How to: Upgrade your vehicle's #Brakes
As a good follow up to my story about driving through mountain roads with no brakes, I will show you how to replace or upgrade the brakes on a Nissan. While this tutorial is mostly aimed at RWD Nissans (Skylines, Cefiros Stageas, Laurels and Silvias) made during the 90’s, it may apply to other vehicles.
The naturally aspirated Nissans were given 2-pot floating brakes, while turbo Nissans were given 4-pot fixed brake calipers. If you plan on increasing the output of your Nissan, then it is a good idea to upgrade to turbo brakes first, especially since they are a direct fit.
Nissans come with a jack usually hidden in the side of the boot, or on the spare wheel. There is a groove on top of the jack where it fits into the rail under the car. The jack area is marked by 2 notches in the rail - right after the front wheel arch and before the rear wheel arch.
After you have placed your jack under the correct position, loosen the wheel studs. Give them a full turn then jack the car up until the wheels no longer touch the ground and you can place jackstands under the car.
Remove the wheels and look on the back of the brake calipers.
There are 2 large bolts on the back of the caliper. Remove these and lift the calipers out of the way.
Marked in orange is the brake line.
Using a soft hammer (or by placing a block of wood on the brakes to dampen the blow), hit the area between the studs while being VERY careful not to hit the studs or the face of the rotors. You should eventually hear the dirt inside the brake rotors falling away signalling that the rotor is getting loose. Try wiggling the brake off. If it still doesn’t come off, give a few more hits with the soft hammer.
Once you have the rotor off, you should see the star-shaped hub.
The last picture shows where to adjust the handbrake on the rear wheels.
The picture above shows my old floating brakes. If you are just replacing the brake pads and/or rotors, then you do not need to remove the brake hoses.
On one side of the calipers are the brake cylinders, while the other side looks like a vice-grip. The mounting brackets that hold the brake pads are bolted into the wheel hubs (red arrows), and are held to the cylinder body by 2 lock pins (orange arrows). The cylinder body “floats” - that is the moving part when the brakes are compressed, while the mounting bracket stays in the same position much like a vice clamp.
On floating brakes you can remove the mounting brackets by undoing the smaller bolts (the lock pins).
The brackets will slide straight out, and the old pads can be pushed out.
On the turbo brakes, you will start by removing the wires that hold the pins in place. Then push the pin into the caliper, then using a screwdriver pry the head of the pin out from the other side.
The clip holding the pads in place will fall out and you can remove the pads.
If you have bought yourself a set of steel braided brake lines, now is the time to swap them in.
First place a drip-tray or newspaper under each wheel arch as the brakes will drip when disconnected.
The old hoses connect to solid hydraulic lines about 20cm up. Using a 10mm or 11mm flare spanner, undo both ends of the factory brake hoses. The factory hoses might have banjo bolts on the end, however they are interchangeable with screw-in brake lines.
The brake hose inlets are marked in orange in the photo above.
You can get a Brake Compression Tool from RepCo or Super Cheap Auto for about $5.
Use it on each cylinder to push them back into their housing as far as you can.
With the cylinders pushed all the way back in, place the mounting brackets back in place.
Put some grease around the edges of the new pads where they slide into the mounting brackets.
Line up the mounting brackets with the cylinder body and screw in the guide pins
Put some grease on the sides of the new pads, and also around the holes where the pin slides through the pads.
Line up the pads with the holes for the pin, and push the pin through. Re-attach the wire through the end of the pins.
Push the pads as far to the sides as you can then slide one end of the clip under the pin and push the other end into place.
Make sure no-one presses the brakes until the whole brake assembly is back in place.
If you are upgrading your brake calipers, you will need new brake rotors to match the calipers. In the photo above, the rotors from a turbo Skyline are almost twice as wide as those from a naturally aspirated Skyline.
If your rotors are brand new, hose them down with brake cleaner and rub them with a cloth to get rid of the anti-rust clear coat they have from factory.
Line up the holes on the rotors with the studs on the wheel hubs.
Once the calipers have been re-assembled, slide them onto the rotors and line up the mounting bolt holes before placing the bolts in - it can often be a mission getting them to line up in the correct position.
Screw the other end of the brake lines into the solid hydraulic lines.
Remember to route them the same way the factory lines were routed around the suspension and strut or they could get damaged while driving.
In the engine bay, you may need to replace the master cylinder if you have upgraded your brake calipers. If your vehicle has ABS, make sure you get a master cylinder with ABS outlets.
At the bottom of the reservoir are 2 bolts that need to be removed. The other side is connected to the brake pedal via a pin. Remove the ABS and brake lines and drain the cylinder away from the vehicle if you haven’t already.
Fill the new reservoir with brake fluid, block the line holes with your fingers, then pump the pushrod. Let the brake fluid force its way out, but do not let air seep in through the bottom.
Once you are certain that there is no air left in the reservoir, place it in the engine bay while holding the outlets shut and get a mate to screw it in tight.
With the master cylinder in place and with the outlets still blocked, connect to the brake pedal.
Under the dashboard, press the brake until the smaller hole lines up with the hole in the master cylinder pushrod and press the pin through. Place a cloth or towel over any painted areas below the master cylinder in the engine bay, top up the master cylinder, and connect the outlet lines. This could get very very messy.
Finally, bleed all the brakes starting at the rear.
Connect a transparent hose (or bleeder kit) to the bleed valve on the caliper and release the valve using a flare spanner. Get a mate to press the brake pedal to the floor. Before he lets go, tighten the bleed valve so that no air enters the brake line.
Repeat until no more air bubbles run through.
Before taking the vehicle for a test drive, make sure the car is turned on then pump the brakes until they feel solid.
Congratulations, you have just done it yourself!