Aside from advantages offered by aftermarket brake rotors, brake pads and other fitment bits, another critical component relating to the creation of enhanced ‘driver feel’ in performance scenarios relates to upgraded brake lines. It should be understood that the majority of OEM brake systems typically utilize flexible rubber hoses in order to marginalize costs in volume manufacturing.
While this particular mechanical approach may serve admirably in ‘daily driver’ situations, the needs of street or track performance activities demand more than just ‘average’ solutions. In these cases, it’s best to focus any upgrade effort on enhanced hose systems such as integrated metalized components, or more exotic materials like Kevlar.
However, since our brake systems primer isn’t really oriented to encouraging users to spend $10,000 on a single brake line set, let’s simply focus on the best and most cost-reasonable solution for the typical performance user – stainless-braided solutions.
What are stainless-braided brake lines?
- What are they?
Stainless-braided brake lines are comprised of two central components; a rubberized core wrapped in a metalized flexible sheath. In general, the hose integration is designed to direct pressurized hydraulic fluid away from a storage reservoir, and toward a set of brake calipers.
In turn, this fluid movement activates a caliper piston complex; that drives a set of brake pads against the system’s brake rotors. The event ultimately creates pedal-actuated pad friction, thereby marginalizing, and/or stopping the system’s rotation as desired.
- Why are stainless-braided hoses necessary?
Brake lines experience various pressure differentials depending on how a particular system is used. In daily driving heavy braking is atypical, therefore non-metalized hose sets are generally acceptable.
However, in performance driving hard braking is necessary as part of the process of controlling how quickly you want to stop; when; and that means more, not less pressure on brake lines. Consequently, increased hose expansion is the norm, and the critical take away from that evolution is a tendency toward rubber failure.
Over time, repeated over-pressurization wears rubber hoses out causing leakage and reductions in pedal effectiveness. Conversely, however, stainless-braided systems provide enhanced ‘toughness’ and dependability, while also limiting hose expansion under heavy use.
- How do they improve a vehicle?
- While the aforementioned question answers ‘Why’; from a driver’s perspective, responses here are pretty straightforward; better ‘pedal feel’, leading to enhanced control overall. A spongy pedal suggests brake inefficiencies that usually apply to rubber-supported system and marginalize performance; whereas, a brake line complex supported by stainless-braided components exhibit a stiffer more confident feel.
These characteristics, provide increased mechanical, intellectual, and emotional confidence, thereby making the entire ‘go fast’ evolution better than before.
What brands of brake lines are typically stocked by aftermarket sellers?
While there are host of manufacturers offering stainless-braided brake lines two particular brands stand out in the aftermarket. These include:
These components are particularly well designed, offering the performance customer confidence right out of the box. Some notes of importance include significant resistance to pressure expansion, thereby enhancing a system’s integrity, even given constant exposure to highly-corrosive, high-density brake fluids.
Similarly to Stoptech in quality, Goodridge showcases a number of premium values including:
- Marginalizes brake line expansion under heavy braking
- A Goodridge ‘Forever Guarantee’
- Includes specific lines, brackets, and fittings by vehicle type
- Line pressures bench-tested to up 3,000 PSI
Common signs of brake line failure
There a number to tell-tale experiences that suggest impending brake line failure including:
- Obvious leak of hydraulic fluid
- If a driver finds fluid on a rotor-surface, or fluid is found on the ground just adjacent to rotor path, it is likely that fluid is leaking from the hose fittings, or from the hoses themselves. Take action immediately.
- Longer brake pedal
- If a driver ‘feels’ a longer pedal stoke than normal, this characteristic usually represents a leak somewhere in the fluid containment system, i.e. fittings or a hose itself. Take action immediately.
- Vibration when braking
- Although many of today’s brake systems involve Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) that exhibit a vibration in the pedal under hard braking, this can suggest a brake line failure as well. Consequently, in the event, unless a driver is entirely confident that the ABS characteristic is involved, it’s better to have an experienced mechanic take a look at what’s going on.
Brake line repair and replacement
Here’s a handy video describing OEM removal and installation of a set of Stoptech stainless-braided brake lines.
- How much does it cost to replace a brake line?
This depends on a couple of things including:
- Access to a fully ‘tooled-up’ DIY shop including a lift, or a hydraulic jack. In the latter case, you’ll need to be prepared to do each corner of the car individually, thereby taking more time for the retrofit.
- Cost of a branded set of stainless-braided lines through a reputable aftermarket seller like BuyBrakes.com. Typical cost ranges from $50 - $120 per line set.
- Time necessary to do the work yourself.
- Or failing that, money to pay a brake mechanic to do the work for you.
- How many brake lines are in a car?
- Two. One ‘hard-line’, typically made of metal, usually found in the engine compartment. And a second, flexible line attached from the hard-line, to each brake caliper. The second flexible line is the more critical component since it articulates with the wheel/brake system, and also represents the primary ‘replaceable’ component when it comes to aftermarket stainless-braided upgrades.
- How often do brake lines need to be replaced?
- As a general rule of thumb, brake lines should be replaced every 12,000 miles depending on how the vehicle is driven.
Just to round out this primer on brake lines, here’s one of the other premium brake manufacturer brands we’ve discussed, when it relates to OEM versus stainless braided brake line replacement:
Like everything else we’ve focused on in terms of quality, you should feel free to collaborate with an expert brake provider like Buybrakes.com in order to ensure that you move forward most efficiently.