By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Entering the Parkway West just before the Fort Pitt Tunnel is about the last place anyone would want their brakes to stop working.

“I could push the brake all the way to the floor and nothing happened,” Christine Lowthert who lost her brakes said.

Lowthert did what anyone would do.

“I panicked,” she said.

But then realized she still had the foot pedal emergency brake and its release handle to slow her down.

“It was an interesting ride home,” she said.

At Blum Boulevard Automotive they discovered all four of Christine’s brake lines had popped.

“They are so rotted, cracked and chipped, that when you push the brakes the fluid goes right to the pavement and nothing is going to the brakes,” Lowthert said.

It’s the very salt we depend on to make our roads passable that goes after our brake lines with a corroding vengeance.

“It’s a major safety issue,” AAA service specialist Bob Eyrolles said. “As your car ages with all the salt we have on the roads here in Pittsburgh, your brake lines can erode fairly quickly.”

“I have seen ‘em a lot worse than that to a point where you touch ‘em, they actually fracture and fall apart,” Troubleshooters Owner Tim Dietz said while looking at a rusty brake.

“This is a brake line one of my shops just took off and you can see all the corrosion,” he said. “When they will pop is when someone pulls out in front of you and you hit the brake hard that’s when they’ll fail.”

And they won’t fail inspection unless they are actually leaking.

“Your braking distances are going to be a lot longer,” Dietz said. “You’re going to have to use more effort to get it stopped.”

If you do have to get a brake line replaced in the wheel area, it could be a couple hundred dollars, but if it’s the line that runs the length of the car, it could be $1,000 or more and on an older car that’s a pretty tough hit to take.

Prevention is a lot cheaper.

“A lot of car washes now have an undercarriage wash and whenever you run the car through there have them do the undercarriage kind of wash it away,” Eyrolles said.

And undercarriage wash will reach not only the areas around the brakes, but also the entire length of the brake line and avoid a sizeable bill later.

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