When did we stop appreciating the mechanical honesty of an exposed engine? Open the hood on a new car or truck, and you’ll see some molded plastic engine cover that would be totally at home on a cheap die-cast toy with “REAL ENGINE DETAIL” printed on the box. Even the beloved C5 and C6 Corvettes sport coil covers that are purely cosmetic, assuming of course that non-functional slabs of black plastic are more aesthetically pleasing to look at than actual engine parts.
Rather than hide what makes an engine work, we’d prefer to embrace the chaos and turn it into something that looks and functions better than new
The engine cover trend can be traced back to the time when emissions controls first reared their ugly heads – even the functional-but-homely Rochester mechanical fuel injection system is simplicity personified compared to the tangle of vacuum lines, crankcase vent hoses, wiring bundles, and various objects of unknowable purpose that grew between the fenders of smog-era cars. The rat’s nest was a necessity if a car company wanted to keep selling their products, but nobody’s heart was really in it when it came to making it anything other than functional. The mechanical heart of the cars we love got plastic fig leaves to hide their shame, and owners got another step removed from knowing what was going on in the engine bay.
Rather than hide what makes an engine work, we’d prefer to embrace the chaos and turn it into something that looks and functions better than new. One way to accomplish that is with a complete race-spec plumbing makeover, but the expense of replacing every bit of rubber with braided stainless and silicone can be prohibitive. That’s where Hose Candy comes in. Their line of products take just about any piece of underhood plumbing and make it look and function better, without blistering the magnetic stripe clean off your credit card in the process. With some assistance from Hose Candy’s Ben Martensen, we got a chance to try out a variety of their offerings on two of our in-house project cars and discovered that an afternoon of work was all it took to upgrade the average car.
Hose Candy offers four different products to clean up and reinforce the network of hoses and tubes under your hood; Sidewinders, Hose Skins, Hose Bones, and Boa Clamps. Each is designed to do a specific task, and they all have some unique features.
Hose Skins: Beauty More Than Skin Deep
Looking at the engine bay of a Hose Candy-equipped car, the first thing you’re likely to notice are the Hose Skins, which are functional sheaths that slide over your existing factory hoses and tubes. Now, some of you may be envisioning late 80’s style “dress up kits” that did nothing but add a cheesy clash of colors to the engine bay. Banish those thoughts completely – Hose Skins have nothing in common with those woven nylon abominations. They’re actually made with what Hose Candy calls “SkinPosite” technology, a proprietary blend of carbon fiber and Kevlar, which is then coated to keep the fibers aligned. This accomplishes several key things, like preventing fraying at the ends when the Hose Skins are cut, allowing them to slide over bends without bunching or kinking, and keeping the surface itself from becoming “fuzzy” from abrasion.
Standard hose skins come in a variety of color combinations; straight carbon fiber black, Kevlar yellow, or carbon/Kevlar hybrid in custom colors like: black/yellow, black/orange, black/blue, black/red, black/green and more. For our own Project Y2k though, we decided to use a special kind of Hose Skin called “Dragon Skin.” This matte silver woven tubing goes on like the other kinds of Hose Skin, but has a key advantage in heat resistance – it’s able to withstand environments up to 1,200 degrees F (compared to 600 degrees for the standard Hose Skins) thanks to its special high-temperature resin coated fiberglass construction.
Installation is simple, and can even be done with one end of the hose still on the car, though removal makes for an easier, neater job. Per Martinsen, “Start from the center of the hose and work your way out in either direction. As you are doing this, keep the weave lined up by working in a straight direction. Attach one end of the hose with the Boa Clamp and the shrink tubing and then work your way to the other end and attach.”
Hose Bones: Bend Me, Shape Me, Any Way You Want Me…
You can actually bend them all the way back on themselves – Ben Martinsen
Anybody who’s worked on a classic or oddball vintage car has had the experience of coming across some rotted-out molded hose that needs to be replaced, only to discover that getting a new part is either stupid-expensive for a foot long chunk of rubber, or isn’t available at any price. More often than not, bulk hose gets substituted, and via a complex arrangement of zip ties, careful routing, and swear words, it’s shaped into an approximation of the original hose. The end result is ugly but functional, at least until the containment system fails and the hose rubs through against some sharp corner or touches something hot.
The solution to this problem is Hose Bones. Thanks to an interior stainless steel structure, they can be bent by hand into multi-axis curves and will hold 90 degree bends, making them ideal for replacing molded hoses. They’re also re-bendable, and won’t kink, so if you’re picturing some frustrating prior experience with bending up hard-line fuel or brake tubing, rest assured Hose Bones are far easier to work with.
