CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2003 Silverado rusted brake lines

I have a 2003 Silverado HD 2500 that I use for towing a horse trailer. It is not my primary vehicle and I am the first and only owner. It has less than 9,000 miles and I store it outside.



Last week the brake line broke when I was getting ready to haul out. I had to have it towed to the dealer who told me that the other brake lines were almost broken and all rusted as well.



They said that becuase I don’t use the truck enough, the rust ocurred. This seems ridiculous to me.



What do you think? I’m paying $1,000 in total for brake lines ($700), and cleaning the fuel system ($149) and replacing antifreeze ($140).



Why don’t they make those life threatening things in aluminum?



Let me know if you think this is normal and what I should. Should I pursue Chevy to pay for this cost? Thank you.



Michelle Buonocore, Roanoke VA

Did the brake lines rust from the outside or from the inside? Do you drive is extremely salty conditions?

Regardless, I don’t see how using the brakes more would prevent the lines from rusting.

Brake fluid absorbs water, and water in the fluid can cause the brake lines to rust, but there there are millions of vehicles older than yours that have not had this problem.

I think you should report this to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). They keep track of things like this. You might also search their website to see if there’s a recall or any other information about this.

I suspect that the brake fluid on that truck was never changed. Rather than rusting from the outside, it is likely that the brake lines rotted out from the inside, due to a high percentage of moisture in the brake fluid. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. After a few years, this will result in highly diluted brake fluid.

For this vehicle, as well as for your other vehicles present and future, you should have the brake fluid changed every 3 years/36k miles, even if the vehicle manufacturer does not recommend it.

Nowadays, vehicle manufacturers like to make their products seem as “maintenance-free” as possible, thus leading to no notations in the maintenance schedule about changing trans fluid every 3 years/36k, or changing the brake fluid on that same schedule. Trust me–this type of preventive maintenance is necessary.

I’ve spent some time in VA near Fredricksburg. Each morning everything is covered in dew, including your brake lines. You should have the frame and suspension checked for rust too. I wouldn’t pay for fuel system cleaning if it runs well. They don’t make brake lines out of aluminum because it’s too soft. Stainless steel could do it but it’s expensive. You should find a good independent mechanic. They’re generally cheaper than the dealer.

Thank you! I am in the blue ridge mountains (not salty) and i don’t know how they rusted but you can see the rust on the outside of the lines.

I agree in theory, but there are so many people who NEVER replace their brake fluid, and their brake lines don’t rust out in a few years.

I’ve owned cars that were 20 + years old and never had the brake fluid replaced. We didn’t used to replace brake fluid in the old days, and everyone’s brake lines didn’t rust out.

The usual culprit is road salt or some other corrosive material can quickly damage the steel lines. Stainless steel lines would be a better choice, GM is not bankrupt because they make high-quality vehicles…Corrosion Control has ALWAYS been a major weakness with their vehicles…

Some times dirt roads are treated with calcium chloride to control dust. This stuff is worse than road salt (sodium chloride) when it comes to corrosion. Another reason is parking outside on a dirt surface. The constant dampness supports rapid corrosion… And it IS 7 years old…

I see mcparadise point that brake lines shouldn’t have rusted out from the inside. But newer fluids are more hydroscopic than previous generations of DOT brake fluid. I think the enviornment here is a big part of this particular truck’s rusted brake lines.

The truck is driven less that 1,500 miles a year. It must be sitting for very long periods of time between uses. If it is parked on a dirt or grassy field type area. The vegetation grows up around it and keeps the airflow down. It takes longer for the moisture from the “dew” to burn off. When we drive our vehicle daily there is a lot of airflow under the vehicle which will evaporate any moisture quickly. Since this truck is driven so infrequently the airflow providing for evaporation is a rarity.

Lot’s of moisture in the Blue Ridge mountains, lots of dew almost daily, snow and moisture on the ground during the winter. If I’m correct in my guess as to where the truck is parked, then a big part of your solution is in changing where you park the truck when not in use.

First choice would be a garage or some kind of pole building or inside a barn. Next best would be on a cement or asphalt slab with a good area of pavement around the truck. Next would be a large gravel area where you keep the grass and weeds to a minumum. The same factors may be impacting on the underside of your horse trailer as well.

I have a tow vehicle and horse trailer too. I use the tow vehicle several times a week and park it on a paved driveway. The trailer, that is parked in a field and there is some rust on one of the support beams. This has got me thinking that I need to reevaluate where I park the trailer.

I agree that the parking location makes a huge difference in the rust issue, especially if the vehicle is not moved very often. I think it’s more likely the brake lines on this lady’s truck rusted from the outside than from the inside.

I’m here to tell you from first hand experience that lack of use will result in these kind of issues. I used to own quite a few vehicles at the same time and they suffered from lack of use. Also, my father rarely drove his cars later in life and two of them suffered from rusted out brake lines, oil pans etc basically anything under the car rusted out. These were bought as brand new vehicles, always garaged and rusted out with less than 12k miles on them over 4-5 years. Nothing is worse for a car than not driving it.

Aluminum would be a poor choice for brake lines. You could buy/fabricate stainless steel lines and run DOT5 (silicone) fluid. But anyone with a tubing bender, generic pre-flared brake lines and a set of flare nut wrenches could fix this truck for much, much less than the dealer quoted using OEM lines.

You should see the rust on the ends of my front brake hoses. The hoses have big steel fittings on the ends and the metal is coming off in layers.

Previous length of service experience with cars does not run true on all vehicles or all years of vehicles. Should is the bad word of engineering and design. So much for previous experience.

The brake lines lasted for seven years and no judge in court would try to make Chevrolet pay for the brake lines. Rust never sleeps, and once it gets started the owners have all the nightmares.

Aluminum? Gone in 60 seconds and I would not recommend it for brake lines; bare steel either.

Did I mention the past? Remember when nobody could find bottled drinking water? Bottle deposits disappeared for a while but are everywhere now. You could hammer tent stakes with most bottles. Imported cars really were. Foreign hadn’t been domesticated. Last but not least, nobody brought their children to work. There’s more, but I’ll use it for e-mail fodder.

Michelle, I assure you the dealer is not pulling your leg. Brake fluid absorbs water and that water sitting in the metal brake lines caused the rust. I have seen this happen before. This is one of those things that happens. The only thing that you could have done was have the fluid flushed before but you did not know to do that and that’s ok, now you know. No harm no foul.

The $1,000 for the brake line repair can be done by an independent mechanic/shop for about $200 using off-the-shelf, ready-to-bend, brake lines; replace anti-freeze for $50; NOT do the un-needed fuel system cleaning for $0.00.
If the dealer hasn’t started work on your vehicle, you can pull it out and take it to the independent.

Hold on there…I think you are getting kind of high & mighty for no reason. I certainly do not recognize the op and I suppose you do not either. There is a real good chance this is their first post therefore they could not have read anything about dealer menu items.

BTY, independent shops have menu items also that they want to sell.

why dont u just get an el camino?

i tink that would take care of every ting.

kindly email me to discuss, brownstone89@yahoo.com

i am considered quite the aficionado on these vehicles particularly as they relate to horsey trailors.

bmf

I have a question, has it ever been driven with salt on the roads?