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Vanco Big Brake

May 6th, 2010

A couple of weekends ago, I finally got to install the Vanco Big Brake kit upgrade on my Rubicon. I ordered this kit as soon as I bought my Jeep because the stock single piston calipers were severely underpowered and struggled to stop the 35 inch tires.

The install of the Vanco kit requires you to completely remove the front axle shafts in order to replace the stock knuckles holding the calipers in place. The Vanco kit includes an upgraded knuckle, calipers, pads and rotors for a 1998 Ford Explorer 4×4.  I was really impressed with the quality of the parts included with the Vanco kit….but not the installation instructions.

Vanco left out a few really simple details in the installation instructions. The most important missing piece of info was that the new calipers should be installed on the right and left sides when standing in front of the vehicle. I incorrectly assumed that Right and Left markings on the calipers would have been oriented from behind the wheel. So, I installed the calipers upside down on the wrong sides of the axles.

This tiny little detail kept the brakes from bleeding the air out of the system. My friend Jeff was helping me with the install and neither one of us thought to reorient the calipers. We worked for several hours trying to get the brake system to hold pressure before taking a stab at the problem by installing a new master cylinder. When the new master cylinder didn’t help, we called it a night and I turned to mrblaine on JeepForum for help. mrblaine helped Vanco design the kit originally and he immediately pointed out our issue.

The next day we flipped the calipers, bled the brakes and the Rubicon was back on the road with increased stopping power. I’m very impressed with the Vanco kit. The most notable difference over the stock brakes is the ability to modulate braking power. With the stock brakes, I would apply pressure to slow down, then try to apply more pressure to stop quicker and nothing else would happen. There wasn’t any more braking power to apply. With the Vanco kit, the braking pressure is extremely linear in that the harder I push, the faster I brake.

There was one more small problem after install in that my axles continued to leak diff fluid. This was never an issue before the install, so I decided to have Ellis Auto take a look at my axle seals. Sure enough, they were going out and needed to be replaced. Ellis fixed the seals up and now the Rubi is better than ever.

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