NHTSA issues warning over brake-line rust

The agency believes owners are responsible for preventing corrosion that can cause brake failure.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a safety advisory related to brake-line corrosion, after closing an investigation into brake failures in aging General Motors trucks and SUVs.

The agency found that brake-line failures in 1999-2003 trucks had resulted from "end-of-life wear-out," likely due to the line-coating materials used by several manufacturers during the time period. Vehicles over seven to eight years old are said to be susceptible, but the agency suggests owners are responsible for minimizing corrosion and inspecting the components.

"The data indicate that the brake line corrosion seen in the GM vehicles was not unique - similar vehicles using comparable brake-lines experienced similar corrosion issues, especially in states using salt to de-ice roads in winter," the investigation concluded.

The agency recommends regularly washing the undercarriage throughout the winter and giving it a thorough washing in the spring to remove road-salt and other de-icing chemicals, such as highly-corrosive magnesium-chloride solutions used on many roads.

The report argues that owners in salt-belt states are responsible for monitoring the braking system for sign of corrosion, or having regular professional inspections, and replacing any components that have degraded due to severe corrosion.

"While NHTSA can't order a recall in this case, there is a safety issue that vehicle owners should address," NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said. "Older-model vehicles, often driven in harsh conditions, are subject to corrosion over long periods of time, and we need owners to be vigilant about ensuring they, their passengers, and others on the roads are safe."

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