Brake & Fuel Line Replacement Costs

The brakes on my 1989 Olds 88 (80,000 miles) went out, and I had to leave my car in another town, an hour away, have a friend come to get me, have my car towed to a shop w/one good review on the Web–although later I found an excellent BBB rating.

They are replacing rusted seeping brake & fuel lines to the tune of about $500 labor & 136 parts. With tow & tax it may well come to $700.

The repair shop owner told me on phone they have 9 hours of labor in, and at the point he said that they hadn’t got the fittings to the cylinders off and were going to soak them in Twister over the weekend.

I told him I want all the old parts and I want to speak with the technician who worked on my car when I come to get it Monday.

Am I being ripped off? What can I do?

Replacing brake and fuel lines is a messy, big job on an old car. You have rubber sections that have to be flexible on the brake lines. The metal sections have to be bent to go around objects and it all needs to be placed properly and fastened into place with hangers and fasteners. There are lots of couplings where rubber tubes meet metal tubes and they can’t leak. Obviously rust is a big problem in getting the old parts removed and they are trying to do the job without breaking parts that still might be usable.

From your post is sounds like the shop is trying to do the job correctly. The price for labor is hard to figure because cars are much different, for some this job is fairly easy, others it is a real nightmare. That is without rusty, corroded parts which makes any job more difficult. I’d say the quote you have seems in the ballpark. You are entitled to view the old parts and that is standard practice for me.

I think that both you and the shop owner should have had a real serious meeting of the minds about this job before even starting it.
They’re 9 hours in and haven’t even gotten things apart yet?

A going on 22 year old car with lines rusted that badly could also mean weak brake hydraulics such as calipers, wheel cylinders, and master cylinder. Replace the lines, some of the hydraulics may then give out and then what?

You may have more in the repair than the car is worth.

You must really love this car to be preared to spend that kind of money. As OK points out, if the brake and fuel lines are rusted that bad, there is a whole lot more that will need replacing now or soon.

I sold a 1988 Caprice two years ago; this car had never been driven in a corrosive environment, and the next owner could drive it without fear. Had it needed the kind of work you describe, I would have SCRAPPED it!

To ok4450 & Docnick
Thank you for replying to my post. You are both right. The car has meant a lot to me. It was my Dad’s car. After he lost his eyesight I drove both my parents places in it. Dad would sit in the back so he wouldn’t be so anxious. I lost both parents within the last 2 years, Mom most recently. I kept the car going. It’s in pretty good shape, but Dad had a garage, and I do not. You’ve given me pause to think about why I’m really keeping that car going. There’s more to it than meets the eye.

But does anybody have any experience with repairing brake and fuel lines who can tell me how much time it takes to do that job? Thank you so much for your thoughts.

As Uncle Turbo says, and I concur, it’s a big and messy job. But you need a detailed beakdown estimate from a good mechanic as to what is involved before going ahead. The $800 or so quoted would not be out of line where I live to do a good job and replace all the bad parts, if, indeed, they need replacing.

I would have the underside inspected, and if the body, especially the jacking points, are totally corroded, I would say goodbye to the car. I have disposed of two cars in the past for this reason.

If you had a 20 year old washing machine and the guts were all rusted out and it was going to cast $700 to fix it, what would you do??

Don’t blame the shop or the mechanics…Working on rusted out junk is a thankless task…Rusted brake lines and fittings can be HOPELESS. EVERYTHING must be replaced because parts can not be separated. Planned obsolescence. If GM had wanted it to last 20 years, they would have made it out of stainless steel.

Properly functioning brakes are a MAJOR safety issue. The shop knows this and they can take no short-cuts or use questionable repair techniques just to save you a few bucks, and I suspect they won’t…If the brake and fuel lines are badly rusted, EVERYTHING under the car will be badly rusted too…Sorry, but it’s time to let it go…

Thank you, Uncle. Your reply helps. The shop owner wasn’t able to explain it in the detail you have. Communication is an important part of a mechanic’s job, if the mechanic is talking to a new client. He kept repeating the same thing when describing the work involved. You have detailed it, and that makes a difference.

