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Thread: Help me make sense of DIY brake line fitting options? (brands, swivels, etc)

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    Default Help me make sense of DIY brake line fitting options? (brands, swivels, etc)

    Planning to replace my brake lines with stainless in near future. I'm mechanically able and DIY-oriented, and I've got a lot of experience working with braid-over-PTFE line with AN/JIC fitting at work, so figured I'd just build my own. However I haven't done much with this style of compression-collet assembled fitting (at least not on braid... used Swagelok and similar on hard lines extensively) and never on brake lines, so I have a few questions before I bite the bullet and place orders for parts.


    1. Brand options? Seems there are a few popular choices out there: Earls, Summit, Aeroquip, Russel, etc. Other than being consistent (sticking with same supplier of hose and fitting, etc) are there any factors to consider? Are there any to avoid or consider more closely due to quality or specific features?
    2. Swivel option? Many fittings are offered with a "swivel" option, I assume this means that after assembling the fitting on the hose, that the end of the fitting (i.e. banjo) can rotate relative to the hose while still maintaining a seal? If so I imagine having at least one swivel fitting on each hose would ease assembly/installation (no worries about fitting orientation/hose twist)? Or is this unnecessary in practice? I've never assembled compression collet fittings where the final orientation mattered, so no idea how hard it is in practice to get things clocked correctly? If its trivial to get it right, no sense spending the extra ~$10 per fitting to get the swivel. If it's a PITA and will take a bunch of fiddly back and forth to get things clocked however, maybe its worth it? Alternately if swivel fittings tend to be less robust and more leak prone maybe best to avoid? (that hasn't been my experience with swivel fittings on JIC/AN, but diff. applications so best to ask)
    3. Material? From a cost and weight savings point of view my natural instinct is to choose the aluminum options. Especially with a banjo fitting where you can remove/re-install without actually putting a wrench on the fitting itself, the extra durability of a steel fitting seems less critical. Any reason this is a dumb idea?


    So yeah. Basically I'm about to pull the trigger on ordering parts to make my own brake lines, looking for some help picking out exact fittings I need (I can figure out the shape/angle etc easily enough, looking to nail down vendor, material, other options etc). Any feedback from guys who have been there/done that and can enlighten me is appreciated. Thanks!

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    You know, right after I posted, I thought "I should probably mention that I've read through Ed's big brake line post, otherwise he or someone else will probably post a link to it" Your writeup was one of the first things I found when I started looking into this and got me started in my research. It's a really great resource and probably even more helpful to folks who aren't familiar with the technique for assembling that style fitting. However it left me with some of the more specific questions above unanswered which is why I posted here.

    Thanks again for the awesome writeup (and your other popular posts, I've learned quite a bit from some of your content), and if you've got any additional light to shed on my questions above I'd love to hear it!

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    1) Brand = Earls

    2) Swivel Option = not needed

    3) Material = Carbon or Stainless steel. Pick whichever you prefer. I would not use aluminum for durability reasons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
    1) Brand = Earls

    2) Swivel Option = not needed

    3) Material = Carbon or Stainless steel. Pick whichever you prefer. I would not use aluminum for durability reasons.
    Is there something about Earl's fittings that make them preferable to their competitors? In your writeup you specify that's what youre using, but never really go into why. Is it just that you've used their products previously and they are a known product with good quality that you're familiar with, or are there specific features that make them a better option? Do competitors like aeroquip, russel, or the Summit-branded fittings have some missing features or quality concerns that make you steer clear of them? Depending on exact vendor and supplier, Earl's fittings are running almost $10/fitting more than some of their competitors (nearly 2x!). I don't mind spending more for quality, but not sure I can justify swinging that delta just to get the right name on the box.

    As for Aluminum my first thought was inline with yours, re. durability. I work with a lot of aluminum AN fittings at work as well as on my cars (and other aluminum hardware in general) and know how easy it is for alum. nuts to get rounded off, cross-threaded etc. However as I thought about it, in this case you'd only be torquing the AL fitting nut once during initial assembly of the hose (and i have a nice set of aluminum AN wrenches to prevent rounding the nut then). Once the hose is built, any of the wear and tear from installation/removal/re-installation will all be going to the (steel) banjo bolt going through it. The aluminum banjo itself should be more that robust to handle the compressive forces of being clamped in under the banjo bolt. Or is the concern there about fretting/abrasion between the steel banjo bolt and aluminum banjo? Have you or other folks run into failures, leaks or other problems in the past using aluminum fittings, or was this more of a "why take a chance" sort of advice? As for carbon steel, any issues with surface corrosion on untreated steel? Any concerns with going for a chrome or zinc plated steel option?

    Oh and I did see re-reading through your original thread just now, down in later pages you went into detail about techniques for assembling the non-swivel fitting to get the final "clocking" on the fittings correct. I must have missed that one on my previous read-throughs. Sounds like its pretty straightforward and matches my experience with other compression-collet fittings. Looks like I'll be able to save a few bucks by not opting for the swivel fittings.
    Last edited by RocketScientist; 07-06-2021 at 02:18 PM.

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    Earl's parts are made in the USA and have an outstand quality reputation in racing at very high levels. They are not expensive so to me that's all I need to know. Aluminum hose ends are softer and more expensive. I'm just not a fan of aluminum in that application. For larger hoses with similarly larger hose ends aluminum is fine. For brake lines, no.

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    A few months ago, I went down to the Earl's Performance Plumbing shoppe here in Indy (tons of motorsports vendors around here) seeking brake line parts.

    Turns out having them make a set of proper crimped lines was a lot cheaper (under $100 for front and rear) than buying parts and making my own. I had them in a few days, and they were perfect. The crimps are reliable, look nicer and are a lot more compact. They used the old lines as the model for the new ones.

    Poke around locally for a race, performance, or hydraulics shop that can build you a set. You might be surprised. I, for one, am now officially done building my own brake lines.

    And yes, I'd prefer steel or stainless steel over aluminum. Although I've also used Spiegler brake lines before, and these are made with aluminum ends. But for the DIY stuff, I would not go with aluminum.


    As Ed mentioned, the Earl's parts are indeed outstanding quality. Not saying the other brands are crap or anything, but Earl's bits are a well-known quantity.


    I've also built brake lines using Russell parts; this works a little differently, since there's no cutting. You buy brake lines in the lengths you need with threaded fittings already installed, then buy the banjo ends you need and screw everything together. This works very well, but it is expensive, and for some reason vendors never seem to have everything you need in stock at once.
    Last edited by bwringer; 07-08-2021 at 08:02 AM.
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