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Boost This - Catching Up (with Katie)

Braking Performance

Levi JansmaPhotographerKatie JansmaWriter

This month, I am taking the old nasty brake booster and master cylinder out of my ’86 CJ-7. It doesn’t really brake anymore. The booster diaphragm would make a sound that could easily be confused for sizzling bacon each time you so much as lightly touched the brake pedal. In addition to very little stopping power, the excessive vacuum leak was leading to it stalling the engine almost every time I used the brakes.

The Jeep already has a self-learning fuel-injection system installed, but due to the booster not working, the fuel injection was freaking out and not learning anything useful. As you can tell, it’s a huge issue to have neither the engine nor the brakes working. To tell you the truth, I was having nightmares about needing to come to a sudden stop in a life-or-death situation.

Now to the good stuff: The bad boy that is now in it is a dual diaphragm 8.5-inch booster/master combo. BTB Products put together a kit that takes the guesswork out and puts me in the driver seat faster. The kit comes complete with new parts, so I replaced all the worn-out parts with those provided in the kit. I have a V-8 and automatic tranny swap planned and dream of some big-ass tires. This of course, means more fun off-road.

I’m pretty sure some owner before me even tried caulking the booster, like the stuff you would find in your bathroom, so they didn’t have to replace it. The stuff was everywhere—like my 5-year-old applied it with a water gun. I spent 20 minutes digging the caulking away from the bolts that held it to the firewall. After the caulk was cleaned up, the rest of the install was done in an afternoon. The only other hold-up was a parts run for some fittings to connect the old brake lines to new master cylinder.

The brakes are working very well, now that the new booster/master setup is installed. The Jeep feels safer, and the engine isn’t dying. None of that sizzling bacon sound! My two girls are already bugging me to get out and test it together. Looks like there is some off-road time in my near future to really put that booster to the test. The only issue is what trail do we take it on? I mean, I have to test it to the max, but not so much that the dang thing breaks on me. I’m thinking of taking it on Tabeguache (TAB-a-watch) trail, then the test-it-to-the-max would be going to the Top of the World. Tabeguache is a mild trail but has a small playground perfect for testing the brakes before taking it on Top of the World—one of many dilemmas of a Jeep-girl life. See you soon.