Blog Car Care Advice Brake Hoses: All You Need to Know (Types, Problems & Tips)
Car Care Advice

Brake Hoses: All You Need to Know (Types, Problems & Tips)

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While it may not be the most talked-about component in your braking system, your brake hose is still critical to your road safety and must be kept in check.

But what is a brake hose? 

And how is it different from a brake line? 

In this article, we’ll answer those questions and cover the different types of brake hoses used today. Then, we’ll describe three symptoms highlighting brake hose problems and let you know how often you’ll need a brake hose replacement.

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Let’s jump right in.

What is a Brake Hose?

A brake hose is a vital brake component responsible for delivering brake fluid from your vehicle’s master cylinder to the wheel cylinder (in a drum brake) or brake caliper (in disc brakes).

But wait.

Brake fluid is delivered through a brake line, right? 

So, are a brake line and a brake hose the same?
Not exactly. They’re similar in that the brake line and brake hose act as conduits to transport brake fluid from the master cylinder. 

However, they’re designed for different use cases.

How is a Brake Hose Different from a Brake Line?

The brake line refers to the rigid metal tubing network that runs along the length of your car or truck. This tubing network channels brake fluid from the master cylinder to points near the wheels of your car, truck, or heavy-duty trailer. 

But why does it stop there?
Why not go all the way to the wheel cylinder or brake caliper?

Because the metal tubing would break when your wheels turn sideways or your car moves up and down as you drive over a speed bump. 

It’s here that a hydraulic brake hose comes in handy. 

The brake hose is a flexible pipe that links your rigid brake line to the brake caliper or wheel cylinder. The brake line connects to the brake hose with the help of brackets (used to hold car parts in place.) Since the brake hose is flexible, it adjusts to your wheel movements without trouble. 

If your car has independent suspension, you’ll find separate brake hoses for your front and rear brake systems. But if you have a live axle, you’ll likely have one hose connecting from the master cylinder to the rear brake. 

Now, if brake lines are usually made of metallic tubing, what are brake hoses made of?
The best brake hoses have incredible chemical and heat resistance. Let’s find out more.

What are the Different Types of Brake Hoses?

You’ll generally come across two types of hoses:

1. Rubber Brake Hoses

A rubber brake hose (the most common type) is made from flexible rubber. These hoses are used in air brakes, disc brakes, and drum brake assembly systems.

Sometimes, it also comes layered with fabric netting for extra protection. 

Rubber hoses provide good braking performance, operate in a wide range of temperatures and hydraulic pressure, and cost less than the stainless steel option. 

However, a significant disadvantage with this type of hose is that its surface will start to age and develop cracks with prolonged use. You may notice some level of expansion taking place when the rubber hoses are under extreme pressure. 

After a point, the structural integrity of your rubber hoses will decrease, causing them to leak brake fluid.

2. Stainless Steel Brake Hoses

Stainless steel brake hoses have sheaths made of stainless steel on the outside. 

These hoses are more durable and rigid compared to rubber hoses. Moreover, since their sheaths are made of metal, stainless steel hoses are less prone to physical damage from abrasion and environmental elements. These are used in both disc brakes and the drum brake assembly. 

However, they’re more expensive than rubber brake hoses.

Whether you use rubber or stainless steel hoses, remember that the brake hose is critical to your vehicle’s safety. 

If you notice any brake hose issues, approach a professional mechanic ASAP to diagnose your brake system and check whether you need a new brake hose installation.

But what “issues” are we talking about here?

When Do You Need a New Brake Hose?

Your hydraulic brake hose doesn’t last forever. 
And that’s why it’s vital to pay attention to the effectiveness of your brake hose assembly and do regular brake service and maintenance to spot any issues.

Just watch out for these three common symptoms of a defective brake hose:

1. Soft Brake Pedal

An unusually soft or mushy brake pedal could mean your brake hose assembly may already be damaged.

A defective brake hose can cause the brake fluid it transports to leak out. 

When this happens, you won’t be able to slow down your vehicle, and the brake pedal will feel soft.  

2. Worn-Out Brake Hose

Your brake hoses can develop cracks, degrade, and wear out over time. 

