Can I Drive With A Broken Brake Line

Regarding the safety of your vehicle, one of the most critical components to consider is the braking system. Your brakes are crucial in ensuring your vehicle can stop safely and effectively. However, certain situations may arise where you question whether it is safe to drive with a faulty brake light on the dash, a broken brake line, or a brake fluid leak. Brake lines, typically made of steel or stainless steel, withstand significant pressures, and provide the hydraulic force to engage the brakes.

However, this stainless steel experiences visible distress, especially in regions where road salt is used during winter. Steel brake lines occasionally break as they are susceptible to rust, weakening their integrity and leading to failure. If you have a total brake failure, it’s crucial to understand the risks and dangers associated with driving under such circumstances.

First, driving with no brake fluid leaking a broken brake line can cause a total brake fluid full failure, jeopardizing your vehicle’s braking ability. This means that even if you press the brake pedal repeatedly, your brakes may not respond as expected, putting you and others on the road in extreme danger. A broken brake line can lead to fluid leaks, causing a drop in brake fluid levels. Low brake fluid can further compromise your braking system’s functionality, reducing stopping power and increasing stopping distance.

broken brake line

Your vehicle may require a much longer distance to come to a complete stop, especially during high-speed situations, which can cause accidents or collisions. Do not drive under such circumstances, as it can further damage and endanger your safety. Instead, contact a professional auto repair shop or mechanic to have your vehicle towed for repairs.

Attempting to drive with a broken brake line is extremely dangerous and can cause costly repairs to your car’s braking system. In our guide, you can learn more about driving with a brake line break and what happens. By the end, you’ll better understand there is nothing to do but contact a professional for vehicle retrieval once you spot a busted brake line. (Learn How Long Should Car Fan Run After Off)

Signs of a Broken Brake Line

Recognizing the signs of a broken brake line, besides when the brake warning light turns on, is essential.

Here are some common indicators your brake lines may be damaged:

  1. Brake fluid leaks: The most prevalent symptom of a failing brake system is leaking brake fluid or at a low level in your brake fluid reservoir.
  2. Corrosion: While made from stainless steel lines, steel rusts, so they can still wear, leading to leaks.
  3. Brake Warning Light: An illuminated brake light indicates your brake system has deteriorated. It turns on when the wear sensors on the brake pads activate or when brake fluid drops below a certain threshold.
  4. Brake Pedal to the Metal: If you can depress your brake pedal to the floor with little or no resistance, it’s crucial to have your vehicle towed to an auto shop immediately.
  5. Visible Distress: Inspecting your vehicle’s underside with a flashlight can reveal signs like drips on the wheels’ interiors, rust spots along the lines, or fluid streaks. Any of these signs, along with corrosion or visible damage, should prompt you to get your brakes replaced.

Understanding Brake Lines

Before we delve further into handling broken brake pads and lines, let’s understand the role of brake lines in your vehicle’s braking system. Brake lines play a crucial part in converting pedal pressure into stopping power. In most cars, the brake system is hydraulic, using fluid to transfer the pressure you apply with your foot to the brakes.

The brake fluid is stored in the master cylinder and is transferred to the brake calipers through the brake lines whenever you press the brake pedal. The calipers respond to the pressure from rear wheels by clamping down on the brakes hard, slowing and eventually stopping your vehicle.

Can You Drive with a Broken Brake Line?

No, it is strongly advised not to continue driving with a line. Even a small master cylinder leak compromises the effectiveness of your brake system, posing a safety hazard on the road.

If you notice leaking brake lines while driving, follow these immediate actions:

  1. Pump the Brake Pedal: Repeatedly pump the brake pedal to provide additional braking action.
  2. Pull Over Safely: Pull over and have your car towed.
  3. Avoid Using the Parking Brake: Avoid using the parking brake unless you’re driving at a very slow speed.

brake line break

What Causes Your Brake Line to Break?

Rubber brake lines with damage

When you press the brake pedal, brake fluid travels through brake pipes to the braking units on each wheel. As the brake pads apply pressure to the brake rotor, the fluid allows for slowing. Instead of being made of steel, these adaptable lines on the front and back wheels are made of rubber.

Over time, heat, and water damage the rubber brake and brake lines in cars. The salt used to de-ice the roads in the winter may also harm them. Wash the bottom of your car before driving on these roads to remove the salt and protect the brake pipes.

