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MG MGA - Copper tube for brake lines

Guru Barney made a comment "do not use copper tube for brake lines" on another thread. I think this subject needs a separate thread, as there are hundreds (thousands) of these lines being used. Comments?
Gary Lock

If they were a problem the British classic car industry and owners (75% must use copper lines) would be constantly complaining. However I have never heard of 1 issue! Kunifer (Trade name for copper/nickle/iron) is used on other vehicles again with no issues although it is more dificult to flare but not too hard.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Copper work-hardens, so if not fully supported can vibrate and, ultimately, fracture.

Kunifer is much more resilient. It is slightly harder to flare than copper, but easier to work with than steel.

I think that my B has copper on the rear axle, but I will be replacing it with Kunifer.
Dave O'Neill 2

Copper brake lines in the good ol' USA are strictly illegal. Not only can vibrations work harden and subsequently crack and fail, but the simple act of applying brakes and releasing them provide a cyclic stress that does the same thing over time; say 10-20- or 30 years.

Kunifer looks like copper if not side by side with real copper. It has been tested to all known standards and found to be safe. Copper has not. Some brakeline kits are Kunifer (AKA, Cunifer, Cupro-nickle, etc) and not mentioned as such. Unless you KNOW that your brake lines are copper, don't assume that it is so. And if you have replaced your brake lines with known copper lines, just because you haven't had a problem in say, the last 10 years, don't assume you won't run into problems further down the road. It is sub-standard material for in brakelines.
Chuck Schaefer

Gary,

Copper brake lines are banned in motor sport by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS).
When it is stated that many cars have copper brake lines I believe it will be found that they are copper/nickel which looks like copper.
Copper/nickel does not have the problem.

Mick
M F Anderson

Interestingly Moss USA sell the copper/nickel lines, but it looks like Moss UK sell the plain copper lines..the pricing seems to reflect the difference, although I can't confirm that the Moss UK ones are plain copper.
Gary Lock

Yes, Moss UK does apparently still sell copper brake pipes (as well as other materials). I don't know where plain copper tubing may be allowed in other parts of the world, but certainly not in North America or Australia. Some while back Moss USA accidentally got come brake pipe kits from Moss UK, turned out to be plain copper after a customer complained, and the lot had to be pulled out of AU inventory (problem solved and long gone now).

Kunifer, Cunifer, Cupro-nickle (and maybe some other trade names) are Copper-nickle alloy material, and much tougher than plain copper (more resistant to work hardening and crack failure). It sort of looks like copper tubing, a bit more dull or copper-gray in color. A trained eye can spot the difference in appearance, but it may fool a novice.

Cupro-nickle brake pipes are good stuff, and I think generally well accepted around the world. The problem there is convincing some "inspector" that the things are really cupro-nickle and not plain copper. To this end some governmental agencies and maybe some race sanctioning groups might ban cupro-nickle pipes simply because they cannot tell the difference by visual inspection. But I would otherwise be happy to use cupro-nickle brake pipes on any car I drive.
Barney Gaylord

Chuck it is not just one person using it for 10 years without a problem maybe, but it is thousands of British classic car owners using since probably 20 to 30 years without problems. If there was only ever one report in the last 30 years of copper brake pipe failure then the supplier would have been given the full liability and would have stopped supply. Commonsense isn't it?

Not sure what Cunifer pipe looks like in the USA but here even a novince would be able to see the difference, it is totally different in colour!

Check out www.Ebay.co.uk for what we use in the UK.

Someone somewhere has incorrect info otherwise thouands of Brits would be dead in series road accidents through brake failure. Staggeringly however they are NOT! Bit of a clue there me thinks. :)
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

We see it stated that thousands of classic cars use copper brake lines.
Can someone mention one?
I have worked on classic cars for over 40 years and I cannot think of one.
Every few years my brother, a professional mechanic, is hired as the travelling mechanic on a private rally of classic cars in the Australian State of Tasmania (not the Targa Tasmania).
Many of the cars are shipped out from the UK for this rally and he has found copper brake lines on these cars, but these are aftermarket fittings.
One car, a 1960's Ferrari from the UK had complete brake failure when a copper pipe cracked.
It was replaced with steel, but when the car returned the next year it was copper again.
He should have checked before the rally but he did not. It had a similar failure again.
All cars are now checked and those with copper brake lines are refused entry.
It seems to be a UK thing. The road salt perhaps?

