I'll be the first to admit that making custom brake lines from scratch is not one of my favorite tasks when it comes to screwing a custom build together. I've never had good luck with any of the cheaper brake flaring tools and it's frustrating to say the least when the time comes to bleed the system and it leaks like a screen door on a submarine. That's usually when I resort to buying prefabricated lines from the local auto parts house and making them fit as best as I can. An extra loop here or a jog there usually gets the job done in an acceptable manner and I don't have to deal with putting flares on the ends.
But with all the resources available in today's aftermarket, there's really no use in resorting to second choice options and a custom truck built from the ground up really deserves a tidy plumbing system; be it fuel, cooling, or brakes.
Jason Scudellari has perfected the art of making brake lines over the years working for the myriad of magazines that use our tech center, so when it came time to plumb the chassis for his '56 Chevy, we decided to follow along to see if we couldn't learn a thing or two on how to make the best brake lines possible.
1. Most brake line kits are available in either mild or stainless steel line and with the option of traditional 45-degree double or 37-degree AN flare fittings. This kit from Eastwood consists of ¼- and 316-inch mild steel tubing coupled with standard 45-degree double flare fittings.
2. Alternatively, there is a vast array of brake hardware in the 37-degree AN standard as well, including through-frame, tab, and various angle fittings. Devised during World War II to bring a joint standard among the Aeronautical and Naval departments, the AN fitting has found its way into the automotive industry thanks to its reliability and ease of use.
3. When it comes to making new brake lines, the first step is measuring the length needed and cutting the line to fit. A small tubing cutter makes quick work of this and helps keep the end nice and square.
4. To ensure a nice, even flare, the cut end must also be thoroughly deburred using a reamer.
5. A file taken to the edge is a good idea as well.
6. To make perfect 45-degree single, double, and bubble flares, we use Eastwood's Professional Brake Tubing Flaring Tool exclusively in our tech center. Prior to this tool's arrival, Jason's success rate with other similar tools was about 80 perfect, a number that resulted in some serious frustration when it came time to bleed a brake system. Eastwood's flaring tool is compatible with stainless steel, mild steel, and soft metal tubing in sizes ranging from 316-38-inch as well as 4.75 mm for those metric jobs. The turret-style indexed head keeps all the brake line flare forming dies ready to use and the quick release T-handle screw clamp securely fastens the work piece in the tube-retaining dies.
7. The top of the turret is marked according to tubing diameter and order in which the dies are applied.
8. To get a proper 45-degree double flare, the tubing must be even with the ends of the dies, with the beveled end facing the turret. The yellow arrow marked "OP.0" on the turret can be used to set the required stickout.
9. Next, the handle is rotated with enough effort so as to create the flare.
10. At this point, a bubble flare has been created, the first of two steps in creating a 45-degree double flare. Bubble flares are also useful when making transmission cooler or fuel lines to prevent the rubber hose from disconnecting from the hard line.
11-12. To make the second, inverted flare, the turret is spun to the appropriate die and the process is repeated.
13. From left to right are the three flares that can be created with the Eastwood Pro Flaring Tool; a single 45-degree, a bubble, and a double flare.
14. Creating 37-degree flares for AN fittings is a slightly easy approach, as only a single flare gets made. The tubing is prepped in the same manner used to create a 45-degree double flare, but the tooling is much simpler. Here, a Ridgid flare tool is used to create an AN flare. A little oil aids in the creation of the perfect flare and is applicable regardless of the flare style used.
15. The Ridgid tool is neat as it utilizes a clutch-type mechanism in the handle that freewheels once the flare is created, making it difficult to crush the flare, a common occurrence in older tools where over pressure could be exerted.
16. Here's the completed 37-degree AN flare along with the required sleeve and nut ready to be mated to an AN to NPT 90-degree elbow adapter.
17. Bending fuel lines is just as easy as creating proper flares if given the right tool for the job. Here, Jason demonstrates making a 90-degree bend with a tight radius bender of unknown origin. Note the marks on the lines he uses to create the bends in the proper location.
18-19. Alternatively, many items laying around the garage make great forms around which can be made wide, sweeping bends in brake lines.