MAKING STEEL BRAIDED BRAKE LINES FOR THE VIRAGO
For Virago Brakeline Replacement brake lines, I use Goodridge components. I’m sure other makes (e.g. Galfer) are fine but I have a local source for Goodridge parts by way of an auto racing parts house nearby, so that’s what I use and what we’ll talk about. I do think you save a bit of money doing the lines yourself, as opposed to buying them ready made, but still the components are not
cheap. You are looking for:
· Dash 3 600 line with a flexible plastic coating at around $6.50 a foot. You may have a choice of colors. I generally use “clear”.
· Six Banjo Line Ends at close to $10 a piece (to make the three lines needed for double disk front brakes)
· A few extra “olives” to practice with and in case you mess up
For Virago Brakeline Replacement you need to look at the banjos you have on your bike and buy ones that have the closest bend to them. Some of the ends on Virago lines are straight or very close, and the others have a bend. You may not be able to find Goodridge banjos with exactly the same bend, but close should be fine. These days I think Goodridge makes straights, 20 degree, and 45 degree banjos. You might check your supplier to confirm this. For a very mild bend (less than 20 degrees) in a stock banjo, you can probably use a straight banjo. You do not need any “side bend” banjos. The banjo in my picture is a 45 degree one.
Checking my 1985 1000 Virago, I used:
· A straight banjo at the master cylinder (but I have flat bars and you may need a different one)
· A straight banjo the splitter
· Two 20 degree banjos at the splitter going down (to flair out the lines)
· And two straight banjos at the callipers.
Banjos consist of three parts:
1. The banjo itself.
2. An “olive” which makes the seal (we’ll see how this works later).
3. And a collar which threads onto the banjo to secure it onto the brake line and complete the seal.
Steel Braided Brake Line we will use consists of:
1. The bore tube—the plastic tube that the brake fluid runs in.
2. The steel braided sheath that surrounds it.
3. The outside soft plastic sheath that protects the steel braid.
We should mention washers here. While you are at it, you might consider installing new washer to seal the banjos and the banjo bolts. The Pros prefer copper washers, but often you’ll see that aluminium ones have been installed on your bike. My view is that either type will be O.K. Your parts Supplier can also supply these. One point is that if one of the joints starts to leak they are all quite accessible on the Virago, so replacing a washer won’t be that hard. Your Goodridge banjos maybe a little thinner than the OEM ones, and you can get thicker washers that will move them out on your bano bolts to roughly the same position as OEM.
MAKING THE LINES
1. For Virago Brakeline Replacement the first thing you do is cut a section of brake line to the length you want it. I generally try to duplicate the length of the stock line, keeping in mind that the banjo ends add length. To cut the line, tape in tightly with a piece of masking tape. Then cut it with a fine hack saw or some other method. The one I like to use is a Dremel tool with a fine cutting disk on it. You are cutting steel braid here, in addition to the outer plastic and the inner bore tube. Cut the line at right angles, and once the cut is made be sure the bore tube end is neat and clean. Tidy things up with a razor blade if needed, and nip off any bits of steel braid that are sticking out beyond the end.
2. Now remove the tape. Take a razor blade or equivalent, and strip (cut) the outer plastic coating back, say an inch and a half, so you have the steel braid showing.
3. You are now ready to push on the collar. Don’t just press straight in. Start at a slight angle and sort of twist the line through. The thing to watch here is that once you remove the tape from the line and cut back the plastic coating, the steel braid will have a tendency to spread. If it spreads too much you’ll play hell getting the line to fit through the collar. If this happens, you may have to re-cut the line and try again..
4. Once you have the collar on, you now spread the steel braid out a to where the olive can be pressed onto the bore tube. (They make a tool to do this, which is very handy, but not absolutely necessary. You can spread it with some sort of small tool.) Once the braid is spread, start the olive onto the bore tube. The tapered side goes on first. Now hold the line and press the olive firmly against some surface to push it on until bore tube seats all the way up in its channel inside the olive. You can check this by looking into the olive. You’ll see the bore tube coming up and it needs to come all the way until it seats. If you have trouble with this, pull off the olive and spread the braid a bit more.
5. Now take the banjo and press the long nipple through the olive into the inside of the bore tube, until the banjo is flush with the olive. You are now ready to lock it all together with the collar. Push the collar over the steel braid so that it can be started onto the banjo threads.
6. How tight is tight? Before you start tightening the collar down, do this: Take a loose banjo, put on the olive, and screw the collar down by hand until it seats. It will seat with roughly 1 ½ threads showing. That is what you are shooting for when you tighten collars. 2 threads will be O.K., but try not to go tighter than 1 ½ since you start to crush the olive at that point.
7. Now place the banjo in a vice with soft faces (so the mating surfaces don’t get scratched or marred) and tighten the collar with a suitable wrench. As the collar takes up, you will find that the line starts to turn with it. Tighten it until you have about 1½ threads showing.
8. The first end is easy to build. You just tighten the collar down as noted above. If you have a line with one curved end and one straight end, install the curved end first. Also, if you plan to use heat shrink tube, or any other tube over the line, now is the time to get the material on, because it won’t fit over a banjo. Once you have both ends on, you’re stuck. The second banjo is tricky, because the surface that the second banjo needs to mate up against will not be in the same plane as the first surface. (For example the master cylinder joint and the splitter joint). So the second end has to be turned just right to lie flat at its mating joint without any tension in the line. This is called “clocking”. Steel brake lines don’t have a lot of “give” and won’t twist easily. You want your banjos lie flat against their mating surfaces without any stress in the line at all.
9. Clocking can be tedious, because not only do you need to get the correct orientation of the banjos, but also you need to wind up at roughly 1 ½ (or a little more) threads showing when fully tightened. On the bench I’ll tighten the second banjo down to, say, three/four threads showing. Then I’ll mount the line on the bike, bolting up the first banjo with the banjo bolt. I’ll then hold the second end against its mating surface to see how it lines up. Then the line comes off the bike and back to the vice for some additional turning to get the second banjo mating angle correct, where the banjo lines up dead flat with its mating surface. I generally try to “creep up on it” with a little adjustment each time. To make adjustments you have to remove the line each time and take it back to the vice for another little twist. Then you check it again. You’re shooting for a right-at-perfect mating angle with 1½ -2 threads showing and no tension in the line when you bolt it up at both ends.
10. You have to keep your head straight here. In the vice, remember, it is not the held banjo end that turns. You tighten the held end collar, but it is the line and the other end that turns. Note that when you have a straight banjo on one end (as you do with these Virago lines, it is easier, since you can orient the straight banjo correctly every half turn (180 degrees). With two curved ends you would only get a new orientation every full turn (360 degrees.)
11. The final factor that makes this tricky is: you can’t turn back if you go too far. If you go too far, you have to unscrew the collar all the way and start fresh with a new olive! That’s what the extra olives are for.
12. The final step is to heat up that shrink wrap to complete the installation. A good brake line will line up dead flat with its mating surfaces and have 1 ½ -2 threads showing on the banjo. I’ve never had one leak.
Hopefully the attached pictures will put all this is better perspective.
If the above description about Virago Brakeline Replacement sounds a little daunting, it really isn’t that tough. What you need to do is cut a short piece of line and practice the cutting, olive placement, and tightening sequence once or twice so you get a feel for it. A few extra olives allow you to do this, plus serve as backup in case you over tighten a banjo end.