the pulsing, jack up each wheel one by one and spin it by hand while a friend lightly applies the brakes, just enough that the friction starts. The pulsating one(s) will be obvious as you spin the wheel(s).

Or perhaps it’s just time for new brakes.

The pulsing may be warped rotors. It is possible the pulsing if a warped rotor caused a brake line to fail, due to extra pressure from the pulses, but if you had stepped on the brakes really hard first that would have blown them also as the line was near the point of failure.Have a good brake guy check it out. You may need to replace more than 1 line.

I see your point, Barky, that a pulsation sends a wave of backpressure, but I would not want anyone reading it to make any erroneous assumptions. If the line blew, it’s because it was on its way out already. A good line will easily be able to stand up to the combined pressure of your foot and the backpressure pulse from the caliper.