Preemptive fuel line replacement?

I noticed while ripping apart my car today that the fuel lines near the engine are quite brown and have a “bubbly” texture to their exterior. But, I don’t smell gas, it’s no more lethargic than normal, I haven’t noticed a change in fuel economy (and I’m directly monitoring it with an OBD-II display), etc… no leaks yet.

At what point do you say “that thing’s about to leak” and do them anyway? What do you look for? And what can be done to make the new line last longer?

It would be good to know what kind and age of car you are talking about. For example if it is a 10 year old car, do you still want to have it 10 years from now?
First have the whole car checked for rust, how are the brake lines for example?
After inspection make your decision.
It can range from the car is too rusty, dump it now, though the rest of the car is ok, replace the steel lines (possibly coat them with a rust proofing product) to I want to keep this car indefinitely and will replace the lines with stainless steel lines.

Brake lines I know to be newer. I’d have to dig up the paperwork but all four have at some point recently sprung leaks and have been replaced.

I’m primarily asking in a general sense, to learn. Not so much whether you should, but: is there a point where a fuel line should be replaced but it isn’t leaking yet? And where is that line? What does that fuel line look like?

For the sake of discussion: My car is a 98 Chevy Lumina, 133.6k miles currently, one previous owner, and has been taken care of, putting it firmly in that territory where the value to the owner far outstrips its market value, which tends to make almost any non-cosmetic repair justified.

Take a small screwdriver to the fuel line. Can you flake off one of those bubbles? If you can, you are on borrowed time before you have a fuel leak. The strength of the line is already reduced. If there is a leak in the engine compartment of the high pressure line, you have a high possibility of an engine fire at which time your decision whether or not to fix it is moot. The car will be totaled and, of course there is a risk to you and your passengers. Replacement fuel lines aren’t particularly cheap but fire hurts, a lot.

Can you post a photo? Perhaps we’ll be able to tell if it’s a manufactured-in surface texture or aging rubber.

Since the car is 17-18 years old and you’re concerned enough to post about it, I’d replace it. I’ve had great success with bulk fuel injection-rated hose and double clamping it on both ends of the hard line. Not terribly expensive that way.

I agree with BustedKnuckles about just splicing in some rubber line. I’ve done this at times and there has never been a problem.

For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the stuff but the rubber line I buy from O’Reillys is near indestructable. The only way I could even get through it during cutting was to revert to a hacksaw and a pretty fair number of strokes on each cut.

Razor blades, knives, tin snips, wire cutters, you name it; none of them would even phase that rubber line.

Rubber line ain’t a bad idea. Sharp objects kicked up from the road would at the worst compromise the underside, spraying fuel directly at the ground and away from the engine and (probably) incapacitating the car without further damage. And it wouldn’t rust, which is a BFD here in the center of the Rust Belt.

I doubt the fuel lines weren’t replaced at some point. PO was meticulous about taking care of the car. I’ll try the screwdriver trick somewhere underneath the cabin, and swap in some rubber if I don’t like what I find. High time I bought some jack stands…

A thought . . . if you replaced metal fuel line with rubber, would the vehicle pass the state’s safety inspection, if there is one?

The country I was born in, for what it’s worth, it would be considered an extreme failure

make sure you get modern rubber fuel lines, not some ‘new’ old stock from the 70s for a bargain at the flea market… the ethanol is hard on the old stuff.

there is still at least one very old independent truck parts supply house around here that still has vintage stock from that era

As wesw mentions, make sure you get the right fuel line; a fact that I overlooked.

There is fuel line for low pressure carburetor setups and high pressure line for fuel injection. You MUST use the latter if you go this route and make sure that it’s a tight fit on the metal line.
I did a line repair on an old Mercury I owned and the rubber was never a problem almost 200k miles later. (Ran over some road debris and smashed the line half flat.)

There shouldn’t be an issue with the type of material I would hope. Cars come from the factory with plastic and rubber line in certain applications but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to check your state inspection laws if you have inspections performed there.

Wisconsin, no state inspection requirements, but counties have the option to require one and the state is willing to help them with it. Most do not, including mine.

They’re also very lax about enforcing safety requirements and installed equipment laws. Kinda scary for a rust belt state. Seen some incredibly sketchy cars on the road and the cops don’t seem to care. Safe distance is about a hell of a lot more than a possible ticket here.

Do you have a floor lift? I ask because you don’t have jack stands yet. Don’t lift the car with the scissor Jack in the trunk to work on the car, even if it is to place jack stands.

I’m probably going to throw out the emergency jack, actually, as it looks like the siderails for it, at least in the front, have rotted away from rust. I probably should take the time to learn what’s frame/unacceptable rust and what’s just harmless body stuff, but I digress…

I would up getting a small hydraulic jack because it came with a pair of jack stands for ~$50, hard to say no. Pumped it up by the frame and dropped in the stands. One on each side of course, as close to the front as I could. Worked a treat. I intend to leave the jack and stands in the car as my roadside emergency standby.

Fuel lines are fine. It’s surface rust, I feel a lot of solid metal underneath. Tackling less critical issues now.

That is good news about the fuel lines!

In NY state there is a limit to how many inches of rubber you can have in the fuel line, but I don;t know what it is and have never heard of it being enforced.

I agree with BustedKnuckles about just splicing in some rubber line. I've done this at times and there has never been a problem.

I’ve always wondered if that would work for Fuel Injection vehicles since the fuel pressure is much higher. I did that repair on my Brothers 81 Mustang (I mean Pinto that looked like a Mustang). He ran over a curve and it crushed the fuel line. Cut out a 5" section and clamped in a rubber hose. Ne never did get the cosmetic damage fixed.

You need the right kind of line to start with. I don’t prefer to sub in flexible line but sometimes it’s the right tradeoff. I don’t like slip fits so I’ll use my flaring tool to make a bump that the clamp can work against…

I just subb’d in a 4’ hose section on my Camry’s power steering low pressure line. The hardline rusted enough to seep and bled out the system in the driveway. Local store had to order hard line so forget it, give me 5’ of appropriate hose and two clamps. Made my own tie downs and viola, done in 10 minutes…