After spending four years investigating corrosion-related brake failures in about 6 million vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently closed the investigation. Their resolution? Consumers need to wash their older vehicles (cars, trucks and SUVs) more often.

The investigation focused on brake failures in General Motors trucks and SUVs built between 1999 and 2003, but the problem was not unique to GM vehicles. Older cars made by other manufacturers had the same corrosion issues, especially in “salt states,” where the roads are frequently salted in the winter. Given the winter we just went through, people in these states should pay close attention. 

No defect was identified, so no recalls were issued. Instead, the NHTSA sent out a safety advisory urging owners of vehicles from 2007 or earlier to get their brake lines inspected and to have the underside of the vehicles washed. This will remove any leftover salt from the winter, which could be corroding brake lines and causing failures.

Related: More Product Recalls and Alerts on SafeBee.com

The safety advisory also says drivers of those vehicles should:

  • Wash under the car throughout the winter so a salt buildup does not occur, and wash thoroughly in the spring to remove any remaining salt and de-icing chemicals
  • Have regular inspections and be sure the mechanic checks the brakes for signs of corrosion.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of brake trouble, including loss of brake fluid, brake fluid leaks, or a brake pedal that feels soft or spongy.

If corrosion is found, you may need your entire brake pipe assembly replaced. Partial repairs frequently result in multiple failures and can end up being more costly and dangerous than the full repair, the NHTSA says. If you ignore these problems, there could be brake pipe failure, which could result in a crash or injury.

Related: What to Do if Your Brakes Fail

GM and other manufacturers changed their brake lines from metal-coated to a plastic outer shell, so this issue shouldn’t affect vehicles model year 2007 and beyond, according to the NHTSA.

For more information, or to report a possible safety defect, call NHTSA’s Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9153.

Sydney is a self-proclaimed social media addict and a recent grad of the University of Georgia with a B.A. in Journalism. She spent two summers in New York interning with Cosmopolitan.com and iVillage, where one of her articles garnered the most traffic on the site. In her free time, when she’s not pinning DIY projects or fostering golden retrievers, she looks forward to Christmas so she can add to her 25 days of baking blog. Her favorite safety tip: Don’t text and drive — no text is worth it!