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What You Need to Know About Hard Lines

Posted in How To on July 31, 2003
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Photographers: Cole Quinnell

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, huh? But do you really want to follow that mantra when it comes to something like your fuel system? There's no convenient time for a failure, and preventative maintenance is easy.

That's why when you're considering swapping your existing plumbing to flexible braided steel or hard lines, you might want to lean in the hard direction, and that goes for brake, fuel, transmission, vacuum, and carb lines.

Need convincing of how hard lines can be beneficial? If you use rubber fuel lines, the solvent in the fuel may deteriorate the hose. Because vacuum lines involve sucking or forced air, the rubber could collapse the same way a straw does when you suck on it. That applies to long lengths of fuel line located between the fuel pump and fuel tank, too. The transmission lines have hot fluid coursing through them, which makes the rubber contract and expand, resulting in quick wear. Perhaps what's most important is the fact that rubber lines are more susceptible to damage on the trail.

Swapping to hard fuel, tranny, vacuum, and carb lines is not as difficult as you may think. Companies offer prebent lines in original or stainless steel (which one to use is up to you; stainless won't corrode, while original looks stock). However, if you're up for doing the job yourself, straight length is also available. To do it yourself, you'll need the line, a bending tool that accepts the appropriate size tube (3/16, ¼, 5/16, and 3/8 inch are the most common diameters), a double-flare tool, which will do all four size tubes, and a pair of cutters. All these tools are available from The Eastwood Company.

How to Do the Deed

Ready to form that hard line at home, are ya? Although it's really easy to bend it to match your setup, you could screw up if you don't start with a template.

Using your existing line as a guide, take wire or welding rod to map out the bends you'll need in your new hard lines. If there isn't an existing line, route the wire the way you would like the line. Using your existing line as a guide, take wire or welding rod to map out the bends you'll need in your new hard lines. If there isn't an existing line, route the wire the way you would like the line.
Use a felt-tip pen on the new tube to mark for the bends and total length. Use a felt-tip pen on the new tube to mark for the bends and total length.
Put the line in the tubing bender to form the angle you need. Then draw a line down the length of the tube where you need the next bend so you keep the direction the same. Put the line in the tubing bender to form the angle you need. Then draw a line down the length of the tube where you need the next bend so you keep the direction the same.
Cutters have two rollers on one side and a sharp wheel on the other. Clean up the inside of the tube after you cut it. After you put the lines in place and tighten the fittings, run fluid through the system. If there's seepage at the end of the fitting, loosen it a little bit, then retighten. Don't put Teflon tape on brake-line fittings. Unscrewing and retightening should stop the leak. Cutters have two rollers on one side and a sharp wheel on the other. Clean up the inside of the tube after you cut it. After you put the lines in place and tighten the fittings, run fluid through the system. If there's seepage at the end of the fitting, loosen it a little bit, then retighten. Don't put Teflon tape on brake-line fittings. Unscrewing and retightening should stop the leak.

Hard Lines, Get Your Hard Lines

Inline Tube gave us a bunch of helpful tips and information for this story. The company offers prebent and straight-length brake, fuel, tranny, vacuum, and carb lines. The prebent offerings come with fittings on the ends and are formed to fit your vehicle. Another plus is that the lines have a spring wrap. It's used as protection from nicks or kinks in lines exposed to gravel or brush. Inline Tube offers stainless steel and original lines for '40-'86 domestic applications.

Another good source for prebent brake, fuel, tranny, and vacuum lines is Classic Tube. The company makes them up to ½ inch in diameter, and also offers them in stainless steel and original. If you have a custom application, Classic suggests you provide a blueprint or template for it to work from. Otherwise, the company has patterns for all applications, from import to vintage.

When you call, both companies will need to know your vehicle make, model, and year, the engine size, if you have power or drum brakes, and how much of a body lift has been added.

Sources

Inline Tube
Shelby Township, MI 48315
800-385-9452
www.inlinetube.com
Classic Tube
Lancaster, NY
800-882-3711
http://www.classictube.com
The Eastwood Co.
Pottstown, PA 19464
800-345-1178
www.eastwoodco.com

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