Brake lines, brake pipes, brake hoses – are they all just different names for the same parts of your car’s braking system? And how many of them are there?
This article explains the difference between brake pipes and brake hoses, what they actually do, and how many pipes and hoses make up most brake line systems.
Are brake hoses and brake pipes the same thing?
While you might refer to brake hoses or brake pipes as brake lines, the brake pipe is the main brake line.
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This is a rigid steel pipe connected to the master brake fluid cylinder. When the driver presses on the brake pedal, pressurised brake fluid is forced down the pipe to each wheel, triggering the braking mechanism to restrict wheel movement. These pipes are usually bolted to the car frame and attach to the individual callipers or cylinders at each of the four wheels.
To allow regular movement while driving, the rigid brake lines need to connect to the wheels via flexible tubing. This is where brake hoses come in. Either a braided steel or rubber brake hose will connect the main brake pipe to the wheels at the front and back. These brake hoses can withstand high pressure for a long time, especially if they’re sturdier stainless steel brake lines.
How many brake pipes are there in a car?
There are several types of brake circuits with different configurations, so the exact number of brake pipes and brake hoses in a car will depend on the specific model. For example, a common style of brake system involves 4 sections of rigid brake pipe and 3 brake hoses. One pipe connects the main cylinder to the brake line between the front wheels, which then connects to the wheels with a brake hose on each end. Another section of pipe travels the length of the car to link the front brake line to the pipe between the back wheels, attached via another brake hose. While the front wheels are connected individually for more flexibility, one hose controls the rear wheels together.
Other than this front independent and rear paired format, it’s also possible to have diagonal brake lines. In this case, one set of brake lines controls the right front and left rear wheels, while a second set controls the left front and right rear wheels. If the car has independent rear suspension, both rear wheels will have individual brake hose connections. To find out how many brake pipes your car has, consult the manufacturer’s guide for the make and model and you should be able to find this information.
Why are brake pipes important?
Brake failure is a serious issue that can put drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and other vehicles in danger. This is why it’s important to have your whole brake system professionally checked as part of a regular MOT test. Even just one faulty pipe or hose can compromise the whole braking system, increasing the risk of brake failure.
If any problems are found, it may be necessary to replace the brake pipes and brake hoses before you can drive the vehicle again. When looking for replacement brake hoses, you can choose rubber for affordability or stainless steel for improved longevity. It can be easy to forget about brake pipes since they’re hidden underneath the car, but be sure to watch out for ‘soft’ brakes, grinding noises, or leaking brake fluid.