August 2012

By Calin Head; Photos by the author

Installing Classic Tube’s Performed Stainless Steel Brake Lines

There are a few things on a car that serve a critical purpose, yet are almost forgotten. The brake lines are on that list of parts. Those little tubes running under the car transfer our foot pressure to the brake components at each wheel to stop our pride and joy from smashing into stuff. These become the forgotten soldier in the brake system because they do their job quietly while the other brake components like the pads, rotors, shoes, and drums usually get all the attention. Without the lines, these components would be nothing more than paperweights. You try stopping 3,000-plus pounds of Chevrolet like Fred Flintstone and let us know how that works out.

We were having trouble with the brake system on a ’70 Camaro. and more to the point, getting the rear drums to work. The fronts were working okay, but the backs had no pressure. After changing the master and investigating just about everything, we finally popped each end of the main line and blew air though it. The main line was definitely clogged and was the root of our problem. Since, the car has been sitting dormant for over 28 years, who knows what caused the clog or how long the rest of the system would hold up. Instead of changing just that line and hoping for the best, we decided to change all the lines along with the calipers and wheel cylinders.

Even though we could have sat down and bent up lines on our own, it just wasn’t the best option since they are staying in the stock location and size. Instead, we decided to pick up preformed lines from Classic Tube (CT). The company was founded in 1989 and over the years has built a complete inventory of original re-placement steel, aluminum, and stainless steel lines for all kinds of classics and muscle cars.

Not that the ’70 Camaro is a rare vehicle, but we were surprised to see that a complete set of brake lines for the car was only 165 bucks in steel, and the stainless versions only $34 more, and both were in stock. Since stainless line doesn’t rust, corrode, or tarnish like its steel counterpart, we decided stainless lines would be the best option for us. We asked Tim Slattery at Classic Tube how they can offer stainless so cheap and he said, “We buy so much stainless material here that we get it for a discounted rate that we pass directly on to our customers.”

No matter if your order is steel or stainless, the lines are formed with computer-driven CNC tube benders and the patterns come directly from documented factory lines. CT has many factory lines in stock, but if you have an application it doesn’t offer, it will duplicate your OE line or pattern or even create full custom lines to your specifications. CT not only has brake lines waiting to be shipped out, the company also has fuel, transmission, carburetor, vapor, choke, fuel injection, and vacuum lines, along with just about anything else you may need to plumb a vehicle.

1. Here is the line kit we got from Classic Tube (CT). CT offers all its brake lines in either OE steel or stainless steel. We decided to go with the stainless options since it was only a $34 upgrade and we wouldn’t be doing the bending or flaring. If you have never tried to flare stainless line by hand, then we are here to tell you it’s not the easiest thing to do. Our ’70 Camaro uses 10 different lines and three rubber hoses and CT had it all in stock. The company makes everything in house, including the rubber lines.

2. Here is a closer look at one of the lines. You can see CT places gravel guard where the factory did for longevity and OE appearance. You can also clearly see the perfect double flare, which is really hard to get doing it by hand. Since CT uses a CNC bender and pneumatic flaring tool, the lines come out perfect.

3. We started the procedure by soaking up all the old brake fluid out of the master. This will cut down on the leaks later when we start cracking lines. We had to remove the driver’s side inner fender and subframe connectors to gain access to all the lines and mounting clips.

4. Tackling the master cylinder assembly first will be the way to go and with the amount of little lines It has the job will be easier off the car. With a proper line/ flare wrench, we loosened as many of the lines as we could, since it’s easier to do when the component is still mounted solid to the car. There are only three lines that need to be removed from the master so it can be separated from the booster.

5. Even the proper line wrenches sometimes won’t loosen fittings without rounding them off. While a set of locking pliers will mess up the fitting, at least it will get them off. We took note of the order in which we removed the lines for future reference.

6. Once we had all the Little line Removed, The distribution Block with Brake Cleaner.

7. Referring to our notes, we installed the new stainless lines one by one. Two tips we can pass on: Loosely install all the brake lines and don’t tighten them all the way until you have them all routed. Secondly, anything that can be unbolted should at least be loosened to give you wiggle room.

