The Mas­ter Plan

Part 2: Com­plet­ing our Wil­wood disc brake con­ver­sion

Street Rodder - - Contents - By Gerry Burger Pho­tog­ra­phy by the Au­thor

In last month’s is­sue we set about con­vert­ing our '57 Ford Ranch Wagon from early Ca­maro disc brakes to mod­ern, alu­minum four-pis­ton disc brakes from Wil­wood Disc Brakes. The con­ver­sion proved to be very straight­for­ward and we were more than pleased with the in­creased ro­tor size, the black an­odized calipers, and the sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in un­spring weight.

With the brakes in­stalled on the spin­dles it is time to pop the hood and swap our mas­ter cylin­der. Once again we used Wil­wood com­po­nents to en­sure com­pat­i­bil­ity. Since we are us­ing a power booster, Wil­wood rec­om­mended a 1-1/8-inch bore dual mas­ter cylin­der. Also, since the drum brakes will re­main on the rear of the car, a pro­por­tion­ing valve and dis­tri­bu­tion block were in­cluded in the order. This will greatly sim­plify the in­stal­la­tion and en­sure the proper pres­sure for both the front disc and rear drum brakes.

First we un­packed the mas­ter cylin­der and pro­por­tion­ing valve kit and com­pletely read the in­struc­tion sheet. The clear in­struc­tions also help you un­der­stand the task at hand, which ul­ti­mately saved us time. The kit comes with a se­lec­tion of fit­tings, en­sur­ing your ex­ist­ing brake lines and fit­tings will thread into the pro­por­tion­ing valve. The pro­por­tion­ing

valve mount is held in place by the two nuts that hold the mas­ter cylin­der to the power brake booster and Wil­wood was kind enough to in­clude two small stain­less steel brake lines that con­nect from the mas­ter cylin­der to the pro­por­tion­ing valve, but we’re get­ting a bit ahead of our­selves.

First, we de­ter­mined which side of the mas­ter cylin­der we would use for the brake lines. Since the mas­ter cylin­der has ports on both sides you must plug one side with the sup­plied plugs and use the other side to power your brakes. We put our soft jaws in the vise and firmly clamped the mas­ter cylin­der in the vise so we could in­stall and tighten the two plugs. Don’t over-tighten the vise; re­mem­ber this is an alu­minum mas­ter cylin­der so you don’t want to risk break­ing off one of the mount­ing ears.

With one side of the mas­ter cylin­der plugged, it is time to bench bleed the mas­ter cylin­der us­ing the sup­plied bench bleed­ing kit. There are ac­tu­ally two ways to do this. One, as the name im­plies, is to bleed the mas­ter cylin­der clamped in the vise on the bench us­ing

a large punch to move the cylin­der in and out un­til the air is evac­u­ated from the cylin­der. The other way is to mount the mas­ter cylin­der on the car, in­stall the mas­ter cylin­der bleed­ing kit, and bleed the mas­ter cylin­der us­ing the brake pedal in the car to slowly move the mas­ter cylin­der in and out un­til all the air is purged from the cylin­der. We bench bled the cylin­der mostly be­cause it was eas­ier to pho­to­graph, but of­ten find the se­cond method eas­ier. Either way, be cer­tain all the air is out of the mas­ter cylin­der.

Next, mount the pro­por­tion­ing valve and dis­tri­bu­tion block along with the mas­ter cylin­der on the car. The Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der is de­signed to work with a long pushrod from the brake pedal, or you can in­sert a bush­ing into the mas­ter cylin­der so the short pushrod from a power brake booster will work. Since we are us­ing power brakes, we in­serted the bush­ing prior to mount­ing the mas­ter cylin­der to our brake booster.

We mounted ev­ery­thing fin­ger tight; the mas­ter cylin­der/brake booster bracket and the dis­tri­bu­tion block/

pro­por­tion­ing valve. Then we in­stalled the Wil­wood pre-formed stain­less steel brake lines be­tween the mas­ter cylin­der and the dis­tri­bu­tion block. Fi­nally, we con­nected the ex­ist­ing brake lines on the car to the proper ports on the dis­tri­bu­tion block. It should be noted the dis­tri­bu­tion block comes with two front brake ports. You can either run a sep­a­rate line to each front brake caliper or plug one port and uti­lize a tee in the line to split to the front brakes. Since our ex­ist­ing line had a tee on the fram­erail we plugged one of the front brake ports with a proper in­verted flare plug from the lo­cal parts store (this is not a pipe thread). We were for­tu­nate enough to bend the ex­ist­ing rear brake line to align with the new port on the pro­por­tion­ing block. We were not as for­tu­nate on the front brake line and had to fab­ri­cate a new sec­tion of brake line to con­nect from the afore­men­tioned tee to the pro­por­tion­ing block. Once again, in­verted flare fit­tings are used through­out the in­stal­la­tion.

With the brake lines con­nected fin­ger tight we now tight­ened the two bolts hold­ing the pro­por­tion­ing valve/ dis­tri­bu­tion block to the mas­ter cylin­der.

Then, us­ing the proper line wrench– style wrenches we tight­ened all of the in­verted flare nuts. We also checked the plugs on the op­po­site side of the mas­ter cylin­der to en­sure they were tight.

A quick check of the brake pedal en­sured us it was work­ing prop­erly and mov­ing the mas­ter cylin­der the full stroke. Next we dis­con­nected the bat­tery and spliced the two new wires into our ex­ist­ing brake light wires and plugged the wires onto the brake light switch that is sup­plied with the dis­tri­bu­tion block.

