Recently, I was driving in my Beetle and noticed two things: it was running a bit rougher than it should and it was dumping a little more gas on the ground than I’m generally comfortable with. Personally, I like to keep the level of gasoline drooling out of my car to somewhere between none and not-about-to-be-a-fireball. Both were caused by the same thing: braided-cloth-covered rubber hoses.

The rougher part was due to a cracked and leaky vacuum line to the distributor, and the fuel-leaking part was due to a cracked and leaky fuel line. I repaired both in about 15 minutes and the car ran wonderfully after that. But then I started thinking about why this happened, and came to a dramatic revelation: I think I hate that braided-cloth-covered rubber hose.

It’s not like these hoses were particularly old, either — I know exactly how old they are, because they were new when I put the engine in my car in July of 2013. So, two and a half years old. That doesn’t seem all that long a lifespan for a hose — I’d always thought you could safely expect a five year lifespan or so.

These hoses were rubber covered in a braided black fabric — very common on vintage German cars of all kinds, and many other European cars. I’m not absolutely certain about why these have that braided rubber sleeve, but I think it’s so that you won’t need hose clamps. The sleeve acts sort of like how one of those Chinese finger trap things work, where they clamp tighter when you pull on them.

And, while it’s true that these hoses do hang on to things like fuel filters wth the tenacious grip of an aging dictator, they have some huge flaws that have made me detest these things.

Mostly, the issue is the braided cover hides problems. Big problems, like severe cracking and leaking. You just can’t see the condition of the rubber under the cloth, so visual inspections don’t work. Plus, when there is a leak, the cloth tends to soak it up, making a gas-saturated wick of potential car-conflagrating trouble before even a single drop of gas drips down where you might notice it.

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Now that I think about it, this is the exact same thing that happened to Baron Margo’s rocket car when I drove it — watch the video during the credits to see.

Also, they seem incredibly eager and willing to crack and grow brittle at the slightest suggestion. I’ve run normal, naked rubber fuel line and this stuff, and the braided stuff always seems to grow hard and useless quicker.

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So why was this stuff used at all? Am I using it wrong, in some obscure way? Is there value to this miserable stuff that I can’t see? If you have an opinion, please, chime in — I’m genuinely curious.

As it is now, I’ve replaced about half of these lines with regular, naked rubber, high-quality fuel line. And I’m likely going to replace the rest, too. If there’s a braided-fuel-line advocate out there, speak up now, buddy. This is your last chance.


Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.

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