I Decided to Upgrade the Brakes on My Truck.

I recently decided that I hated the stock brakes on my 1989 Dodge Ram 50.  (It also has a 4G63 turbo engine, custom blah blah…..etc. )  Anyway, a friend of mine gave me four super low mileage calipers and rotors for a early 2000’s Dodge Viper, so I knew what I had to do.
I started by buying a Dodge Viper master cylinder, and making an adapter to go from Viper master to Ram 50 booster…..
I then realized that the 13″ front Viper rotors were just not going to work out because their depth was too deep, and hit the spindle.  Soooooo I did some researching and end up with cross drilled and slotted Cadillac CTS-V 14″ rotors.  They fit much better.
Now that I had the “right” rotors, it was time to make some Viper front caliper > Dodge Ram 50 spindle brackets.
Test fitted on the truck
My 17″ wheels no longer fit, so I got some 18″ x 8 Escalade wheels, bored out the centers and did more test fitting.
At some point, I made the rear caliper brackets & brake lines.  I apparently didn’t take pictures of that.  I used the 13″ Viper rear rotors (I used to have like 10″ drums), and Viper calipers.  I even hooked up my e-brake so it works properly.
Once together, I decided that black wheels are way more rad than silver, so black wheel paint was added (don’t mind how dirty the wheels/truck are).
Ta-da. Now I can stop fast enough that my tongue sticks out.

At The 1AAuto Car Show!

I recently decided that I hated the stock brakes on my 1989 Dodge Ram 50.  In the 4 + years that I have owned the truck, they have never been quite right.  Rather than putting time, effort, and money into the stock brakes, I decided to do a little bit of an upgrade.  A good friend of mine gave me four super low mileage calipers and rotors from a early 2000’s Dodge Viper, so I really had no choice with what to do with them.  One way or another, I was going to get them onto my truck.

I began the swap by purchasing a 2008 Dodge Viper master cylinder and designed a way to mate it to my truck’s brake booster.  Then I had my brother in law build the adapter with his absolutely amazing machining skills.  While he was working hard, I provided the moral support, entertaining banter, a delicious meal, and beverages.   After a few hours and some serious mathematics, the adapter was complete.

I then started working on the front brake setup, and it was not looking good.  The front Viper rotors were going to hit the tie rod ends.  There was no way that the Viper rotors were going to work. So, the research ensued.  I measured the night away and decided what the perfect size rotor would be.  It turns out that 14″ Cadillac CTS-V rotors were what I need. Overkill much? A short time passed and I was the proud owner of cross drilled and slotted CTS-V rotors.  They were massive, so massive that I began questioning my own sanity.  Ah well, too late. I began fitting them on the truck and all was looking well.  I just needed to bore out the center of the rotor and redrill the mounting holes.  Back up to my brother in laws I went….  Food, drink, entertaining banter, and machining happened. Viola!  The rotors were now a bolt on affair.

Next up was caliper brackets.  There were a bit on the tricky side to make, luckily I was good in geometry class, and I had a brother in law that wasn’t sick of me yet.  You know how it goes, food, banter, drink, caliper brackets = done.

The rear brakes were a little tricky because I needed to hook the emergency brake cables into the Viper calipers.  Amazingly, with a little drilling and reworking of caliper brackets, it all fell into place.  It was as if this was all meant to be.  With more braking, I knew I needed more rubber on the road, so I also upgraded my wheels and tires to 18″ Cadillac Escalade wheels with 255/45/18 inch Z rated tires.

Naturally, the obvious question comes next…. Do they actually work? You bet they do.  I can now stop fast enough to make my tongue stick out.  I’m not sure if I can stop as well as a Viper (maybe better? gasp!), but this big brake upgrade has vastly exceeded all of my expectations.  The feel of the pedal is at least 4000x better, and the added weight on each corner actually makes the truck feel more stable.  I can’t explain it, it just is what it is.  Accept it.

Jeremy Nutt

Hi, I'm Jeremy.

4 thoughts to “I Decided to Upgrade the Brakes on My Truck.”

  1. Technically speaking, this is not a very pragmatic approach to upgrading brakes. I did not see any mention of some very important details such as bias, pad, tire, and fluid selection, or cooling. More than likely the improved tire grip (compound and size) are responsible for most of the difference. If you were to backtrack to the stock master, stock calipers, rotors, keep these tires/wheels, and move to a better brake pad you would see identical braking performance, perhaps better even. I will spare you the intricacies of brake design.

    I agree that the pedal feel would be many times improved by the larger master bore and monoblocs all around, I do not agree whatsoever that stability would be improved. Adding rotating unsprung mass is never a positive thing unless it fixes something that was already wrong. An imbalance in a previous wheel, or improperly valved suspension for example.

    Props on the bling upgrade, it definitely looks the part. I just hope people don’t go into this sort of project in the future under any false illusions about it being the best or correct way to upgrade your stopping performance. It isn’t.


  2. Hi Spoonman > I am actually familiar with the intricacies of brakes design, how bigger isn’t always better, and how the wide tires were likely a huge factor in the improved stopping ability. However, my reasoning for upgrading the brakes was coming from three different angles.

    1) The first was that the stock brakes needed some kind of work because all of the parts (and fluid) were very old, crusty, and the pedal always felt terrible. I think the dried out original rubber brake hoses were expanding under pressure, but I didn’t put any time into diagnosing it because I knew they were not staying on there.

    2) I got a BUNCH of free Viper brake parts with nearly zero miles on them. I wanted to put them to use because I knew I could, plus the bling factor didn’t hurt. 🙂

    3) I have auto-crossed my truck a couple times for my own entertainment (Open track days, not real competition), and the brake fade was unbelievably scary. By the end of 1 hard lap, I was standing on the brake pedal, and the truck was not even thinking about slowing down. I swapped the fluid, and it didn’t improve. So rather than trying to find better brake components for a 1989 Dodge Ram 50 (oddball truck), I decided that #2 above would likely solve the problem.

    Bonus info: I do have a front/rear proportioning valve that I adjusted as well as I could without being at a track. The pads are stock Viper pads. The cooling….well, there isn’t any, but 99.999% of my driving is on the street, so I didn’t see it as being necessary. Stability I can’t really explain, because I know it doesn’t make any sense. My best guess it that the wider wheels and newer tires changed something in a positive way. Again, it’s the butt dyno without any real world data, so who knows. 🙂

  3. I too upgraded brakes, the E-brake…I now use pieces of railroad crosstie carried in the bed of the truck. This works well for winching chocks and as another bonus, a trailer jack block!

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