Your GM vehicle suddenly decides NOT to stop?  Brake pedal unexpectedly goes to the floor at 60 MPH!  Then you need to read this before it happens to you.

The metal brake lines in GM vehicles, car or truck, are prone to rapid rusting and when they get thin enough, they will either leak slowly or suddenly, and without warning, burst.  The latter puts you and your family in grave risk.  Just imagine this situation if you are carrying a heavy load or towing. 

We are not talking about super high mileage or very old vehicles, this is occurring on GM vehicles as young as 3 years old with less than 40,000 miles on the clock.  This problem is especially severe in the snow belt states and Canada where salt is used in the winter.

GM, as well as the NHTSA, has failed to acknowledge that substandard material is being use for the most critical safety component in your vehicle.

Before you do anything, if your GM vehicles is 3 years or older, please have someone take a look under your vehicle and if your metal brake lines look like the ones in the accompanying photos, have them replaced ASAP.  Then file a complaint with the NHTSA (www.nhtsa.gov) and GM.

Note: It took people dying before the NHTSA & Toyota acknowledged runaway Toyotas.  And GM just recalled 1.4 million vehicles due to fires from an overheated circuit that heats the windshield washer fluid.  How about rusted out brake lines?  What’s wrong with this picture?

My story and efforts follow.

PS.  Please forgive the lack of polish and flare on this web page.  It is the first this retired guy ever built and I wanted to get the message out.

Email:  Joep42@Epix.net

UPDATE 10-20-2011.  Go to this link to view letter I sent to GM's CEO and Chairman and GM's response.

Letter to GM CEO & Chairman

See update added 9-3-11 at bottom regarding another family vehicle with badly rusted brake lines.  Thank you.

UPDATE 9-4-11.  Does lightning strike in the same place twice?  Today, my 2004 Chevy Avalanche, which this site is about, burst yet another metal brake line, losing the rear brakes.  Happened in a parking lot thankfully.  Mileage on vehicle now 46,442.  During the first week of August, I towed my son's disabled vehicle back from central Pa.(140 miles).  Figure with the tow dolly and car - I was pulling close to 4000 pounds.  Can you imagine if the line burst on Interstate 80 at 55 MPH?  When does this horror end?  BTW, vehicle was fully (State) inspected by my GM dealer in July.  They never saw (or cared) about the rusted line which I can see is badly rusted.  Will add a picture when it is removed.

If your metal brake lines look like any of these, imminent and sudden brake failure can occur at anytime

See Photos at the Bottom of this Web Page

Things to Know

Four observations upfront:

 1.  Brake lines carry the lifeblood of your braking system—hydraulic brake fluid.  If this fluid leaks out, you have reduced (by 50% or more) braking or in some cases, no brakes.

2.  The rust through warranty on GM body panels is 6 years or 100,000 miles.  One has to wonder why this rust through policy doesn’t apply to the metal brake lines.

3.  On Consumeraffairs.com alone  (http://www.consumeraffairs.com/automotive/gm_silverado_brakes_p4.html#ixzz0ibeOAqDi) there are 25 pages of brake complaints, for GM light trucks, and most of the complaints are for sudden loss of brakes due to a burst brake line.  How many does it take before someone wakes up?

4.  Why hasn’t GM or the NHSTA responded?  Simple.  Money.  If GM had to recall millions of vehicles produced over the last 10 to 15 years to replace rusting brake lines, it would cost them billions when they can least afford it.  Better (cheaper) to deal with a few law suits and dead/injured people.

My Personal Experience

Below is a letter I recently sent to the NY Times summarizing my experiences and frustrations to date.  I believe NHTSA and GM are again stonewalling a serious defect with the premature and sudden failure of metal brake lines due to rust.  Note:  No response from the NY Times as of 6-12-2010.

 Letter to NY Times dated 2/5/10 

With all the public attention on the massive Toyota recalls, I am hoping this might fuel an investigation by the NY Times regarding another potentially massive and under reported safety problem.  Specifically, brake failure, particularly on GM Trucks and cars, due to their metal brake lines rusting out. 

I have had three GM vehicles in my immediate family that have had sudden and unexpected brake failure due to rusted through brake line.  Two of the vehicles had less than 40,000 miles and were 5 or less years old.  I know neighbors and friends who have had brake failure on their GM light trucks because a brake line rusted through. 

