ws6transam.org - Dan's Performance Page

Updated! How to upgrade to 1LE brakes

Last updated: June 28, 2002

I don't like to criticize the designers of the F-body, but they never did get around to making decent brakes for these cars until the 1989 1LE package. In fact, I think these brakes should have been on every single V8 RS, Z28 and Trans Am. My 1984 T/A had the original J65 rear disk system, which in my opinion, was never a very likeable braking system. They used the original 10-inch J65 disk brake system up to 1988.  I finally ripped out the original rear disk system in 1999, and upgraded to the 1989-up J65 disk design. It's not a matter of removing the calipers though: I replaced everything except the hard lines. Master cylinder, proportioning valve, the works. I finally upgraded the front brakes in the summer of 2001.

Please note that many of the components used during the upgrade come from GM, and that they are in the process of phasing out the third-generation parts from their inventory. Thus, you will not be able to follow these directions to the letter as several of the components are no longer available. In fact, it was only due to the generosity of this guy named Andy that I was able to complete the 1LE front brake install: I missed out on the very last left-hand brake caliper cage, P/N 10132829 when the dealership forgot to place my order with GM. Luckily, Andy bought the very last one in North America and sent it to me.

This page consists of two parts: My front brake install notes, and my rear brake install. Click on the part of your interest or just scroll on through. There's a link to the remainder of my website at the bottom! There's quite a bit more project notes like this one to see.
 

Upgrading your front brakes
Upgrading your rear brakes
TSB numbers for repairing 1982-1988 J65 rear disk calipers
Return to Dan's Third-gen Hobbyist page
Upgrading your front brakes


Bill Fong installed the 1LE brakes on the front of his F-body in late 1998, and I thought it was a neat idea. Since then, several of us have researched the project, and finally came up with a "how to" brake install. This page was originally somewhat sketchy on the front brake installation notes, but since I've now bought the parts myself, I think the following parts list should cover pretty much every nut, bolt, and washer.  There will be cheaper ways to build the system but that part of the project is entirely up to YOU! Expect to spend between $600 and $900 to build your brake system from scratch. If you want to shave 20 pounds off your car, you can spend $1200 for the BAER track kit. If you want good brakes on a budget, then read on. This installation involves the modification of the spindle to accept the GM 1LE brake components. 16-inch rims will clear the 12-inch 1LE rotors, which provide much more braking torque with less line pressure. Heat dissipation should be better, with a corresponding increase in fade resistance

Bill Fong wrote me to give us a list of the parts required to do this upgrade. Based on Bill's work as well as much research by AndyZ28 (Andy Sherrer) and Bill Moates of Heritage Chevrolet, I have derived the following parts list. 

I have substituted the Braided stainless steel brake lines from Earl's, as I bought some for about $20 less than Bill's quoted price. Summit sells Russells as well. I ordered the 1989 - 1992 4-wheel performance disk brake application from Earl's. 
 You should be able to build yourself a complete 1LE front braking system for $850 or less, depending on how good of a parts hound you are!

Item    QTY    P/N                Description                                        Approx price 
001    002       55008            1LE rotor (Aimco)                                    $70 
002    001        8423            LH dual piston caliper (Partsmaster)      $40 
003    001        8422            RH dual piston caliper(Partsmaster)       $40 
004    002    18016034        spindle adaptor plate                               $71 
005    001    10132829       LH caliper mounting plate                         $100 
006    001    10132830        RH caliper mounting plate                       $72 
007    004    14084051        Bolts, mounting plate to adapter plate    $2.50
008    004    10268875        Washers for use with14084051              $2.50
009    004    11508133       Bolts: adapter to spindle (12mm x 1.75) $2.50 
010    001       MX412         Pad set for calipers: Wagner QuickStop   $99 
011    002     10286122      Brake hose bolt                                         $2.50 
012    002   10140666        Caliper retaining pins                              $11.61 
013    002      F469985       Caliper retaining clips (Federal Mogul)   $2.00
014    002          A6             Inner bearing set (Federal mogul)            $11 ea. 
015    002          A3             Outer bearing set (Federal Mogul)           $11 ea. 
016    002         8871           Bearing dust seal                                        $6 ea. 
017    001                            Modified 1989-1992 spindle (LH)                $45 
018    001                            Modified 1989-1992 spindle (RH)               $45 
019    002       28A190         1LE brake hose (Earls)                               $95
020    004                            Copper crush washers (for brake hose bolts)
021    001      9-13130       ball joint dust boot set (Energy Suspension)  $5
022    001      9-13101         Tie rod end boot set (EnergySuspension)    $5
023    002                             NEW cotter pin for the spindle nut
024    002                             NEW cotter pin for the ball joint retaining nut
025    002                             NEW cotter pin for the outer tie rod end retaining nut

