Why Use Copper Nickel Brake Lines?
What is Copper-nickel Alloy?
At 4LTL we throw a lot of shorthand terms around. PVF, Limited Lifetime Warranty-- even our own name! Copper-Nickel alloy is one of these terms which we toss out there when talking about brake line repair. Copper Nickel alloy brake lines are important to us at 4LTL because we believe they are the best solution for replacing brake lines… but what exactly is Copper Nickel alloy?
Let's take this from the bottom-up; an alloy is the combination of metals and base elements mixed in given ratios to produce a new metal. Alloying is an old process, and many of the metals you might recognize today as standalone metal are actually alloyed from base metals. Brass is an alloy of Copper and Zinc, Steel is an alloy of Iron and Carbon, and Carbon-nickel alloy is an alloy like the rest. The Carbon-nickel alloy products 4LTL provides are mixed at a ratio of 90% Copper, 10% Nickel, and a touch of Iron as well. Different characteristics emerge once the metal is alloyed. If you're familiar with material composition, you know that the Iron grows stronger when Carbon is introduced into the metal. The resulting alloy is Steel. When Zinc is added to Copper, it turns yellow and grows harder, becoming brass.
One of the challenges 4Lifetimelines faced when selecting what kind of brake line tubing to brand as their top choice was to identify a material that was perfect for every facet of brake line repair. We wanted a highly flexible, rust-proof, corrosion-resistant, material that would be strong enough to resist the high pressure of hydraulic brake line systems. Naturally, Copper tubing was one of our first choices: Copper is highly malleable and is entirely rust-proof. It's what they made Lady Liberty out of back in 1875, and she's still standing after over a century. No rust, no fuss. The problem is that Copper tubing bursts when held at the pressures necessary for hydraulic lines. Not wanting to sacrifice those material characteristics of Copper, we turned to alloying for our solution.
By alloying nickel and a very small amount of iron into copper we gain an alloy which is rust-proof, flexible, yet strong-- comparable to standard steel, even. Since Copper-nickel is highly malleable and able to be pressed permanently into almost any shape without cracking or breaking, it can be formed into tubing by melting the material and drawing it over a die. Extrusion, in a word. The extrusion process used for Copper-nickel tubing vastly differs from the processes used to make steel brake line tubing. With steel lines the tubing must be formed by wrapping sheet steel around itself to form a double wall, after which the seam is brazed to close it. From there the tubing is Zinc coated to reduce rust and corrosion during the service life. The steel tubing manufactured for brake lines is strong, but relatively inflexible and prone to rust and corrosion over its service life.
Can Steel lines be used for brake line, fuel line, or transmission line replacement work? Of course; it's an exceptionally strong material and, even though our preference is Copper-nickel, 4LTL offers Steel lines here on the site for that reason. However, it has a limited lifetime and is difficult to work, whereas Copper-nickel alloy brake line tubing can last as long as the vehicle itself and is highly flexible for easy installation. Not only can it be bent easily by hand, but Copper-nickel alloy line also flares much more easily than steel, no matter whether mechanical, pneumatic or hydraulic flaring tools are being used. Moreover, Copper-nickel tubing seats super snugly, forming a leak-proof seal much more easily than steel. It's our dream material.
We put a lot of thought into selecting Copper-nickel as our brake line choice, and hopefully our thoughts have helped you think some new ones of your own, especially if you're considering replacing your brake lines soon. If you're gearing up to make a replacement, we'd be honored if you considered 4Lifetimelines. 4LTL is thrilled to be a part of the automotive industry, so we back up all of our products with our Lifetime Warranty. You'll never have to worry about getting stuck in a lurch if you run into trouble.
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Best of luck on your next project,
the 4LTL Team