Stainless steel brake lines are the way to go for those that are detail oriented—and those
Plumbing a classic pickup can be a time consuming and sometimes aggravating chore. A large portion of that aggravation comes into play when re-plumbing an assembled vehicle versus plumbing a nice clean rolling chassis—that said, no matter what you’re working on you wanna do it right and you wanna do it once.
Doing it right, and once, has been made a heck of a lot easier on us all over the last decade or so, thanks to the emergence of a handful of companies that manufacture components and complete brake line component kits for just about anything with wheels. These guys all know their stuff and offer you your choice of bulk supplies, fittings, and tools, as well as pre-formed brake line kits made to slide right into place—an offering that’s saved countless hours, busted knuckles, and wasted brake line over the years.
Another bonus is the availability of all these brake components in stainless steel versus the OEM tin-coated steel used from the factory. Stainless in street rodding offers not only a lifetime of hassle free service but good looks, as well as the smooth shiny appearance of stainless last nearly indefinitely—making it the obvious choice for a street rod, custom car, or classic truck.
The key to working with stainless steel brake line is the use of the correct tools. The Im
Stainless steel is the generic term for grades of steel that contain more than 10-percent chromium, with or without nickel, molybdenum, titanium, niobium and/or other elements. Stainless steel’s most important benefit is that it resists corrosion, maintains its strength at high temperatures and is easily maintained. The chromium in the steel combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to form a thin, invisible layer of chrome-containing oxide that keeps it looking fresh and shiny, even when exposed to the elements.
The pre-bent kits are obviously the easiest answer for a stainless upgrade. The hard work has been accomplished for us by these aftermarket companies in a factory environment often with the use of CNC machinery doing precise bending and flaring of the tubing. The rodder building a pickup from scratch faces a bit more of a challenge than the R&R tasks afforded by pre-bent assemblies, as most cars built by the home builder are unique relative to production line built vehicles. There in lies the rub—working with stainless is a bit more of a challenge than OEM-style tin-coated steel, as it is a much harder material.
Here’s the light-duty stuff that’s fine for OEM-style tin-plated steel line—though less th
Stainless brake line is relatively easy to bend and shape though it is tougher than plain old tin-coated steel line, but the extra bit of effort comes to the forefront once the flaring process is at hand, it is at this point where quality tools make or break the situation. Fortunately, the aforementioned suppliers do also offer quality forming tools as well as bulk stainless brake line that’s been annealed to aid the do-it-yourselfers like us.
Annealing is a heat treatment wherein the microstructure of a material is altered, causing changes in its properties such as strength and hardness. It’s a process that produces stable conditions by heating and maintaining it at a suitable temperature, and then cooling it very slowly. It’s used to induce softness, relieve internal stresses, refine the structure and improve cold working properties—which makes the flaring process nearly as easy as that for tin-coated steel. That said, there are a few important factors and perhaps fallacies to be addressed when contemplating the use of stainless brake lines.
One thing I’ve learned is not to use a tubing cutter on stainless. The crimping action of
Once cut, it’s important to chamfer and deburr and chamfer both edges of the tube. This al
When flaring tube, it is important to use the correct tools and take the time to read all