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Plumbing Nightmares…And Solutions

Avoid plumbing disasters with advice from hose and fittings suppliers.

By Christen D’Alessandro


Performance plumbing components—hoses, fittings, etc.—can be more complicated than they appear. And plumbing nightmares are bound to happen when not enough thought is put into the car build, or the parts and materials used for different racing applications. Lack of knowledge with these particular products can cause leaks, potentially leading to costly system failures at the track.

“A typical plumbing nightmare surfaces when someone is inexperienced in measuring hose lengths, or is unfamiliar with using the correct fittings for the job,” said Melissa Blackwell from CV Products, Thomasville, North Carolina. As a result, she noted, these mistakes can lead to serious problems.

However, Blackwell explained that negative plumbing situations can be avoided by ensuring that hose measurements and fittings are correct. “CV Products has addressed these type of issues by utilizing sales representatives who are knowledgeable and can make custom hose and fittings for all types of performance applications,” she said.

“Plumbing is often an area [in which] too many shortcuts are taken,” added Wade Brown from Brown & Miller Racing Solutions, Concord, North Carolina. For example, “plumbing nightmares in the oil system never end well. It usually means oil all over the track, along with parts of your engine. If the problem was plumbing related then it could’ve been avoided.”

Addressing such oil pump-related concerns, Brown recommended, “In dry sump systems, be sure not to kink a hose or bend it too tightly when used on the suction side of the pump. Modern dry sump pumps and systems can pull a lot of vacuum under very hot conditions. If the hose is bent too tightly or has been kinked, it is sure to ‘suck shut’ and destroy your engine. With the amount of vacuum and high oil temperatures, PTFE hose is almost a necessity.”

“If you could pin down one common theme in plumbing, it’s usually that customers have made the mistake of assuming or cutting corners and did no measuring to confirm their thread pitches and sizing,” agreed Blane Burnett from Earl’s Performance Products (a division of Holley), Bowling Green, Kentucky.

This can be an easy fix by “getting out your pair of calipers and your thread gauge and doing your homework,” he explained. “You will save tons of money and headache in the short term, and provide a cleaner and well thought out system in your vehicle.”

Another common mistake racers make is using the wrong products for their applications, Burnett added. “Earl’s offers a variety of different hose and fitting options to address aggressive fuels, high pressures, high vacuum, lightweight and other unique installation changes. Racers need to do their research before they potentially purchase the wrong product,” he said.

Nigel MacAndrew from Goodridge in Mooresville, North Carolina, agreed. “As simple as it may seem, a lot of plumbing issues occur by choosing the wrong hose system,” he noted. “Simple rules apply. Are you using the correct hose for the application and the environment of the hose system?

“As an example, the fuel lines that are situated inside the race car, these are the internal fuel lines that run along the floor or inside the chassis, usually directly below the driver, from the front to the fuel tank in the rear of the car. Generally, people use conventional stainless steel braided rubber hose lines. The fuel line under pressure breathes fuel vapor through the rubber and creates a strong fuel smell throughout the vehicle. The correct hose is a Teflon core hose, which eliminates this strong fuel odor and also has a smaller O/D for better routing,” MacAndrew added.

Goodridge offers a wide range of Teflon hoses, ranging from its 600 Series Teflon smooth hose to its new 711 hose system.

David Barker from XRP in South Gate, California, has also seen installations where the hose and hose ends are assembled incorrectly, or particular hoses have been installed with bends beyond their minimum bend specification, or in high heat areas with no exterior heat protection.

“Lightweight hoses are often installed in suction applications where internal support coils are needed, but the user has not considered physical characteristics of a hose product that can become altered at elevated temperatures, both from internal fluid temperatures and external ambient temperatures,” Barker explained.

He continued, “Fluid compatibility issues rise up with the rubber-based hoses because the user is unaware of their limitations. The user needs to fully familiarize themselves with the correct assembly methods and install specifications about the hose and fitting products that they are using, and always question the life expectancy with different fluids.

“External fire sleeving protection and internal supports are often necessary in elevated temperature performance applications, or when a more economical hose has been used in a demanding application,” Barker added.

Plumbing nightmares also tend to evolve as the race car becomes more sophisticated, noted Kyle Fickler from Aeromotive, Lenexa, Kansas, “and are not the obvious leaks caused by improper installation or mismatched components, but rather inconsistent vehicle performance or component failure caused by not fully understanding what is required of the plumbing that connects the components of the various systems throughout the vehicle.

“We continue to see instances where lightweight, Kevlar braided hose is pulled shut on the suction side of systems, or it is collapsed by overly tight tie wraps or excessively tight bends,” Fickler continued. “Make sure that any hose used on the suction side is vacuum rated for the intended application, and adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendation regarding minimum bend radius and clamping.”

In fact, various plumbing problems can be avoided with a strong understanding of the vehicle’s systems and by using suitable components for the application. And if racers are unsure about proper plumbing installation, they should consider turning the job over to a professional.

For complete coverage of the latest developments in Race-Grade Hoses And Fittings, visit PRI's April 2015 issue online.

Plumbing Nightmares...And Solutions

Race car plumbing problems can be avoided by ensuring that hose measurements and fittings are correct, and that the proper products are used for specific applications. "Racers need to do their research before they potentially purchase the wrong product,” said one of our sources.

Performance Racing Industry