Can Sarah get away with spending less on her brakes?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 2011

Dear Tom and Ray:

So, my 2003 Kia Rio has a brake-fluid leak. A reeeeally bad brake-fluid leak. So bad that the floor of my back seat is fully littered with empty brake-fluid bottles! Now, I am pretty low on money. Quite broke indeed. And it will be a while before I can take my car in to be fixed. My question is, If I can manage to locate the leak, can I (as a temporary solution) duct-tape the leak until I can take it in?

-- Sarah

TOM: No.

RAY: Absolutely not. I'll grant you that duct tape is an amazing product. It can be used in everything from outerwear to appendicitis surgery. But it can't fix your brake lines.

TOM: The problem is twofold, Sarah. First of all, it won't work. When you step on the brake hard (i.e., when you really need to stop the car), the brake fluid is under hundreds of pounds per square inch of pressure. For comparison's sake, your radiator is under about 14 or 15 psi. And no amount of duct tape will hold under hundreds of pounds of pressure.

RAY: Second, the downside risk is too great. Let's say you were to use duct tape to fix a side-view mirror that was falling off. Well, if it didn't work, you'd lose a mirror. But if you use duct tape to fix a rusty brake line and it doesn't work, you could lose your life. Or take the lives of other people.

TOM: So, even though you're broke, this is one of those times when you have to beg, borrow, steal or charge it. Or walk, Sarah. Don't mess around with your brakes.

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