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How to Change Drum Brakes To Disc Brakes

How to change drum brakes to disc brakes

Drum brakes and disc brakes serve as integral components of a vehicle’s braking system, each coming with its unique benefits and downsides. Drum brakes, known for their simplicity and cost-effectiveness, are often found in older or entry-level vehicles. Conversely, disc brakes, praised for their superior stopping power and heat dissipation, are commonly seen in modern and high-performance vehicles.

Upgrading to disc brakes can significantly improve a vehicle’s braking performance, particularly in situations requiring sudden stops or under heavy load. Disc brakes are more efficient at dissipating heat, reducing the risk of brake fade under extreme conditions, thus offering enhanced safety.

This guide is primarily intended for car enthusiasts, DIY mechanics, or anyone looking to upgrade their vehicle’s braking system. It aims to address common queries related to the process and benefits of transitioning from drum brakes to disc brakes, such as “How to change drum brakes to disc brakes?” or “What are the advantages of disc brakes over drum brakes?”

Understanding Drum Brakes

Explanation of How Drum Brakes Work

how to change drum brakes to disc brakes

Drum brakes function by forcing two brake shoes against the inside of a drum, which is attached to the wheel. When the brake pedal is pressed, hydraulic fluid forces the brake shoes to expand outward. This friction between the brake shoes and the drum slows down the wheel, ultimately stopping the vehicle.

Common Issues with Drum Brakes

Despite their inherent simplicity, drum brakes are susceptible to several problems. They are prone to overheating due to poor heat dissipation, which may lead to brake fade in severe cases. The enclosed design of drum brakes also makes them more vulnerable to water ingress, reducing braking efficiency in wet conditions. Furthermore, maintenance and adjustment of drum brakes can be complex due to their multi-component design.

Reasons for Upgrading to Disc Brakes

Upgrading to disc brakes from drum brakes comes with a multitude of benefits. Disc brakes provide superior stopping power and are highly resistant to brake fade owing to better heat dissipation. They perform consistently well in various weather conditions and are easier to inspect and maintain due to their open design. Therefore, for enhanced braking performance and safety, an upgrade to disc brakes can be a worthwhile investment.

Tools and Materials

List of Tools Required for the Conversion

Changing drum brakes to disc brakes requires a well-equipped toolbox. Here is a list of essential tools you’ll need:

  1. Jack and jack stands: For safely lifting and securing the vehicle off the ground.
  2. Wrench set: For loosening and tightening bolts.
  3. Brake bleeder: For bleeding brake lines of any air bubbles.
  4. Pliers: Useful for pulling springs and retaining clips.
  5. Brake spring compressor: To remove and install the return spring on drum brakes.
  6. Flare nut wrench: For removing brake lines without stripping them.
  7. Screwdrivers: For prying and removing components.

Necessary Materials for the Disc Brake Upgrade

The following materials are necessary for the disc brake upgrade:

  1. Disc brake conversion kit: These kits usually include everything you need for the upgrade, like rotors, callipers, brackets, and pads.
  2. Brake fluid: Required for the brake bleeding process.
  3. Brake line: In case your existing line is not compatible with the new setup.
  4. Anti-seize lubricant: Useful for preventing rust and making future disassembly easier.

Tips on Where to Source Quality Parts

When sourcing parts for your disc brake upgrade, it is highly recommended that you go for reputable manufacturers or suppliers. Online platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and auto parts-specific websites offer a wide range of options. Alternatively, local auto parts stores or dealerships can be a reliable source of quality parts. Always prioritize quality over cost to ensure the longevity and performance of your new braking system.

How to Change Drum Brakes to Disc Brakes : Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1 : Preparing the Vehicle

Safely Lift and Secure the Vehicle

Safety is paramount when working on your vehicle, especially when it involves lifting the vehicle off the ground. Use a reliable hydraulic jack to lift your car and place jack stands under the vehicle’s designated jacking points to secure it. Ensure that the vehicle is on a solid, level surface to prevent any accidents. Always remember to leave the jack in place as an additional safety measure.

Remove the Wheel and Drum Brake Components

Start by removing the wheel. Loosen the lug nuts while the vehicle is still on the ground, then fully unscrew them after the car is lifted. Once the wheel is off, you’ll have access to the drum brake assembly. Use your pliers and brake spring compressor to carefully remove the springs, shoes, and other components of the drum brake system. Ensure to keep track of all the parts and their respective positions for reference when assembling the disc brake system. Always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from any dust and debris during this process.

