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Pre-Formed Brake Lines

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Has anyone had experience with purchasing pre-formed metal brake lines as a package?  There appear to be several companies offering them online.  I need to replace the lines on my 1966 Electra Convertible, as they all seem to be rusted from sitting outside in Houston for several years.  I know I can take mine off and have a shop make them, but buying them from someone already formed seems easier.  Any thoughts?

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If they're anything like the ones from kanter, you might as well bend them yourself. In my experience they were close but not close enough. Also stay away from inverted flare stainless steel lines. The SS will not crush on the flare fitting and will be really hard to seal. 

 

Others I'm sure have opinions. 

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I've bought kits from Inline for both brakes and fuel lines in SS. All worked well, some tubes needed tweeking but no major bending or cutting. Not that expensive either................Bob

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8 minutes ago, Beemon said:

If they're anything like the ones from kanter, you might as well bend them yourself. In my experience they were close but not close enough. Also stay away from inverted flare stainless steel lines. The SS will not crush on the flare fitting and will be really hard to seal. 

 

Others I'm sure have opinions. 

 

 Now that's interesting… We tried to order a full set of lines from brand K, and after several months of delays, they issued a refund and told us they couldn't help us. 

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Research copper-nickel brake lines:  easy to cut, bend (by hand even), and flare with hand tools.  

 

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I got a stainless kit for my '67 Riv from Classic Tube.  The shorter lines fit acceptably - some minor tweaks.  Routing the long front-to-rear line on an assembled car is a challenge.  Especially going through the X-frame twice.  I still haven't gotten it hooked up.

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I don't live far from Lancaster, NY and I had a 1955 T-Bird to put new lines on. I figured I would stop over and check the place out. I must have interrupted his mediation. I was handed my parts with a couple of grunts and given "the bum's rush". I have two of the incorrectly formed lines hanging on a peg board and they have done a pretty good job of reminding me not to go back for pretty close to 20 years.

 

All my lines are made in my garage. I buy a 50' roll of steel tubing and have a few drawers of fittings. And just a great feeling of satisfaction. Especially when I look over at the peg board.

 

Home fabricated is good for those long runs through the frame rails. You can run it through straight and make the end bends while it is in place. I have one tool drawer with brake stuff. There are a couple double flaring kits, a few various benders, quite a selection of tubing cutters, and a few homemade jigs and tools that make life pretty easy. There are a few parts cabinet drawers with a selection of fittings, blocks, ferules, clips, and things stashed AHEAD of the time you need them. A lot of it is good for fuel and vacuum lines as well.

 

I have had quite a wide range of occupations, but I always label myself as a mechanic. Just in case there is ever a dispute I can take the out in the garage and ask "Who would use this stuff?"

When you get real good you can bend the curve to meet the X-frame bracket ahead of the rear axle on a '64 Cadillac under the car. You'll never reach that level buying the preformed.

Bernie

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1 hour ago, 60FlatTop said:

When you get real good you can bend the curve to meet the X-frame bracket ahead of the rear axle on a '64 Cadillac under the car. You'll never reach that level buying the preformed.

 

I replaced all of the hard lines on my 2004 Silverado last summer using the Nicop line stock from NAPA.  The material is easy to work with as Willie mentioned and looks like it should outlast the OEM lines.  Now, it's not a '64 Cadillac, but I did have to tackle that octopus of an ABS pump under the driver's floorboard.  I'd be interested in Bernie's opinion as to where that ranks on the 'Daily Scale' of brake line bending proficiency...  :huh:

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Just got home from dinner and shutting down. Those ABS modules can be tossed right out and bypassed with a handful of fittings.

 

And for those desiring to keep a "modern" car beyond its typical life expectancy, the AS module has a steel plug in the side of the body. Brake fluid has an affinity to water and it collects in the quiet places like next to the steel plug. The plug will rust out and blow all the fluid, leaving one with no brakes. No safety from the dual master cylinder, nothing. And that can be a real surprise! (voice of experience)

On my scale, if the lines need replacing there is some real danger lurking in the ABS, toss it.

And if you get a chance to slide under an early '60's Caddy, after they went to a single rear pipe, check that line out. Look a little to the rear of it and you will see a ball joint back there, too!

Bernie

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26 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

... The plug will rust out and blow all the fluid, leaving one with no brakes.

