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Installing Stainless Steel Brake Lines
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Installing Stainless Steel Brake Lines

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$65

Talent:

**

Tools:

11mm crescent flare-nut wrench

Applicable Models:

R50 MINI Cooper Hatchback (2002-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
R53 MINI Cooper S Hatchback (2002-06)
R55 MINI Cooper Clubman Wagon (2008-14)
R55 MINI Cooper JCW Clubman Wagon (2009-14)
R55 MINI Cooper S Clubman Wagon (2008-14)
R56 MINI Cooper Hatchback (2007-13)
R56 MINI Cooper JCW Hatchback (2009-13)
R56 MINI Cooper S Hatchback (2007-13)
R57 MINI Cooper Convertible (2009-15)
R57 MINI Cooper JCW Convertible (2009-15)
R57 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2009-15)

Parts Required:

New brake lines, or stainless steel brake lines

Hot Tip:

Make sure that corroded rubber from old lines didn't end up in your caliper

Performance Gain:

Better braking performance

Complementary Modification:

Rebuild calipers, replace brake pads, flush brake system, replace master cylinder
How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Pelican Parts' new book, How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 500+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any MINI owner's collection. The book is due to be released in late 2015. See The Official Book Website for more details.

One of the most popular projects for the MINI is the replacement of the flexible brake lines that connect from the main chassis of the car to the A-arms and the trailing arms. These lines are made out of rubber, and have a tendency to break down and corrode over many years. The rubber lines should be carefully inspected every 10,000 miles or so. They can exhibit strange characteristics, such as bubbling and expanding prior to actually bursting. Needless to say, failure of these lines is a very bad thing, as you will instantly lose pressure in one half of your brake system.

Faulty brake lines in the front of your MINI can cause all sorts of steering problems when braking. It is common for bad hoses to cause a car to dart from side to side to when braking. Bad hoses allow pressure to build up in the caliper, but sometimes do not release this pressure properly when the pedal is depressed.

The first step in replacing your lines is to elevate the car. Remove the wheels from each side of the car, as this will make it much easier to access the brake lines. To prevent a large amount of brake fluid from leaking out, I recommend pushing the brake pedal down just to the point of engagement, and blocking it there. If you do this, you will lose less brake fluid, and also less air will enter into the system.

Now it's time to disconnect the brake lines. Make sure that you have some paper towels handy, as there will be some brake fluid that will leak out of the lines. Brake fluid is perhaps the most dangerous fluid to your car, as any amount spilled on the paint will permanently mar it. If you do get some on the paint, make sure that you blot it, and don't wipe it off. Be aware that your hands may contain some brake fluid; don't even touch anything near the paint on the car with your hands.

The brake lines themselves can be very difficult to remove. The goal of this job is to remove the lines without damaging anything else. In this case, the easiest thing to damage (besides your paint) is the hard steel brake lines that connect to the flexible rubber lines. These lines have relatively soft fittings on each end, and often become deformed and stripped when removed. The key to success is to use a flare-nut wrench. This wrench is basically designed for jobs like this one where the fittings are soft and might be heavily corroded. The flared end of the wrench hugs the fitting, and prevents it from stripping. It is very important to only use one of these wrenches, as it is very easy to damage the fittings using a regular crescent wrench.

The other disastrous thing that can happen is that the fitting can get stuck to the rest of the hard line. The fitting is supposed to turn and rotate on the end of the line, but sometimes it becomes too corroded to break free. When this happens, the fitting and the line will usually twist together, and it will break the line in half. Be careful when you are removing this fitting to make sure that you are not twisting the line.

If you do damage the hard line or strip the fitting, then the replacement line might be a special order part that will have to be shipped in from Germany. You can usually find the correct length line at your local auto parts store, but then you will have to bend it into shape, and most of the time, this is a very difficult process that requires a few special tools. The moral of this story, and this entire book, is that you should use the right tool for the job (the flare-nut wrench).

After you have disconnected the hard metal line, you can now remove the flexible lines from the car. At the chassis end, the lines are attached using spring clips. Sometimes, depending upon the angle, these clips can be quite difficult to remove. With a good pair of vise grips though, they can usually be pulled off of the car.

Installation of the new lines is straightforward, and the easy part of the job. Before you start attaching the lines, make sure that you have the correct ones for your car. There are a few different types, and a few different lengths, so make sure that the ones that you are putting on are the same length and have the same fittings as the ones that you are removing. If the line you install is too short, then when your car goes over a bump, it may stretch and break the line.

When it comes to replacing brake lines, many people install stainless steel braided lines on their car. The rumor has it that the stainless steel sheath keeps the rubber line from expanding under pressure, and actually delivers better performance than the standard lines. While this reasoning sounds good at first, it's mostly hype. The stainless steel braided lines are usually made of the same rubber underneath, and are simply protected by the outside sheath. Even if the sheath were tight enough and strong enough to prevent the lines from expanding, it really wouldn't make a difference in braking. Even if the lines expand a little, the resulting pressure that is exerted at the caliper will be almost the same.