Mick
M F Anderson

My car, my mates MGB my mates BGT my midget My mates MGA my mates Mgc etc etc etc.

Not sure what to make of the Ferrari?
:)
I let you know when I have brake failure and die.

:)

Strangely one of the biggest reasons for MOT failure in the UK of older vehicles was corroded steel brake pipes. Probably one reason why when our cars were rebuilt copper was used to avoid burst pipes.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

No MG's were built with copper brake lines.
I still think that people are confusing copper/nickel with copper. Copper/nickel is commonly used to prevent the corrosion found with steel lines. This is perfectly acceptable.
People just use the generic term of "copper".

Mick
M F Anderson

Not sure what I have on mine. When I rebuilt the car 14 years ago I just took all the old pipes to my local motor factor to use as templates. I did not know of any issues in those days, I just assumed a brake pipe was a brake pipe; full stop.

I have a bit of spare pipe somewhere. Any basic tests that can be done such as heating with a torch - different colour flame etc?

Hmm...... not sure whether to get concerned with this one or just side with Bob.

Steve
Steve Gyles

Do you think I am confusing cunifer pipe with copper?

I can assure you I am not, I have used both types of pipe and can assure you I can tell the difference both in colour and feel.

Steve see here http://www.mgbhive.co.uk/brakes.html

This is a extremely common brake pipe kit for an MGB from MGB Hive. Item 11 is a copper brake pipe kit and when they say copper they mean copper.

Thousands of classic cars have had copper brake pipe kits fitted in preference to the original steel variety. Do you think MGB Hive and every other specialist supplier would sell brake pipe kits that were fundementally dangerous? It's ridiculous to even suggest it.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Most if not all "classic" cars in the UK left the factory with either steel or Bundy tube brake lines. These very soon succumbed to rust. After a few years it was virtually impossible to undo a brake union from a wheel cylinder without snapping the pipe. Whether this was due to winter salt I don't know but it can't have helped. Corroded steel pipes must have been one of the most common reasons for an MoT test failure, it has certainly happened to me.

Resulting from this it has become common to replace the pipes with copper. If you go into a parts shop and ask for a replacement pipe to be made up they will, unless specifically asked, make it up in copper. Pipe makers also frequently claim the material to be "pure copper" so we are not talking about alloys.

I find it hard to believe that if copper lines were as dangerous as alleged that our dear legislators would not have leapt at the opportunity of banning them.

For a definitive analysis of brake pipe materials have a read of

http://www.copper.org/applications/automotive/brake.html

Their opinion is steel is by far the worst commonly used material for brake line applications but of course they are the Copper Development Association so may not be exactly impartial.

I have now replaced all the original lines on my car with copper but will probably move to cupro-nickel as and when I change them.

You Australians do seem keen on banning things. If it is not Honda engines then it is copper in brake pipes.

Malcolm Asquith

LOL.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Second that Malcolm! Thats why Australia is often called the "Nanny" country.
Gary Lock

Everything I read and learn about brake lines warns that pure copper lines are unsafe. Even the copper trade association recommends against pure copper in lieu of 90% copper 10% nickle. I cannot imagine using pure copper lines for brakes, or that any manufacturer would supply them, China excluded.
I too believe that the "copper" lines sold by B Hive must be (90/10). Bob do you have any documentation from a supplier for your belief that pure copper is used?
This is not a matter of preference like DOT 3 vs DOT 5 fluid. There are arguments for both fluids. There are no arguments that I have heard extolling the benefits of pure copper over 90/10 mix. In fact Bob, your defence of copper is the only one I have seen.
Are there really those in GB suppling and using 100% copper lines?
R J Brown

Gary,

I agree that there are many regulations that can lead to a "Nanny" country, but you must differentiate between regulations dreamt up by politicians and those determined by professional engineers with a lifetime of experience in automotive design and running motor sports, such as the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS).

Mick
M F Anderson

I looked into this a few years back and found UK suppliers who sold copper and Cunifer or both, so it appears that it MAY be real copper. There seem to be less UK sellers of copper now than then, and while Fedhill was the only US supplier of Cunifer there are now many. I suspect that copper was used in earlier cars in the UK and the UK may still grandfather it, but you gotta be brain dead to waste your time replacing with copper today. I can't recall any British cars in the US with OE copper lines after 1950 production. Certainly copper has long been illegal here in Pennsylvania, but like many other things that may reflect "State's Rights" - we are still fighting the Civil War!
I also have a vague recollection that the "copper" line sold in the UK was a heavier wall than the hardware store variety, which may enter into it.
Certainly the Swedish and German data should convince anybody. Note that even stainless steel suffers from crevice corrosion, as does copper in addition to the fatigue and flare fracture issues.