But why?
Brake hoses are constantly exposed to environmental elements and are subjected to flexing, turning, braking, high hydraulic pressure, and abrasion. Together, these factors wear down your hoses.

Worn-out brake hoses are more likely to leak brake fluid, and if unchecked, this can lead to total brake system failure.

A simple visual inspection can reveal if your brake hose assembly is at its limits. However, if you’re inexperienced with vehicle repairs, you won’t know what to look for during the inspection.

It’s best to leave the inspection of brake hose conditions to a professional mechanic, who will then carefully search for:

And, in case of excessive wear, the mechanic might recommend a brake hose replacement.

3. Inoperable Brakes

Although your brake system could stop working, an abrupt, total failure is rare

Usually, you may notice early warning signs, like a soft pedal, brake fluid puddles, or corrosion of the hose end fittings before your brake hose goes bad. 

However, if a brake hose gets wholly severed, the link to a wheel cylinder or caliper would be gone. And when that happens, the safety of your car or truck is at risk.

Bear in mind that inoperable brakes can also result from damage to a brake line, vacuum brake booster, brake caliper, or other brake parts.

In any case, if your brakes fail, request a professional mechanic’s help immediately.

Now that you know what symptoms indicate a defective brake hose, let’s see how often you might need new brake hoses.

How Often Should You Replace Your Brake Hose? 

Most professional mechanics agree that a rubber brake hose can last about six years. On the flip side, stainless steel hoses can last between five and ten years or even longer.

Remember that there’s no hard-and-fast rule to predict how long a hydraulic hose will last since brake hose conditions vary across brake assemblies in different vehicles. 

However, damage usually happens faster at the hose ends. That’s because the hose ends flex the most due to the suspension and steering movement. The hose ends are also exposed to debris, moisture, and heat from the brake, making it more prone to corrosion and damage.

Apart from the material used to build your brake hose, several factors influence your brake hose’s lifetime, for example:

And when your hydraulic brake hose fails, you’ll need a new one. 

Typically, a new brake hose comes in a hose kit with the necessary clamps to keep it in place. 
But how do you choose a suitable hydraulic hose for your vehicle?

What To Look For When Buying A New Brake Hose

When purchasing a new disc brake, drum brake, or air brake hose, users should keep these five tips in mind:

1. Choose OEM brake hoses or ones from reputable brands. Remember that the brake hose, like other brake assembly parts, is crucial to road safety. So, you need quality products that offer good chemical and thermal resistance.

2. Ensure that the brake hose comes with end fittings resistant to corrosion. Otherwise, the end fittings that link with the brake line can fall prey to corrosion and start to degrade, causing the brake fluid to leak out.

3. Confirm that the hydraulic hose is dry-rot resistant — dry rot is when the brake hose surface decays with exposure to environmental conditions, causing it to develop cracks or become flaky. 

4. Don’t overpay for a brake hose and its installation. To give you an idea, the purchase and installation of a new brake hose will usually cost between $150 and $360. But remember that this figure will vary based on your location.

5. Finally, ask about the expected lifespan of the brake hose and its warranty terms & conditions. You can check the manufacturer’s manual to ensure you buy a suitable brake hose. 

Note: Make sure all related brake hose parts, like copper washers, fittings, etc., are in good condition and don’t need replacement.

Closing Thoughts

Your hydraulic brake hose is critical to proper brake system functioning and road safety. 

Watch out for any symptoms that could indicate a potential brake hose failure, and do regular service and maintenance of the braking system. This will ensure optimum vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. And if you do notice any issues, get in touch with a mechanic ASAP. 

But where can you find a reliable mechanic?
Just reach out to RepairSmith — a convenient and accessible mobile vehicle repair solution. 

With RepairSmith, you can book your repairs online, and our expert mechanics will come to your driveway to perform all vehicle repairs and maintenance.

Moreover, you can rest assured that your vehicle is in good hands. RepairSmith’s technicians only use state-of-the-art equipment and high-quality replacement parts and provide you with a 12,000-mile | 12-month warranty on all repairs.

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