“You can actually bend them all the way back on themselves,” Martinsen explains. As for how many times they can be bent, he says, “There is not really a fatigue limit in practical terms, as we had one of our prototypes at the SEMA show last year and had hundreds, maybe thousands of people bending it in every which way, and it finally broke on the last day of the show.”
In addition to the ready-made Hose Bones which are available in sizes from 1/2 to 3/4 inch ID and 7 colors of carbon fiber/Kevlar and two for Dragon Skin, there’s also also Hose Bones XO (for ‘exoskeleton’). These are 6 to 12 inch long sleeves in various diameters that slide over plain hose and let you put bends in a specific spot, making them a handy problem-solver for routing existing hoses.
Boa Clamps: Constructive Constriction
It’s a dynamic tension so there is always clamping pressure all the way around on the fitting – Ben Martinsen
The third element in Hose Candy’s lineup are their innovative Boa clamps. Made from a heat-sensitive thermoplastic, these clamps are like shrink tubing on steroids. They’re available in a range of sizes for hoses up to a full three inches in diameter, and they won’t rust or corrode like typical metal clamps. Installation is easy, requiring just a source of heat – an electric heat gun set to 475-575 degrees F is recommended – and although they’re single-use-only, they remove easily without damaging the Hose Skin underneath using Hose Candy’s removal tool, or the tip of a soldering iron.
Pulling off an old hose clamp and seeing the marks it put into the hose tells you immediately that it didn’t apply its clamping force very evenly. Not so with Boa Clamps. “It’s a dynamic tension so there is always clamping pressure all the way around on the fitting,” Martinsen explains.
Now we could go into a lot of detail about the advantages of Boa clamps over conventional metal clamps – the fact that they never need retightening, how they clean up the look of the engine bay, or how they can totally replace a silicone coupler and pair of worm clamps in an induction system with a single piece – but all you really need to know to sell you on the idea is this: With Boa clamps, you will never again scrape long, dirty gashes into the flesh of your hands and forearms on the jagged ends of worm clamps again. That alone is worth the switch, and everything else is just a bonus.
Sidewinders: Making Vacuum Hoses That Don’t Suck
A Partial List of Sidewinder Applications:
- Turbo system wastegate actuators and boost controllers
- Vacuum-operated carburetors
- Air intake systems
- Vacuum-advance mechanisms
- EGR control fittings
- Evaporative emission controls
- MAP sensors
- Crankcase breathers
- Wiper systems transmitting vacuum or fluid
Finally, we come to the headline attraction in the Hose Candy line – Sidewinders. This quick-connect system is perfect for both carbureted and EFI engines – Carb guys will appreciate how it makes a carb swap go much smoother, without any of the struggle to disconnect and reconnect vacuum lines, and EFI users can definitely benefit from anything that makes the typical spaghetti bowl of vacuum tubing more reliable and easier to service.
The system consists of rubber vacuum boots and modular quick-twist fittings that include elbows, straights, couplers, plugs, reducers, unions and tees for all common hose sizes (1/4-, 1/8-, 3/16-, and 5/32-inch) that work with your existing vacuum hoses, or you can upgrade to Hose Candy silicone tubing at the same time. The CNC-machined rotators that secure or release with a twist come in a variety of colors, making it possible to color-code your connections, as well as a carbon fiber look.
We used Sidewinders on our in-house LSA-powered Nova to tidy up all the pneumatic connections on this supercharged crate motor, and we found that they made it pretty much foolproof – dropping this blown LS between the fenders of that musclecar meant having to do a bit of experimenting to get everything squared away, and being able to rapidly disconnect and reconnect the fittings, just like we could do with the Chevy Performance wiring harness, made the process more “trial” and less “error.”
Sidewinders are rated for 30 inches of vacuum on the negative side, and 135 PSI on the positive end of the scale. Per Martinsen, there’s no worry about using them in turbo or supercharged applications due to heat; “The inserts on the Sidewinders themselves are good up to 525 degrees and the other pieces (the rubber and plastic pieces) are good up to 275 degrees.”
Once again, this is a product that has the primary benefit of reducing the ambient swear word count in your garage. After converting over to Sidewinders, you’ll never break another brittle plastic hose barb off of some expensive factory sensor or solenoid while trying to pry off a vacuum line, and the fact that you can easily disconnect and plug sections of the system, or temporarily insert a test gauge into the lines makes troubleshooting vacuum/boost leaks easy.
So, without going to the work or expense of replacing all our project cars’ underhood air and coolant plumbing with custom race-style hoses, we’ve improved both the look and performance with Hose Candy’s help. For more information on all their products, the best place to turn is their Learning Center and Frequently Asked Questions pages: