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Old 01-19-2012, 10:49 AM   #1
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Angry '99 - '03 GM Trucks Brake Line Corrosion Problems

I don't know how many of you are aware of the ongoing problems and NHTSA investigation into brake line corrosion on 1999 - 2003 GM trucks (I actually think the problem even effects later models too, but they are not currently under investigation). Many folks, particularly in the rust belt states have had problems with their brake lines/tubes corroding and then losing all braking power. If you read the forums many accidents and near misses have ensued from this situation. It usually occurs during hard braking when there is increased brake pressure in the lines which then overcomes the weakened tubing and blows out. The the backup "dual braking" system is supposed to prevent this loss of stopping power, but it HAS NOT been working properly in many instances. Lots of discussions on this on the various GM truck forums.

My truck has the corroded lines, I am not taking any chances with my families safety, so I am putting it in the shop on Monday and having all of the corroded lines replaced. The parts cost is low, but it is very labor intensive, about an all day job for the whole truck. The service manager at the shop told me that they did the front lines on a Silverado on Monday, it was a 5 hour job. If you look at how the lines were run on the truck to the ABS box (that some moron engineer located right under the cab subject to all of the elements), you will see why. Can you do it yourself, yes, do I want to spend all of that time rolling around under the truck, no. Plus bleeding the entire system with the ABS box really needs to be done with the GM Tech system (there is a DIY work around, but again, no thanks).

This is all because some penny pinching MBA bean counter decided to save LITERALLY a couple of bucks per vehicle and install cheap, non coated brake lines. Thanks you *(*&%& idiot. Fortunately the dealer I am taking it to has done a number of these trucks and DOES NOT use the crappy GM parts, instead they use coated NAPA brake lines (that have a good rep on the truck forums), which should last basically forever (like those on many of my high milage older cars have in the past). Living in Maryland where they dump salt everywhere, I have NEVER had a brake line corrode in the past.

Anyway, if you have a GM "light" truck or SUV (Suburban/Yukon etc.) of any vintage up until a few years ago, i would check the lines out under the truck ASAP, lest you experience what must be a sick feeling as the pedal goes to the floor. I can only imagine what it would be like heading out on one of our trips to western MD, cruising down Sideling Hill and losing my brakes, I guess I would experience the fun of tearing up my truck and trailer as I headed into a sand trap. Maybe if I was lucky the trailer brakes would slow it down enough, don't really want to find out.

Food for thought.
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Old 01-19-2012, 01:48 PM   #2
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The problem of hydraulic brake line corrosion is not new and is not limited to GM.

I've lost track of how many times I've either performed this replacement myself or paid someone to do it. I had to replace most of the lines on my 1997 Chevrolet K2500 several years ago.

Usually the leaks develop gradually. Pay attention to the signs and if the pedal sinks or the brake fluid needs topping off get into the shop and get it checked out. An application of full emergency pedal while parked before each trip will help confirm that the lines are sound, if one is going to burst chances are it will do so then.
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:23 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Usually the leaks develop gradually. Pay attention to the signs and if the pedal sinks or the brake fluid needs topping off get into the shop and get it checked out. An application of full emergency pedal while parked before each trip will help confirm that the lines are sound, if one is going to burst chances are it will do so then.
I agree, I have done several of our older vehicles. The first place to fail is usually near a holding clamp just forward of the rear wheel.
On my 99 Dodge I popped the line by applying pressure as mentioned in the quote above after I thought i got a whiff of brake fluid.
That is the reason for the 2 section master cylinders, so you won't lose all your brakes immediately. When I was a teen ager i had a car with the one section cylinder and hit the brakes and sailed through a traffic light. Fortunately no one else was there. Turned out the kid who had the car before me had run out of brake fluid and filled the system with turpentine.
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:23 PM   #4
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Jammer, I'm sure it's happened on other cars, but I have never experienced this on any of my cars some that were 10-12 years with 200k plus miles (and I do my own oil changes and regularly inspect this stuff). Plus, without flaming your response in any way, there is no reason for vehicles to have lines that will corrode THIS QUICKLY, I realize that over time most any of them could corrode. To me this is just plain and simple GM being cheap (like most of my truck other than the drivetrain....but that's another topic). The other problem has been the catastrophic failures where the "dual" braking system failed when a line blew out.
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:34 PM   #5
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BTW, here is the section from the NHTSA write up that I find really scary: 25 percent of the complaints the brake pipe failure occurred suddenly, with no warning (i.e., no MIL, Brake Fluid Loss Warning), and resulted in extended stopping distances. In 30 of these the increase in stopping distance that resulted was a factor in the crash and in 10 others the vehicle was intentionally steered off the road or into another lane of travel in order to avoid a crash.". The "fail safe" system that is not fail safe 25% percent of the time. I don't find this acceptable or normal in any way. I sure don't want to deal with it heading down a mountain (or anyplace else for that matter). Brake lines on a 9 year old truck are something that we should not have to worry about. Non of my European cars has had any problems, even haver 100s of thouands of miles in all kinds of Maryland weather. That would demonstrate that there are materials/treatments that can be used to prevent the problem. It's just that domestic car companies, at least up until recently, have been specing to many junk parts.....now the Japanese seem to be doing it, I guess the Germans will be next. Of course who knows what it will be like when China starts importing cars into the US.
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Old 01-19-2012, 03:01 PM   #6
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Here in Minnesota we have four months a year of road salt. Just yesterday I fixed a coolant leak caused by the radiator clamp having rust completely through so that it no longer provided any clamping force.

