Replacing Rear Brake Lines
I have just had my 2000 318i SE Touring fail it's annual inspection on a whole bunch of things but one of them is the rear brake lines which are corroding. The garage quoted me around £400-500 (about US$600-$750) to do the work which sounds excessive to me and it's money I really don't have at the moment. I checked out Ebay for the parts and tools that I think I would need (brake line flaring tool, pipe bender, pipe cutter etc.) and it's looking more and more appealing to do the work myself.
Can anyone tell me if this job is likely to be out of my league? I would say that I am a keen amateur mechanic with a good understanding of most things mechanical and I do routine maintenance like oil changes etc without breaking a sweat. I have a good selection of quality tools to hand and I don't mind getting my hands dirty.
Would I need to remove the fuel tank, prop shaft and exhaust or can I work around them? Will I be able to do the work with the car just on stands or does it need to be hoisted? I was looking at using copper lines but I have since read a few bad things about copper. Kunifer seems to be the preferred brake line material - any comments? Is it possible to clamp the brake lines anywhere to prevent draining the system or will I need to do a full drain, re-fill and bleed? If so is that a big job? Is the clutch on the same hydraulic system? Will that need bleeding too?
Answers to any of the above will be really gratefully received. I have googled around a bit and only managed to find a walkthrough on replacing the flexible sections with braided SS hoses so if anyone has a link to a DIY walkthrough on replacing the rigid lines I would be eternally in your debt :thanks:
I would get another quote or two from other garages before tackling the job.
The clutch is on a separate line with its own master cylinder. Although the brake line might be rusted, it does not mean the clutch is the same.
Thanks for that Lbert. I have called another place today (an independent BMW specialist) and they wouldn't even quote me! They said it could be an hour or a day to replace the brake lines. I said that they couldn't be much of a specialist if they didn't know how long it would take to replace the lines on an E46! Seems like a pretty standard procedure to me. Not the easiest job but I can't see where the huge variation in labour comes into play. I just need the whole rear lines replaced, the procedure for which should not really be a mystery for a BMW Specialist - heck I can't be the first person with corroded brake lines on an E46 can I?
You shoud DIY, its very easy, Undo it and put the new ones on.
Don't forget to bleed them too.
Thanks for the info guys. I have now done the job (and a few more besides!) and while it wasn't difficult it was awkward.
I waited until the fuel tank was almost empty then removed the exhaust and heat shield, dropped the tank so that it sat on the prop shaft. This gave me enough play in the tank to be able to wedge it on the left side of the car so that there was a gap almost big enough to get my hand up over the tank.
The lines were corroded right where they join to the hoses so for the right side it was easy as it is in two sections which join just behind the fuel tank so I had that one out in a few minutes. The left side was one complete length from the hose to the brake distributor thingy under the bonnet. I decided to remove it in two pieces and cut it just in front of the fuel tank. It then came out quite easily and almost in tact.
I took all three pieces to my local auto spares shop and they made the lines up for me while I waited.
When I got back home I straightened out the new lines (the long one was coiled up) and set about putting all the bends into the lines using the originals as a template. That was pretty easy. The harder part was to get the long one installed without deforming it too much. It was obvious that I would have to bend it around a little to twist it here and there to get it up over the tank but it wasn't too hard to do.
I tidied up the lines so they were nice and straight then clipped them into their retaining clips and connected up each end. I bought a pressurised brake bleeding kit which made the brake bleeding process a breeze - I highly recommend it!
With that done (and with me feeling proud as punch that I had done some real work on my BMW instead of just the usual filter changes etc.) I moved on to fix some other issues that had caused it to fail it's annual inspection:
1. Front Wishbones and Bushes
2. Steering Rack Gaiter
3. RTA Bushes
4. RTA Ball Joint (Where it joins with the upper control arm)
5. 2 New Rear Coil Springs
6. Handbrake Not Working on Right Side
7. Headlight Alignment
8. License Plate Bulb Replaced
9. Screen Washer Jet Nozzle out of alignment!!!!
When it actually passed it's inspection I was amazed but I was even more surprised that I had managed to do all the work myself. Thanks to this site and my trusty Haynes manual I set out to do the work and the outcome was great - I didn't rush anything, I just thought it all through logically. In total the garage had quoted about £1250 and I did the whole lot for about £480 including buying a few tools that I didn't already have.
Thanks again for all the help.
I had the annual inspection today I have failed for one of the same reason you failed. The brake lines were corroded! I would like to get some feedback from your performance carried out by you when you changed these line/hoses.
Do I need to lift the car to replace them? What are the tools required? Is it very difficult?
Thanking you in advance.
It's been a while but from what I can remember it wasn't too difficult, just quite involved. I had to take out the fuel tank, which required taking the exhaust off. I did the work with the car on axle stands.
I did the job carefully and meticulously as I am not a mechanic, just a bloke trying to save some money. I asked a mechanic friend on your behalf and he said that they usually just pull the old pipes out (using brute force!) without taking the tank out. They then install new pipes but route them differently. He reckons that they can do the job in well under an hour - it took me about two days!
I didn't need any special tools to do the job apart from a Gunson brake bleeding kit. If you are fairly handy and willing to have a go I don't think you should have too much trouble. I did also have the Haynes manual which helped a lot. If you don't have one already I would probably invest in one.
Hope that helps,
I have checked out the Haynes Manual and I will buy one as it looks very useful.
I have been searching e bay and I can see the pipes are like flexible so if I just get the old pipe off I might be able to route them differently.
Also, I am getting confused with the lines and the hoses. Are they two different things? if so, should I replace the two of them?
Yes, you're right, pipes and hoses are different. Pipes (or lines) are rigid and usually made of copper I think. You can either buy the pipe on a roll and bend it to shape yourself, or you could remove the old ones very carefully and take them to your local garage and ask them to make you a set using the old ones as a template. Of course that would only work if you had taken the tank out to remove the old pipes carefully and could install the new pipes in their original routing. If you weren't taking out the tank you would want to buy the pipe, cut a generous length, and bend it and route it as you go.
The hoses are what connect to the end of the pipes. They are flexible and are designed to flex as the suspension etc moves around I believe.
I took the originals to my garage and had them make up a set for me. From memory I think they only charged me about £15 for the two pipes to the rear end. Don't quote me but I think that if you make your own pipes you'll also need a tool for putting a 'nobble' on the end. This is like a doughnut shape that gets formed on the pipe and gives the nut something to push against. The tool to do it wasn't expensive but it was just so cheap and easy to have the pipes made up I didn't bother - I figured I wouldn't be replacing brake lines again any time soon. We sold the E46 a while ago and have a Subaru now. It failed the MOT last week on ........ have a guess!
I felt quite out of my depth at times whilst I was doing all the work on the BMW (not just the brake lines but loads of other things). I had the mantra: "if in doubt, ask". The folks here looked after me well, the Haynes manual was indispensable and the guys at my local garage were pretty obliging too.
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