When brakes brake fix em yourself.

Last weekend I was hauling a trailer load of garden-soil home to complete the planting of my fruit trees (for this year at least).  the truck would stop fine, but as I waited at a light the brake pedal would sink progressively to the floor.  The brakes were going…  I took it easy and made it home and slid under the truck.  Now it’s a 2001 F250 with the 7.3 diesel, so while components are beginning to rust the mechanicals seem to be in pretty good shape, and frankly I can’t justify or afford the replacement cost which would run over $50,000.

Brake line in the process of being removed.  The break in the line was a consequence of working to remove the line.

Brake line in the process of being removed. The break in the line was a consequence of working to remove the line.

So we fix it.  No big deal right, course mechanic time doesn’t come cheap.  So when I slid under it and saw the the brake line between the rear splitter and the left hand brake leaking I figured I would fix it myself.  Now, I’ve never replaced brake lines before, never bent brake lines.  I have replaced calipers and brake pads and bled the brakes… but with the great teacher – youtube – I got a crash course in how to bend brake lines – and how to form the double flange needed for the high pressure lines.

Tools to form the break lines

Tools to form the break lines

I ran up to the autoparts store and picked up the brake lines and fittings as well as the forming tools.  Total cost under a hundred bucks.  The old brakeline fittings were rusted but some penetrating oil – in this case my favorites are all lanolin (wool oil based) – and a bit of time saw them freed up.

I bent up a replacement segment to roughly the same shape and put it into place.  Now, came the time to bleed the brake system.

Here I hit a snag. The bleeder on the right side rear caliper was freed easily, but the one on the left side was stuck… really stuck.  I hit it with penetrating oil, let it rest, and tried it again.  When I had rounded the corners I ended up switching to vice grips… but still it wouldn’t budge.

Now, a replacement caliper runs in the order of $80, but replacing a perfectly good caliper solely because of a stuck bleeder screw is silly… now some folks will heat the screw with an oxy-acetylene torch and then cool it rapidly enabling it to be removed while on the vehicle… Since brake fluid is very flammable that isn’t such a great idea… Instead I removed the caliper and did this on a safe surface where if the torch lit the fluid on fire it wouldn’t take the vehicle with it.  It popped open in two seconds flat!  A replacement bleeder screw cost less than $3.  So it was quite a savings.

New brake bleeder screw installed salvaging the brake caliper

New brake bleeder screw installed salvaging the brake caliper

The caliper was reinstalled, the lines fitted securely and the system bled and the truck was back on the road.

Ok, so it took a couple of evenings to get everything pulled together and fixed up… but the total cost of the repair was less than $10.  Ten bucks!  The tools cost about $90, but now I have them… and with the rest of the lines at the same age I know I need to set aside a bunch of evenings to replace all of the remaining lines.

I know I saved a bunch of money over taking the truck into the garage for the fix, more than enough to pay for the tools – but more than that I gained the experience to be confident in doing the job.  It’s also a skill stepping stone. I know that it won’t be such a jump the next time some bigger fix comes along.  That is a pretty cool investment.  So the next time you face an auto repair job…  consider doing it yourself.

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