FRM
FR Millmore

Automec in the UK are one of the largest producers of these "kits" supplied to Moss etc., so I have emailed them for some input to this.
Gary Lock

I'm not sure how some posters have interpreted some comments as suggesting that cars in the UK were originally fitted with copper brake lines?
To my knowledge no vehicles in the UK were originally fitted with copper lines so that is finished

The y were mainly fitted with steel brake pipes that rusted and the cars would fail the annual inspection.

It has become the NORM that as classic cars are being restored a full set of COPPER lines are used. These to my knowledge have never failed as described and if they did and this is my point then the legal process would ensure manufacturers would cease supply, that is commonsense.

RJ Why do you think I do not know the difference between copper and cunifer? I can tell the difference between the 2 and for information in the UK we can buy either copper or cunifer, these are 2 totally different materials.

Not only that but in the UK (as I am sure is the case in the USA) if you describe something as copper then it has to be as described and will be copper.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

I ask for documentation not indignation. Find a supplier who states copper content. With available KNOWLEDGE no one person should choose the inferior product.
90%/10% vs 99.9?% "these are 2 totally different materials" Just as 14 and 18 karat gold are "2 totally different materials"
But jewelry breakage won't KILL you.



R J Brown

Hi RJ

I understand what you are saying but it does not make sense?

The very best material for brake pipes to prevent worry of breakage is probably Steel so if I were to go by that theory I would use steel. However as we all know in a few years the steel pipes wou;ld need to be replaced so if you value safety then use steel and change it regularly

That said Cunifer although not as strong as steel will not corrode as much so we dont need to change it and IT DOES THE JOB.

Copper is the same not quite as strong as Cunifer but you can bend and flare it easier and IT DOES THE JOB.

So it is a simple choice of 3 materials that all do the job confortably!

If I were worried about safety to the extreme you are suggesting then based on facts I would not drive my classic but would drive probably my Mercedes Benz far safer.

However let me repeat the point if copper brake lines failed in the manner suggested then manufacturers would be paying out millions in compensation, however they are not. So that ought to tell intelligent people that copper is a safe material to use.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Bob
Steel is not really the problem either. It is your environment. I have 50 year old steel lines on my MGAs that are rust free.
Come out to Colorado and drive in our wonderful mountains. That way you can appreciate the experience of our climate and enjoy your MGA in the pure air of Colorado.
R J Brown

Well can't argue with that!

You never know if my pension share scheme gets off its butt then maybe one day I could afford to take my MGA to the USA. Only time will tell. :)
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Maybe there is another reason not to fit copper brake pipes to your MGA.

Got back from holiday last weekend to find that some kind person/s had removed all the lead covering from the georgian windows of my house. They had even stolen my wheelie bin (garbage bin) so they could more easily transport the lead!
Also a few months ago after leaving a restaurant I discovered that the centre section of the exhaust from my wifes Toyota Rav 4 had been sawn out and stolen. Presumedly they wanted the catalytic converter for the platignum? inside it but gratifyingly, they only got a few penceworth of 4 year old rusty steel as the cat is integral with the exhaust manifold on the Rav 4.

It still cost me a
Colyn Firth

Very interesting thread!

I also find it difficult to believe that "copper" pipes are as dangerous as suggested, although I have no idea of the purity of of the sets sold in the UK. One thing is for sure; many (I would reasonably estimate hundreds of thousands of) cars have had copper brake pipes fitted here in UK and are driven regularly over many years without problem.

Every major parts seller lists copper brake pipes and kits and I have never heard any negative comments.

Colyn, have you seen the price of scrap steel? People are actually stealing scrap cars and projects from private houses!

I remember, not too long ago when you had to pay to dispose of a car...
Neil McGurk

Gary, copper brake line is illegal on any vehicle that drives on Queensland roads, and there is no geting around it just as a facory MGA perspex comp windscreen (unless it were to meet ADR80 or be classed other than as a windscreen) is illegal even though it was original optional equipment. Queensland rules stipualte that any vehcle (except diplomatic licensed) that udes a Queenland gazetted carriageway must comply with Queenland statute legislation and regulation
regards
Mark
Mark Mathiesen

Scrap Steel Neil?

