How to Make Braided Brake Lines

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How to Make Braided Brake Lines

This GS Suzuki has long brake lines as stock. Fitting stainless braided hoses greatly improves this bike’s braking performance. Image courtesy of:

There are few more useful modifications to do to a motorcycle than replacing the brake lines with braided stainless steel lines. For the home mechanic, this task is relatively simple--but all work must be checked afterward by a professional to ensure that the machine is really safe.

Braided stainless hoses became popular on motorcycles during the 70s and 80s, particularly on the Japanese superbikes of the time. Motorcycles of that time came equipped with molded rubber brake lines which, for most street riding requirements, were perfectly adequate.

Braking System Improvements

However, many of the production superbikes were raced in various championships throughout the world, and one of the first upgrades for the racers was to fit improved components in the braking systems.

Using the technology available in the aircraft industry, motorcycle aftermarket companies began to supply kits for most of the popular machines, and do-it-yourself kits for the less popular machines.

For the rider, stainless steel braided hoses proved to be an excellent upgrade to standard OEM braking systems. Besides protecting the vulnerable brake lines from external damage, the stainless braiding almost eliminated brake line swell (a condition where the brake hose swells under extreme pressure, effectively reducing pressure at the pad or shoe).

For the mechanic, stainless braided brake hoses are easy to clean and have a much longer lifespan than the equivalent rubber hose. Making a braided stainless line requires few tools and is a relatively simple operation.

Tools required:

  • Wrenches (to tighten fittings)
  • Tape
  • Hacksaw or Die grinder with high-speed cutting wheel (air powered)
  • Vice
  • Hose clamp tool
  • Small (1/2 lb.) hammer
  • Pliers
  • 1/8” or 3-mm aluminum welding rod
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Stage One: Cutting

With the clamping collar slid into position, the hose is ready to be cut. Ensuring a clean 90 degree cut is essential. John H Glimmerveen Licensed to

From a supplier, the cut end will often be crushed (a condition caused by the use of a shear to cut the hose to length), therefore the end should be cut again using the correct procedure.

The stainless braided hose should be wrapped tightly with masking tape or electrical tape at the point where the mechanic intends to cut it. A short length of the aluminum welding rod (approximately one inch) should then be inserted in the end to be cut. The hose should then be held in the clamping block (see quick tip) between the vice jaws and a piece of wood.

Using either the hack saw or the air powered angle cutter, cut the hose through the middle of the tape wrapped section (the tape will reduce the amount of fraying of the stainless braiding) at a right angle—the cutting block will also help to guide the cutter.

After cutting, the aluminum rod can be blown out with compressed air (exercise caution as the projectile will be traveling fast when it comes out of the hose).

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Flaring the Stainless Steel Braid

After flaring the stainless steel braiding, the brass olive can be attached. John H Glimmerveen Licensed to

With the end of the hose cut cleanly at 90 degrees, the first fitting can be added to the line. The process of attaching a fitting begins with removing the tape then sliding the clamping collar onto the hose (ensuring the correct orientation). With the collar loosely in place and slid down the line, the hose should again be located in the clamping block with approximately ½” (12-mm) of hose protruding. The mechanic should now flare the stainless braiding to expose the inner PTFE line (a special flaring tool is available from hose suppliers such Goodridge).

The brass olive should now be placed over the inner lining, taking great care not to trap any of the stainless braids under it (between the PTFE and the olive). With the olive in place, the mechanic should carefully tap it onto the PTFE inner line ensuring a snug straight fit.

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Attaching the Fittings

Before tightening the collar, it is good practice to orientate the fitting to ensure the line is straight. John H Glimmerveen

At this point, the end fitting can be pressed onto the inner line. The fitting should now be held in a vice (soft jaws are preferable) and the clamping collar brought up over the braiding, onto its threads at the fitting, and tightened. (Note: It is good practice to ensure that the line and fitting are orientated according to their placement on the motorcycle before final tightening of the clamp nut).

The new fitting (complete with the coiled line) should now be loosely fitted to the motorcycle and the total length ascertained. It is very important to determine this length carefully, as once the line is cut there is no going back (some mechanics start with the longest line first, if they cut this line too short, it can always be used for one of the shorter lines).

The cutting and end fitting process are exactly the same as the first one, however, it is even more important to orientate the fitting before final tightening of the clamp nut—this will eliminate any twisting of the stainless hose.

With the line made up it is important to blow air through it (safety goggles should be worn) and then have it pressure tested by a hydraulic line specialist to ensure the fittings have been attached properly and are not brake fluid leaking. This final phase is very important for obvious safety reasons.