All non-GM part numbers may be found at the Auto Value parts store. Auto value charges a $25 core charge on the calipers. My partsmaster calipers were new, not rebuilt. Please note that you can find significant savings by picking and choosing your components. I chose NOT to buy loaded calipers, as I wanted a higher quality pad than what is typically offered. Auto Value wanted $160 PER CALIPER for calipers loaded with Wagner pads. I paid $101 per caliper after purchasing the calipers, pads, and retaining pins as separate items. ANDYZ28 says that VIPAR loaded calipers are priced around $90 apiece, so you can sometimes collect a significant savings by shopping around. Please note that there are LARGE differences in core charges. Since you do NOT have a core, shop carefully! Auto Value had the cheapest core charge I could find: $25 bucks. Autozone wanted $40 core charge per caliper.

Master Cylinder: p/n: 18014286 - Same as the J50 option drum brake equipped cars from 1984-up. If you have drum brakes, you have the right master cylinder! It is only us poor schmoes with 1982-1988 rear disk equipped cars that need a different master cylinder. 
1LE Combo Valve (proportioning valve)
14089496 1989 1st design: M1.0 tube nut threads (For 1982 - early 1989 applications)
10136840 1989 2nd design:  M1.5 tube nut threads (Late 1989)
10136840 1990-'92: M1.5 tube nut threads.
Measure your existing brake line tube nut threads before ordering. The Master cylinder tubes have one that is  M1.5 and one that is M1.0  so don't worry about them. Worry about your existing brake lines to the calipers and rear axle.

I used the 14089496 1st design because my car was built in 1984.

Mine required some relocating of the rear disk brake line: My old combo valve had the line coming in the front, whereas the 1LE piece had it coming in from the bottom of the valve. My existing line bent with no problems. Be prepared to replace that line if it's at all corroded. It might crack.

Earl's Hyperfirm® Braided stainless steel brake lines
Earl's Service Shop
302 Gasoline Alley
Indianapolis, IN 46222
317-241-0318
317-247-1128 FAX
Modifying your spindles
There are two types of spindles on the third-generation F-body: Pre-1989 and post-1989 spindles. The post-1989 spindles are heavier; presumably to handle the suspension loads a little better. Although you can successfully modify your existing spindles no matter what the year, I chose to replace my spindles with some 1991 castings. This enabled me to modify the spindles off-car while still driving mine. Some people have been able to modify their spindles while they are still mounted on the car, but I felt more comfortable using a drill press in order to keep the holes straight. If you have a good eye and a steady hand, you can most certainly perform these modifications on your own without even removing the spindles from the car. If you plan on modifying a separate set of spindles, you may wish to consider buying some new lower ball joints from MOOG and replacing your old ones at the same time. If you have good ball joints, then you may wish to consider ordering some Energy Suspension dust boots as yours may get destroyed when you try to separate the spindle from the ball joint.

Tools needed:
Hacksaw or Sawzall with metal cutting blade
NEW 13/32 drill bit
12mm x 1.75 tap
Tap cutting fluid
File for deburring the casting


Step 1: Hack off the existing upper caliper retaining bracket as shown. Ensure that your cut is perpendicular to the plane dictated by the mounting bosses of the dust shield. The cut should also be perpendicular with respect to the plane on the end-link mounting boss. Make sure you remove enough material so that the caliper cage clears the casting.
Step 2: Hack off the lower caliper retaining bracket, as shown.
Step 3: Drill the holes (as shown above) Make sure you are perpendicular with the plane of the mounting pad!