I hadnt realised that you had taken such a really close look at my car!
Colyn Firth

So, if I am reading this right, the anti copper brigade are intimating that the rubber seals in the MGA hydraulic system can take a greater a pressure and are more resilient than our copper pipes?

Steve
Steve Gyles

Thats one way of looking at it Steve ? lol.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Automec UK have replied to my question as follows:

" Thank you for contacting us regarding the use of copper and copper nickel pipe. There are no regulations anywhere in the world governing the use of either material but we supply pipes in both materials depending on the country, most of which are happy with copper pipe. All our right hand drive pipes are supplied in 20 swg thick-walled copper. We only use pipe that is drawn by a UK mill and eddy current tested for use as a brake pipe. Our left hand drive pipes are supplied in copper nickel as they are invariably for export and may end up in one of the countries that only use copper nickel on the aftermarket i.e. Australia, USA and Germany. To make life easy, we supply ALL pipes in copper nickel to those countries.
We have technical data for both materials (supplied) and where our copper pipes have been used in restoration, this information has satisfied the inspection stations in the US in the past. If you would like to buy our pipes, we will automatically supply in copper nickel unless you tell us otherwise.

Nicki Wanford
Automec Equipment & Parts Ltd. "
Gary Lock

That goodness for commonsense.

We have even had the zddp myth in oil resolved on the Midget board.!
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

"There are no regulations anywhere in the world governing the use of either material "

I would submit that this is factually incorrect. The regulations here clearly state that the use of copper brake lines is a reason for motor vehicle testing failure. I expect there are similar regulations in other jurisdictions. The writer hints that this is indeed the case later in the paragraph.

Perhaps he meant to say "There are no regulations anywhere in the world governing the MANUFACTURE of either material" and therein lies the problem. There are no standards for either copper or cupronickel tubing intended for brake lines and no SAE acceptance numbers. While the material his company supplies may be suited to the task, there is no assurance that someone else might use material manufactured in the third world and of questionable quality.

A few years back, when the regulations changed to exclude copper, I replaced some copper lines with cupronickel and contacted the authorities to verify that this would be acceptable. They said I would have to get an approval even for this from a registered automotive engineer and refered me to one in another province, as there are none here. He was reluctant to give approval but finally relented when I was able to tell him who the manufacturer was (a UK fabricator). His reason for rejection was the above mentioned problem of not knowing the source of the material. He explained to me that the fact that a number of major automobile manufacturers use cupronickel in their cars is not sufficient reason for a blanket acceptance of the material. No one knows what their material specification is and acceptance is based on testing of the completed vehicle.

In practice cupronickel will be fine at testing time as long as it doesn't look like copper.
John DeWolf

Re the letter from Automec, there was some technical data supplied on an attachment, and I will put some here:
THICK walled copper confirms to BS 2871 part 3, CN102 as well as BS EN 12451.1999. Residue testing to BLS.30.JC.101 is also carried out to ensure cleanliness standards are met. The same specs apply to 90/10 Cupro Nickel.

Working pressures Copper 20g=0.036"=0.91mm C106
" " C/Nickel 22g=0.028"=0.71mm

O.D. Max Working Theoretical Burst pressure
lb/in/in Bar lb/in/in Bar

3/16" 3100 214 14000 1065 C/N
965 Copper

Automec also advise that THIN walled copper tubing with thickness 22g = 0.028" = 0.71mm should not be used for brake systems.
Gary Lock

Just realised that the layout of the stats when you are entering them on this thread does not mean they come out the same when published. Hope you stat people can work them out!
Gary Lock

Gary, I would expect that if you used copper pipes and they failed for whatever structural reason and you or anyone else tried to sue Automec there would be a small fine print that is their documents exempting them from any legal liability. In fact in Queensland if you get any aftermarket part from a shop there is a small piece of paper (usually the size of an A4 sheet) stuck up on the bck wall in some obscure spot that states you can buy it but its up to you to make sure it complies with Queensland road rules (the shop's get out of legal liability excuse). I am assuming Automec works on the basis that the world revolves around the USA and if its OK in USA then the rest of the world should follow suit!
regards
mark
Mark Mathiesen

OK... having read all the above, with interest, here are my thoughts and comments.

