There are three ways to approach a brake line replacement job: buy a direct replacement brake line, use a pre-flared brake line, or invest in a brake line kit and make the whole thing yourself. With the first two, reusing the old fittings isn’t an option: the line comes with new ones. Use a brake line kit to make your own from scratch though, and now you have the option to reuse those old fittings. Here are some points to consider.
Brake linings are the consumable surfaces in brake systems, such as drum brakes and disc brakes used in transport vehicles.
When the lining is worn out, the backing or rivets will contact the rotors or drums during braking, often causing damage requiring re-machining or replacement of the drums or rotors. An annoying squeal caused by the warning tang is designed as a typical audible alert that the pads need to be replaced; some vehicles may also have electrical brake wear indicators. If the squeal or wear indicator is ignored for too long, drum or rotor damage (usually accompanied by an unpleasant grinding sound or sensation) together with degraded braking capacity will be the result.
The brake lining may also become contaminated by oil or leaked brake fluid. Typical symptoms will be brake chatter, where the pads vibrate as the lining grabs and releases the rotor’s surface. The solution is to repair and clean the source of the contamination, replace the damaged pads and possibly also have the rotors re-skimmed or replaced if they are damaged.
In the automotive repair industry, consumers can purchase brake pads with a lifetime warranty. These pads use a much harder lining than traditional brake pads and tend to cause excessive wear of the much more expensive rotors or drums. For that reason, consumers should ensure that the new brake pads installed are those specified or supplied by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
Brake pads should always be replaced in pairs on both sides of a vehicle, as the different lining thicknesses (and possibly material types) will cause uneven braking, making the vehicle pull in the direction of the more effective brake. For most vehicles, replacing pads (and therefore linings) is easy for a mechanic, requiring a minimum of tools and time — the linings are designed to be consumable and should therefore be easy to service.
Brake linings can also be found just about everywhere there are braking systems and clutches, from elevator safety brakes to spindle brakes inside a VCR. The form and materials are frequently different, but the principle is the same.
REASONS FOR REPLACING BRAKE LINES
Routed along the underside of your vehicle, brake lines are exposed to salt, dirt, and whatever deicing chemicals are used in your part of the world.
Unless your ride is blessed with stainless steel, the lines are going to corrode. Nickel copper and poly-vinyl fluoride (PVF) lines will last longer than steel, but their life is still finite.
Brake lines can also corrode from the inside out. This happens if you don’t change the brake fluid at the prescribed intervals, especially if it’s hygroscopic (water-absorbing).
Other reasons for replacing brake lines are because they got damaged somehow, because you’re modifying the vehicle, or because the end fittings or flares have been damaged.
Rigid brake lines are flared out at the ends. A flare nut mounted on the line screws into a mounting block, trapping and compressing the flare in the process. This is what seals against brake line pressures as high as 2,000 psi.
Flexible brake lines, or hoses, are often connected with banjo fittings. These are two-piece fittings where a hollow bolt passes through the center of a ring-shaped union fitted to the end of the hose. Copper crush washers sit against each face of the ring to create a seal.
REUSE OR REPLACE THE FITTINGS?
If you’re working with a brake line kit you have the option of reusing fittings from the lines you’ve just removed. As a general rule, don’t. Here’s why.
• Fittings taken off a vehicle could have cracks or corrosion not visible to the eye
• Threads may be damaged
• Hexagonal faces could have been rounded
Distorted or misshaped threads will raise the torque needed for fastening, letting you think they are tight when they’re not. If hex sides are rounded or damaged from being clamped in grips, a flare nut wrench could slip and do more damage. If you get the fitting done up tight it may never come undone again!
With a banjo fitting, while you can reuse the union it’s best to replace both the crush washers and the bolt. The washers act as gaskets and once used they’ve deformed and may not work as well next time. Plus, the bolt stretches when tightened, and if it’s been over-torqued previously there’s a risk of it snapping.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re going to the effort of replacing a brake line, don’t cheap out on fittings. It could lead to premature failure, and who wants to risk that in the braking system?
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