I don't know why the automotive industry hasn't switched to some material less prone to corrosion for brake and fuel lines (among others), or at least moved to a thicker plating.
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Old 01-19-2012, 04:46 PM   #7
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Question Brake maint....

Exactly why we have what's known as an annual NYS Vehicle Inspection.

All vehicles, even those equipped with stainless lines should have the entire brake system inspected every year.
Have you changed your brake fluid lately?...I venture not, a 24-36mo recommendation by most manufacturers.

POI....sorry but expecting normal steel lines to have a 10-13 year service life here in WNY is not reasonable.


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Old 01-19-2012, 07:27 PM   #8
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Bob, without flaming you (I get kind of P.Oed) about this problem. I must disagree, I think they can make lines that would last. Plus, people were having problems with trucks that were 4 and 5 years old, this issue on the 99+ GM trucks has been around for years, not just after 10 or 12 years. We live in a country where a guy can sit in Kansas, pilot and kill people with a drone half way around the world, and but we can't make brake lines that last.? Huh? Without trying to sound to harsh, does all of the paint fall off your car after 12 years in New York? I doubt it, so why not coat the lines so they will last? NAPA does on their replacement lines, GM didn't put ANYTHING on theirs. I'm just not buying it that it has to be this way. It's this way because American automobile and trucks have been cheap junk for too many years (something that finally seems to be changing). My Dmax has a great drivetrain, but the fit and finish etc. is nothing but pathetic. Rusted brake lines, fuel lines, chassis, the hitches crack and break on them, dashboard is a piece of junk, the door panel is coming loose, tailgate straps break etc. etc. Its' all part of the same problem, and no I don't "ride them hard and put them away wet", I take care, pamper my vehicles and yes the brake lines get flushed every two years, so does the antifreeze, my fluids have all been upgraded to full Syn etc. Paint is buffed and waxed several times a year. My Volvo wagon went through 15 years of nasty weather, no rust...anywhere. Why? they use 5 different types of undercoatings/rust prevention, depending on the area of the vehicle being treated. When I sold it, and it was still in great shape with 250k miles my Volvo mechanic bought it, now 22 years after it was built, it still looks great, rather like new, and it didn't cost $45k like my truck did. Again, not trying to flame you, but I am just not accepting the status quo on the build quality of these vehicles. And I won't even get started on Airstreams.....
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Old 01-19-2012, 07:36 PM   #9
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It definitely is not a problem unique to GM. I've had lines corrode through both in Ford and Dodge trucks I have owned. You would think, given the safety issue they would put better quality stuff in......Phil.
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Old 01-19-2012, 08:19 PM   #10
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Anyone have pics of these corroded through brake lines??? Last oil change and grease job on my duramax I didn't notice any thing that was off-normal. Would appreciate a pic and is this corrosion from the outside or inside?
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Old 01-19-2012, 08:21 PM   #11
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Don't have a pic, but it is from the outside. If you look at them you will be able to tell very easily if they are corroded. Brown/black pitting covering the tubes.
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Old 01-20-2012, 05:58 AM   #12
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No flames started here.....

Soyboy....

And Airstream could make coaches that don't leak.

It's all relative.

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Old 01-20-2012, 07:41 AM   #13
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Ironically our company had a 10 year old GMC "Jimmy" go through a security gate at work last week. Cause was a blown brake line. Lucky this guy wasn't out on the highway.

From what I understand brake lines are more likely to corrode from the inside to out where folks don't flush the fluid out every two years. Manufacturers have made this job tough for the DIY guys to flush brake fluid. You can get most of it but the old stuff is still left in the ABS system. You have to have a computer device to allow the fluid to be flushed from the ABS system.

Another brake line issue on older vehicles that can sneak up on you is the flexible lines can collapse internally which limits the amount of fluid that goes out the the calipers or wheel cylinders. This can also cause calipers not to retract properly thus overheating the pads/rotors. These should also be replaced after about 10 years.

I'm not an expert but I have been fiddling with automotive brakes since I was old enough to hand my dad wrenches at age 3. I guess I have 40 years of DIY experience.
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Old 01-20-2012, 08:30 AM   #14
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It is still possible to change out the brake yourself.

A small compressor and one of these is a good option. Other methods also available.

Been using one for years, most shops are equipped to do it.

Bob
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