 

Say no more -- I'm going to take a close look at mine this weekend!  ;)

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A member of our Corvair club needed to replace the brake lines in a Ultravan (a unique  aluminum RV that is Corvair powered) long lines with lots of bends.  He went with the copper-nickel (what Willie said) and purchased a good flaring tool and ends.

With no prior experience he said he could have never made the bends with any of the other (steel or stainless)   He did a show-n-tell at a meeting and it was a breeze to form a double flair with that material.

Stainless is tempting but if the originals lasted for 50 years, whatever you use, you will never need to replace them  

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In the restoration realm of "things", when you can get closest to the original supplier of "things", the better you generally are.  "Brand K", in this case, is probably a "reseller" rather than an in-house manufacturer, which can explain long delays or gaps between receiving inventory, whether it was that specific vendor or not.  Many people resell other peoples' stuff.

 

Classic and Inline were the first two companies to jump into the  pre-bent chassis tubing area of vehicle restoration. First with the most popular muscle car items.  One expanded into other vehicles before the other one, if I recall.  This was over 20 years ago.  KEY thing is that a company has the original line blueprints for the lines desired.

 

In vehicle architecture, there will be some somewhat common lines.  Front suspension architecture is one possible area.  In order to cross-shop, check the OEM restoration industry catalogs for what's desired, in addition to the tubing manufacturer website catalogs.  Even non-Buick GM vehicle catalogs.  I've noticed that in places where a Buick item can also be a Chevy item, by OEM part number, everybody has the Chevy application but not the Buick item--going for that larger market while not admitting to the smaller market.

 

Similarly, a "muscle car" part can also fit a "normal car" (of the same make/body series/model year), in many cases.  Just don't tell them.

 

Usually, GM never supplied lines "in the field" for factory OEM "bent" lines.  They supplied bulk line, "bend to match".  This makes the pre-bent lines a great enabler for restorations and such.  The only pre-bent lines were supplied at the factory level were to the assembly plants, from THEIR suppliers of such.  And that, plus in the GM archives, was where the basic blueprints for these lines generally resided. 

 

By my observations, over the years, not all factory OEM bends can be reproduced "in the field".  Replacement lines are either in "sticks" or "rolls".  What the end result looks like can be due to the expertise of the bender/installer.  For a "limited use" consumer who might not ever do that job more than once, plus general cosmetics, the pre-bent tubes can work well.  As mentioned, a few minor tweeks can be expected, but if something more is needed, that's another situation.  But not quite as much as bending a longer line from a roll or stick, only to get to the end of a successful session and "something happens" at the very end . . .

 

Shop in ALL possible places to get an idea of what's "out there" in the restoration industry for pre-bent lines.  If you don't find it, make some calls to the manufacturer and go from there.  Sometimes, even in modern times, the salvage yard can be the best bet for a good pattern.

 

NTX5467

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After spending some time going through the Classic Tube and Inline Tube online catalogs, each has their niche in the restoration market.  A few key things became evident, though.  BOTH can be great resources for tubing-related items for many car brands, even supplying the basic items and tools, plus many model-specific items, for bend-it-yourself situations. 

 

One other thing is that rather than specific pre-bent tubes, they sell "kits".  Many of the brake line kits are 6-7 piece kits, front to rear.  Now, this might be off-putting to some who might need just one specific piece of line, but for the price of the entire kit, IF you value your time, you could spend a good bit of time bending it yourself, but with the needed investment in tools and time, the price of the kit can be quickly approached or exceeded.  YOUR judgment call.

 

In many respects, both companies compliment each other.  While one might be more oriented to USA brands, the other can include import brands of vehicles.  BOTH have many small clips and such for the best restoration project results.  One has dual master cylinder conversion kits for mid-60s USA brand vehicles (usually muscle cars).  DIY videos are also included in the mix.  Interesting stuff worth looking at, especially for vehicle upgrade/modification projects.

 

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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51 minutes ago, NTX5467 said:

By my observations, over the years, not all factory OEM bends can be reproduced "in the field".  Replacement lines are either in "sticks" or "rolls".  What the end result looks like can be due to the expertise of the bender/installer.

 

When I replaced the lines on my Silverado, I removed the old lines (in pieces) and laid them out on the floor the way they were originally installed.  I then tried forming the longer sections from the center outward -- particularly when there were 'tricky bends.  I left extra material at the ends so that once I had the piece roughed-in I could make final adjustments and complete the mating bends and flare couplings at the ends.  Once both ends were reconnected I would secure the line.  I made one deviation from stock routing at the front, where it would have been too difficult to fish the line through.  I did add some additional clips to make sure the lines were secured to the frame.