I have NO proof that pure copper was used in the UK, but I am led to believe and have seen the same on some early hydraulic braked cars that I have worked on in my time including a VERY original unrestored 1929 Lagonda, a Bentley and Alvis.

At collage (many years ago) when studying for my City and Guilds Motor Vehicle Technicians exams, copper brake pipes were discussed and whilst their benifit was they didn't corrode, it was commonplace that they must be removed periodicaly and annieled to stop them cracking (as the both age and work harden).

Cupro-nickle is a relitavly recent developed product (within the last 40 years I would estimate) and in my mind is an excellent compromise between the copper that cracks and the steel that corrodes. It is fitted as standard by various manufacturers including Aston Martin, Saab and I believe Bentley too...

Steel is good, infact as far as braking performance goes, almost the best, (the best being Goodrich or Aeroquip braided hose as fitted right through a lot of current competition cars). However, corrosion IS the issue. Don't be fooled by steel lines that look good as in most cases the hydroscopic effect of the brake fluid (it's tendancy to absorb water) means that the most corrosion is on the inside of the line... out of sight..!!!

I'm finding Australia has some unusual rules (at least to me.. an Englishman). Brake pipes (the steel ones) don't tend to fall foul of the Roadworthy test unless they are well rusty and once a vehicle has a roadworthy certificate, it doesn't need checking again until the vehicle changes hands. However, on each service, the vehicle's brake fluid moisture content is checked and if over 3% is deemed to be unsafe and is changed. Brake fluid changes are commonplace here and I for one think it should be practiced all over the world more frequently.

To sum up.. I don't think there is one brake line product available that is so much better than any other. The copper will crack in time, the steel will corrode (inside and out) and the cupro-nickle may not be fully acceptable to concourse rebuilders or some states in some countries. Here in Australia, I use steel and that would always be my first choice, in the UK, I use Cupro-nickle.

On my recently restored Mini (UK) I could not get plated steel brake pipe, so I had Cupro-nickle pipe plated.. it looks superb.

Mark.
M T Boldry

I have also been following this thread with interest, due to the fact I am trying to source the best quality brake tube that also looks right from an originality perspective.
Mark Boldry, where in Australia did you get the cupro-nickel brake tube? Did you have it zinc plated?
I bought some steel bundy brake tube the other day that is copper lined/plated on the inside surface. Anybody familiar with that?
Garry
Garry Kemm

If your in Australia the solution is quite simple. If you are not sure contact (in writing) you State or Territory Transport Authority and seek written advice. Remember that in most East Coast States your vehicle MUST COMPLY with that State legislation no matter where it is registered (diplomatic exempted). Certain original parts may also need to be replaced with differing upgraded components depending on the part (ie: the use of perspex is allowed in pre-1945 vehicles??) but no in an MGA or A/Healy 100S fitted with comp screens. As I have said before these laws although seemingly ridiculous are there because there are idiots out there who will try anything on their cars. The V8 minis we put off the road or cars with only front brakes (rears just crimped off at the brake lines) and every thing in between. Believe me I have seen them when I worked in the Queensland Transport Safety unit 30 years ago. Dead set idiots who didn't care about risking your loved ones safety on the roads by putting their bombs (literally) on the same roads because they felt they had the right to (sorry if I get on my soap box over this one).

Perhaps the most strange (to me at least) is that the Transort departments are not consistant in their rulings. For example in an MGA or replica Cobra you cannot have a side emiting exhaust (ie: original Cobra) yet you can have these on an original Cobra or Vette!! So what if you claim your replica is original? Brings you back to the discussion so what is an original and what is a replica? I had a Lotus super 7 which was written off in a crash in 1970s before I bought the remains. I bought the chassis plate, drivetrain and new Bob Brittain cnhassis and had a new body made. Another guy bought the remains of the old chassis and body and low and behold two Super 7 s emerged from one....both with original part of the original car but a lot of new bits...really confused the Transport officials that one did!!! In the end both got registered as originals with new chasssis plates and invented numbers, who was to say which was the fake? Fortunately you would have difficulty doing this with the MGA (although it may be possible?)
regards
Mark
Mark Mathiesen

This thread was discussed between 17/04/2011 and 25/04/2011

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