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Brake Fluid Leak

I had an oil change today at oil and lube place. I only had an oil change done, no tire rotation or anything like that. Drove about 3 miles home with no problem. I left the house a little later and tried to stop at the stop sign but I had to put the brake to the floor to be able to stop. The brake light went on as I was stopping. I then checked the brake fluid and it had nothing inside the reservoir. Is it possible that when I had the oil change that they loosened the hose (hopefully by accident), or is this just a BIG coincidence?

While it is true that most of these “oil & lube” places employ poorly trained kids and that they have an incredible percentage of “screw-ups”, I also have to say that unless someone at the oil change place intentionally set out to sabotage your car, it is unlikely that anything they did was the cause of this situation. More likely, it was an unfortunate coincidence.

Incidentally, can you supply the following information for us?
Model year
Odometer mileage
When the brake fluid was last changed

The vehicle is a 1997 Chevy Lumina Sedan, with 120,000 miles. I can’t recall the last time the brake fluid was changed. When I came back home I poured some brake fluid into the reservoir to the fill line. Pumped the brakes about 30 times before starting the vehicle. Started the car and the car emptied out the fluid completely. I am currently unable to follow the line and check where the leak is, due to weather conditions. It’s about 20 degrees outside here in Ohio. And with ice and snow on the ground already, we are looking at another 10 inches of snow today.

It’d be really hard to damage the braking system while changing the oil, but something is sure wrong. If the brake fluid is draining as quickly as you say, there should be a big puddle under the car. You may be able to use that to guess roughly where the leak is. If you are lucky (I guess that’s the right word), one of the flexible hoses that connect the steel brake lines to a wheel has cracked/snapped. On many cars you can replace those – at least the front ones – without crawling under the vehicle. It’s not a job I would much want to do with snow on the ground, but it should be doable.

I found the leak area. It’s about a foot south of the drivers side door, and a foot in underneath the car. Is this just a faulty/bad brake line. It is NOT coming from the tire area. I’m not a car guy but I’m guessing that this is the brake line. And yeah, it’s leaking like a sub with a screen door.

Yes, it may be a faulty brake line.

You cannot drive this car. It’s not safe. Call a tow service and have the car transported to a mechanic.

This is not something an oil change place can handle. You need a real mechanic for this.

I thinking of calling my brother who went to high school at an auto vocational school to fix this. My regular mechanic is out of town due to a death in the family and will not be back for weeks. Any idea on a ballpark number to get this fixed at a shop? I doubt my brother will be to excited to do this in the cold and snow.

Without seeing it and not being familiar with the car, it’s impossible to be sure, but odds are that the brake line to the left rear brake has rusted out or been damaged by debris. If it’s rust, be prepared for whoever does the work to tell you that the other brake line and the gas lines are in bad shape and also ought to be replaced.

You can call the dealer and ask what they charge to replace the one brake line. An independent mechanic might be cheaper, but you may have to talk to a couple because not everyone is enthused about working on brake lines.

And like McParadise says, don’t drive the car. Even if the leak is slow enough that the brakes work for a few applications, brakes work at very high pressures, and holes in the lines can get bigger fast.

Since you can’t recall when the brake fluid was last replaced, it is probably a very long time since it has been done. You need to be aware of the hygroscopic nature of brake fluid, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. After 5 years or so, the brake fluid could contain a lot of water, and unfortunately, water=corrosion/rust.

In addition to this particular brake line that ruptured, you should really replace all of the brake lines, as the amount of interior corrosion is probably fairly uniform through the system. If you repair just one section, then the weakest link remaining in the hydraulic system will be the next to go.

This time, you were lucky in that you were apparently driving at low speed when the brakes failed. The next time, you may not be so lucky. Get all of the hydraulic lines replaced, and–of course–have the brake hydraulic system flushed. In the future, have the brake fluid changed every 3 yrs/30k miles in order to prevent this situation from recurring.

If you get your brother to help you, have him check & see if it looks like the left/rear arm of the lift the lube place used to raise the car has crushed the brake line. If so, take a pic of it & show it to the lube place manager.

Auto parts stores have brake lines with the connectors on each end. Your brother could take the old brake line to the store and get one of the right diameter and length. A line doesn’t have to be the exact length. It can be bent to shorten it.
The dealer would only charge you your first born for exact-fit brake lines.

Thank you all for your responses. I appreciate the helpful advice. I of course wll NOT be driving this car until the brake stuation has been repaired. I’ll post an update after I have it repared to let everyone know what happened to the brake line. Again, thanks for the quick repsonses.