Use a simple box nail can get you off the trail

This is a repair that comes to us from Bruce Fowler, well known for running the Winter Romp for the last 20 years. Thanks Bruce!

Repair in brief:

  1. Identify the source of the leak.
  2. Trace the line that is leaking up to the next joint in the system.
  3. Disconnect the brake line from the system at that joint and insert a box nailed into the hydraulic line so that the head of the nail will seat against the flare joint.
    The important part about the nail is that the head is smaller then the diameter of the flare but not so small that it can get pushed down the line itself.
  4. Reconnect the brake line with a nail inserted.
  5. Test the brake pedal for pressure and bleed the brake system from the “nailed” hydraulic joint.
  6. Drive the truck off trail and now you can tow or make full repairs as needed.

The theory is pretty simple actually. We’re talking about hydraulics. Now the definition of hydraulics can lead you into the science of fluids and motion and actions but in this case all we need to know is that hydraulics is a system of tubes caring high-pressure fluid from one place to another to enact a motion.

The hydraulic system of our car’s brake systems can vary but at a basic level, your foot pushes on a brake pedal that directly acts on a master cylinder. That action pushes high-pressure fluid to a slave cylinder of some sort. The slave cylinder could be the form of a wheel cylinder or a brake caliper. So long as we are talking about a hydraulic brake system, they are basically all the same. The routing of the pipes might change or the addition of flex lines and ABS can be included or removed but at a high-level this is basically how it all works.

The most common trail failure comes when a rupture occurs in one of the lines. The failure might be due to rust or it could be trail damage but the result is the same either way. What we are attempting to do in this repair is remove pressure from the ruptured high-pressure line in question so that the rest of the system can still be pressurized and you may get your vehicle off the trail without too much trouble.

Back story:
It was one of those days. I was leaving what was a great overland event in Vermont held by Vermont Overland. I was leaving early because of work. Strike one. I had tried to leave an hour earlier but had a flat tire. Strike two. And now as I was pulling out the trail, the brake pedal went to the floor. Strike three. I should have just skipped work and stayed the night.

At this point if you’re like me, you’ve been here before and now you‘re thinking ”What is the easiest sure fire way to make that leak stop?”

The rest of this story is on it’s way.