They haven’t tried to save the usable parts. The shop owner predicted they would have to take it all apart. I did ask him to save the all the parts they take off, because I have no experience with the shop and I can’t be there until I pick up the car.

Your reply has been helpful, and I thank you.

Hello, Uncle,
I didn’t think the first message posted. By the way, even they thought the car is in good enough shape to fix. 80,000 m, no body rust. But I have been putting money into it, and the cold winter we’re having up north has been hard on the car. I do need to pull out all the old papers on it, put them in order, so I can see what’s been done before, as I wasn’t always around here, and then I’ll make a decision. I realize parts get old even if the engine doesn’t have a lot of miles on it.

Hey, thanks to everybody down the line who replied, as well. Your help is taking some of the load off me. I’ve never liked dealing with car problems. It’s been a rough winter up here, too. Thanks & thanks.

your question : ‘am i being ripped off’ is subjective. You may feel like you’re getting ripped off, but if the car brakes fail due to a bad job, then you probably should have paid more! if you could do this work yourself, then it would in all likely hood cost around 100 to 200 dollars in parts. using the normal figuring doubling this too 200 to 400 bucks is what you can expect to pay for this. HOWEVER… the most amazing thing happens when you start to disassemble old stuff. New problems creep up, you find old rusted stuff and things break off, and you then need to dig further along to find good fittings, steel, and brackets to use. this eats up further cash, and before you know it your job has doubled in size/price and time. working under a car can be a time consuming way to spend $$, and sometimes you don’t ‘see’ the end picture until you are in WAY too deep $$ wise.

if it were me, i would try to get rid of this old car, enjoy your memories of your parents, and remember… they wouldn’t want you stuck on the side of the road in their old car either! just because it’s their old car doesn’t mean that you must be unsafe in it.

Good point, Cappy. Years ago I had a 1977 Dodge Colt, which needed, we thought, some minor front end part. However, due to age and corrosion we (this car lacked corrosion protection)nearly had to rebuild the front end and it cost $750 then (1990) to do the work, since many more parts needed replacing.

If OP can keep the cost down to $700 or so and the rest of the car is good, she can safely get a few more years out of it.

I keep losing my posts, so I am writing you again. Maybe if I do this the old one will appear, too. That’s what happened above. I thought $400 sounded more like a reasonable estimate. When the shop owner in the distance first gave me an estimate over the phone, he said $500. He said they’d previously done this job on a Toyota, and it ran $500. He said they’d also done a GM-make, I think, and it had been a $400 job. I did tell him to go ahead–what else could I do?–and I asked him to be fair. That was on Wednesday. When I called him for an update Friday late afternoon, he said the technician had been working on it all day. That’s when I asked him for details. He called back after putting the parts in the system: $136 for all the parts; $500 for labor; $70 for the tow ($5 over what the tow person had told me). What would you think if I were to ask him to adhere to the $500 estimate he gave me in the beginning + 10%? That’s what the Truth in Repairs Act (it’s a law) says. I did not have a written estimate from him though. It was given over the phone. Is it really possible they spent 9 + hours only on my car? Am I not paying $72 an hour because they are supposed to be highly skilled and therefore efficient at these kinds of tough repairs?

I hope you are right, but ok’s message up yonder has me worried about calipers, wheel cylinders, and master cylinder. I read that in the process of bleeding and setting brakes they stomp hard and that is a test of a master cylinder. I pumped them a lot after filling the reservoir the night the brakes went out. They must have checked out the master cylinder. I guess I’ll find out. I asked about the wheel cylinders. Last I heard the fittings wouldn’t come off so they were soaking them in Twister over the weekend, and if they still couldn’t get them off they were going to replace the cylinders. Ouch! How much will that hurt? You see, the car is in some ways still good, and in other ways, unpredictable. This is, a common dilemma, isn’t it? But only someone with a lot of experience with all the car’s systems, who really knows the car, could say whether it’s worth fixing, I guess. And my own local mechanic had thought I even should paint it. That type of Olds commonly faded, and when Dad was alive he put a spot or two on it because he couldn’t tell the car wax from whatever else was on his shelves in the garage when he was still at home. He couldn’t see, but he still like to putz. The last time my parents took a ride in their car together, Dad backed it out of the garage and they sat in the driveway. No kidding. Married 67 years. Both 94. They lived thru a lot.

