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.

- Advertisement -

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.

What you need

  • Tubing bender
  • Tube flaring tool
  • Die grinder or hacksaw
  • Time and patiente
  • Adel clamps and zip ties
  • Drill
  • Wire cutters
The first step is figuring out where best to mount the spray nozzles. This kit came with three, one for the driver and two more for mechanicals. I routed one through the factory evaporator tube hole on the firewall and poked a hole in the Mazdaspeed plug and used it as a grommet.
The first step is figuring out where best to mount the spray nozzles. This kit came with three, one for the driver and two more for mechanicals. I routed one through the factory evaporator tube hole on the firewall and poked a hole in the Mazdaspeed plug and used it as a grommet.
I mounted the one for the driver in the foot well at the bottom of the dashboard with an Adel clamp.
I mounted the one for the driver in the foot well at the bottom of the dashboard with an Adel clamp.
The other nozzle for mechanicals comes up through an enlarged factory hole in parcel shelf and is aimed forward behind the fuel tank access panels. This required cutting it to the right height, then flaring the end of the tube with it in place so I wouldn’t have to make the hole any larger than the tubing itself.
The other nozzle for mechanicals comes up through an enlarged factory hole in parcel shelf and is aimed forward behind the fuel tank access panels. This required cutting it to the right height, then flaring the end of the tube with it in place so I wouldn’t have to make the hole any larger than the tubing itself.
This tee fitting connects the tube from the driver foot well and the one to the engine bay to the tube that leads to the bottle. It is secured to the dashboard with another Adel clamp. These tubes are the copper-coated steel lines that came with the halon system. The brass pieces are additional fittings sourced from a local parts store.
This tee fitting connects the tube from the driver foot well and the one to the engine bay to the tube that leads to the bottle. It is secured to the dashboard with another Adel clamp. These tubes are the copper-coated steel lines that came with the halon system. The brass pieces are additional fittings sourced from a local parts store.
Marks on the tubing bender tell you how many degrees your bends will be. Line up the zero with the 45 or 90 to make 45 and 90 degree bends. Simple, right?
Marks on the tubing bender tell you how many degrees your bends will be. Line up the zero with the 45 or 90 to make 45 and 90 degree bends. Simple, right?
Even a garden-variety flaring tool produces decent results. I picked up the tubing bender and the flaring tool at Lowes for less than $40. Be mindful not to “over-flare” the end of the tubing or you’ll crack it or make the flare too large for the threaded fitting to fit over it. Not that I did that.
Even a garden-variety flaring tool produces decent results. I picked up the tubing bender and the flaring tool at Lowes for less than $40. Be mindful not to “over-flare” the end of the tubing or you’ll crack it or make the flare too large for the threaded fitting to fit over it. Not that I did that.
Use mechanic’s wire to plot the routing and orientation of the bends. That way you won’t waste any tubing by bending it the wrong direction, then have to stop working to drive to the parts store to get more tubing. Not that I did that, either.
Use mechanic’s wire to plot the routing and orientation of the bends. That way you won’t waste any tubing by bending it the wrong direction, then have to stop working to drive to the parts store to get more tubing. Not that I did that, either.
The mechanic’s wire trick started to pay off in this photo. The bends went in the right directions and dimensionally were a good fit.
The mechanic’s wire trick started to pay off in this photo. The bends went in the right directions and dimensionally were a good fit.
I laid the tank down on its mounting bracket for routing and test-fitting the plumbing.
I laid the tank down on its mounting bracket for routing and test-fitting the plumbing.
Here you can see how the tubing nut slips over the ferrule and screws together with the tee. The ferrule must face this direction for it to work properly. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut the flare off, turn the ferrule around and reflare it. Of course, I didn’t do that, either.
Here you can see how the tubing nut slips over the ferrule and screws together with the tee. The ferrule must face this direction for it to work properly. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut the flare off, turn the ferrule around and reflare it. Of course, I didn’t do that, either.
This part of the system required some complex bends, so the mechanic’s wire trick really came in handy.
This part of the system required some complex bends, so the mechanic’s wire trick really came in handy.