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Twenty years ago we didn't have Dollar Stores where everything is a buck. They sell a selection of canned foods that not only have entertaining labels and sources, but a variety of sizes and shapes. A $10 bill will get one a great assortment of bending jigs, even for the ABS lines. Don't open and empty them  2ed947b98bbe02354284fe12b6439c79.jpg Left full they are nice and firm.

Steel rolls out quite straight on a table if you stand it at 90 degrees, hold the end tight to the surface and unroll it slowly. From years of hanging around junkyards I have noticed the the pre-flared alloy lengths tend to rust quicker than the factory steel, especially at clamping points. It may be a dissimilar metal thing, but obvious if you walk around old cars on their sides much. Double flaring steel is not a bad job. The key is having a quality flaring bar that tightens well without damaging the tubing. I have had mine a long time and probably paid around $60 for them. Expect $100 or more now. If that cuts you a little short for the week, go ahead and eat the stuff in the Dollar Store cans, better to have good tools.

I have looked at preformed lines for my Wife's Tahoe. One on the rear axle blew a hole so they are due. They appear available, but I have to justify than SnapOn midrise lift I bought.

And I like doing it.

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Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
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When doing a brake job a good hydraulic flaring tool makes the job better, safer, and easier. 

 

I have one like this for brakes and I recommend this or one like it.  It can do regular and bubble flares in both SAE & Metric.

 

ON-CAR-Brake-Line-FLARING-TOOL-Push-Connect-Single-Double-Bubble-Flare-GM-Fuel

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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Roy, 

I have used Inline Tube on numerous occasions and have always been happy with fit and quality.

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4 hours ago, buick5563 said:

Roy, 

I have used Inline Tube on numerous occasions and have always been happy with fit and quality.

Can pre formed lines be installed without raising the body off the frame?

 

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27 minutes ago, JohnD1956 said:

Can pre formed lines be installed without raising the body off the frame?

 

not really, replaced part of the fuel line on the '68 GS but couldn't get it all in over the frame.

And another thought, yes the preformed lines are nice, but some are generic for the A-body GM's, as Inline Tube is an Oldsmobile junkie that tries to make the rest of their stuff match, ask me how I know?  And if I had to do over again on the GSX would use Right Stuff or Classic Tube.

Roy, BTW, Classic Tube has 10% off till the end of the month. They have made lines for my brother, he just dropped off the old ones and voila new ones. I've met one of the manager's and Bernie, 20 yrs can change how they operate, especially if they are still in business! LOL!

 

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1 hour ago, BUICK RACER said:

and Bernie, 20 yrs can change how they operate, especially if they are still in business! LOL!

 

 

The only thing that changes is the date. I haven't changed in 20 years. Even my kids say I haven't progressed enough to be a throwback.

I remember things like a dog remembers finding garbage on a walk. They always sniff around every time after.

When I bend my own lines I do "have it to do over". The level of perfection one can achieve is directly proportional to the number of times they are willing it do it over. Vendors do it once.

 

I give everyone a chance. Some are just surprised they only get one.

 

In the instance of my tubing experience, it is basically a mail order business. I doubt that very many customers walk in. He was probably sitting at the counter because the other guys threw him out of the shop.

 

In a similar vein, I know a body shop owner who has a perfect paint job. I know he painted his car three times. I could only afford to have him do one paint job, the last one he did for me.

Bernie

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2 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

I give everyone a chance. Some are just surprised they only get one.

 

That's why when it comes to say, paint jobs or open heart surgery, I ask for references first...  ;)

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14 hours ago, JohnD1956 said:

Can pre formed lines be installed without raising the body off the frame?

 

 

I have done all of the lines on a 55 with the body on. The only one that is nearly impossible is the front brake line to the passengers side. (Not sure if I did that one with the engine in). All of the brake lines at the junction block should be done with the engine out. The long fuel line from the tank to the junctions n block is really difficult, and I have the advantage of a two post lift.

 

How I initially came across Inline was I ordered fuel lines from CARs and it came in an Inline box. Decided to cut out th middle man next time.

Edited by buick5563 (see edit history)
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Thanks for all of the opinions and advice.  I'll keep you in informed of what decision I made and how it went.

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