Inspecting the Existing Drum Brake Setup

Before diving into the disc brake conversion, it’s important to thoroughly inspect the existing drum brake system. Look for any signs of excessive wear, such as deep grooves in the drum surface or worn-out brake shoes. Ensure the current brake lines are not leaking and that the wheel cylinder is functioning properly. Identifying issues beforehand can help prevent unexpected problems during the conversion process.

Identifying Compatibility for Disc Brake Conversion

The next step involves assessing your vehicle’s compatibility with a disc brake system. Check the specifications of the disc brake conversion kit you’ve chosen and make sure it’s designed for your vehicle model and year. You may need to check the size of your wheels as well; some disc brake systems require larger wheels for proper fitment.

Additionally, ensure the master cylinder and brake booster can handle the increased pressure required by the disc brake system. Some vehicles may require an upgrade of these components as well. Remember, a successful conversion hinges on thorough research and proper compatibility checks.

Researching the Specific Disc Brake Kit for the Vehicle

Before embarking on the task of changing your drum brakes to disc brakes, conducting diligent research about the specific disc brake kit designed for your vehicle is crucial. Utilize online resources to understand the kit’s specifications, installation process, and compatibility with your vehicle’s model and year.

Look out for customer reviews and ratings to gauge the quality and performance of the kit. You might also want to contact the manufacturer or the seller for any specific questions or concerns.

Consulting the Vehicle’s Manual and Online Resources

Your vehicle’s manual is a treasure trove of specific information tailored to your car, making it an indispensable resource during any vehicle upgrade. It can provide details about the brake system, wheel size, and other specifications that are crucial for a successful disc brake conversion.

Additionally, online resources such as automotive forums, blogs, and YouTube tutorials can provide practical insights, tips, and visual guides for the conversion process. Make sure to consult these resources thoroughly to ensure a smooth and successful upgrade from drum brakes to disc brakes.

Detaching Brake Components

how to change drum brakes to disc brakes

The process of changing drum brakes to disc brakes commences with the detachment of the drum brake components. Use a wrench to loosen the bolts holding the brake shoes and other components in place.

Keep a close eye on the order and orientation of these components as you disassemble them. You’ll want to ensure they are returned to their correct positions if necessary or to get a clearer understanding of how the new disc brake components will fit in.

Be sure to also detach the brake line using a flare nut wrench to prevent stripping. Any remaining brake fluid in the line should be properly contained to avoid spillage.

Unbolting the Drum Brake Assembly

Once the brake components are detached, the next step is to unbolt the drum brake assembly from the axle or spindle.

This is usually attached with several large bolts that can be removed using an appropriately sized wrench or socket.

Hold onto the drum brake assembly as you remove the last bolt to prevent it from falling and causing injury or damage. After the drum assembly is removed, clean the area thoroughly to prepare it for the new disc brake assembly.

Remember, patience and care are key during this process to ensure no parts are damaged or lost.

Step 2 : Installing Disc Brakes

Assembling the Disc Brake Components

Begin by unpacking your new disc brake kit and laying out all the components. Cross-check with the parts list to ensure that all items are included. Start the assembly process by attaching the brake pads to the calliper.

The brake calliper should then be connected to the mounting bracket, and the rotor should be attached to the wheel hub. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely to avoid any errors. It is important to handle all parts with clean hands or gloves to prevent any grease or oil contamination that could potentially affect braking performance.

Properly Fitting the New Disc Brake System

With the disc brake components assembled, it’s time to attach the new system to your vehicle. Mount the entire assembly onto the axle or spindle where the drum brake was previously attached. Secure the assembly in place using the new bolts supplied with the kit. Following this, connect the brake line to the new calliper. Ensure the connection is tight to prevent leaks. Once the disc brake system is installed, reinstall the wheels and lower the vehicle from the jack stands.

Finally, fill the brake system with fresh brake fluid and bleed the brakes to remove any air in the system. Carry out a careful visual inspection to make sure everything is fitted correctly and securely before taking your vehicle for a test drive.

Step 3 : Testing the New Disc Brakes

Checking for Any Abnormalities

Once the disc brakes have been installed, it is important to check for any abnormalities before taking your vehicle on the road. Inspect the brake system thoroughly for any leaks, loose bolts, or improperly installed components. Ensure that the brake fluid is at the correct level and that there are no bubbles in the brake lines which could indicate trapped air.

Listen for any unusual sounds when pressing the brake pedal. If you notice anything unusual, it’s best to address the issue immediately before proceeding to the test drive.

Test-Driving the Vehicle for Performance Evaluation

When you are confident that the disc brake system has been installed correctly and all checks show no abnormalities, it’s time to test the brakes in a controlled environment. Start by driving slowly in a secluded area, and gradually applying the brakes to check their responsiveness. Slowly increase your speed and monitor the brake performance.