Woman Worrier; I fully understand what OK is getting at. That’s why you need to have a thorough inspection done on the car. The braking system is something you can’t skimp on, for instance. If the car needs significant work to make it safe, I would sell it.

If the car can be made safe for $1000+ or so, you could keep driving it for old time’s sake. It would still not be totally reliable, since old cars have things fail on them.

A fellow down the street has 2 antiques; one a not running 1976 Volvo his aunt left him and a 1976 Volkswagen Rabbit parked in his garage, but never used, an inheritance from his dad. His wife resents having to drive around these deteriorating objects, but he refuses to get rid of them.

In any case, the decision is yours, but both OK and myself would not want you to drive an unsafe car. If you are thinking of using this as your main daily driver, I would recommend against it. A 1989 car sitting outside in the cold, unless it has a block heater, will not be good daily transportation.

Doc, I’ll ask them when I get the car if they can tell me if the master cylinder and wheel cylinders are okay. I know what it’s like to drive a car without brakes–scary! Before I left the car in the other town, I checked the glove box to see if I wanted anything in it. I reached in and pulled out Dad’s vial of life. He’d probably go that thing at some Seniors’ deal. It’s a clear plastic tube with a stopper, and inside is his list of meds and other vital info. Sounds more appropriate for a cruise than a drive, but that would have been just like Dad to put that in there. I looked at that and took it as a message that I had been the lucky one. I wasn’t lookin’ at intersecting traffic on a highway when the car lost its brakes. I keep that in mind. Still, as a woman, I’m wary when it comes to auto repair. Maybe I’ll try livin’ without one. p.s. It has a block heater; I don’t have a place to plug it in. It’s been starting fine ever since I switched computers (I put in a used one I found at a salvage yard). Thanks, again, Doc. What do I owe you? (-:

Just a hug; you can minimize starting problems in very cold weather by using 0W30 SYNTHETIC oil in the car. It flows at -45 and will also make the engine last longer. In view of the car’s age, don’t use 0W20 or anything 20, since it would likely cause oil consumption.

Many companies sell 0W30, and it will allow the car to start on the coldest morning.

When we were first married and lived in a apartment, we dangled a cord off the bacony and plugged the car in that way. The owner allowed us to do that. In those days we only had 5W30 regular oil.

Good luck and keep us posted.

I expect when your car is finished the brakes will be fine for quite some time. What you’ve got to comprehend is that everything on the car is 20 years old. Plastic and metal hold up best as long as there isn’t too much damage from road salt. Rubber and fluids deteriorate and there are lots of rubber hoses, tubes, bushings, and motor and transmission mounts on your car.

If you don’t have the means to get a newer car, or you want to keep this one for sentimental reasons then you need to find a good honest mechanic you can trust. Every year you need to budget $1,500 to 2,000 for repairs. You may not spend it one year, but have a big repair the next. When the body and frame rust to a point it isn’t safe anymore you’ll have no option but to replace it. Properly cared for it can be reliable for a few to perhaps 10 more years.

Uncle, Ya, I know a good local mechanic who’s smart and fair to me. But I wasn’t here. I’d taken it out of town. It would’ve cost more than the car to tow from an hour away. That’s how I ended up in this conundrum. I think that car took its last road trip. Poppy always said your circle gets smaller as you get older. So, I guess that goes for cars, too. Thank you.

Thanks for the tip on the OW30. I think that’s what’s in it. I know it’s a 30 weight and I think he’s been putting synthetic in it. We never did before, but that’s what my local mechanic wanted to do. I’m gonna double check next time though. Thanks.