Tech Talk with Master Power Brakes

Should I Restore or Replace My Classic Car Drum Brakes?

Posted by Master Power Brakes Team on Apr 11, 2022 2:34:02 PM

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You finally have your dream car sitting at home in your garage, but it definitely needs some serious TLC before it’s road ready.  As you prepare for your restoration project, you do an assessment of the braking system and consider what options are available to get it performance ready. 

Can you live with the OE drum brakes that are currently a part of your build?  Maybe they just need some fine-tuning to operate in peak condition again. 

Or you may want to go for the best performance braking system available and do a front or full disc brake conversion. 

The choice is completely up to you. 

Here are a few things to consider in your decision-making process.


Reasons to Repair or Improve Your Current OE Brakes

Some car enthusiasts love the classic look of the drum brakes and want to maintain that authenticity. Others are on a tight budget and have to work with whatever is within their means. Both are valid reasons to keep your current drum brakes and simply fine tune them. 

Like one of our callers that reached out to our Tech Team, you may simply be wondering, "Can I just add a booster and new master cylinder to my car?"

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In many cases, it is possible to add power assist to your current manual brake setup by simply unbolting the master cylinder from the firewall and inserting an appropriately sized power booster and master cylinder. Provided your brake lines are long enough, you might not have to remove the lines to do this.

TECH TIP: Remember! For the safest ride possible, it’s a requirement that you bleed the brakes after this process–whether or not you disconnect the brake lines. 

For more on this, learn why you need to bleed the brakes and how we simplify the process for you. 


Concerns When Doing a Master Booster Conversion to Your Brake System 


1.Choosing the Incorrect Booster

While disc brakes require a more powerful booster, drum brakes do not. Choosing a booster with too much power on a drum brake system can result in brakes that are overly sensitive. For this reason, it’s vital to choose the right size booster for your setup.  

What are Brake Boosters? 

Because they offer power assistance to the pedal, brake boosters are often referred to as power boosters. Power brakes are simply brakes that have a power booster installed to assist with ease of braking, requiring less physical force. READ MORE


                    • 2. Using a Single Reservoir Master Cylinder

Before 1970, single reservoir master cylinders were the standard. The problem with a single reservoir is there is no backup if that one reservoir or line were to fail.  A dual reservoir option gives you a complete backup stopping system if the reservoir or the lines were to fail. 

LEARN MORE: Single vs Dual Reservoir Master Cylinders 

Still undecided on whether or not to convert to disc brakes? For a few more points of consideration, check out our full blog Can I Get Away Without a Complete Drum to Disc Conversion?


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How to Know if You Should Replace or Upgrade Your Current Brakes

If neither look nor budget are a factor in your decision, safety and performance likely are. 

Unless you own a very rare, museum-quality car, you don’t have to worry about compromising authenticity with a disc brake conversion. Most of us are not driving factory original classics, so while we work to maintain the integrity of our vehicle, we understand safety and performance are equally as important. 

We go into a deep dive on the differences between disc and drum brakes in terms of heat buildup, friction and heat dissipation. You can check that out here:

LEARN MORE: Disc Brakes versus Drum Brakes: Friction, Heat, and Selecting the Best Brake Upgrade Option for Your Classic Car


Here are some key takeaways:

  • The effectiveness of any brake system depends on a number of factors including weight of the car, braking force, and total braking surface area.  
  • The build-up and dissipation of heat in drum brakes can lead to a maximum saturation point, causing brake fade
  • While disc brake systems also build up a lot of heat, the design and function of the rotors adequately dissipates that heat so there is no loss or fade in brake performance. 

3 Steps to Replacing Your Classic Car Brakes

  1. 1. Decide on a Full Disc Brake Conversion or a Partial (Front Only or Front and Rear)

If budget is a concern, a front disc brake conversion should be enough to get you running smoothly, safely and efficiently. 

  1. 2. Find a Pre-Assembled Power Brake Conversion Kit that Fits Your Vehicle

A pre-assembled kit saves you time and frustration by installing the components ahead of time, giving you a plug-and-play approach, making your disc brake conversion as easy as possible. 

  1. 3. Prep Your Garage and Grab Your Tools 

Designate a protected work area and have your mechanic’s tool set ready. 

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Technical Support from the Master Power Brakes Team 

For extra tips with parts and kit selection and how-to’s, check out our FAQ’s. 


For brake installation and performance issues, reference our free troubleshooting guide.  


If you run into any hang-ups, call the Master Power Brakes Tech Team so we can assist you! 

Need Help? Speak to a Specialist Now!

Topics: Tips and Info

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