One of the most commonly-neglected maintenance items I see on older cars is fuel lines. This isn’t a job that’s usually included in the factory-recommended maintenance schedule. Maintenance items are usually limited to wear-and-tear items, such as brake pads and tires. Unfortunately, very few people think of  fuel lines in terms of having a finite lifespan.

So, what’s the danger in old fuel lines? Well, have you ever seen a car up in flames on the side of the road? Well, there’s a very good chance that fire started because of aged fuel lines cracking open and spraying fuel over a hot engine compartment. Replacing fuel lines isn’t just about keeping your car on the road. It’s about your safety.

Age-based damage to a fuel line differs based on the type of material the line is made from. First and foremost, you have your rubber fuel lines. Rubber fuel lines will age the same way that anything else made of rubber will. To put it in perspective, would you drive your car on twenty year old tires? Would you trust a 20 year old radiator hose? Probably not, and the same goes for rubber fuel hose especially with the high pressures in a modern fuel injection system. Even though a line may look OK to the naked eye, it may already be dry and brittle. Due to the different environments cars exist in, it’s hard to give an exact time at which to replace rubber fuel lines. If you’re unsure, ten years may be a good number to work with, providing you inspect your lines once in a while.

However, not all fuel lines are rubber. You may find that your fuel system has some plastic lines or metal lines. Generally, these parts will last longer than rubber lines. However, they still require attention. Steel lines are susceptible to rusting out. Plastic lines can crack and break, particularly in areas where they might pass through a body panel protected by a worn-out grommet.

For plastic and metal parts, you’re usually limited to what’s available from the vehicle manufacturer, as these types of parts tend to be make and model-specific. Sometimes there are aftermarket reproductions available. For rubber lines, you have a wide assortment of aftermarket options. However, it’s extremely important to pay attention to the hose’s pressure rating (vital in modern fuel injection systems) and what fuels it’s rated to handle. Aside from that, make sure you have proper fuel line clamps handy when replacing lines, and check your shop manual to see whether or not you need to depressurize your fuel system before opening lines.

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