Regardless of the rumor-mill, I will recommend that you place the stainless steel lines on your car because the outside sheath protects the lines from dirt, grime, rocks, small animals, clowns, children and other things you might run over with your car.

The other thing that might warrant your consideration is the label of DOT (Department of Transportation) certification. With the original rubber lines, they were required to be certified under a certain set of specifications dictated by the DOT for use on US highways. Often, the stainless steel lines are aftermarket components that are not DOT certified, and are subsequently listed for "off road use only." In reality, these lines are more than adequate for use on your car, and any concern over the use of them is not really necessary. However, for those who want to be absolutely sure and certified, there are manufacturers who will make DOT certified stainless steel lines, but they are usually more expensive than the non-certified ones (available at PelicanParts.com).

Shown here is a set of new stainless steel brake lines.
Figure 1

Shown here is a set of new stainless steel brake lines. These are one of the most cost-effective replacement parts you can buy for your car when it comes to brakes. New stainless steel lines are identical in size and length to the original ones that shipped with the car. The advantage to the stainless steel lines is that they have a protective coating on the outside that prevents the elements from attacking them as easily. There is a downside though. The stainless steel sheath doesn't allow you to inspect the rubber inside to see if there is any significant deterioration. Some of the aftermarket lines are made out of Teflon or have Teflon components to help increase their durability.

Shown here is the banjo fitting securing the old rubber brake line to the caliper (green arrow).
Figure 2

Shown here is the banjo fitting securing the old rubber brake line to the caliper (green arrow).

Remove the banjo bolt securing the old brake line to the caliper, then let the brake line drain into a suitable container or a drain pan.
Figure 3

Remove the banjo bolt securing the old brake line to the caliper, then let the brake line drain into a suitable container or a drain pan.

Take the supplied copper washers, place one on the new banjo bolt, fit it through the new stainless, line, then another washer and finally thread it into the caliper and tighten it.
Figure 4

Take the supplied copper washers, place one on the new banjo bolt, fit it through the new stainless, line, then another washer and finally thread it into the caliper and tighten it.

A required tool is the flare-nut wrench that fully wraps around the brake line.
Figure 5

A required tool is the flare-nut wrench that fully wraps around the brake line. If you use a standard wrench, then there is a high chance of rounding off the corners, and permanently damaging the hard brake lines. These fittings are not very strong, and will become stripped if you don't use one of these wrenches. Once the fitting becomes stripped, the line needs to be replaced (usually a special order part from Germany). Also make sure that the fitting is turning, not the line itself. It is very easy to twist off the ends of the hard lines when the fitting binds.

Place the brake line grommet in the bracket on the side of the shock absorber.
Figure 6

Place the brake line grommet in the bracket on the side of the shock absorber.

Route the other end of the stainless steel brake line through the retaining bracket and thread the 11mm fitting into it, making sure that the metal clip is positioned as shown in thisPicture.
Figure 7

Route the other end of the stainless steel brake line through the retaining bracket and thread the 11mm fitting into it, making sure that the metal clip is positioned as shown in thisPicture. As you tighten the two ends together, the clip will secure the brake line in the bracket.

Once the stainless steel brake line has been fitted, check the brake fluid level as it may have dropped from draining the lines.
Figure 8

Once the stainless steel brake line has been fitted, check the brake fluid level as it may have dropped from draining the lines. If so, fill it to the specified level and bleed all the brake calipers to remove the air in the lines. Take a look at the connections and check for leaks.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Miniwoo Comments: Lost all brakes on 2002 Cooper S - all brake system lights came on. Replaced badly corroded steel lines - front to back, both sides. Bled brakes, all working great but all warning lights still on - how do I turn these off.
August 31, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Clear the faults using a MINI scan tool. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chris D Comments: Sorry! Just noticed the tools required section all the way at the top! Looks like an 11mm flare-nut wrench is needed. I'll have to add this to my arsenal.
August 21, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chris D Comments: What's the size of the flare-nut wrenchs? needed?
August 20, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 11mm crescent flare-nut wrench - Nick at Pelican Parts  
tis_a_silly_place Comments: I noticed that there are no torques listed on any bolts in this how-to or in the bently manual.

Any suggestions? Or rough torque ranges?
May 22, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don’t have that info.


I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
damanpunk Comments: How does keeping the brake pedal depressed stop fluid from being lost? I don't know much about braking systems but I would have thought it'd cause the fluid to be under pressure and would lose more fluid when removing the lines?
Genuinely interested to find out the answer/reason!
January 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The pistons in the master blocks fluid from the reservoir from reaching the lines when depressed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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