From here it’s a sim­ple mat­ter of bleed­ing the brakes. Since we had bench-bled the mas­ter cylin­der, bleed­ing the brakes was very straight­for­ward, and since the mas­ter cylin­der is well above all wheel cylin­ders and calipers, there was no need for a resid­ual valve. We bled the brakes be­gin­ning with the brake far­thest from the mas­ter cylin­der and un­til all air had been elim­i­nated. We pumped the brake pedal un­til we had a good firm pedal and tested the brakes by hold­ing the pres­sure on the brake sys­tem for at least one full minute. Then we got un­der the car and

ex­am­ined all con­nec­tions for any sign of a leak. Once we were cer­tain the hy­draulic sys­tem was prop­erly bled and leak-free it was time for a test­drive.

First we tested the car in the drive­way and the brakes seemed to be work­ing prop­erly. Next it was time to head to either a large, empty park­ing lot or in our case a cer­tain quiet dead-end road. Once there we gave the brakes a bit more rig­or­ous test; first 15 mph, then 20, and 30 mph. Sat­is­fied that the brakes were work­ing prop­erly it was time to bed in the new brake pads with a se­ries of light stops to build up some heat. We are for­tu­nate to have plenty of long, lonely coun­try roads so the bed­ding process con­tin­ues with a se­ries of brak­ing from 55-60 mph down to 25 mph, with suf­fi­cient brake re­lease time to cool and heat sink the pads. The Wil­wood direc­tions give very spe­cific de­tails on brake pad bed­ding. By now the brakes should be feel­ing smooth and stop­ping the car ef­fi­ciently.

Once back home take a look at the new ro­tors. They should dis­play a uni­form bur­nish­ing across the face of the ro­tor. We made yet an­other

full in­spec­tion of all brake com­po­nents to en­sure the flex lines were not con­tact­ing any sus­pen­sion com­po­nents, that there were no leaks, and we even re­moved the cover on the mas­ter cylin­der to en­sure it was at the proper level.

In the end we were more than pleased with the brak­ing on our '57 Ford Ranch Wagon. The Wil­wood brakes pro­vided con­fi­dent, pos­i­tive brak­ing far su­pe­rior in ev­ery way to the old Ca­maro disc brakes that were on the car. Even the pedal feel is bet­ter with the Wil­wood brakes, mak­ing this week­end con­ver­sion one of the best projects yet for our Ranch Wagon.

While we were able to slightly bend our rear brake line to fit the new com­bi­na­tion valve, we had to form a new front brake line. This in­cluded us­ing a proper bend­ing tool and do­ing in­verted flares on both ends of the line.

This easy-to-use Surseal Mini from Koul Tools makes a per­fect flare by lap­ping in the in­side of the in­verted flare. We use it on all of our in­verted flared lines for a per­fect seal ev­ery time. This new line will con­nect from the dis­tri­bu­tion block on...

Be­fore do­ing any­thing we test­fit the mas­ter cylin­der to the booster, then went in­side the car to check for proper pedal travel.

Since we are run­ning drum brakes rear and new Wil­wood disc brakes up front, a pro­por­tion­ing valve and dis­tri­bu­tion block (aka com­bi­na­tion valve) was or­dered. It comes com­plete with formed lines and a new brake switch. We test-mounted the com­bi­na­tion...

Af­ter care­fully cut­ting out a piece of the DEI Re­flect-A-Gold tape we in­stalled it on the Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der. This will not be seen af­ter the cylin­der is in­stalled.

We in­stalled the two sup­plied plugs on the right side of the mas­ter cylin­der since this side points to­ward the en­gine in our car. Heat is the enemy of brake fluid and any­thing that has a seal in­side. Since the ex­haust man­i­fold is be­low the mas­ter...

1932 Ford Road­ster by John­son’s Hot Rod Shop Front Tires: Fire­stone Deluxe Cham­pion 5.60-15 Rear Tires: Fire­stone Deluxe Cham­pion 7.50-16 Wheels: Spe­cialty Wheel Hot Rod Steel

The mas­ter cylin­der also comes with this in­sert that con­verts it from a deep bore to shal­low bore mas­ter cylin­der. Typ­i­cally power brakes use a shal­low bore mas­ter cylin­der. Since we are us­ing a power brake booster we in­stalled the in­sert in the mas­ter...

The Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der has ports on both sides, mak­ing it easy to plumb the pro­por­tion­ing valve and brake lines. Along with our power booster this 1-1/8-inch bore mas­ter cylin­der will pro­vide proper line pres­sure. The Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der comes...

Match­ing the mas­ter cylin­der to the other brake com­po­nents is im­per­a­tive for good, safe brak­ing. We used Wil­wood com­po­nents ex­clu­sively in our front brake up­grade. In last month’s is­sue we in­stalled the Wil­wood four-pis­ton calipers and 12-inch ro­tors...

We test­fit all the lines be­fore bleed­ing the mas­ter cylin­der or in­tro­duc­ing any brake fluid to the new sys­tem.

This pig­tail and boot was sup­plied with the Wil­wood com­bi­na­tion valve. The push-on wires fit the new brake light switch that came pre-in­stalled in the com­bi­na­tion valve. We spliced the two wires into our ex­ist­ing brake light wires. Sat­is­fied that all...

19-20-21 Af­ter bleed­ing the mas­ter cylin­der we bolted it all in place, tight­ened the lines and checked to be cer­tain ev­ery­thing was tight. We al­ways use Wil­wood Hi Temp 570 brake fluid in our hot rods. Af­ter us­ing stan­dard brake bleed­ing pro­ce­dures we...

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