|Let's face it. The
brakes on the old cars were good for their time. There was less
traffic and our pace was slower. But things have changed and our
cars need some upgrades so we can enjoy them safely today! Being
the owner/driver of a few of these I thought a brake upgrade would be a
good thing to do. Especially if you don't want to have to crawl
under your car 10 times a year and adjust the brakes. . . Not to mention
finding some of the parts. . . .
I've done those junk yard conversions in
the past. They are a nuisance, unless you like the challenge and
have time on your hands, you'll have to go to several different cars or
yards at times. And you still have all used parts. Ask
yourself. Is it worth it? Or would you like to have it done
in an afternoon with maybe a side trip to a good auto parts store?
The old drum brakes were prone to fade,
hard to adjust, particularly the fronts so the car didn't pull.
Disc brakes are much more efficient, run cooler, and need no attention
throughout the pad life.
Let's look at a Disc Brake conversion for
a 55 to 65 Chrysler Product. By the way, a very similar kit is
made for the Ford Econolines and soon, the small Ford Body cars.
(We're not supposed to say that word here.) Those kits are
provided by D & D Disc Brakes, in Philomath, OR
There are a couple of manufacturers out
there that make kits for the old Mopars. You have to evaluate what
you want to do with the car, but the best bang for the buck in
conversions is AAJ Brakes in Portland, OR.
I am going to show you a disc brake kit
that is a direct bolt in. There is no machining or welding to do,
you don't even have to remove the spindle. The AAJ Kit will fit
under your stock 14" wheels too! Parts are easy to get as it uses
a General Motors Caliper and a Mopar B Body rotor.
This operation is very simple.
Lift the car and support it with jack
stands. Remove the front wheels. Remove the drums.
Disconnect the brake hose from the steel line. Be careful not to
twist the steel line. I suggest you spray the fitting with PB
Blaster first or another good penetrating oil. If you are in doubt
of the line or it is pretty rusty, prepare to replace it. I also
strongly you purchase or borrow a quality 3/8 line wrench. "Cheap"
tools don't cut it. Remember these are life savers we are talking
There are 4 bolts holding on the backing
plate to the spindle. Remove them. Clean up the area,
spindle, make sure everything else is up to par before you proceed
When you buy the brackets from AAJ
Brakes, you get 4 bolts with it. Use 2 of those to mount the new bracket.
The 2 longer bolts are used to remount the steering arm. From experience, I found that occasionally the casting for the steering
arm is oversized a few thousandths. If all the holes don't line up immediately, then
you may have to file a bit off the steering arm. It's usually only
.010". Mark the spot where the arm makes contact with the caliper
bracket and file that area. When this is done, install the
bracket. It should be OK to split the difference between the
steering arm and the bracket. DO NOT over do it on the bracket
though. AAJ has that calculated pretty good. Make sure you
get all the gunk out of that area and especially the bolt surfaces are
The next step is to prep the spindle for
the Rotor. AAJ supplies you with a spindle adaptor. The
adaptor slips to the back of the spindle. Clean up all the grease
on the spindle. I suggest you let the adaptor sit in the warm sun
before you put it on. Apply some RED LOCKTITE to the
inside of the adaptor and smear it around with your finger. The sleeve should slide right on.
DO NOT DAMAGE the bearing or seal surface of the adaptor. If the
adaptor does not slide right on, it would be best to use the spindle nut
and hub to push it it on. Chances are, you will not need to do
this. Before you ask, there has never
been a known problem of these adaptors spinning. Remember, the
cast iron expands more than the stainless steel as the wheel heats up,
the adaptor will get tighter.
Prep your rotor with the bearings and
seals. Put them on and tighten correctly.
Mount your pads/caliper and hose.
Make sure you have the copper washers on the top and bottom of the hose.
You also need to be sure the notch of the hose is down so it clears the
caliper and sits flush on the seal face for the hose connection. If your
fitting leaks, get new washers and flip the hose fitting over. Connect
the hose to the steel line. Wipe the connections dry or use some
brake clean to wash the fitting areas. Make sure there is enough
length in the hose to allow for a full swing in the steering. Look
for potential chafing of the hose too.
Bleed the brakes! Look for leaks! DRIVE IT!
Here's a tip if you are having trouble bleeding
your brakes. Get piece of vacuum hose about 15 feet
long. Open the bleeder on a wheel Caliper or wheel cylinder.
Attach the hose to a vacuum source on the engine and hold the hose on
the bleeder. It is best if you have a jar in between, but the
fluid will not harm the engine. It is quickly diluted and washed
away by the fuel mixture. You'll know when the is getting fluid in
it as it will start to run a bit rough.