Faulty steel brake lines

What causes brake lines to break? The steel brake lines of a car may rust and eventually fail. Road salt can hasten this process. Steel brake lines are vulnerable to breaking because the force of a car collision might cause them to bend or collapse. Replace the entire steel brake line, not just the cracked portion, when it cracks. (Read Brake Squeal Spray Without Removing Wheel)

Low brake fluid level

The force you apply to the brake pedal and the braking fluid transforms into the power required to stop your car. However, as the car ages, this fluid may dry out, much like brake pads may. As the brake pads deteriorate over time, the piston of the brake caliper will move farther away from the housing of the caliper, producing more brake fluid inside the caliper.

Even in the absence of a fluid leak, this overflow can cause the master cylinder to run out of braking fluid. After a considerable amount of time without a check, you may have low brake fluid. So, ensure to schedule a timely brake inspection.

Master Cylinder Wear

The brake master cylinder reservoir is crucial for distributing the earlier hydraulic pressure. It facilitates the proper placement of brake fluid so you can stop the car. After some time, the cylinder’s seals may dry out and leak. This must be looked at if stopping requires a complete floor push of the brake pedal.

Note: Parking brakes often run on the other circuit separately from the main ones. A cable is used to lock the back wheels when in the park.

Brake Line Repair Costs

Repair costs for brake lines can vary depending on several factors. On average, you can expect to pay between $20 and $500 to repair a single brake line. This price range includes the cost of labor, which typically ranges from $40 to $50, and the cost of the parts, which can range from $150 to $275.

Complete brake line replacement involves removing and replacing all four brake lines with new ones. The cost of complete replacement ranges from $1000 to $2000, depending on the type of vehicle. It’s also important to know when to replace brake lines. While wear and tear are normal, brake lines typically require replacement around 100,000 miles.

How Brake Line Type Affects Repair Costs

The type of brake line also affects the cost of brake line repairs. There are four main types of brake lines, each composed of different metals. The primary differences between them are durability, resistance to rust, malleability, and cost.

The brake lines include:

  1. Steel: Galvanized mild steel is the most common type of metal used in brake lines. It is affordable, durable, and readily available. However, steel is prone to rust and can be challenging to bend.
  2. Soft Steel: Composed of low-carbon steel, soft steel is easier to bend than regular steel. It is coated with Polyvinyl Fluoride to combat rust, making it a more expensive option.
  3. Stainless Steel Brake Lines: These brake lines are three to four times more expensive than regular steel lines. They are known for their resistance to heat and imperviousness to rust, often chosen as an upgrade by automotive enthusiasts.
  4. Nickel-Copper Hard Lines: Nickel-copper hard lines have the strength of steel, are rust-resistant, and can be bent quickly. They comprise 90-10 copper to nickel compositions, making them relatively affordable. However, they may be challenging to find locally.

What To Do When There’s A Broken Brake Line While Driving

if you ask such a question of what to do when driving and brakes fail, here’s enough to help you get to safety.

Pump the Brakes:

A car’s braking system comprises two circuits – front/rear and diagonal – with each circuit functioning independently. If a brake line blows, only one circuit will be affected while the other continues to work. In such a situation, you can pump the brakes to build up pressure in the brake lines.

While this won’t provide full braking ability, it can give you enough control over the vehicle to safely park it in a suitable location. (Read Wear Indicator Where Do The Clips Go On Brake Pads)

Pull Over:

If you notice any fault in your car’s braking system, it is crucial to pull over and stop driving immediately. Even a small hole in the brake line should not be ignored. Find the nearest safe spot to park your vehicle and wait for a towing company to transport it to the appropriate repair facility.

Continuing to drive with a broken brake line is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe accidents.

emergency brake

Never Use the Emergency Brake:

Although brakes are designed to slow down or stop a moving vehicle, the emergency brake is not intended for such circumstances. The emergency brake is primarily meant to prevent a stationary vehicle from rolling or moving.

If used while the car is in motion, it can lock the rear wheels, potentially causing the vehicle to spiral out of control. This can cause extensive damage to the braking system or even a fatal accident.


The braking system is a critical component of your vehicle that should never be taken lightly. The safety of both the driver and passengers relies heavily on the brakes’ functionality.

Any warning signs about a brake line burst, whether displayed on the dashboard or noticed through abnormal sounds, or you see the lines in bad shape, you need to address this by visiting an auto mechanic. (Read My Brake Pedal Is Stiff And Car Won’t Start)

Regular maintenance and immediate repairs are essential for ensuring the reliability and safety of your vehicle’s braking system. Remember, your safety and the safety of others on the road should always be the top priority.

Can I Drive With A Broken Brake Line (2)