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Discussion Starter #1
I started upgrading my brakes, and decided to "blog" about it in this thread. I plan to follow in petet's footsteps, who first added rear discs to his minivan, and more recently upgraded the fronts to 4th gen brakes. So all credit for research here goes to him.

Today I went to a salvage and picked up a complete rear axle from a 2001 Grand Caravan with rear discs. I paid $150 for it. I got the whole axle assembly for two reasons: 1) to get all the needed parts, including e-brake cables, bolts, hoses, etc, and 2) I was considering perhaps swapping in the whole axle assembly, instead of just the brakes, if it were easier.

As I got it home and started taking it apart, I quickly realized that I did not need the whole axle, as the important parts (brackets, calipers, hubs, etc) come off easily by simply removing the four bolts at each end. In fact, it would be very difficult to swap the whole axle in, as the brake hose brackets are oriented differently, so that would be a bigger project than need be. So my suggestion to others is to get just the brakes from each end, not the whole axle. I'll post pictures of what is needed.

So I am currently deciding what if anything needs to be replaced with new parts. I'll probably start by just reusing all the parts to see how things work, and will put in new rotors or pads later if needed.

I am taking pictures along the way, and will update this thread as I make progress.

Hope some of you find it useful.
 

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Excellent idea for a thread! I just hope it helps with your "crappy brakes" and "characteristically soft brake pedal". LOL
 

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Are you planning to replace the master cylinder & ABS module? or keep existing 3rd gen setup?
(perhaps a link back to the research thread wold be nice..)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Are you planning to replace the master cylinder & ABS module? or keep existing 3rd gen setup?
(perhaps a link back to the research thread wold be nice..)
I plan to keep the current ABS module and master cylinder. I don't really have a single source for petet's posts, they are scattered in the "help for crappy brakes" and "characteristically soft pedal" threads on this forum. That's why I decided to do this blog, to have it all in one place.
 

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Keep the master, screw the ABS. It only inhibits full braking unless you really need it to modulate the brakes for you. Especially since the 3rd gen ABS is a bit slow and dim witted.
 

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is the 4th gen hardware the same as the 3rd?
 

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So here are some pictures from yesterday.

Here is what I brought home, the complete axle assembly from a 2001 Grand Caravan. You can see the whole axle is different from the 3rd gen, it's rectangular instead of circular in cross-section. Again, this was a bit of an overkill, as all I needed are the things on the ends. It did however come with e-brake cables, so that was a bonus.



Here is a closeup of one axle end - remove the four big bolts, and the whole brake assembly comes right off the axle.



Here is the brake assembly off the axle.



Here is a closeup view of the assembly. Note that the ABS tone wheel is different than 3rd gen, so I will be reusing the 3rd gen hub and tone wheel from my van.



After loosening the two caliper bolts, the caliper comes right off.



Then I removed the rotor and the hub assembly from the backing plate. Again, I will be reusing my old hub, not this one. You can see the parking brake shoes and springs that are normally behind the rotor.



Here are all the components individually.



Everything looks decent enough to reuse, at least until I get the whole thing set up. Then I might consider new pads and rotors.

Today I will start removing my old drum brake parts, and installing the disc brakes. From what I see so far (and from petet's experience) this should be a no-brainer. The only non "bolt on" element is shortening and reflaring the brake tubes. So I hope to be done sometime today (fingers crossed).

Stay tuned for more.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
is the 4th gen hardware the same as the 3rd?
The parking brake cables and the caliper brake hoses are different. But the 4th gen rear parking brake cables supposedly bolt right up to the 3rd gen intermediate cable. All the bolt-on hardware appears to be interchangable from 3rd to 4th gen.
 

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While you're in there, grind off the rust ridge on the ebrake assembly so the rotor comes off easily 5 years down the road. You are probably lucky they came off without trouble now. Also it wouldn't hurt to clean and lube the ebrake parts.
 

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Well, it's done! I would have been done much earlier if the O'Reilly's flaring kit did not turn out to be a POS, requiring me to change from my car working clothes to street clothes, hit up a Sears for a Craftsman kit, and drive back.

I'll post some pictures later, but for now, I wanted to give the impressions of my first test drive:

SPECTACULAR!!!!

I have brakes again! It is beyond my wildest dreams now. The pedal feels completely different, nothing like the hard-but-useless pedal that I was used to. Not soft, just firm. I have no idea why that is, but it is.

And when I hit the brakes hard, it stops confidently, with much less pedal effort. And the front end does not dive down like it used to.

To say that I am thrilled is an understatement. It is a completely different feeling.

The funny thing is that I have not yet put in the correct disc/disc proportioning valve, I am using the original disc/drum proportioning valve. I'll replace it next weekend, along with probably new pads and rotors.

Anyway, I'll post more pictures later, but I have to say, this has been incredible, especially considering how easy and cheap this swap is. Highly recommended!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
While you're in there, grind off the rust ridge on the ebrake assembly so the rotor comes off easily 5 years down the road. You are probably lucky they came off without trouble now. Also it wouldn't hurt to clean and lube the ebrake parts.
Absolutely, Andy. This was just a quick dry run to see if/how things work together. Now that I see that it all works, I'll spend some more time cleaning/lubricating the key components, and probably replacing some of the parts like pads and rotors.
 

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This is a good thread. I reused the 3rd gen master cylinder and ABS. It all works perfectly. I just cut the tubing shorter and re-flared it to connect to the 4th gen hoses. Everything else bolts on including the e-brake cables.
 

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I hate to say it, but I guess I'll be the first one. That means your rear brakes were not setup properly for some odd reason in the first place. But the discs are a nice upgrade.
 

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My rear drums on this van worked fine. The discs just work better. The brakes in my 97 were the ones that were like Leon's. The disc's make a big improvement in feel and do improve in stopping.
 

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Petet, stop by Niles and drive my van to slam on my brakes. Lol maybe me and misty have freak vans but my brake pedal is OK (and I say ok because I've driven excellent high end vehicles) and brakes work well, and they will continue to until my rusty brake lines blow out. My only problem is that I have a warped drum from when my mom drove the van 5 miles with the ebrake on then called me because the van had the brake light on and it smelled bad...:Shrugs:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I hate to say it, but I guess I'll be the first one. That means your rear brakes were not setup properly for some odd reason in the first place. But the discs are a nice upgrade.
No worries, the thought has crossed my mind too. But the fact remains that I messed with the rear brakes many times and in many ways with no change. I replaced and lubed all components, I adjusted the brakes five different ways, and I felt no difference whatsoever. So, I tend to lean towards petet's opinion - the rear discs are just much more effective than the rear drums. I don't think that is a big surprise, there is a reason they put discs in most cars these days. And with the 3rd gen's undersized front brakes, the rear discs are a huge help.

Realistically, I spent less time and money putting in the rear discs than I have messing with the rear drums. So I am quite happy, just wish I had done it sooner.
 

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Here are some more pictures.

Here is the original axle, with the hub and backing plate removed.



Here are the two hubs side by side. They tone wheels are different, but the bolt pattern is the same.



Here is the new backing plate installed.



Here is the hub in place. The four bolts in the back are torqued to 95 ft-lbf.



Now the rotors and calipers are installed.



Next I modified the brake lines. I decided to remove the brake lines from the van, to make it easier to clear out the debris from cutting and filing. So here is one of the two brake lines removed.



Here is the line after I cut off the end. You can see what was cut off.



Here you can see the 4th gen caliper hose attached to the modified brake line.

 
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