Copper Nickel Brake Line – Dave’s Garage

Progress is great. When a product appears on the market that increases the safety, service life, ease of maintenance, and the performance of our cars, it is a good thing. Perhaps you may have noticed there is a new type of brake line on the market.

A little history- Before WWII, many manufacturers used copper brake lines. Copper is both easy to form, and resists corrosion well. Unfortunately, copper is also prone to cracking. Shortly before the war, there was a transition to steel tubing for brake lines. Steel did not have the cracking problem of copper, but it did corrode. Steel brake lines would often fail after only a few years of use. The options to prolong the life of steel brake lines included many types of coatings to protect against corrosion.

Steel brake lines failing due to corrosion was not acceptable to safety obsessed Sweden. Both Saab and Volvo experimented with epoxy coatings, anodized steel and various other coatings to protect the brake lines. Volvo introduced a new type of brake line in 1976. This new brake line consisted of 89% Copper, 1% Iron, and 10% Nickel. This alloy proved to be durable with the corrosion resistance of copper and the crack resistance of steel.

Years ago when doing repair work I found steel brake lines would only last a few years before they would fail due to corrosion. I used anodized brake line exclusively for the last ten years or so. This anodized line lasts much longer than bare steel line.

Copper-Nickel tubing is much easier to form than steel, resists kinking and virtually will not corrode. I have found that a tubing bender is useful, but not necessary to bend Copper-Nickel tubing.

Cutting and bubble flaring Copper-Nickel tubing is actually quite easy. As with steel tubing, it is imperative to start with a nice, clean square cut. Nothing but a sharp tubing cutter will do.

Make sure there are no burrs on the end of the tube, and that you have a nice clean cut. Like steel, it may be necessary to dress the cut tube with a fine file before flaring. Unlike steel, I have found it is NOT necessary to chamfer the fresh cut end of the tube before using the flaring tool.

copper-nickel brake line
Because the Copper-Nickel is softer than steel, I found I have to be more gentle with a bubble flare tool. It takes far less effort to drive the mandrel in to the tube, and to pinch the final flare. I also found that it works better to use a tad more material for the flare than with steel. When installing and tightening the flare nuts, I found it takes less effort to tighten the fittings with no leaks. The Copper-Nickel tubing has more “squish” than steel.

I recently replaced all of the brake lines on my Chrysler minivan. With the ABS pump, proportioning valve, duel circuits and the many transitions to rubber hose and back to metal, there were many individual lines to form and many fittings to flare. The Copper-Nickel was far easier to work with than steel would have been. When I finished the job, there were no leaks.

Copper-Nickel brake line is stocked at most auto parts stores, and the price is comparable to anodized steel tubing. Do yourself a favor and try some the next time you have to replace a brake line. You won’t be disappointed!


Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

Goodbye to one of my Heroes

We have recently said goodbye to one of my heroes in the “car world”, Tom Magliozzi. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t know who this is but if you don’t, he is the “Click” or the “Clack” (I don’t believe it was ever decided which was which) of the Tappet Brothers from NPR’s “Car Talk”. He and his brother Ray could turn any car, situation or person into something to laugh at, nothing and no one spared. Believe me sometimes Tom’s laugh, just listening to it and not even hearing what had been said would make me break into a huge laugh. It must be said that one of the chief things he laughed at was himself and of course, his brother. I don’t know but think that antique cars weren’t the passion for him as they are to several people I know but he seemed to love cars in general, different makes which there were a few he seemed to like better than others. Have to say that he did beat on a certain make of cars and on his ex and present wife. (I don’t know if he had an ex or not). There are very few things that you come away feeling good every time but “Car Talk” was certainly one of the things that did it for me. When VPR stops airing the reruns and quiets Tom’s laugh forever, will be a sad day for all of us who love to laugh. The lesson I take from him is laugh as often as possible and realize most things shouldn’t be taken so seriously and in the ‘scheme of things’ most things deserve a good old fashion belly laugh. RIP dear friend.

1967 Harley Electra Glide

Mark McDermiottMark McDermiott is pictured right at the 2014 VAE Car Show in Stowe on his 1967 Harley Electra Glide. He has had his Harley for 20 years and in that time has rebuilt and restored about every part on it.

This Harley’s engine has a “Shovelhead” top and “Pan” bottom. The “Shovelhead” term comes from the engine’s rocker box covers looking like an inverted shovel and was introduced in 1965. The rocker boxes before ‘65, starting in 1948, looked like pans… hence the term “Panhead”. In 1967 Harley had kept the lower engine design of the older Panhead engine which used a generator until 1970. They then changed to the alternator bottom.

The rocker boxes to Harley enthusiast identifies the engine. Before the “Panhead” was the “Knucklehead” started in 1936 and yes the rocker covers resembled the knuckles of a person’s fist. The “Flathead” preceded the “Knucklehead”.

Mark lives in Enosburg, Vermont and is part of the McDermott family of “McDermott’s Trucking”. He and his brother Pete are the third generation operators of the company. How many of us for years have seen the McDermott’s milk tankers hauling the product from farms and to the areas largest milk market in the Boston area? Mark is in charge of the company’s three garages that keep their 80 trucks and 100 trailers on the road.

Even though Mark is a mechanic by trade he decided to farm out some of the work in restoring his Electra Glide. John Johnson of Enosburg did the paint job at his shop. The engine and transmission was rebuilt by Drew Fairbanks of Johnson. G&G Buffing of Montreal did all the chrome.

This Harley has a 45-degree, air-cooled, V-twin engine with a 1208 cc displacement. There is no direct connection by Harley Davidson but about the time they presented the “Electra Glide” model to the public in 1965 was also the time they first introduced the electric starter. Is there a connection?

Along with all the “special” Harley terms that non-Harley folks often can’t quite keep up with is the term “Softail”. We have all heard the name and love the sight and the sound of the Harley Davidson but what the heck is a Softail? It seems in the ‘older days’ and during the chopper ‘60s and ‘70s the Harley had a fairly hard suspension… some called them ‘Hardtails’. By hiding the rear suspension under the transmission in the Heritage style and adopting the “Springer” front suspension, Harley was able to offer a softer ride…thus the Softail.