FJ-55 Drum Brake Job
Project Toy Hummer has been in need of new brakes ever since I got it. How bad was it? Well....
The original drum brakes probably worked very good from the factory- otherwise who'd buy them right? 31 years later (almost 32) the brakes were in such bad shape that for the two months before replacement, I was scared to drive, or rather, STOP the vehicle. Those fears were realized too. It got to the point that when coming to a stop sometimes the pedal would sink to the floor and I'd have to keep pumping the pedal! And since I have owned the vehicle I have had to double pump the brakes. Everyone in the club Battle Born Cruisers of Northern Nevada encouraged me to go all disk brakes. I really couldn't afford the downtime, or the risk of having it turn out poorly. I needed a true bolt in solution.
Enter Cool Cruisers of Texas. They sell ALL the parts needed to bolt in a NEW brake system. No rebuilt parts here, just aftermarket replacement wheel cylinders, new shoes, and an aftermarket master cylinder.
To quote CCOT: "DRUM BRAKES... '75 and Older.... We receive many calls from Customers considering Converting to Disc Brakes... Drum Brake systems, when working properly with all new wheel cylinders and master cylinder, work great!!! Drum Brakes have more surface stopping power than Disc and if all hydraulic cylinders are working properly then you'll never consider the great expense of converting to disc brakes... This has been our experience and the experience of many of our customers... We believe brake conversion became popular because in the past brake wheel cylinders were so OVER PRICED!"
I opted to get a Toyota OEM master cylinder. The whole kit cost less than $400 and arrived in about 10 days. The kit was very complete, and the wheel cylinders were labeled 'driver' and 'passenger' side. The same day the kit arrived, another wheel cylinder puked. My master cylinder was down 1/4 from full and I had filled it barely a week earlier. NOT GOOD. So, how bad is it? Lets look!
The first step to this brake job was disassembling the old parts. I placed the vehicle on jack stands, took off the tires and removed all drums. We took the drums down and had them turned. While that was underway, we started replacing the hydraulic parts and the shoes. I started at the right rear brake and went to the fronts, then the left rear.
The right rear had one cylinder that was bad; I knew that much. I bolted all the new parts in, and put the new shoes on. I was a little disappointed to have to file down the fat ends of the brake shoes to fit into the slots on the cylinders, but it only took a few minutes, and only 3 out of 8 shoes needed it. No biggy as this is somewhat common I have since learned...
Replacing the fronts was a big pain. I took the hardline off of the rear banjo fitting, and loosened the banjo fitting to get it out of the way of one of the bolts. I then took the banjo off with the cylinder. This allowed me to move the hardline out of the way on the front cylinder, and I just unthreaded the banjo bolt from the cylinder after loosening the cylinder from the backing plate. Getting the cylinders off the backing plates was interesting; it took lots of hammering on the side of the cylinders to get them out.
Once all the cylinders and shoes were installed, then came the master cylinder. I took out the master cylinder (VERY easy, undo the brake pedal, 3 bolts later, its out) and put the new one in. I bench bled it by using parts of the 1 man bleeder kit I had, and pumping fluid back into the master cylinder. That worked good. The biggest snag of the day came when I tried to attach the flare nut to the master cylinder. It was the wrong size.
After staring at it for what seemed like forever, trying to comprehend in my quite tired mind that the master cylinder was the wrong one, I uninstalled it and reinstalled the old one, bled it, and hooked it all back up successfully.
Cool Cruisers was very cool about the mistake, and, as it turns out the mistake was not totally their's. Toy Hummer is a 2/69. The needed master cylinder has been discontinued some time ago. The master cylinder that was given to me was for a 3/69 and up- a different brake fitting size. Again, Cool Cruisers was very cool about it and took the master cylinder back. I've decided to use my old master cylinder until a better solution comes along (IF that happens...)
The results are fantastic! Are they as good as disk brakes, as CCOT suggests? I don't think so, however to be fair, my system did not have a new brake master cylinder to complete my brake job. I've been in and driven disk brake cruisers and my truck doesn't stop quite as sharply. Was it a cost effective bolt in kit that works as well as it should? Yes. By cost effective and bolt in, I mean, no grinding - put the parts in and they work like original. A friend of mine did a front disk brake conversion on his '75 FJ40 for $120- but he had a later model cruiser that only required changing the knuckles. On early models, new knuckles, lines, master cylinder, booster, etc are required. Much more money is needed for an early model cruiser.
The total kit, retail with a Toyota OEM master cylinder (3/69 and up ONLY) was only $389. While it did take some time to put in (17 hours taking our time, done in one LONG day), it was worth it. The truck stops VERY well (I can screech tires!) and once I bleed it more thoroughly, it will be one pump not two.
Cool Cruisers customer service seemed very good and I look forward to doing more business with them in the future.
by Ryan Flowers