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DISC BRAKE UPGRADE
Bruce Smith | April 24, 2012

How-To

Project Bedrock Upgrade

GM DISC-O-TECH

Rear drum-to-disc brake conversion easy with the SSBC Chevy/GMC 1500 “Truck Stop” kit; triple-piston rotors and slotted calipers provide greater stopping power

By Bruce W. Smith  

For 99 percent of late-model GM half-ton pickup owners in the construction world, the factory front-disc/rear-drum brake setup is perfectly fine.

But there’s that one percent who feel rear drum brakes just don’t cut it.

They are the ones who tow equipment trailers with surge-type brakes, do a lot of driving in mountainous regions, run bigger tires, or just want the optimum in braking power in general.

We are that one percent.

Like many landscapers, contractors and fleet managers within our ProPickup audience, we enjoy improving the efficiency of pickups with upgrades that make the tasks at hand go a little smoother and the truck perform a little better.

Better braking efficiency is high on that upgrade list.

BRAKES AND HEAT

Disc brakes offer superiority over disc/drum setups during long grade-braking with a load because rotors dissipate heat better than drums, according to Howard Smith (GMC chassis controls & ABS engineer) and Jason Petric (GMC foundation brake engineer).

Better heat dissipation allows the pickup’s Dynamic Rear Proportioning (DRP) or Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) algorithms to apply more braking power to the rear discs so they share a bigger portion of work load.  This means less brake pad wear on the front.

Smith and Petric also say discs at all four corners provide better linear vehicle control in full lock-up situations because the pads release/apply from the rotor quicker than brake shoes inside drums.

“With the rear brakes doing more work, or being more effective, the front brakes will have to work less,” says Michael Jonas, president of Stainless Steel Brake Corporation (SSBC).

“When brakes work less, they generate less heat, so they last longer.  This extends duty cycles and pad/rotor life by as much as 50 percent.”

Most contractors who are towing heavy loads behind their 2007-newer GMC/Chevy 1500s would love have faster acting brakes while reducing down time and long-term expenses related to brake maintenance costs.

GMC DRUM/DISC CONVERSION

That’s why we turned to SSBC to give Project Bedrock the same quality of braking power as found in our GMC half-ton’s bigger brothers. (GM’s 1500 6.2Ls and 2500/3500HDs come stock with four-wheel disc brakes.)

SSBC’s American-made “Truck Stop” Tri-Power three-piston disc brake conversion kit (A126-57) replaces the drum setup with slotted 14-inch rotors and massive three-piston aluminum calipers sporting high-performance pads.

For a little more show, we opted for the red powder-coated calipers. They don’t make the truck stop any faster, but they do make an immediate performance statement.

SSBC's Truck Stop conversion kit makes the drum-to-disc conversion easy.

Upgrading from the standard disc/drum configuration found under the later model GM 1500s to SSBC’s Truck Stop disc/disc kit is a straightforward process that takes a good shop mechanic about a half-day to complete.

The R&R of the GM rear axles eats up a third of that time because the “C”-clip design entails opening up the rear diff to remove the axles.

So if you wanted a heavy duty diff cover, now’s the time to have one handy.

RED MEANS STOP

SSBC’s rear drum-to-disc conversion kit comes with all the mounting hardware, braided brake lines and detailed instructions to help guide the DIYer who might be doing this for the first time.

David Adair, one of the techs at Truck Supply & Outfitters here in Tuscaloosa, AL, handled our drum-to-disc brake upgrade.

Adair also upgraded Project Bedrock’s front brakes by swapping out the OEM disc brake setup for SSBC’s Truck Stop Tri-Power calipers and slotted aluminum rotors.

SSBC rear disc-brakes, triple-piston calipers & slotted discs

This gives our GMC about 30-percnt greater clamping power while reducing both pad and rotor wear.

Overall, the SSBC disc brakes have given our GMC Sierra an overall feeling of more control with less braking effort; it tends to squat instead of nose-dive.

Brake pad service is going to be less now that both ends of the truck are working in unison.  We also expect the truck’s improved towing braking performance is going to pay additional dividends.

Thinking of making the same drum-to-disc brake conversion to your late-model Chevy/GMC 1500? Our how-to shows the main steps of the conversion? Check out gallery below out to see how it’s done.

Disc-Brake Conversion: PARTS LIST

The parts used on this truck are item numbers A126-56R for the front (http://ssbrakes.com/commerce/detail/index.cfm?nPID=8413) and A126-48R for the rear (http://ssbrakes.com/commerce/detail/index.cfm?nPID=8404).

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