GM Trucks Rusty Brake Lines, New Fix – Poor Solution?

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Rust. One of the worst four-letter words any vehicle owner can hear. Normally it attacks frames and body panels. However, GM truck owners are seeing it on brake lines which can snap. GM is now offering a fix, but owners have to pay for it. Huh?

GM Trucks Rusty Brake Lines, New Fix - Poor Solution?

This picture of the brake lines is from a 2004 Chevy Silverado with 30k “pampered” miles according to the owner.

Going way back to 2009-10, GM owners have been complaining about rust on brake lines. The complaint is that rust can cause the brake lines to deteriorate and snap like a twig. This results in, what owners say, is “mushy” brakes. Presumably this is do to brake fluid leaking out. Then, the owners lose all brake function.

The issue grew so large that the NHTSA started an investigation into the brake tubing on 1996-2009 Chevy/GMC/Cadillac pickup trucks and SUVs. As you probably would assume, the affected vehicles are predominately found in the northern states. For years, these states have been known as the “rust belt” of the automobile industry. Their winter time road treatments are often linked to rust issues. That is precisely what GM is claiming is the culprit. In a statement to¬†7 Action News, a Michigan TV station, GM says rusty brake lines “can happen over time” and it is the road treatment to blame (see: road, salt). While the NHTSA never released a recall, plenty of consumers have been frustrated by the problem.

The fix, for a long time. was for GM technicians to find or make their own replacement parts. Autos.AOL says that quite often: “Technicians are forced to repair the vehicles by bending straight pieces of steel tubing, so you would pay for time and materials, and this can get expensive. I’ve heard some drivers have been quoted estimates of more than $1,000. Here is a caution, though: the tubing used is the same steel that rotted to begin with, so the problem could reoccur.”

GM Trucks Rusty Brake Lines, New Fix

Another picture of the 2004 Chevy Silverado with 30k miles.

GM says that the problem isn’t that widespread with 1:1000 trucks having the problem. They also say it is “not a safety issue” since, they claim, the brakes will still work.

Now there seems to be a real solution. GM is offering, “what they call a deeply discounted brake repair kit that runs $2-thousand dollars for only $500,” according to the 7 Action News article.

The repair kit includes nylon coated brake lines that are more resistant to rust. The kits can be applied and repaired through your authorized GM dealer or repair shop.

Adding insult to injury, the vehicles this fix applies to are so old now that the standard 36,000 mile warranty or 3 years no longer applies. That’s right, you get to pay for the ENTIRE fix including labor out of pocket.

What do you think? Is this a poor fix for a serious problem?

Filed Under: Auto News


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  1. LJC says:

    I have no doubt there is collusion going on between NHSTA and domestic auto companies. My 2006 Subaru has been recalled for rusty brake lines. What does that say?

    Rusting brake lines are not a safety issue? What is this, a Saturday Night Live skit?

    I had a GM Sierra with rusted brakes lines that burst. I remember the investigation quoted above. Nothing came of it–which was another reason why I ditched GM.

  2. Mickey says:

    Agree with LJC. I never had a issue with GM brake lines but never had one that was old enough to have that issue. Other than my 78 Camaro being full of cancer over the rear of the car the brake line broke under the engine. It was due to the rubbing of the brake line on the frame below the engine. I was cheap at the time and used a high pressure hose and 2 clamps for a fix. Knowingly I was junking the body for a 81 Monte Carlo to put engine and tranny in. Didn’t keep 81 M/C long enough to see about brake lines. Same for the 92 Sonoma and 98 Silverado Both were under 5 years. I’m sure GM will have to go to the bank for that statement that the brakes will hold. Once the line burst an accident occurs, we will see the law suit. GM is asking for trouble. I guess the so called bumper to bumper warranty isn’t worth anything.

  3. MPToy07 says:

    Any vehicle can have rust buildup on any component if not taken care of. Having worked in two “rust belt” states, I have replaced my fair share of brake lines, fuel lines, etc on every make and model. Most vehicles that come in needing this type of repair are the ones that are completely covered in road salt in the winter. Many owners don’t see the point to washing their vehicle in winter, because it just gets dirty right away. I see it as cheap insurance to the $500-$1500 they’ll spend in repairs down the road. Now if the brake lines were made of poor material right from the start, and they’re failing within a few years on well maintained vehicles then I would say yes, make it a recall. In GM’s case, I think they’ll sneak past this one with the “owner error” mindset. It is nice to see them offering nylon coated lines though. Very nice stuff.

  4. GoBig says:

    Wow. I guess I never thought about this. My ’85 Toyota has been spent it’s life in a pretty tough climate (Alaska) and been backed in to the salt water at the boat launch many a time.

    In nearly 30 years, a brake line has never rusted through although shocks and the bed itself have. I guess I better keep an eye on them.

  5. TRDSmokedU says:

    NHTSA is still doing an engineering analysis, this is far from over. I am sure we will see a recall soon. There have been over 880 complaints. The investigation includes roughly 3 million vehicles. Typical GM dragging their feet.

