Quick, Hit The Hydroboost!

And Forget All About Vacuum Issues

You know what I hate about computers? Anytime I buy something, it never seems to work. For example, if I buy a new program, download a player, try to play some type of game, it never works. Brake systems are similar to computer systems. If each piece of the system is not up to par, it is not going to clamp down and stop the car like it's supposed to. But what separates a computer system from a brake system is that if your brakes don't work, you ain't gon' be driving your car.

Many auto enthusiasts think that as long as they have the latest and greatest master cylinder, booster, calipers, disc, etc., their car should stop on command. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. When designing a brake system, you have to think about master cylinder bore sizes, booster sizes, and especially, vacuum. Vacuum is often overlooked, or, at best, an afterthought. Without it, however, no matter what parts you have, the car won't stop. In today's performance market, people are running such hot cams that it's killing vacuum, and is therefore killling the braking. On top of that, other areas of the car, such as automatic transmissions and A/C systems, also need vacuum, which then takes it away from the brake system. To compensate for the loss of vacuum, people install vacuum pumps, which, in some cases, still don't get the job done.

Power Brake Service in Long Beach, California, has come up with another alternative--the hydroboost, which replaces the power booster in the system, and requires absolutely no vacuum. Instead of running off of vacuum like a power booster, the hydroboost is powered by pressure from the power steering pump. The hydroboost taps into the power steering pump and uses the pump's pressure to help the system to deliver the necessary clamping force to the calipers without overworking your right leg. Not only is the hydroboost smaller than a 7- or 8-inch booster, (which opens up room to drop in some added cubic inches), but it can also generate anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 psi of brake line pressure. Because the hydroboost doesn't run off vacuum, the calipers will be given the same amount of pressure from the minute you hit the brakes until the second you lift off them.

You might ask, "Does using fluid from the power steering pump require more horsepower?" Yes, because anytime you add strain to the motor, it's going to result in horsepower loss. But why would you need horsepower in the middle of mashing the brakes? On top of that, by simply lifting your foot off the brake, your horsepower loss is gone. "What happens if you lose your power steering pump or the motor dies?" Once again, no worries. The hydroboost's accumulator stores enough high pressure to have three full-power stops if the engine dies. If the three stops aren't enough to stop the car, then the system resorts to manual brakes. Power Brake Service offers kits for a variety of applications, including Chevrolet musclecars.

To see how the PBS hydroboost works, we found this '68 Camaro that had all kinds of vacuum issues, due to the performance cam. We switched out the old brake setup for the hydroboost in a matter of hours. Once it was all said and done, the car had gone from having no brakes to stopping on a dime.

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George at Power Brake Service began by removing the old brake setup. Because the hydroboost bolts up to the OEM bolts on the firewall, there is no need for cutting or fabricating.

The '68 is going to receive this black powdercoated PBS hydroboost, along with a new Wilwood master cylinder. With the system all bolted together, it looks pretty slick.

Power Brake Service has several options when ordering a hydroboost. You can have the body of the hydroboost powdercoated any color you like, chromed, and order any chrome accessories, as well.

In case you're wondering how the hydroboost sizes up to a standard power booster, here's one from OEM: a dual-diaphragm booster, and the hydroboost one after another.

Once the hydroboost was assembled, George dropped it into place and bolted it up to the firewall and pedal.

The power steering hoses were removed from the steering box, and these fittings were installed. When ordering your hydroboost, be sure to tell PBS what you're using. That way they can give you the proper fittings.

With the hoses removed from the box, the hose from the pump was removed, as well. Then, the fittings were installed in the power steering pump.

The hydroboost can use either a stainless braided hose or a rubber hose; for this application, PBS used stainless braided. Although PBS does have applications for nearly everything with power steering, they also sell universal hose kits, which can be cut to fit at home.

With the hydroboost and fittings installed, George began running the hoses. The system utilizes several new lines, starting with a hose running from the power steering pump into the engine side port of the hydroboost. From there, the fluid is run through the hydroboost and then carried down to the steering box through a new hose...

...Then, the steering box return line brings the fluid back to the pump reservoir, and the pump return line is tapped into the steering box return line. The user can also weld a fitting into the power steering reservoir so that the pump has its own return line, as opposed to tapping into the steering box return line. George ran all of the hoses on the inside of the fenderwell to keep a clean look.

With everything installed, it's time to bleed the system and head for a testdrive, not to mention that the new setup looks pretty cool, as well.

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