If the vehicle stops smoothly and the brakes respond well to different levels of pressure, it’s a good sign that the installation has been successful. However, if you notice any issues such as squealing sounds, vibrations, or a spongy brake pedal, it’s important to diagnose and address these problems immediately. Always remember safety first.

Replacing Brake Lines if Necessary

Replacement of brake lines may be required while changing drum brakes to disc brakes, particularly if the existing lines are showing signs of wear or are incompatible with the new brake system. The new brake lines should match the specifications provided by the disc brake kit manufacturer.

When installing a new brake line, ensure all connections are tight and secure to prevent fluid leaks. This is a crucial step as a well-maintained brake line contributes to the overall performance and safety of the braking system.

Bleeding the Brake System to Ensure Proper Function

After the installation of the disc brake system is complete, the brake system needs to be bled to remove any trapped air within. Air in the brake lines can cause a spongy brake pedal and drastically decrease braking performance. To bleed the brake system, you will need a tube, a clear container, and a friend to help. Attach one end of the tube to the bleeder valve on the brake calliper and the other end to a container filled partially with brake fluid.

As your friend presses and releases the brake pedal, open and close the bleeder valve. This process will push the air out of the brake lines, into the tube, and the container. Repeat this process until no more air bubbles are seen coming out of the tube. Once completed, top off the brake fluid in the master cylinder and ensure your brake pedal feels firm. This step is crucial for ensuring the optimal operation of your new disc brake system.

Troubleshooting Tips

Addressing Common Issues During the Conversion

There are several common issues that you may encounter during the conversion process from drum brakes to disc brakes. One such issue could be difficulties in aligning the new brake components. If this occurs, be sure to cross-check your assembly with the manufacturer’s instructions and diagrams. Another challenge you might face is a stubborn bolt that won’t loosen.

In such cases, penetrating oil can often help. If you’re still unable to remove the bolt, consider seeking professional assistance to avoid damaging the bolt or surrounding components.

Troubleshooting Brake System Problems

how to change drum brakes to disc brakes

Post-installation, if your brake pedal feels spongy or you hear squeaking or grinding noises, these could be signs of a problem in the brake system. A spongy brake pedal often indicates air in the brake lines, which can be resolved by bleeding the brakes as described earlier. Squeaking or grinding noises could suggest improperly fitted components or that the brake pads are worn out. In such cases, recheck your installation and consider replacing the pads if necessary.

Seeking Professional Help When Needed

Despite best efforts, sometimes you may face problems that are beyond your expertise. In such instances, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A trained mechanic can accurately diagnose and correct any issues, ensuring the safety and longevity of your new disc brake system. It’s always better to be safe and have a professional handle complex issues rather than risk further damage or potential brake failure.

Maintenance and Care

Regular Inspection of Disc Brakes

Regular inspection is essential to ensure the proper functioning of your disc brakes. Check the brake pads for wear at least once every six months or every 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. Regularly inspect the brake rotors for any signs of damage or excessive wear. Look for uneven wear, warping, or cracks. Keep an eye on the brake fluid level in the master cylinder and refill if necessary. Remember, maintenance is key to the longevity of your disc brake system.

Tips for Extending the Lifespan of Disc Brakes

To maximize the lifespan of your disc brakes, avoid aggressive driving and hard braking, which can cause excessive wear and damage to the brake components. Regularly clean your brakes to remove dust and debris that can affect their performance.

Use high-quality brake pads and rotors, and always replace them before they are completely worn out. Regular servicing by a professional mechanic is also recommended to ensure all components are working optimally.

Proper Care to Avoid Potential Issues

Taking care of your disc brakes involves more than just regular checks and maintenance. It’s important to drive responsibly and be aware of your braking habits. Sudden, harsh stops can wear out your brakes faster, so practice smooth, gradual braking whenever possible. Pay attention to any changes in the feel of the brake pedal or any unusual noises when braking.

These could be early signs of an issue that needs attention. Lastly, never ignore any warning signs. If you suspect something is wrong, have your brakes inspected by a professional immediately to avoid potential issues.


In conclusion, the process of changing drum brakes to disc brakes involves several critical steps. It begins with the replacement of brake lines if necessary, ensuring they match the specifications set by the disc brake kit manufacturer.

This is followed by bleeding the brake system to ensure optimal functioning, removing any trapped air that could affect the braking performance. Troubleshooting common issues during the conversion and after installation is also a significant part of the process. Regular inspection and maintenance of the disc brakes, including checking brake pads and brake fluid level, can ensure their longevity.

Lastly, adopting proper driving habits and paying attention to warning signs are pivotal in avoiding potential issues. Remember, safety comes first when dealing with the braking system of your vehicle.

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