These are not isolated incidents for vehicles driven in the snow belt states and Canada, as reported in various automotive blogs and forums.  You would think that the most important safety feature in a vehicle would be the last to fail and one has to wonder why the sheet metal rust through warranty (6 years or 100,000 miles) doesn't apply to critical components such as brake lines.  Why aren't metal brake lines made of material that resists rust such as Teflon coated steel, stainless steel, or a galvanized material?  Clearly, GM is not answering these questions. 

I have reported my failures to the NHTSA and have implored GM to look into the problem but they refuse to acknowledge there is a problem. 

Last May I experienced sudden and total brake failure due to a burst metal brake line on my 2004 Chevy Avalanche with only 38,916 miles on it.  I contacted the following consumer agencies to no avail; 

1. General Motors (multiple times) - assistance denied - reason was vehicle mileage too high (38,916). 

2. NHTSA - filed report 

3. ConsumerAffairs.com (twice) - acknowledgement of my letter only. 

4. WBRE-TV (Scranton Pa.) - acknowledgement of my letter only. 

5. Consumer Reports - (twice) received acknowledgement of my letter and it will be forwarded to the appropriate department. 

6. Better Business Bureau -  said the mileage on my 5 year old vehicle was too high (38,916) for mediation or assistance. 

7. LawyerandSettlements.com - (twice) acknowledged my letter and advised me "to seek council" 

8. Pa. State Attorney General - responded and they said in part "cannot proceed with legal action on your behalf........because the Commonwealth must establish a pattern or practice of deceptive or unfair conduct......." 

9. Scranton Times - but my letter was not published 

10. My Congressman (C. Carney 10th district, Pa.)  who sent an inquiry to NHTSA on my behalf.  NHTSA’s response was no reports exist other than mine but they only looked at one model year (2004) for one model (Avalanche). 

I asked Mr. Carney’s office to resubmit the request to NHTSA and this time have them include all GM passenger cars, SUV's, crossovers, light trucks and everything in between over two or more model years old.  No response. 

11. Public Citizen - no response 

Consumer Groups have often complained about NHTSA's one vehicle/model year search limitation.  Furthermore, the same components are shared by all Chevrolet and GMC light and medium duty trucks and SUV's over many model years.  In the case of the metal brake lines, the same material is used for ALL GM passenger cars and trucks.  I firmly believe NHTSA (and GM) discourage this kind of analysis since the results could prove to be quite revealing if not frightening. 

I believe we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of rusting brake lines failures.  The NHTSA won't publish numbers (nor will GM).  So obtaining the actual nationwide numbers of brake line failures, and resulting accidents and injuries, are hard to come by.  Not everyone enters complaints into the NHTSA database, even if they know the NHTSA exists.  Insurance companies and repair shops provide no records.  

I can provide all supporting documentation, including emails, letters, invoices, photos of the failed brake lines plus I have the actual rusted lines from my Avalanche in my possession.

The silence on this issue has been deafening.  There is no reason brakes lines should rust through to the point of failure for the life of the vehicle.  I respectfully ask that the NY Times use its investigative powers to ascertain if there is really a problem on our roads. 

Many thanks,

Joe Palumbo

Clarks Summit, Pa.  18411

UPDATE: November 2010 - Contacted Bob Sullivan, senior writer for MSNBC.com's Technology section - in June 2010, no response

UPDATE: July 4, 2011 -  wrote Senators Casey and Toomey in April 2011, no response from Sen. Casey; Sen. Toomey responded Jul 1, "I will keep your thoughts on consumer protection in mind"


Rotted/Rusted Brake Lines

Chevy 04 Avalanche

5-15-2009 Mileage 38,916

(Some Photos Can be Enlarged by Double Clicking Them)

Burst Brake Line While Still in Truck —Photo 1                                                                                                                             Rusted Brake Line While Still in Truck - Photo 2                                                                                     

Rusted Brake Lines Going to ABS Module                         Rusted Brake Lines After Removal

                                                               from Vehicle

Close Up of Brake Line that Burst
                                                               Rusted and Rotted Rear Brake Backing


We were under my son's 99 Buick LaSabre today changing out a power steering hose and were amazed to see the corrosion and rust on the metal brake lines coming from the master cylinder to the ABS unit and feeding the front brakes. See photos below. This is scary. We had already replaced the rear metal brake line a few years back when it burst. The kicker is his Buick fully passed the State Vehicle inspection 2 months ago.

We will start changing out all the metal brake lines tomorrow.  And GM says this is normal and not a problem or a warranty issue.  I have to wonder if any of the GM brass would like to drive my son's Buick for the next three months at interstate speeds (65 mph +) with their family in it.

Click on Photos to Enlarge