Step 4: Tap the holes (as shown above). Using cutting fluid, turn in the tap one-half turn at a time. Back out one half turn, then go in a full turn. Keep backing off half a turn. This breaks up the chips to keep them from jamming up the bit. Use lots of cutting fluid. Keep dripping it into the hole.

Installing your stuff
Once you have your parts in hand, trial fit your adapter plate and caliper cage to the spindle and look for interference. If your caliper cage touches the spindle(steering knuckle) at any place, you have not taken off enough material. I would suggest at least .010" of clearance at all places on the cage.

 

When you have all parts in hand, begin the installation. Here are some pictures to help you visualize the whole process. ***Note (6/28/02) - Some people have been applying loctite to the adapter bracket bolts. This acts as a thread lubricant (until it sets up) and some people have experienced fastener failure at the published torque settings. You dont need loctite on these bolts. If you absolutely have to add loctite, be sure to reduce your final torque by 6 ft.lbs during final installation.  Photographs are courtesy of AndyZ28, and Daniel Burk.
 

 18016034 bracket closeup  
 Spindle Comparison: Original versus modified  
 Trial fitting the bracket to the modified spindle
Click on the picture above for the closeup view.
 Trial fitting the bracket
Click on the link above for the closeup view.
Trial fitting the bracket(opposite view)
Completed assembly, with Wagner Quickstop pads and Dan Burk powdercoated steering knuckle with GM adapter bracket.
 Fully modified spindle  
Bolt socket sizes and torque specifications

There are a few fasteners that you must remove or tighten during this installation project. Here is a partial list including the torque specifications where applicable. Please note that there have been fastener failures when the caliper adapter bracket is attached with Loctite. Reduce torque by 6 ft.lbs when using the Loctite. 

Outer tie rod end to steering knuckle: 11/16" socket, tighten to 30 ft.lbs
Lower Ball joint to steering knuckle: 7/8" boxed end wrench, tighten to 110 ft.lbs (you must remove the strut if you plan on using a socket.)
Strut bolts to steering knuckle 15/16" socket 
Dust shield bolts (removal only) 10mm socket
Spindle / rotor retaining nut: Cinch down to seat the bearings, then loosen and retorque to finger tight.
Caliper adapter bracket to steering knuckle Tighten to 89 ft.lbs without loctite, or 83 ft.lbs with loctite.
Caliper retaining cage to adapter bracket Tighten to 137 ft.lbs
Brake hose bolt to caliper: 13mm socket
 

Upgrading your rear brakes

Here are the project notes for my J65 rear disk upgrade project. I installed these brakes in the later winter/early spring to correct what I percieved as a chronic list of problems with the original '82 through '88 J65 rear disk system. My plan was to have decent brakes that would hold up to the rigors of an open road race track. I eventually did get the car to Gingerman raceway where I happily went through half of my brake pad thickness. The race tires, brakes, and suspension changes resulted in 1.05 g sustained lateral acceleration, and enough braking forces to actually make my copilot queasy.
While Bill upgraded his front brakes, I decided to upgrade my rear brakes. Between the two of us, we have the complete 1LE braking system! My upgrade was quite a bit involved, as I had to hunt around for all sorts of part numbers. Now, before I forget how I did it, I'm going to try to document the brake project notes.
Here's the parts for the rear brake installation. 

