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14-Bolt Stopping Power: Upgrading to Rear Disc Brakes

Posted in How To on June 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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14-Bolt Stopping Power: Upgrading to Rear Disc Brakes

After driving through my Blazer’s brakes on the last trip out when in 4:1 low range, I decided it was time to upgrade the old stopping hardware with something better than what was offered on my axles when they were produced. The disc-and-drum setup worked adequately, and with some good pads and rotors they might have even felt “good” if the tires on my K5 Blazer weren’t 40 inches tall. But the original drums and factory front discs weren’t doing much against low gearing, lots of engine power, and giant tires. It was time to upgrade.

In the front I have a Dana 60 (’97 F-350 brakes), and in the rear is a drum-brake 14-Bolt axle. There are really no reasonable “big brake” kits for the front axle, so the best mod one could do would be to add stainless braided brake lines (already had ones from Inline Tube) and change out the rotors and pads for EBC Brakes Yellow Stuff performance equipment.

In the rear, I had a couple options: I could find and swap on a newer (used) 14-Bolt axle with disc brakes already on it, or I could retrofit rear disc brakes. Since my axle was four-linked and had a bunch of brackets welded onto it, a disc brake retrofit was the most sensible option. I bought some disc brake brackets from Blackbird Customs and ordered the correct parts to put together my own disc brake kit, using EBC pads and rotors to gain the most effective braking bite.

Not only did I get better brakes, I was also able to drop a total of 40 pounds off the rear axle.

Receipt for Rear Discs

Obviously the rear disc-brake kit could have been done much more cheaply. I could have gone with single-piston calipers and brackets, and I certainly didn’t have to use such nice pads and rotors. In fact, Blackbird Customs sells an entire dual-piston disc brake kit (including brake hoses) for only $455. But I wanted to make sure I had the best rear braking possible so I used EBC rotors and pads and put together a kit myself.

Blackbird Customs Disc Brake Brackets.............. $55

EBC front Dana 44 Eight-Lug
Brakes Rotors.............................................. $333

EBC ’01 Dodge Rear Pads............................... $142

’01 Dodge Rear Dual-Piston
Calipers..................................................... $112

’01 Dodge Disc Brake
Brackets...................................................... $52

Inline Tube Powerbraid
Brake Lines.................................................. $45

Hub Seals..................................................... $22

Backing Plate Bolts......................................... $3

Total...........................................................$764

Things to Know About Rear Disc Brakes

When you accomplish a disc-brake swap on a rear axle, you do so for two basic reasons: To improve braking abilities and to lighten the amount of unsprung weight on your axle.

While the weight savings is certain, the improved braking is not. Why? Well, assuming your vehicle started with a disc/drum setup, your vehicle has a master cylinder designed for that setup. The problem: disc brakes take more fluid volume (not pressure) to engage. If you do not swap out to a disc/disc master cylinder, you will likely not be pushing enough fluid through the rear brake lines to properly engage the rear disc brakes. The simple solution, of course, is to find a disc/disc master cylinder that will fit your application.

Swapping to disc brakes in the rear doesn’t just mean better braking. It’s also a lighter package (20 pounds lighter per corner than a drum brake) and is much more compact and clean looking within the wheel.

Disc Brake Disc Brake
Drum Brake Drum Brake

01. Here are all the parts I used to do a disc brake retrofit to one side of the 14-Bolt using the Blackbird Customs disc brackets for dual-piston calipers. The brackets call for 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 rear dual-piston brake calipers and front Dana 44 8-lug rotors. After three days and four different trips to the store while my Blazer sat on jackstands, I finally got everything I needed. Hopefully, we can save you a couple trips and some time. Here’s a list of what it takes to do one side of a 14-Bolt axle:

(1) Blackbird Customs disc brake bracket/backing plate
(1) EBC front Dana 44 eight-lug brake rotor
(2) EBC ’01 Dodge rear brake pads
(1) ’01 Dodge rear dual-piston caliper
(1) ’01 Dodge rear caliper bracket
(4) Grade 8 backing plate bolts
(2) Caliper bracket bolts
(1) Hub seal
(1) Inline Tube flexible brake hose

02. After loosening the spindle nut, the rear hub and drum pulled off with a good yank.

The four bolts that tighten to the axle housing were then removed, and the drum backing plate dropped off as well. When swapping to disc brakes, each stud needs to be pounded out of the drum/hub assembly so the drum can be removed from the hub. Be careful not to mar the threads when pounding out the studs, or you’ll be making another trip to the parts store for new ones.

View Slideshow

06. Though we used a punch and a screwdriver to remove the spindle nuts, getting the nuts tightened correctly requires the correct socket. Another trip to the parts store got me a $10 chromoly 14-Bolt spindle socket.

07. With the hub and EBC rotor in place, it was time to bolt on the caliper loaded with Yellow Stuff pads. This is about the time I realized that the ’01 Dodge Ram caliper rides in a factory caliper bracket (that is not sold with the caliper at the auto parts store, of course), and the caliper bracket is what actually bolts to the Blackbird disc brake bracket. Another two days of waiting and $52 later, I had the brackets.

08. With the disc brake retrofit almost complete, the factory axleshaft was slid back through the hub and into the housing.

The final step was to attach brake lines. The factory hard lines can be reused if you bend them into the proper shape, but I got new hard lines and specifically bent and cut them for the disc brake setup. Inline Tube Powerbraid stainless steel flexible brake hoses were off-the-shelf items that I ordered ahead of time and had ready to attach the hard lines to the disc brake calipers.

Sources

EBC Brakes
Sylmar, CA 91342
702-826-2400
http://www.ebcbrakes.com
Inline Tube
Shelby Township, MI 48315
800-385-9452
www.inlinetube.com
Blackbirds Custom Trucks
Spokane, WA 99220
509-534-5219
http://www.blackbirdscustomtrucks.com

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