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Brake line issue

6 weeks ago we had our van’s brake line flushed. No issues were noted. We have driven 2000 miles and the brakes failed and we are being told that the line has become contaminated, demonstrated by swelling of some rubber part see on the master cylinder. How can this line become contaminated? No one has worked on the brakes or been under the hood since we left the dealer that did this work. The rest of the exterior of the system appears to be intack. The dealer has quoted up to 2000.00 dollars for repair, starting with 200. to pull and repace the master cylendar flush the fluid out and see what the contaminent is and then go from there if necessary. What else could be damaged, and how does this happen

this is a 2003 dodge van sport with 100,000 miles

First of all, need more info on what ‘line’ they are talking about. There are typically 3 brake hoses on a vehicle (can be more). Aside from those few hoses, the rest are steel lines. Steel lines don’t ‘swell’. The can rust or crack which will allow the brake fluid to leak out and thus give you a ‘pedal to the floor’ and very hard to stop. What can happen to the hoses however is they can begin to ‘delaminate’ on the interior and what you will see happen is fluid can pass thru when you brake but not flow back when you release the brake and the result is dragging brakes (or ‘the brakes won’t release properly’. That condition is typically more age related than contamination.

The real question to me is…what are your sypmtoms? How did the brakes fail? Pedal to the floor? Won’t release? Shudder?

I am not sure what they flushed, the invoice says “flush brake system” this was after a 27 point check on the van. We were having power steering issues and took the van in for that repair, but it was time for an annual check. The power steering pressire hose assembly and fitting were replaced and that system was flushed and presure tested. a transission flush, emissions check and service, lube oil and filter was also changed. No issues were found when the brake line was flushed. 2000 miles later the brakes failed. Petal went down to far. Was able to stop and the lights came on. Moved to a side street at once and stopped again. When the van was loaded onto the truck to take it back to the dealer the driver said that the rear brakes felt locked, although I had not put the ememrgency brake on. It is at the dealer now. They are saying the rubber on the master cylender is “swollen” looking like the line was contaminated and the rubber is swollen from inside is the was I understand it…I have no idea realy only what they are saying. No one has touched our van in the 6 weeks, how can the fluid become containated? Did they put in bad fluid? We have no fluids of any kind on the floor where the van is parked. No fluid seems to have leaked out if that is possible. This is a 2002 Dodge Van 1500 Short body conversions. Have never had brake issues at all. In fact they mentioned that “it was time to flush the brake line as we have over 100,000 miles” so we said " do it" On the 27 point check the brakes had an OK check, no issues, as did visual inspection for other leaks. I do not understand how the brake fluid get contaminated if we didn’t have anything done to it after leaving the dealer repair. They have quoted up to 200,000 to replace all that might be damaged??? Wanted to start with the master brake cylendar replacemet and flush the line several times and try to see if it is holding, also take a look at the fluid that is flushed out and see what is in it. They are going to do this today. The charge is their cost for parts and what they charge their staff for work, so this will be about 200. dollars. I just don’t understand how a brake line can become contaminated as they are saying it is.

If you have swollen rubber parts in your brake system and it was flushed 6 weeks ago, you might look to see if there was any (non-brake fluid) petroleum fluid used. Petroleum based fluids in a brake system will do this.

This is why we are fighting with them, if they added fluid and we have not then we suspect what they added was contaminated. The dealership is saying that they use some standard machine and if the fluid was contaminated they would have seen the same from other customers and that it would have appeared befor 2000 miles. We still say if we have not added any thing, where and when did it happen, they were the only ones to be under the hood. They are going to flush out all of the fluid and look at it, but of course we are at their mercy to know just what it is. They did say “it might be water as we have had a lot of rain” ??? how can that happen, if the lines are intack, with no leak, how does water get in there. This is why I stated to ask these questions. We have had this car serviced soly by a dealership. We just don’t quite understand what is going on. In 30 years of driving a van (3 this is the third and all well over 100,000 miles have never had a brake issue.

Wow…sounds to me like they put the wrong fluid into the master cylinder, particularly when you mention they were into the power steering as well. Your symptoms match exactly what would happen if (for example) power steering fluid were put into the cylinder.

well, the dealer has replaced the master cylendar and flushed the system. No charge to us for this work, they have not given us any paper work, and oddly no one was there to talk to us when we picked the van up. Do they use a funnel to put brake and steering fluid into the engine? Could they have not cleaned it between the fluids? We want the paper work behind this work that they did, and what they thought the line was contaimated with. Needless to say this has shaken our confidence in this dealers repair shop. It seemed to drive and brake well comming home. They have put about 15 miles on it with test drives yesterday and today… Is there anything else that we should ask, or have to ensure we are not found at fault if this happens again? Still do not understand the difference in the first quote for over 2000.00 dollars and what they did which they first wanted us to pay and their employee costs of 200.00 dollars. Should we write to the owner, the repair manager or just what do you suggest? We are going to pursue and get some paper work, although, we did drive off with the van today. Have been without transportation since Friday, total of 6 days. Thanks for your comments.

There’s little question in my mind that someone in the shop put a mineral oil based fluid in the master cyilnder and it destroyed the seals. What a mess. Sounds like you’re fine now but I would certainly document your experience.

This Dealer has admitted they are in the wrong by doing any amount of free work. They are either totally in the wrong or not in the wrong at all,there is nothing in between. Tell them the total bill is on them, you do not owe $200.00 for their mess-up. They should be thankful you are willing to accept this limited amount of repair as being acceptable to you.

The “swollen rubber part” is the air-tight gasket under the master cylinder cap. Sounds like they had the lube rack boys do the flushes and they put the wrong fluids in the master cylinder…You need a new master cylinder and the system needs to be flushed again. Hopefully, the power steering fluid (or whatever) did not work its way down to the wheels… If it did, then the calipers and wheel cylinders will have to be replaced too…