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Vanco Big Brake Kit

NOTE:  This conversion alters one of the safety devices (the brakes) on your vehicle.  If you decide to undertake this conversion, it should be performed by personnel who are competent to conduct such alterations to a vehicle.  This conversion will result in changes to your vehicle's handling and braking ability.  If in doubt, consult the services of a professional. 

Anyone with a TJ, Rubicon, XJ, etc. knows that the stock braking system is a compromise if you are running 35" or larger tires.  Panic stopping on the freeway can quite literally cause you to panic as you find your vehicle not stopping as fast as you want.  If you run a 4:1 transfer case with an automatic transmission and deep gearing in your differentials, you probably know how difficult it is to stop on the trail.  Overdriving your brakes is pretty common with this kind of setup.

Several years ago, I installed a Vanco hydroboost unit to improve braking performance.  It has done me well during the past few years and with my fairly recent auto tranny transplant, I'm glad I had it.  I can stop on the trail and over driving my brakes is not an issue.

Last year, Vanco released a big brake kit with some design assistance by my friend Blaine Johnson.  It was a more elegant solution than the hydroboost.  Don't get me wrong....the hydroboost works.  However, the big brake kit doesn't require a new power steering pump, PS cooler, new master cylinder, etc.  It does come with new steering knuckles (a core charge is accessed for your old knuckles) but installing them is not that difficult.  And the braking results, once installed, will put a smile on your face. 

My kit was a little different because of my Warn hub conversion.  Vanco provides a version of the kit to support those with the small Warn hub conversion.  This write-up covers the installation of the Vanco Big Brake Kit on a TJ with that Warn hub conversion.  As if that was not enough, I also have the TBT true cross over steering.  This required that TBT modified knuckles be sent to Vanco for the necessary machine work and then supplied with the kit.  My congratulations to Vanco for making this kit available for those of us that have modified steering and small hubs. 



The kit contains everything you need to complete the installation.  New rotors, new dual piston calipers, new Performance Friction disc brake pads, and modified TJ steering knuckles that have been machined to accept the dual piston calipers.  It even includes the replacement cotter pins for the tie rod and ball joints and copper washers for the brake lines.  It is a complete kit all the way down to the install documentation with the exception of the red Loctite needed for the caliper mounting bolts.  Most Jeepers will have a bottle in their tool bag or their garage.  If you don't, get a bottle....you'll use it for other Jeep mods.



Here is one of the steering knuckles with the dual piston caliper bolted to it.  The knuckles ship with the calipers attached to them.  There are two caliper mounting bolts that are not tighten down.  Remove these and the caliper is separated from the knuckle for installation on the TJ. 

When it comes time to overhaul/replace the calipers, rotors, and pads, the parts can be obtained at virtually any auto parts store.  For the pads and calipers, ask the counter person for those fitting a '95~'01 Ford Explorer 2WD or 4WD vehicle.  For the rotor, it's the same years but it must be for the 4WD Explorer model.  The 4WD rotor is a floating rotor that fits over the wheel studs and registers on the unit bearing pilot hub.  It is nice to see that Vanco is using a commonly available off-the-shelf application for this kit instead of a high end expensive/hard to find unit or worse yet, something proprietary. 

Time to start on the installation.  This took me about a half day to complete.  The 2nd side went quite a bit faster than did the first side.  If you have a wrenchin' buddy, it should go faster, especially with the kit I did as I had to do some extra steps with the Warn hubs.



The first thing to do is to mix some laundry detergent and water together in a bucket.  Scrub the rotors with a soapy brush to remove the manufacturer's protective coating.  Be sure to scrub the rotors clean, then rinse them and set them off to the side to dry.  We'll get back to them later on. (yes, they will rust)

Please note that it is possible that some rotors may ship with a different kind of protective coating which is not intended to be washed off.  Vanco will add appropriate info to the kit to make you are aware of this.



I started on the driver's side by removing my Maxxis Trepador tire.  When working on projects like this, be sure to use a jack stand along with your floor jack.  Do NOT trust the floor jack to support the axle by itself.  Likewise, do NOT use cinder blocks and other such things as a substitute for the jack stand. 



With the tire removed, I grabbed a 13mm socket and removed the two caliper mounting bolts.  While these are not used in the new kit, hang onto these as your friend will eventually bend or strip one and you'll be the hero when you have one to save the day.

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