    Toyota’s recall yesterday had only two complaints. Looks like our Government is protecting Government motors. After all, they invested heavily in them.

  6. Will says:

    My friend had to replace all of his brake lines on a 2013 Denali. Mechanic told him it is a common problem. His truck on hand about 45000 miles at the time.

  7. Larry says:

    This seems strange. My 19 year old toyota is used where there is salt on the road every day from Nov – May. I have lots of rust on the truck. The brake lines look bad but I have never had a leak. It was my understanding that all brake lines were stainless steel. They might look bad but should not corrode away. With the salt I have to deal with the photos of the GM trucks indicate that if those trucks were used where I live the would have melted away.

    I wonder if the photo is just showing a collection of road dirt collected over time on top of a still solid SS tube?

    I have neighbors with GM, RAM and Ford trucks which have to deal with the same salt issues and they have never said anything about this problem.

  8. Joe says:

    I have a 2004 Chevy astro with 29,000 miles on it, the dealer wanted 1,500.00 to replace rusted out brake lines. Nhtsk please help us

    • Larry says:


      You are expecting way to much. We can’t expect car manufactures to know about stainless steel. It was only invented about 100 years ago so they have not had the time to start using it.

      This hows how bad things have become. We are getting car/trucks with leather seats and voice activate crap but where it counts we get garbage.

      Look at the hydraulic lines on 250,000 dollar heavy equipment, they won’t look like the ones on a pickup truck. Like I keep saying I want 40 grand worth of truck not a 10000 dollar truck with another 30 grand of nice looking junk like grills and wood won the dash.

      We are all losing out.

  9. Flash Bazbo says:

    >We are getting car/trucks with leather seats and voice activate crap but where it counts we get garbage.


    Why don’t they ask us whether we want to spend $1500 on the “tech package” or on stainless brake lines.

  10. No Brakes says:

    A few days back I was driving my GMC Sierra Denali pickup with my girlfriend in the passenger seat when the brake pedal went straight to the floor with no warning. The vehicle having a non-functioning E-Brake left me no reasonable way to stop the vehicle. The roads ahead of us were unfortunately all downhill and we had no brakes! I shifted the truck down to 1st gear and navigated down the roads turning left and right to avoid hitting obstacles in front of us, all the while the vehicle was intensely picking up speed. I eventually came to the bottom of the hill where the road came to a dead end with a lake just beyond a very thick chain pulled between two posts, leaving me the option to either hitting the trees on either side or hitting the chain which I expected would tear apart the whole vehicle and possibly injure us.

    I told my panicking and terrified g/f to sit all the way back in her seat and brace herself. We hit the chain and to my surprise it either broke or came detached from the post with little impact. With sustained momentum and a lake now in front of us, I cut the wheel pushing the vehicle into a skid to bring the vehicle to stop. The brake system offered no brake pressure at all upon failure. This was an extremely terrifying experience. I’m very grateful that we were not injured.

    I also think it is nothing more than a fact that IF G.M.C. DOES NOT RECALL THIS PRODUCT, IT IS ABSOLUTELY OBVIOUS THAT THIS COMPANY HAS NO CONCERN WHATSOEVER ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THEIR CUSTOMERS AND VALUES THEIR FINANCIAL INTEREST FIRST. ONE LIFE IS MORE VALUABLE THAN ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY. It is nothing short of embarrassing and evil that G.M.C. thus far has not taken responsibility for their mistake. GM HAS PUBLICLY STATED THAT “THIS IS NOT A SAFETY ISSUE.” I ask what could be any more unsafe in a vehicle than losing your brakes at 70 MPH on highway? Maybe losing them at 80?? IT’S TIME FOR A RECALL! ON BEHALF OF THE MANY CUSTOMERS WHO ARE CURRENTLY DRIVING THESE UNSAFE VEHICLES PLEASE!!!

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      That certainly is a terrifying story. We are all really happy nobody got injured. Good job staying calm in this situation.

      And yes, we agree with you that GM needs to properly address this issue. It is a scary ordeal for many people.


  11. tom says:

    i have had problems repeatedly my mechanic sucks . my last episode i wa traveling at around 55 mph and a motorcycle officer decided to jump in road and stop traffic. Well as he did i applied brakes and it went right to floor. As i was about to hit the vehicle in front of mr i quickly looked in side mirror and saw a van coming up on right side.Not sure if anything was in blind spot i threw it in right lane as the vn blasted horn i accelerated and avoided getting rear ended. I along with my wife and two boys were lucky to survive any collision.I have since had repaired but i still get that spongy to the floor loss mostly as im coming to a stop or turning into a parking spot.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      That is awful! You still have a spongy feeling? That’s not good.


  12. Matt says:

    Has anyone with this problem looked into the repair kit that GM has offered? I’ve read that it cost $500. The article stated that the repair would normally cost $2000.
    My 2000 Silverado’s lines ruptured last week and I am in the process of getting them repaired.

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