One of the great things about owning Chevrolet cars and trucks is that they last forever--you just can't kill 'em. This is especially good for all us gearheads out there. We most likely have a few projects goin' on at all times, which means our attention and spending can get spread a little thin between them. The low machine on the totem pole is usually the ever faithful and often neglected daily driver. And let's face it, when we get home and want to work on something fun, that machine is not on the top of the list.
For many of us, the overlooked, but somehow still loyal, daily driver is a truck. Without it, how would we haul all those parts or cars home from the swap meet? Borrow one? I don't think so. Well, my '94 1/2-ton has gone above and beyond over the years and has more than paid for itself by now--because of that I just can't part with it. It still feels new to me. Granted, there have been many improvements over the last 11 years in the automotive industry, brakes being a big one, but I still can't part with it. Yet, when I think about all the crazy traffic out here in Southern California, and since it seems like everyone is driving something newer than I am, I might as well ensure I can stop.
Luckily for me, Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation has just introduced the perfect solution: their Quick Change Aluminum Caliper Upgrade Kit and Short Stop Slotted Rotors. The bolt-on replacement Force 10 Calipers feature two 54mm stainless steel pistons and high-performance pads. The new calipers are made of lightweight aircraft aluminum and are about half the weight of the stock calipers, which reduces unsprung weight. Having a two-piston caliper provides more constant pressure on the brake pad, in turn reducing pad deflection and increasing clamping pressure on the rotor. All of this leads to reducing the stopping distance. The stainless steel pistons in the calipers are corrosion-free, lightweight, and help to block heat transfer to the brake fluid. The calipers are also available in many colors with optional powdercoating or polishing. Mark Christiansen talked me into red, and boy they really look good. The Short Stop Slotted rotors are also a bolt-on replacement. The slots help cool the rotors, extending service life and you can also get them with the Xtra Life Plating that protects the unworn areas of the rotor from corrosion, keeping them looking like new. Stainless Steel's kit was designed to fit behind stock rims so you don't have to go spend a ton of cash on big wheels and tires to have better brakes.
The installation was fairly painless and can even be done without assistance. Round up some new brake fluid, wheel-bearing grease, silicone-based grease for the threads on the caliper mounting bolts, a can or two of Brake Clean, penetrating fluid, rags, and latex gloves ( I know I didn't have them on, but I wished I did!). The kit comes with all necessary parts to do the install, except new inner wheel-bearing seals, Timken part# 4739. If you need new wheel bearings, now would be a good time. Mine were still good, so I just cleaned and repacked them. Toolwise, make sure you have both metric and S.A.E. sizes in sockets and Allens, a jack and jackstands, a good torque wrench, rubber mallet, and a set of hose pinch-off pliers--a really handy tool to get. They are easy to use, help eliminate spills, and won't damage the hose. Everything is basically bolt-in, but in some cases you might need to clearance the casting on the spindle, check the photo, so make sure you have access to a right-angle grinder.
Before the install, I went out to California Speedway to test the stock brakes and came up with a best 60-0-mph stopping distance of 185.66 feet. With Stainless Steel's Quick Change Kit we ended up with 172.66 feet--exactly 13 feet shorter. That's about a whole car length! That could be the difference of life or death, or at least being able to walk away from an accident. Keep in mind as well that this was done with stock wheels and 235/75/R15 and 255/75/R15 tires. Unfortunately, I don't have a way to measure the around-town performance, but the 20-40-mph stops were noticeably quicker when needed. The other thing I like is that my pedal doesn't feel that much different from before.
There you have it, Stainless Steel Brakes' Quick Change Kit pulled through in the end and delivered positive results, with little time and money spent. They have kits to fit just about every make and model of car and truck, from stock replacements to big diameter rotors, and multi-piston calipers. Give them a call and or check out their comprehensive Web site.
