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.
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.
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.
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.