"Pipe by Numbers" to Properly Route Brake Lines
By John Gunnell
We were concerned about making brake lines (or "pipes" in British auto lingo) for the '61 Daimler SP-250 that we've been restoring over the past two years. The real problem wasn't fabricating the brake pipes. We own several cool Eastwood (www.eastwood.com) brake line bending devices. We also have Eastwood's double flaring tool. So, we knew we could make the brake pipes.
In fact, tools for bending and shaping brake lines aren't always needed today. The introduction of copper-nickel alloy brake line changed that. About five years ago we ran into a NAPA (www.napaonline.com) rep at the Superpower Show and he showed us the copper-nickel that his company was starting to sell in bulk rolls. He also took the time to show us how it could be formed by hand.
Brake line kits come in a green cardboard box. The copper-nickel alloy pipes have fittings installed and all flares formed and instructions are included.
Though your NAPA counter man may not be familiar with the stuff, you can buy a roll of it through his parts books. Make sure he orders copper-nickel and not all copper. The copper-nickel lining has better properties. Summit Racing (www.summitracing.com) is also listing copper-nickel brake line in its catalog.
Kits for different cars have different numbers of pieces and different prices. Both right- and left-hand drive imports have kits available for them.
Copper-nickel alloy C70600, an alloy of 90 percent copper and 10 percent nickel, is inherently resistant to corrosion caused by road salt and its use as OEM brake tubing is increasing based on: 1) Changing life-expectancy for automotive vehicles; 2) Worldwide service-experience data on brake tubing wear; and 3) The increasing cost of corrosion-retarding coatings for steel brake tubing.
The yellow tag with the No. 1 on it indicates that this piping runs from the brake master cylinder to a five-point connector that bolts to the frame.
Copper has been used since the early days and has many good attributes. It is easy to bend and has very high corrosion resistance, but there is concern about its low corrosion-fatigue strength. When copper-nickel was introduced, it displayed corrosion resistance similar to copper, higher general strength and better fatigue strength. Good formability makes flaring and bending easy. The metal cost is greater than that of steel lines, but copper-nickel is very attractive due to its extra life, trouble-free installs and safety and reliability characteristics.
We have used it on a late-model Oldsmobile and now on the classic Daimler and we have not had to use a bending tool. However, a small bending channel tool or wheel would make some of the tighter curves a bit easier to form.
A problem we did have with bending lines for the Daimler was that most of the old brake lines were gone. Someone else had taken the car apart, so we did not have the original brake lines to use for a model. We also did not have photos of the tear down. We didn't even know what diameter tubing we needed, but luckily we called John Carey at New England Automotive Restorations (www.daimler-sp250.com) to get the right size. Carey is a Daimler SP250 expert.
We were planning to purchase a bulk roll of the 3/16-in. copper-nickel piping, when Carey told us he sells a pre-made kit. It includes copper-nickel lines and all fittings with the ends of the lines double flared. He also carries brake hoses that fit the Daimler SP250. The hoses are GM Delphi hoses. The threaded nipples on the ends are longer than the original Daimler ones, but they work fine.
The best guide we had to the factory-style brake line layout was this illustration that shows all the pieces, but not the specific attaching points.
The brake piping kit comes from AutoMec (www.automec-uk) and cost about $200 with shipping. That's right on a par with the labor costs of researching a brake line layout, cutting the tubing, buying the brass fittings and double flaring all the ends after the fittings are in place. And there's less chance of error with a kit. AutoMec supplies ready-made brake pipe sets for such vehicles as a Jaguar XK120, Lancia Appia, Messerschmidt FMR TG500 and Pontiac Trans-Am — not to mention the Daimler SP250.
Though many restorers will re-use the factory clips or look-a-likes, AutoMec supplies these easy-to-use plastic clips that push into frame holes.
The kits are made from copper-nickel alloy tubing, so the brake lines will not rust. They are tailored to fit specific vehicles with right- or left-hand drive. Each pipe is cut to the correct length, fitted with solid brass unions and marked clearly with tiny numbered tags. Instructions in the box pinpoint the correct location of each section of pipe by the numbered tags. For example, a pipe with a "1" on the tag goes from the master cylinder to a connector. A pipe with number "2" goes from the right-hand front wheel to the right-hand front brake hose.
It you can find the holes where connectors bolt to the frame, you can determine where each section of brake line starts and ends.
The numbers help the restorer install each part at the correct location on the vehicle. Pipe fitting clips and brass in-line connectors are supplied where necessary. Make sure you use a copper connector. Some original connectors are made of aluminum and can split. Individual brake pipes, clutch, reservoir, vacuum and oil pipes are also available. Sets can also be made to customer specification. Single pipes are available from 4 inches to 300 inches in all diameters and union combinations to suit all vehicles. A detailed brake pipe specification telephone advisory service is also available to AutoMec customers.
AutoMec also recommends silicone brake fluid that repels moisture. That means it never needs changing like conventional fluids do. Rust and corrosion are inhibited because moisture is kept out of the system and the high boiling point of 260 degrees C is maintained throughout the life of the product
To help form the Daimler's brake pipes, we used an illustration from the workshop manual that showed the basic shape of each section of piping. Unfortunately, the illustration did not show where on the frame the original brake lines ran, but there were brackets built into the frame for some of hose-to-piping connections and there were holes drilled in the frame to attach the connectors.
Brackets that looked a bit like bow-tie pasta had to be attached to the swivel pins (spindles) to give the brake hoses a stationary connection point.
After these points were located, it was a case of bending the pipes to fit between the termination points. However, our Daimler had been fitted with a replacement MGB rear axle, so that required a little more research on the Web. Luckily, the use of the beefier MGB axle was common and we found photos of a restored axle with some very well bent brake pipes already installed. All we had to do was copy the example someone else had already set.
John Carey supplied the Delphi hose (bottom) that works with the front brakes, despite having longer nipples than the OEM Daimler hose (top).