Brake Conversion Kit Buyer’s Guide
- A brake conversion kit allows you to change your stock brakes to a different braking system. There are two main types of brake conversion kits: drum to disc brake conversion kits and manual to power brake conversion kits.
- A standard drum to disc brake conversion kit must include rotors, brake pads, and brake calipers. However, a complete drum to disc brake conversion kit should also come with all the seals, bearings, hoses, and brackets needed for the replacement.
- A power brake conversion kit comes with a power brake booster and, in some cases, a new brake pedal, brake fluid reservoirs, a proportioning valve, and a power brake force distribution block.
The braking system is one of the most important safety features of any vehicle. That is why it’s crucial to have the most effective brakes you can get. These days, disc brakes are the standard for braking performance. They replaced drum brakes several decades ago because they provide better braking capability. If your old collector vehicle is still running on drum brakes, it’s advisable to convert them to disc brakes as soon as possible.
Another more recent upgrade to the braking system is the power brake. Power brakes minimize the manual pedal effort needed to brake. This makes braking more efficient and safe. Converting from drum to disc brakes and from manual to power brakes are both excellent safety upgrades to make. To do any of these, you will need a brake conversion kit.
What Is a Brake Conversion Kit?
A brake conversion kit allows you to change your stock brakes to a different braking system. There are two main types of brake conversion kits: drum to disc brake conversion kits and manual to power brake conversion kits.
Usually, when talking about brake conversion, people are referring to drum to disc brake conversion. Although power brakes offer easier operation and shorter braking distances, manual to power brake conversion isn’t that common, especially for regular street driving applications.
Why Should You Convert from Drum to Disc Brakes?
Before the 1970s, practically all vehicles were equipped with drum brakes. But shortly after disc brakes were introduced, it became apparent that they performed better compared to drum brakes. Here are some of the advantages of disc brakes over drum brakes.
- Disc brakes are easier to maintain. While drum brakes are less expensive overall, disc brakes are easier to maintain because of their simpler, more open mechanism.
- Disc brakes are self-adjusting. Unlike drum brakes, disc brakes don’t need to be adjusted on a regular basis. This saves you money on labor costs for brake adjustment.
- Disc brakes are better at resisting damage from the elements. Disc brakes don’t generate the same amount of heat that drum brakes do. On top of that, because they are exposed to the air, they are able to dissipate heat better. Also, unlike drum brakes, moisture and debris don’t get trapped within them.
- Disc brakes provide more powerful braking compared to drum brakes. Although both drum brakes and disc brakes are capable of stopping your vehicle, disc brakes can do it faster and at a shorter distance.
- The cost of a disc brake conversion kit depends on what’s included in the kit. You can purchase brake conversion kits as a two-wheel set or a complete four-wheel conversion kit. Prices range from around $500 to $2000.
Because of the advantages of disc brakes over drum brakes, they are now more widely used. It’s not uncommon to see vehicles with four disc brakes, although most cars still use drum brakes for the rear wheels.
What Does a Drum to Disc Brake Conversion Kit Include?
A standard drum to disc brake conversion kit must include rotors, brake pads, and brake calipers. However, a complete drum to disc brake conversion kit should also come with all the seals, bearings, hoses, and brackets needed for the replacement. This is to ensure compatibility across all components and to minimize the need for looking for some spare seals or brackets when you’e already started working on the conversion. In some cases, the brake conversion kit might also include drop spindles and an emergency brake cable kit.
Manual to Power Brake Conversion
Although power brake conversion isn’t as popular, you might still be interested to know what it entails. Power brakes are vacuum-assisted or hydraulic-assisted brakes that reduce the effort required to brake. A power brake conversion kit comes with a power brake booster and, in some cases, a new brake pedal, brake fluid reservoirs, a proportioning valve, and a power brake force distribution block.
Tips on Finding the Best Disc Brake Conversion Kits
Choosing the best brake conversion kit can be challenging. That’s why it’s important to consider certain factors in order to find the perfect brake conversion kit for your needs. Here are some things you need to consider when shopping for a brake conversion kit.
Location of Brakes to Replace
Most modern vehicles have disc brakes on the front of the vehicle and drum brakes at the rear. Older vehicles, on the other hand, typically have drum brakes for all wheels. Before you purchase a brake conversion kit, make sure you know exactly what parts you’re replacing. Some people just replace the front drum brakes in order to match the current braking system standards in most modern cars. Some choose to replace all four drum brakes with disc brakes so that everything will be upgraded all in one go. Cars with front disc brakes and rear drum brakes will obviously only need a rear disc brake conversion kit.
Power Brakes Upgrade
When doing a drum to disc brake conversion, some people also opt to simultaneously do a power brake upgrade. If you have the budget for more parts, doing a drum to disc and manual to power upgrade at the same time can save you a lot of time on labor if you’re doing the conversion yourself, or a lot of money on professional labor costs.If you choose to do both upgrades at once, make sure that you’re getting disc and power brake conversion kits that are compatible with your vehicle and with each other.
Quality of Materials Used
When it comes to quality of materials, the two specific components that need to be made of durable materials are the rotors and the brake pads. Try to look for brake pads that are made from ceramic and copper fibers. These materials reduce rotor fade and last longer than other materials. Cast iron is most often used for the rotor. However, if you have the cash to spare, it’s better to choose a brake conversion kit with steel rotors. Steel rotors are more lightweight and they resist corrosion better than cast iron rotors.
How Much Does a Disc Brake Conversion Kit Cost?
The cost of a disc brake conversion kit depends on what’s included in the kit. You can purchase brake conversion kits as a two-wheel set or a complete four-wheel conversion kit. Prices range from around $500 to $2000.
Because brake conversion requires several types of tools and a thorough knowledge of the braking system, it’s not really a job for inexperienced home mechanics. If you’re unsure, it’s best to let a professional install your brake conversion kit for you.