Fab­ri­cat­ing Cus­tom Hard Lines From Scratch

Drag Racer - - Contents - Text & Pho­tos by Wayne Scraba


FIRE EX­TIN­GUISHER SYS­TEMS. Some are re­ally good, and some aren't. Hon­estly, noth­ing beats the look of a care­fully fab­ri­cated hard line, and in terms of qual­ity and per­for­mance, noth­ing can com­pare. The big ques­tion is: How dif­fi­cult is it to work with?

Care­fully form­ing hard lines takes pa­tience, and you have to be pre­pared to make mis­takes (I have a drawer full of them). There's more too: Ev­ery ap­pli­ca­tion for hard line (brakes, fuel lines, etc.) is dif­fer­ent and ev­ery car is dif­fer­ent; floor pan shape is a good ex­am­ple, it can vary quite a bit be­tween race cars and even more so on pro­duc­tion cars. You can buy pre-bent

line for pop­u­lar stock pro­duc­tion cars— restora­tion shops sell it—but there's a catch. These pieces won't work if you've done things like swapped to a dif­fer­ent mas­ter cylin­der, added a line lock or switched to an ad­justable pro­por­tion­ing valve. If the race car is back-halved with tubs, a nar­rowed rearend and a cus­tom floor, then none of the re­pro­duc­tion lines will fit. For a racer, that means you're on your own.

That's the bad news. The good news is that with a bit of prac­tice you can fab­ri­cate cus­tom hard lines in your own shop. There are no tricks when it comes to build­ing cus­tom brake hard lines (or other lines); it sim­ply takes time. In the process, you can also make them look great too. In or­der to get the job done you'll need a hand­ful of plumb­ing sup­plies along with a few spe­cial­ized tools. The truth is, you'll need a fair amount of pa­tience as well. As men­tioned ear­lier, you'll also find that mis­takes can and do hap­pen with reg­u­lar­ity when form­ing hard line, which is some­thing that goes hand in hand with the word “cus­tom.”


Ob­vi­ously, brake line can be fab­ri­cated from sev­eral dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. There's no ques­tion that the very best is stain­less steel. It's ro­bust, good-look­ing and has a long ser­vice life. The con is the fact that it's more dif­fi­cult to work with than con­ven­tional brake tub­ing. That doesn't mean it's im­pos­si­ble to work with, and the re­al­ity is with the right tools and ma­te­ri­als, any­one can ma­nip­u­late the stuff.

When fab­ri­cat­ing brake lines, you should use 0.028-inch wall thick­ness, 3/16-inch OD seam­less, an­nealed 304 tub­ing. At one time, this tub­ing wasn't al­ways easy to find (air­craft sup­ply houses were the best source), and I can as­sure you there are some re­ally bad qual­ity off­shore-man­u­fac­tured ex­am­ples out there. Of­ten the search for the line was more frus­trat­ing than ac­tu­ally build­ing it. That's all changed now. Earl's Per­for­mance sells an­nealed 304 stain­less tub­ing in multiple sizes and lengths. The Earl's part num­ber for our 3/16-inch brake ap­pli­ca­tion (12-foot length) is 631696ERL. Plan on at least two lengths to build brakes for the av­er­age race car.

Earl's also has the ap­pro­pri­ate fit­tings for the job too: tube nuts and sleeves. In most of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pho­tos you'll see part num­ber AT581803ERL used for the tube nuts and part num­ber AT581903ERL used

The flare-lap­ping tools men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle are Koul Tools Surseat, which are avail­able in three dif­fer­ent kits. The P-51 (cen­ter) can lap tub­ing from 3/16- to ½-inch and it comes with 37-de­gree (AN) and 45-de­gree lap­ping heads. The Minis can do...


Tools needed: (1) A tub­ing cut­ter, (2) a ded­i­cated 37-de­gree flar­ing tool and (3) a ded­i­cated 3/16-inch tub­ing ben­der. All three tools must work with 3/16-inch stain­less steel hard line. Tools de­signed for softer ma­te­ri­als will be prob­lem­atic. 3


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