Flared copper connections are popular with technicians, but can lead to leaks if not made correctly. In this article, we’ll show you how to properly flare copper pipe for a leak-free installation.
Before beginning to flare your copper tubing, it is essential that the end be precisely cut and deburred. Otherwise, making a proper flare will prove challenging.
Clean the Ends
Copper pipe’s chemical composition makes it particularly vulnerable to tarnish and build-up at the ends. When oxidized and corroded, copper forms a dull film which may turn black or green depending on the type of metal.
If you’ve noticed patina on your copper pipes, it’s time to clean them. Depending on what method you prefer and the condition of your copper pipes, there are several methods available; which one you choose depends entirely on personal preference and what needs cleaning.
Soaking the pipes in vinegar can help remove oxidation and hard water deposits. White vinegar contains 5% acetic acid which breaks down corrosion and stains. Soak the pipes for at least 15 minutes in the vinegar solution, then scrub them clean with a sponge or cloth.
Another effective solution is to use a wire brush to gently scrub away rust and other tough stains. You can find wire brushes designed specifically for copper pipes at most hardware stores.
Once you’ve removed all rust and corrosion with a brush, rinse the pipe with warm water. You may need to repeat this step several times until the entire pipe is clean.
You can also mix equal parts vinegar, salt and all-purpose flour to create a cleaning paste for inside your pipes. Rub it in thoroughly and let sit for several minutes before rinsing it away.
Finally, if your copper pipes have a green discoloration on them, this is known as green oxidation. While not harmful, this discoloration can make the pipes appear dirty and discolored.
Fit the Flaring Tool
Flaring copper pipe is a necessary skill in the HVAC industry, as it allows you to modify the size of an end fitting on copper tubing or pipes. But it’s essential that you learn how to use this tool correctly so as not to split your tube or cause leaks in its fittings.
Before inserting the flaring tool into copper pipe, it is necessary to clean it thoroughly with either a deburring tool or pope reamer. Doing this prevents burrs from falling back into the pipe and creating an issue with leakage.
Before flaring the tube, it is recommended to anneal its end so that it becomes flexible and ready for use. Doing this allows for efficient and secure flaring of your copper tube.
Flaring tools for copper pipe come in many varieties. The most common is the bar-type flaring tool, which fits pipe sizes from 3/16 to 5/8 inches.
Another type of flaring tool is the PRO-Fit Precision Flaring Bit. This tool uses spinning bits to form tubing into a flare without splits, burrs or other imperfections that could lead to leaks in fitting connections.
Swaging tools, on the other hand, use pressure to expand or widen the end of a copper tube so it can fit over another of similar diameter. This creates an effective permanent brazed connection without needing new fittings or welding joints.
Place the Tubing in the Flaring Tool
A brake line flaring tool is an indispensable asset for any auto mechanic. It allows you to make a leak-proof connection without using sealant, saving both time and money in the process.
Flaring tools are often sold for $10 packages at your local auto parts store, but it’s wise to invest in a quality tubing flare set that you can use for years. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending more money replacing the flaring tool if it ever breaks down or fails.
Begin by inserting the end of the tube into its designated hole on a flare tool and tightening its wing nuts. Leave some room for removal – this will help avoid damaging or breaking the tube during flaring.
Once the tube is installed, it’s time to set up your flaring tool. Doing this will enable you to work more comfortably and securely without straining yourself or your hands.
Mount the flare tool in a vise for easier manipulation. Doing so can also prevent the line from dropping below the tool while working.
Once your flare tool is set up, it’s time to make a flare. Make sure the tool is centered on the end of the tube for an exact 37-degree single flare; this type of flare is required for AN fittings so be sure to use the correct forming die for optimal results.
Tighten the Wing Nuts
One of the most essential steps in flaring copper pipe is tightening the wing nuts on your flaring tool. These nuts keep the tubing secure while flaring, making the process much smoother.
For this task, the Uniweld UDFT Deluxe Flaring Tool is the best choice. It boasts a sturdy design to provide long-lasting use. It includes a hardened steel flaring cone with chrome finish for more consistent flares without galling, plus it has an ergonomic large handle with self-centering yoke to securely grasp tubing and wing nuts while tightening them.
Once you have a firm grip on the wing nuts, insert the tube into the opening of your flaring tool bar. Make sure it protrudes at least 1/8 inch (about the height of a nickel), and tighten the wing nuts to secure it in place.
Next, set the double flare die to fit the tube perfectly. It should be sized according to its diameter with a step (or stub) just as big as the tubing itself and an overall handle that matches that size.
When flaring copper tubing, the handle of the die should be turned to lower it into the tube until you see a bubble form – this creates an attractive copper flaring. You may wish to apply some oil on the flaring tool in order to facilitate smooth operation and reduce potential risks of scalding the copper tube.
Tighten the Screw on the Reamer
Flaring is a popular method for joining copper tubing together. This process is secure and straightforward to perform, plus it works with various sizes of copper pipe.
Before beginning, be sure to wear safety shoes and gloves. Also, gather all necessary tools such as a reamer, flare form, and tube cutter.
Once you’re ready to flare, place the reamer on top of the flaring form and tighten with screw. The conical point of the reamer will cause the copper to flare as you tighten it.
Be sure to turn the reamer screw slowly, as this will prevent copper from sliding or splitting during flaring.
Repeat this process until you achieve an even, smooth flare. If your pipe doesn’t flare as desired, it could be because you tightened the reamer too much or didn’t place its conical point against the tubing correctly.
If this is the case, make a new cut and try again.
Another method for flaring copper is using a hammer, sometimes referred to as “swaging.” Although this technique works well when flaring type K copper water tubing, it’s not as reliable or efficient as other methods.
For optimal results, use a flaring tool with multiple sizes of head. You can find these items at hardware or plumbing stores.
Remove the Tubing
Before you begin flaring the copper pipe, it is essential to clear away any burrs or other debris from the tubing. Doing this will aid in tool flare better and guarantee that joints don’t leak.
For this task, a hammer flaring tool can be utilized. These instruments come in many different sizes and styles and are especially beneficial when working with large diameter copper water lines.
When using a hammer flaring tool, make sure to wear protective eyewear and gloves. It is also beneficial to have a torch handy for quickly heating up copper wire.
Once heated, allow the copper to cool slowly. Doing this enhances its ductility, making manipulation of the tube much simpler.
Additionally, it is best to avoid oxidizing copper tubing as this can cause it to rust. Not only is this detrimental for the pipes themselves, but it may also damage any fittings attached.
To prevent oxidization from taking place, run nitrogen through the tube before flaring it. Doing this will prevent rust and costly repairs in the future.
Once your copper has been annealed, you must flare it properly for a secure seal that won’t leak or fail. Flaring also offers safety and cost-efficiency over brazing or soldering the pipe which could result in serious burns or fires.