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Done in a Day: Wilwood Jeep TJ Brakes

Easy DIY front brake performance upgrade for Jeep TJs

Stuart A. BourdonPhotographer, Writer

Talking about safety can be boring. That is, until you really need it. Safety is not glamorous, it’s not about building more power or speed, and it rarely makes great headlines. However, safety is a vital aspect of four-wheeling. If you’ve ever been in a big hurry to stop on the road or trail, or hanging by the friction between your tires and the rock you’re on top of, all of a sudden your brakes become the most interesting thing in the world. So, looking for ways to improve braking performance is always on our minds.

We recently came across the Superlite 4R Big Brake Front Brake Kit from Wilwood Engineering (PN 140-12576) designed for 1990-to-2006 Jeep Wranglers. This upgrade/swap kit can go a long way in improving braking performance. As a matter of fact, it raises the bar with highlights such as Wilwood’s 12.19-inch vented rotor and forged Superlite 4R 12.19-inch-diameter vented rotor. The kit is complete with brake pads, superbly detailed instructions, and all the necessary hardware. Replacement brake hose should be ordered specifically for your Jeep’s lift height and other suspension modifications, so check with the Wilwood customer service crew for the best choices for your application.

The only pieces the kit does not come with are the 1987-1989 Jeep YJ knuckles (also referred to spindles in some literature) that must be used to replace the 1990-to-2006 Wrangler knuckles in order to use this Wilwood front disc brake upgrade kit. Surprisingly, the YJ knuckles for this Jeep TJ swap were found easily on eBay for less than $100. They just needed a good cleaning and a coat of black spray paint to look fresh from the factory. This Wilwood brake upgrade will also require a 16-inch (or larger) wheel, and in some cases a 16 may have clearance issues depending on style and construction. You can find a “Wheel Clearance Diagram” on the Wilwood Engineering website that provides all the product dimensions; it recommends maintaining a minimum 0.080-inch clearance between the wheel and caliper in all areas.

This particular Jeep TJ has a 3.25-inch lift with green coils (as well as a number of other green accents), so the owner ordered up green calipers; however, a full spectrum of caliper colors are available when ordering the Wilwood Superlite 4R Big Brake Front Brake Kit. We’ve hit the highlights here so you know exactly what to expect.

With the caliper temporarily in place, we checked the rotor and caliper alignment. The photo on left shows how our caliper looked like prior to adjustment; it’s not anywhere near centered on the rotor. The photo on right shows the caliper (with brake pads temporarily installed to check fitment) better centered on the caliper, after we removed a shim (between the caliper bracket and the knuckle) from each of the two bracket bolts before replacing the caliper. We also checked rotor depth to make sure the pads and rotors were properly aligned. Wilwood suggests leaving a 0.032-inch thickness of the radial mount pad exposed above the outer edge of the rotor. It helps avoid rotor edge grooving, and the rotors will expand when heated up to meet the radial height of the pads.