Mark the bends from the mechanics wire on the tubing. Mark the whole circumference of the tubing because it’s easier to see it once you place it in the tubing bender.
Mark the bends from the mechanics wire on the tubing. Mark the whole circumference of the tubing because it’s easier to see it once you place it in the tubing bender.
After some tweaks and finagling, the tubing follows the same route as the mechanic’s wire, up the rear bulkhead and into the trunk.
After some tweaks and finagling, the tubing follows the same route as the mechanic’s wire, up the rear bulkhead and into the trunk.
The tubing passes by a couple of hard edges, so I wrapped it with fuel hose to keep the tubing from chafing and perhaps developing a hole.
The tubing passes by a couple of hard edges, so I wrapped it with fuel hose to keep the tubing from chafing and perhaps developing a hole.
The tubing extends into the trunk area. It needs to be bent vertically and routed toward the predetermined area for the nozzle.
The tubing extends into the trunk area. It needs to be bent vertically and routed toward the predetermined area for the nozzle.
With the tubing bent 90 degrees vertical, I made use of mechanic’s wire to get the routing right.
With the tubing bent 90 degrees vertical, I made use of mechanic’s wire to get the routing right.
When bending the tubing, align the marks so you get the right length between the bends.
When bending the tubing, align the marks so you get the right length between the bends.
Aligning the marks allows for bends that fit the space so precisely, I could slip the tubing through a hole not much bigger than the diameter of the tube itself. And I did it on the first try, which was almost jarring.
Aligning the marks allows for bends that fit the space so precisely, I could slip the tubing through a hole not much bigger than the diameter of the tube itself. And I did it on the first try, which was almost jarring.
The system didn’t come with a backing plate, so I made one from eighth-inch aluminum plate.
The system didn’t come with a backing plate, so I made one from eighth-inch aluminum plate.
Be sure the mounting location is on a flat section of flooring, with no fuel piping or frame rails underneath.
Be sure the mounting location is on a flat section of flooring, with no fuel piping or frame rails underneath.
With the bracket secured to the floor, I could then secure the bottle to the bracket and tighten up all the plumbing. I replaced the copper-coating tubing just off the discharge head with plain metal tubing I got from the parts store because the colors didn’t match. I realize that was a bit anal retentive. I have issues.
With the bracket secured to the floor, I could then secure the bottle to the bracket and tighten up all the plumbing. I replaced the copper-coating tubing just off the discharge head with plain metal tubing I got from the parts store because the colors didn’t match. I realize that was a bit anal retentive. I have issues.
I made a bracket from angle iron to hold the pull handle, then through-bolted it to the transmission tunnel.
I made a bracket from angle iron to hold the pull handle, then through-bolted it to the transmission tunnel.
To cut the cable and casing to length, pull the inner cable way out, then cut the casing. Push the inner cable back in then fit it to the discharge head as per the instructions. It’s important to read the instructions a couple of times through so you don’t discharge the system when you’re installing it. That wouldn’t be cool.
To cut the cable and casing to length, pull the inner cable way out, then cut the casing. Push the inner cable back in then fit it to the discharge head as per the instructions. It’s important to read the instructions a couple of times through so you don’t discharge the system when you’re installing it. That wouldn’t be cool.
The casing fits into the discharge head and is secured with an Allen set screw. According to the instructions, clip off all but 1 inch of the inner cable. Leave the cotter pin in until the cable is screwed in place. If you pull the cable out without the cotter pin place, the system discharges. That’s how it works.
The casing fits into the discharge head and is secured with an Allen set screw. According to the instructions, clip off all but 1 inch of the inner cable. Leave the cotter pin in until the cable is screwed in place. If you pull the cable out without the cotter pin place, the system discharges. That’s how it works.
I routed the cable so that I could zip-tie it to the plumbing for a neat appearance. If the tubing is unsupported, it’s a good idea to affix it to something solid with Adel clamps. Again, issues.
I routed the cable so that I could zip-tie it to the plumbing for a neat appearance. If the tubing is unsupported, it’s a good idea to affix it to something solid with Adel clamps. Again, issues.
Add the stickers outside and inside as per the CCR.
Add the stickers outside and inside as per the CCR.
Image courtesy of Brett Becker