Pictures and additional project details will be added on the second week of January. -Daniel Burk

Axle housing, with disc brake flanges
Any original disk rear-end housing. I used my original RPO GT4 housing. If you have drums, your flange is different. Find a different axle or fabricate your own adapter plates.
10087702 Rotor (qty. 2)
I bought genuine GM. Aftermarket probably avail.
10132831 PBR Caliper, LH,  Purchased used
I dont know if the caliper comes with the cage or the mounting bolts or not, so here's the numbers: 

14067559 Brake caliper guide pin bolt (2 per side)
14067560  Brake caliper guide pin (2 per side)
14067552 Weather boot for caliper guide pin (2 per side)
10112652 Brake caliper bracket cage(1 per side) 

10132832 PBR Caliper, RH Purchased used
The above applies for the RH side as well.
14047782 Brake hose bolt (2 pc)
Same retainer as used in the 1LE front calipers
10136853 Mounting bracket , LH
You'll also need new grade 8 or better mounting bolts . Quantity 8, 3/8" NF, 1.25" in length with nuts, lock washers, and loc-tite. Torque and loc-tite only on the final fit. You'll trial-assemble once to get the shim thickness right.
10136854 Mounting bracket, RH
Cadmium plated. Nice!
Bracket shims (Generally one per side)
26013017 0.81mm thk
26013018 1.57mm thk
26013019 2.33mm thk
These have been discontinued as of January 1999. I ended up making my own with a die grinder and a piece of .032" brass shim stock. Took about 60 minutes per shim. These are necessary to center the caliper bracket cage on the rotor. They fit between the mounting bracket and the axle tube flange. My right side brake needed one .032" shim, while the left needed the 2.33mm (.091") shim, which GM (luckily)still had in stock.
10164125 Emergency Brake cables, 1st design (qty 2)
Lambert Pontiac sells them for $15 each.
Brake Pads, source for GM 1989-up 1LE application
PF, or Genuine GM
Combo valve, (See 1LE front brake table)
I used the 1st design. 
Master Cylinder,  (See 1LE front brake table)
Required only if replacing 1982-1988 rear disk system.
Braided stainless Brake hoses (See 1LE front brake table)
 
30" brake tubing for left side
Metric thread. Standard GM stuff. It will require a tube bender. The mounting of this tube and the brake hose will require you to braze a bracket onto your axle tube. Pictures of this detail will be published about the 2nd week in January.
2 Qts axle gear lube. 
1 differential gasket. 
Strong sense of self-confidence.
To accomplish this install, you have to pull out the axles. I've never done it before, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought. You remove one bolt, and the center pin falls into your hand. You push the axle inwards, and the C-clip falls out. The axle now slides out. Take care not to crush your seal. 
Aw, go ahead. mangle that seal! Resist the temptation to use it again! Get two new ones! Don't install them until AFTER you assemble one more time.

Once you get your parts, bolt everything up and install the axles. Install the centerpin, and tighten the lugnuts onto the rotors. Check your clearance on the bracket cage to the rotor. You don't have to put the calipers onto the cage, just bolt the cage to the brackets. You need equal clearance on either side of the cage; This is about .060". Insufficient room means that your rotors will get scored badly by the rubbing of the cage. Measure your required offset, then fabricate the proper thickness shims. Remove the axles again, install your new seals and shims. Torque down your brackets, re-mount the rotors and cages, and re-check clearance. You can now proceed with the rest of the assembly.

After installing the new master cylinder and combo valve, I installed three steel brake line stubs onto the combo valve. These were bent up and into the master cylinder resovoir. I filled the system with fluid, then began pumping the brakes, over and over again. The line stubs terminated under the fluid level, so that there was little possibility of sucking air. I kept pumping this (now closed and recirculating) system until I saw no more bubbles coming out of the line stubs. I then removed the line stubs, and hastily re-connected the brake lines to the combo valve. 
At this point, I started pumping the brakes with the speed-bleeders installed, and soon had fresh, bubble-free brake fluid coming out of each caliper. I started with the front-right caliper, then the front-left, then the rear-left, then the rear-right. I then went around and bled each one again. With all four wheels off the car, it was easy. I used some surgical tubing that terminated in a fruit jar as a method for keeping the fluid off the garage floor. When the last speedbleeder was closed off, I had a nice, firm pedal. When I placed both feet on the pedal and pressed as hard as I could, the pedal began a slow creep to the floor. One of the fittings on the left-rear caliper was loose and leaking a slight bit of fluid. Once tightened, the pedal didn't move, even by a centimeter. No further leaks were evident anywhere.