This is what I got from Stainless Steel Brakes. This is their Quick Change Aluminum Caliper Kit and Short Stop Rotors for my '94 Chevy 1/2-ton truck. This is a bolt-on upgrade kit for the front disc brakes.
Here's what we found behind the stock rim, stock disc brakes with tons of miles on them. They have seen more than their fair shares of "whoas" over the years.
Before trying to break the two caliper mounting bolts loose, spray them and the brake hose banjo bolt with penetrating fluid. There has been a lot of heat in this area over the years and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?
Before you loosen the caliper mounting bolts, clamp off the rubber brake line to prevent nasty spills, and also to keep the master cylinder from running dry. Make sure you keep a close eye on it throughout the whole process, otherwise you'll be in a world of hurt. Now we can remove the brake line from the caliper with minimum fluid loss. Next, remove the caliper. I took a little time here to clean the spindle and dust shield with a parts cleaner.
Pry out the inner wheel-bearing seal out of the stock rotor. Remove, clean, and repack the inner wheel bearing. Do the outer bearing while your hands are full of high-temp wheel-bearing grease. Install the inner bearing into the new Short Stop rotor and carefully install the new seal with a rubber mallet so it sits flush in the rotor.
Coat the machined areas of the spindle with grease and slide the new rotor onto it, taking care not to nick the new seal lip. Install the outer wheel bearing, the keyed washer, and spindle nut. Spin the rotor just to make sure everything looks good so far. If there is any grease on the rotor, clean it off with brake clean. The rotors are directional, so take care to get them right side for side. This is the passenger side and the slots in the rotor go "back" like in the picture. They are also engraved with an "L" and "R."
Install the high-performance brake pads into the caliper and lightly grease the threads on the caliper mounting bolts with a silicone-based grease. Trial fit the caliper onto the spindle. I found that it needed just a little more clearance in the lower part of the spindle for the caliper to seat right. Don't force it! If you can't get the bolts in, take the caliper off and you should see marks where the spindle was hitting the caliper. I got my right-angle grinder with a 36-grit disc and took a little of the casting off the spindle. Test fit the caliper again. It didn't take much and the bolts go in smoothly now.
The banjo bolt on the right will replace the stock one that connects the brake line to the caliper. I put the thicker copper washer on the side of the bolt head and the thin copper washer will go between the caliper and the brake line fitting. Since the calipers are the same side to side, there are two brake fluid inlets for ease of production, so the one not used gets a thick copper washer and the button head plug. With the caliper installed, the brake line gets connected to the "higher" inlet and the lower gets plugged.
Torque the caliper mount bolts to 40 lb-ft with a 3/8 Allen on a 1/2-inch drive socket. Snug down the brake line fitting, making sure that the brake line doesn't interfere with anything when the steering wheel is turned lock to lock. Double check the spindle nut for proper tightness and install a new cotter pin. Spin the rotor to again check that nothing interferes; if not, tap the dust cap back on with the rubber mallet.
Bleeding these calipers was the easiest brake bleeding I've ever encountered! I got a couple of feet of clear rubber hose that would fit over the bleeder screw, and stuck one side into an old plastic water bottle to catch the bled fluid. After checking the master cylinder level and starting on the passenger side, I put a 10mm closed-end wrench on the bleeder screw and then the hose over it. Crack open the bleeder screw and you can see the air bubbles come up in the hose, when the bubbles stop close the bleeder screw. Check the master cylinder and repeat on the driver side. I did it one more time out of disbelief and to make sure, and didn't get any more air out. Pump the pedal 20-30 times and if you've got a hard pedal then you are good to go. If not, then there might still be air in the lines. If so, repeat the bleeding procedure.
With the wheels on and everything double checked, we can take it out and carefully verify if they work. Do the initial test in an area where if anything did happen, no one would get hurt. Once you are confident that they work, you can take it out on the road and follow the break-in procedure. Here, I am out at California Speedway stoppin' on 'em again. With the 13 feet saved, I feel that much safer amidst the chaos.