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Q: Is a Leaking Hose in a Car Serious?

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Is a leaking hose in a car serious?

A: Leaking hoses are an indication of a proble...

Leaking hoses are an indication of a problem with the system that they are associated with. A leaking hose will cause the fluid that a system requires for operation to be lost, which compromises the system’s function. The loss of fluid could result in a loss of that system’s operation, and will usually leave your vehicle stranded on the side of the road, requiring service, or a tow to a shop for repairs.

Our car systems, such as coolant, automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, are considered sealed systems. With this in mind, any leak is a cause for concern. For example, a leaking cooling system will cause the loss of coolant, which will result in engine overheating and can cause warping of some major parts, or severe engine damage if left unrepaired.

The coolant, which is under as much pressure as 15 psi (pounds per square inch) can spray out on the drive belts, causing them to slip or chatter, and can even cause them to fail in some instances. Also be careful as the cooling system heat and pressure can cause serious personal injury; never remove the cap from a hot cooling system that is under pressure.

Hoses break down over time due to temperature and normal wear combined with the continual cycling of heat and pressure they must endure. They are also subject to possible physical damage. Proper inspection is required so that these hoses can be checked for replacement prior to failure.

A common mistake made is to replace a worn or leaking radiator hose and leave the other original hoses in place. Hoses should be examined to determine the cause of the leaking condition. If the failure is due to some form of hazard, like physical damage through chaffing, contact with a sharp surface, or through an accidental contact with a foreign object kicked up or driven over on the highway, the affected hose could be the only one needing replacement. If the hose for a system has failed due to age, then it is reasonable for all hoses in that system to be replaced, since they have all been exposed to the same amount of wear.

If the hose is in a hydraulic system (such as power steering, automatic transmission or brakes), then the failure can also potentially cause a more severe hazard due to the loss of that system’s function. This could lead to loss of forward motion, steering control or stopping.

An old phrase comes to mind here, and that is “out of sight out of mind.” Too often, these system parts are overlooked until they reach a critical point and fail. To avoid or minimize these failures, it is best to have your vehicle's hoses inspected at regular intervals and replaced before they fail.

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