Words cannot express how much I loathe household plumbing projects. Sinks, toilets, faucets, drains, anything. I would rather write a check to someone else for them to fix it than turn a monkey wrench to perform the repairs myself.
But plumbing a new fire system in a racecar? Yes, now that’s my idea of a fun project.
Because I was pulling the system out of an old car and installing it in a new one, I had to replace most of the tubing. I was fairly pleased with how my last system turned out, but it was my first project with a tubing bender and a flaring tool, so there was certainly room for improvement.
In the last car, I mounted the system in the trunk. This time I wanted it to be within the wheelbase, which meant I’d have to rethink routing the tubing and the actuator cable. In other words, lots of cutting, flaring and bending.
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Using a tubing bender is a bit of a challenge, at least to me. The bending part is easy, but routing the tubing and orienting the bends in the right direction is the part I found most difficult. It gives me a new respect for roll cage fabricators. In fact, with my last system, I made enough mistakes and mangled enough of the tubing that came with the kit that I had to go and buy more to complete the installation. After mangling even more tubing on this installation, I figured out a way to do it, and it stemmed from something I saw on “American Chopper” a few years ago.
The builders on that show use poster board to make patterns for cutting plate steel to fit in intricate places. Poster board doesn’t work for routing tubing, but regular old mechanic’s wire works great. You just bend the mechanic’s wire to fit the routing you want for the fire system tubing, then use it to orient the tubing bends appropriately.
Once I figured that out, I went into a Zen-like mode, took my time and enjoyed the project, and we all know that’s when we do our best work. Like any project I take on, I made mistakes along the way — something I hope you can learn from — but the result is a fire system I like better than the last one I installed. And I didn’t have to pay someone else to do the plumbing for me.