8. With all our lines loosely Installed, the master is ready to go back on the booster. Again we are leaving all the fittings a bit loose to let the distribution block move freely, which will aid in hooking up the lines that come up from the frame.

9. With the master out of the way, we moved on to the big lines in the car, starting with the front-to-rear line. Again, we broke the fittings free first, then came back and popped any clips. These needle nose-style locking pliers work perfectly on the clips.

10. Scattered along the main line are these mounting clips. Ours were in pretty good shape so we reused them, but if yours are dead CT has new ones in the catalog.

11. We had to unhook the e-brake cable and driver’s side rear exhaust hanger to give us enough room to get the line out from under the car. Once out we used it as a guide to take out the shipping bend in the new piece. The shipping bend is clearly marked with a sticker so you will know exactly which bend to remove. Having a few clamps will help hold it while you complete the task.

12. Now is also the time to transfer the clips to the new line.

13. Even though this is a big line with all kinds of bends, it still pretty much slipped into place. There was a little fight where it goes around the leaf spring mount, but other than that it went right in.

14. Now we needed to deal with the two front lines. Since we had to unhook these lines from the master earlier, we found it easier on the driver’s side to unbolt the bracket from the frame and take it to the vice for further attention.

15. We ordered new rubber lines from CT as well, and they came with new spring clips. Since the clips are new they are pretty tight so a little hammer persuasion was necessary. Once we had the rubber hose snapped into the bracket, we threaded in the appropriate line and put the assembly back on the frame.

16. We had an extra set of calipers at the shop, so we are going to install them for now while we rebuild our factory calipers. Look for that story in an upcoming Issue. The new rubber hoses have the correct banjo fitting at the caliper end and even come with the correct crush washers. Make sure you put a crush washer on each side of the banjo fitting as shown here. We had to reuse our banjo bolt, but after a little work on the wire wheel it was good to go.

17. The line that runs under the engine proved to be the most difficult to Install thanks in part to our headers. After fighting for a little while with no results we finally unbolted the passenger side header, which gave us the necessary clearance to get the old line out and the new line in.

18. Here is a good look at where the line was the tightest. It was even closer to the header, but we adjusted the line a bit with our hands to gain the clearance we wanted.

19. Now we needed to contend with the rear axle stuff. Since we were changing just about everything that held brake fluid, we decided to grab new wheel cylinders as well. We tossed those in and started assembling the rear lines. We encountered a small Issue with the rubber line.

20. The new rubber line has an end on it that has six flat sides, while the original line has two fiat sides and two curved sides. We could have returned the line to CT to get the correct one but we were pressed for time, so we made what we had work. A little attention with a file easily transformed our bracket to a six-sided hex.

21. After we had it fitting properly, we installed the axle lines to the wheel cylinders and then to the rubber line. Then we snapped the rubber line into the bracket and attached the main feed line that comes from the front. Once we had everything hooked up, we pushed the bracket in place and installed the bolts that hold it to the body.

22. This shot will give you an idea of how well the CT lines fit the rear end. With all the lines hooked up, we went to each fitting and tightened them all the way. Now we were ready to introduce some brake fluid.

23. We decided to use a DOT-S silicone brake fluid since it’s safe for painted surfaces and has a dry boiling point of 600 degrees. We will be doing multiple upgrades to this car later and we like the Idea of the brake fluid not eating the paint. To bleed the system, we first let gravity do most of the work for us. We filled the master and then cracked all the bleeder screws. Once one of the bleeders started to dribble fluid, we closed It and waited till this happened at each one. It took a few hours for fluid to finally start dripping from all the bleeders. One thing to note is DOT-5 is not compatible with any other brake fluid so, unless you have cleaned out or changed everything like we did, use what is already in your system, most likely DOT-3 or 4.

24. After the gravity bleeding, we followed up with the traditional bleeding process, with a helper in the car pumping and then holding the brake while we cracked the bleeder. We started with the furthest component first, which was the passenger rear and ended with the closest, or driver’s front. Once we saw no air bubbles when we cracked the bleeder and had a nice firm pedal, we knew the system was ready.