Choosing the Right Brake Conversion Kit
You might be restoring an old car that has aging manual drum brakes, ones that are becoming noisy and requiring you to step on the brakes harder. You might be aiming for a total conversion from a manual brake system to a power-assisted unit. In either case-even if we recommend getting a mechanic to do the conversion for you-you always have a choice as to which brake conversion kit to choose for your car.
Why do you need to upgrade your brakes?
Even if your car never sees a race strip, it needs to have a dependable braking system. That split-second moment when the car in front of you suddenly halts and you step on the brakes-in this kind of situation, your life depends on how well your brakes perform. Aside from the obvious safety advantages, and even if a brake conversion kit requires a lot of time and effort to install, it is still one of the easiest safety upgrades you can make.
Which change are you planning to do?
There are basically three kinds of changes you can do to your braking system:
- A conversion from drum brakes to disc brakes
- A conversion from manual to power brakes
- A combination of both
This means that you can choose to upgrade your old drum brakes to a power-assisted system, or do the same upgrade to your disc brakes. You can also choose to just upgrade your drum brakes to disc brakes without upgrading to a power brake system. Or, you can choose to do it all at once, if your budget and time allow you to do so. A word of advice: if you're planning to install the conversion kit on your own, set aside a whole weekend for the task.
As the name suggests, power brakes give you an advantage over manual brakes. Power brakes are much more effective, and are easier to operate. They also reduce the pedal effort normally required to slow or stop your car. When converting from drum to disc brakes, look at the brake pads included in the kit. We recommend pads made of ceramic compounds and copper fibers-they can accommodate higher temperatures, and they are less prone to rotor fade.
A good brake conversion kit would cost around $300 to $500. It is definitely a fair investment, considering that the money goes to your and other people's safety.
Brake Conversion Kit: How to Convert your Drum Brakes to Disc Brakes
Are you a hot rodder and you're looking for ways to improve your vehicle's handling and chassis dynamics? Why not convert your old drum brakes into disc brakes? Since you'll be dealing with brakes, you might be a little hesitant about doing the brake conversion yourself. You don't have to. With a disc brake conversion kit, the right tools, and correct step-by-step guide, you can get the job done well even without the help of a pro.
Difficulty level: Difficult
What you'll need:
- Disc brake conversion kit
- Set of inner and outer wheel bearings (if necessary)
- Socket set
- Complete set of wrenches, including line wrenches
- Nut and bolt locker
- New brake fluid
- Jack stand or car lift
- Pry bar
- Flathead screwdriver
- Rubber mallet
- Penetrating oil
Step 1: Locate the master cylinder, drain about half the brake fluid from it, and dispose the fluid properly.
Step 2: Lift the vehicle and secure it with a jack stand or car lift, making sure it won't move during brake change. Work on one wheel at a time. Loosen and remove wheel lug nuts and detach the tire.
Step 3: If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, remove first the small rounded clip in the wheel stud and find the access hole on the brake drum or backing plate. With a small screwdriver, unscrew the adjuster wheel inside the hole until the drum becomes loose. Detach the brake drum. If it's a front-wheel drive, take off the wheel bearings and the bearing cap before removing the brake drum.
Step 4: Disengage all the springs that secure the brake shoes in place. Remove the drum and shoe assembly by lifting it away from its centered position. Disconnect all other hardware attached to the brake shoes. Clean or replace the spindle if necessary.
Step 5: Get the brake conversion kit, find the rotor, and install it to the spindle using the included nuts and bearings. Install the caliper over the rotor and connect the hydraulic brake line. Apply nut and bolt locker to the threads of the caliper bolt. On the backsides of the brake pads, carefully install the disc brake.
Step 6: Bleed the system by pouring some brake fluid into a container. Place the hydraulic line from the car into the container and pump the brakes for several times. As the brakes are pumped, air will be purged and the line will be filled with hydraulic fluid. While the line is still submerged, pinch it, and quickly connect it to the brake caliper.
Step 7: Take your car to a test drive, paying attention to the performance of your new brakes.
Brake conversion isn't a simple task. But with patience and meticulous attention to details, you can pull it off, and the result is truly rewarding.