MO Wrenching: How To Install Braided Steel Brake Lines
Fitting a set of braided, stainless-steel brake lines to your motorcycle can have a dramatic effect on its stopping performance. The initial onset of braking will be much quicker since stainless lines don’t expand. Also, because the lines are sheathed in metal (usually with a protective plastic outer coating), you don’t have to worry about stainless lines cracking from age and exposure to the sun. Additionally, the teflon interior is less prone to becoming brittle than rubber. So, a trip to the aftermarket will give you better braking and longer-lasting lines, to boot. Let’s not discount how cool they look, too. That’s why you’ll find them on a ton of cruisers and not just sportbikes.
Most of the major line manufacturers, like Goodridge, have pre-measured kits available for almost every sportbike manufactured in the last 10 years (plus many other standard and cruiser models, too). So, you shouldn’t have any problem finding one for your ride. However, if you’ve modified your bike by raising or lowering the bars or have installed bars with a different bend, you may want to have a custom-length kit special ordered for you. Some manufacturers offer build-‘em-yourself kits where you cut the lines and attach the fittings. While these kits are great for custom applications, you need to order each individual part – right down to the angle of the bend on the banjo fitting, so be forewarned.
Before you begin installation, check to make sure that all of the lines in your kit are the correct length. Nothing will make you crazier than having a line end up an inch short while your bike sits idle with the entire system disassembled. You’re then stuck with no bike until you get the correct part, or reinstalling lines you want to take off anyway. The simplest way to check the length of the lines is by zip-tying them to the existing lines. Although this takes a couple of extra minutes, you can tell right away if the lines will have the proper amount of slack in them. Having your brake lines go taut before the fork is fully extended would be a Very Bad Thing.
Even in the best-case scenario, changing hydraulic lines is messy. Since brake fluid can damage paint and other shiny stuff on your bike, you should remove or cover any vulnerable painted surfaces. You will also want to get the system as empty of fluid as possible before removing the lines. A vacuum bleeder is ideal for this. Begin by sucking the extra fluid out of the reservoir. Then attach the hose to a caliper’s bleeder valve. Give the bleeder a couple of pumps to build up the suction and crack the valve until fluid starts to be drawn into the catch tank. Keep pumping until the system is dry. Do this for all calipers that will receive new lines.
Unscrew or unclasp all of the fasteners holding the hydraulic line in place. Using a ratchet, remove the banjo bolt from the caliper. To keep the fluid leakage to a minimum, wrap the banjo with a rag and secure it with a zip tie or piece of tape. Remove the master cylinder banjo and feed the line out of the chassis. Now, feed the new line into place following the exact same route as the stock line. Often, aftermarket front brake kits will use two lines from the master cylinder instead of a T-junction further down the line. Be sure you run the correct line to each caliper. (One is usually longer than the other.)
Always replace the crush washers when the banjo bolts have been removed. The soft copper (for steel banjos) or aluminum (for aluminum banjos) is designed to conform to any irregularities on the fitting or mounting surface. A washer should be used on both sides of the banjo. If two banjos are being bolted together (as on the front brake master cylinder), be sure to use a crush washer between the two banjos, as well. Screw the banjo bolts in finger tight and check your hose routing before you torque things down. You don’t want any sharp bends or kinks in the lines. If things don’t line up right you may have the banjos at the wrong mounting point. Hydraulic line manufacturers spend a lot of time making sure that the fittings have the same bend as the OE lines they replace. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
Once you’ve torqued banjo bolts down, make sure you attach the lines to the chassis at all the original points. Sometimes you’ll need to use zip ties to hold the thinner, stainless lines to the OE clips. Although most stainless lines are sold in protective sheaths, bare, braided stainless-steel lines can cut through metal like a hacksaw. If your lines are uncoated, make sure you wrap the lines with tape or spiral wrap specifically designed for the purpose at all potential points of contact with the chassis.
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