Repairing your original disk brake calipers

I imagine that not everyone will want to simply dump their 1982-1988 rear disk brake assembly into the trash... I certainly was reluctant to go about this project. In fact, I began picking up parts for this changeover in 1992. That's when I got the new calipers. It took me seven years to get around to finishing the job. A busted-off bleeder screw finally motivated me to finish. Well, there is good news for you. GM finally fixed the caliper design in November 1991/March 1992 with a redesigned piston for the brake caliper. They did it because so many F-cars had non functional rear brakes! It became a "safety issue" because 5-speed cars were rolling down the hills due to non-functional parking brakes. Now, I have read stories about how you can "pop the pistons loose" with a screwdriver and some artful prying, but that sounds just too caveman for me. What about you?  If so, then maybe you ought to invest in some replacement parts from good ol' GM. One would hope that since these are safety related items, that they would still stock them. It's been 12 years since the last pair of these calipers rolled out of Van Nuys, so these PN's may no longer be available. Let me know if they are or not, okay?
Service Bulletin Number: 88-5-19 
Bulletin Sequence Number: 106 
Date of Bulletin: 9111 
NHTSA Item Number: SB029866 
Make: PONTIAC 
Model: FIREBIRD 
Year: 1984 
Component: BRAKES:HYDRAULIC:DISC:CALIPER 
Summary: REAR DISC BRAKE CALIPERS SELF-ADJUSTOR NOT FUNCTIONING PROPERLY 
Service Bulletin Number: 88-5-19A 
Bulletin Sequence Number: 027 
Date of Bulletin: 9203 
NHTSA Item Number: SB031035 
Make: PONTIAC 
Model: FIREBIRD 
Year: 1984 
Component: BRAKES:HYDRAULIC:DISC:CALIPER 
Summary: REAR DISC BRAKE CALIPERS DO NOT FUNCTION PROPERLY
Here are the two TSB's that apply to the braking problem related to the 1982-1988 J65 rear disk option. It doesn't really describe the frustration and performance loss that you experience when your brakes slowly fail. I once saw a '84 L69/Z28 for sale for $900 that had rusted rear disks which looked like they hadn't been touched by brake pad in TEN years! The car was still a daily driver.
Symptoms of brake functionality loss include:
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

You cannot solve it by adjusting the parking brake cables. You need to "pull" the piston out of the bore as it has backed into the bore. The parking brake actuation is supposed to push the piston out and the self-adjustor is supposed to hold it lightly against the rotor face. When it fails, the piston pulls back into the bore, and away from the rotor face.

Loss of parking brake functionality
increased pedal travel
sluggish brakes (Feels like pushing through mush)
increased space between the rotor and brake pad
TSB  88-5-19A describes the revised parts that are needed to repair these calipers. They include the piston, otherwise known as the actuator assembly, the seals, some new washers for reinstalling the brake lines, and some new springs that hold on the shoe. You may also want some new pads, and some new emergency brake cables. Get them before they are no longer available! A lot of third-gen F-body stock is disappearing from GM parts bins, and is no longer being made! This includes 1LE parts as well.
       Don't forget to tie it up and away from the exhaust. I baked a new cable this way and it froze within a year. Use a 5/8" copper pipe hangar (39 cents at True-value) and some pop-rivets. It works great. 
 
TBD 88-5-19A Repair kit: Order these parts.
                (Qty. 2)  Actuator asm 18019241 
                (Qty. 2) Seal kit 18019240 
                (Qty. 4)  Brake hose washer  10139097 
                (Qty. 2) Shoe Retaining spring 18019098 

Approximate cost for above components: $120.


Other items you may want:

MY1982 Cable, park brake (left) ??no PN found??
MY1982 Cable, park brake (right,1125mm) 14042082
MY1983-1988  Cable, park brake  (lft,1580mm) 10200443
MY1983-1988  Cable, park brake (rgt,1205mm) 10200444 

 

If you have comments or suggestions, email me at dan@iws6transam.org