I'm not saying my brother broke the van. Brake lines are made from mild steel and they rust pretty easily, especially if the vehicle isn't used a lot. That van has been driven about three times this year.
Today I finally got out and started working in the driveway. Escort needed tires pumped up and battery charged, but I was able to squeeze the van out and get it to the top of the driveway so I could yank the left front wheel and see what was leaking.
To make a long story short, I replaced the hard line from the antilock motor to the place that the flex line to the caliper attaches. I bought a 4-foot section of line and used three feet of it. I bought a double-flaring tool because the flaring tool I have only does single flares. I re-used the antilock-end fitting because all it needed was some cleaning with the wire wheel on the bench grinder. It took me less than an hour to bend up the line and install it.
Problem is, there is another leak.
Most vehicles have a single brake line going to the rear end. Just one--most of the stopping force is provided by the front wheels, and the last thing you want is for the rear brakes to lock up in any situation, because then the vehicle will start to fishtail. In most cases, vehicles are set up so that the only time the rear brakes lock up--assuming no ABS, of course--is when the rear tires unload in a panic stop, in which case the fronts have probably already locked up themselves.
This single line has blown open, apparently, because there is a second leak towards the rear of the van.
Now, I had Mom step on the brakes while I was looking at the left front brake line and I saw the little jet of brake fluid from that leak, so I knew it was leaking. But the rear line is buried in the frame under a bunch of other stuff, out of sight (the gas tank is in the way--thanks, Ford engineers) and impossible to inspect. So I replaced the front line, literally praying that the fluid I saw leaking from the rear had come from the front and just ran downhill.
No such luck, though. Got the new line in, pumped the brakes, lots of fluid dripping out back. Had Mom step on the brakes while I looked at the general area and I could hear it coming out back there. *sigh*
So tomorrow I get to go buy a lot more brake line and fab up a new brake line for the rear. Argh etc.
The rear line goes from the antilock motor back to a flex line over the rear axle. The flex line goes from its body mount to a T-fitting on the rear axle itself, from which two lines extend to either side to the rear wheel cylinders. So I should only have to make the line that runs from the ABS motor to that flex line fitting.
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As for the Escort, once I got enough juice in the battery, it started right up without a problem. The right rear tire is thumping a bit because it went nearly flat and stayed that way for several days, but that should go away after it's been driven a bit. I drove it to the parts store, to McDonald's, and home. It's definitely an easy car to drive, easier than the Jeep is, but I don't know how much of that is "well-designed, small, light car" and how much is "I've driven three of them for a total of 14 years".
Once I've taken care of the van's brakes, then I'm cleaning the Fiero; and after that, half-assedly reassembling the '86 and executing those plans as best I can. If I can get the '85 into the garage by Sunday and the '86 into the driveway under a cover, I'll be sitting in butter. Err, Bob will be my uncle, that is.
I'm also going to get the Christmas tree out of the garage. Thanksgiving is a week from today.
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This is the first time I've ever had to replace the brake lines on a family vehicle. I did it for money in the summer of 2005 when I had a "part-time as-needed" job as a mechanic, working for a guy who did repairs out of his own garage. I learned a lot from that job, too, including how to install an engine when you had nothing to do with removing it....
So now I've removed two engines and installed one. I've got to improve that ratio just a little. Hopefully I can put a rebuilt engine into the '86 Fiero next spring.