Tech Tips

'Bolters helping 'Bolters is a beautiful thing!


John Smith has another helpful Tech Tip on the site you might find helpful. We called this "Spring Wake" up! What to check out as you get ready to bring your old truck out of winter hibernation and put her

On the Road Again




A Sixties Bolter?

If you are a serious sixties Bolter -- or wanna be -- you might appreciate the 1960-1966 Chevrolet/GMC Truck Buyers Guide. Compiled and written by Woogeroo (one of our loyal moderators) with tips and suggestions from several people scattered across the Internet.






          As folks upgrade their old trucks to make them a little more convenient to drive, a popular upgrade is switching to power disc brakes. It's not as hard as you think. John Smith did this brake conversion to his '66 3/4-ton and provides step-by-step instructions with great pictures of how he did it ~ including those special tools! Lots of work went into the Tip and we are sure Bolters far and wide appreciate all the work! Thanks John! ~ Editor 

Brake Conversion -- 1960-1966 Chevy Truck

Owned by John "johntsmith" Smith
1965 Chevy 1/2-Ton
1953 Chevy 5-Window 1/2-Ton
Bolter # 26358
Tampa Bay, FL

July 2011

Join the discussion of this Tech Tip, Questions and Answers
in this thread in the 60-66 discussion forum.

Converting drum brakes to power disc brakes (8-lug shown)

Isabelle    This brake conversion was done on a 1966 Chevy 3/4-ton I just purchased. The plan was to drive this old truck until my 1953 Chevy 1/2-ton 5-window (see it in the Gallery) is done and then start on it.  But the brakes on the '66 needed attention really bad so the ’53 went on hold (again) until the conversion was complete.  Now we are driving the ’66 but it needs a whole lot of TLC. 

    Note: This was done on a 1966 3/4-ton. Applicability to all '60-'66 half-tons (or even back to 1955 ) is not certain.

    Hope this Tech Tip is helpful. Please feel free to join the discussion regarding it or just post some feedback in the forums.

Let's get to work!

<< Click here to see the entire series of photos for the brake conversion. They are also in a higher resolution >>


1. Place the truck on jack stands.  Make sure it is stable, on level ground and on appropriate jack stands -- you are going to do a lot of pounding and shaking and you don’t want it to fall on you.

2. Remove the wheels.

3. Remove the two retaining screws that hold the drum to the hub (not all have these).

4. Rotate the drum so that the opening is at the bottom. Using a brake adjustment tool, back off the tension on the brakes. You are rotating it from bottom to top. This can be done with a screw driver, but the brake adjustment tool (about $5) makes it a very quick and easy job.

5. Tap around the outside of the drum to help relax the brakes.

6. Tap between the studs to help break it free from the hub.  Rust forms between them and binds them together.  A few taps and this should come loose.

7. Remove the drum by pulling it forward.  A little prying helps it along.

8. Once the drum is off, remove the dust cover from the hub. Gently pry it away from the hub using a screw driver. Don’t bend it if you are planning on re-using it.

9. Remove the cotter pin and nut that holds the hub on.

10. Pull the hub off, and catch the outer bearings as they will drop out. (The outer bearings have a tendency to fall out of the hub, depending if the old grease holds them in the hub or not.)

11. Remove the brake shoes.  I find a long-nose vise grip works great.  Just clamp it on the spring and you can pull them off.

12. Remove ALL the old brake parts.

13. Remove the cotter pins on the inner and outer tie rod end retainer nuts.  Remove the inner tie rod nut. << image >>

14. Remove the outer tie rod nut.

15. Using a ball joint tool, pop the outer tie rod end free.

16. Repeat on the inner tie rod end.

17. Now the inner, outer and sleeve are removed.  I discarded them for new. << image >>

18. Next remove the shock absorber.

19. Make sure to spray the shock absorber nut and bolts with WD40.  Also spray down both upper and lower ball joints.

20. Remove the bottom bolt from the shock absorber and using a large screw driver, SLOWLY pry it out of its bracket and push aside.

21. Just leave it hanging to the side.  Or if it doesn’t spring down, remove the top bolt and purchase a new set of shocks.

22. Borrow a spring compressor from your local parts store.  Almost all the major chains now offer loaner tools.  You “purchase” them and then “return” them when you are done.  Make sure you look the tool over before you bring it home.  Sometimes the loaners are in rough shape.

23. Attach the top to the top of the spring.  I find it easiest to slip it in about mid spring and then rotate it around until it’s up as far as I can get it.

24. Push the rod through the hole in the bottom of the lower arm and thread it into the top piece of the spring compressor.

25. Snug it up but do not start compressing the spring.  Only turn it a turn or two with the wrench.

26. Remove the cotter pin from the lower ball joint and loosen the nut. DO NOT REMOVE THE NUT ! There is still spring pressure on the joint which you want to help break it free.

27. Remove the top ball joint cotter pin and loosen the nut.  DO NOT REMOVE THE NUT! 

28. Place your ball joint tool between the spindle and lower arm.

29. Time to start pounding.  You will pound and pound, and take a break and pound some more and cuss and pound and then finally there will be an audible pop and a big smile will come to your face.

30. Repeat the process on the top ball joint. New cuss words helps some.

31. Now you can compress the spring by turning the bolt that runs through the spring compressor.  Keep turning it until you can see the spring loose contact with the upper arm.

32. Place a jack under the lower arm and just snug it up.

33. Remove the nut from the lower ball joint.

34. Remove the nut from the upper ball joint.

35. Remove the jack.

36. It may need a love tap for the spindle to drop down free of the upper ball joint.

37. Cut or remove the flex brake line.  I always replace them so cutting is quicker.

38. The spindle should just lift right off the lower ball joint.

39. Remove the top ball joint.  Push the upper arm up as far as it will go so you can see the bottom of the rivets.  If there are bolts, this means it’s been replaced before and all you have to do is remove the bolts.

40. With a hand grinder, grind the heads off the rivets.

41. Make sure all the rivet head is gone, but don’t go deep into the metal of the arm.

42. Give the joint a few taps to break it free.  Sometimes you will need to hammer the pry tool between the arm and joint to get it to free.

43. Clean the area around the ball joint hole.

44. Insert new upper ball joint into hole and bolt it in.

45. Insert a jack under the lower control arm and lift it up.

46. Borrow a ball joint removal / installation tool from your local parts dealer. Make sure to inspect it before you leave the store. These tools get a lot of abuse.

47. Place the cup over the bottom of the joint and because the truck ball joints are slightly longer than this tool, I remove the end and let the threads of the ball joint slip inside the threaded part of the ball joint tool. Notice also that I am using a 3 foot breaker bar.  It takes a lot of force to push the ball joint out.

48.Keep tightening the tool until the joint pops free.

49. Once it drops free, back the screw of the ball joint tool back out and the ball joint comes free.

50. Clean the area around the hole on both sides.

51. Using the tool, press the new ball joint into the lower arm.  Note that I had to raise the arm up to get the tool to fit under it. Then lower it down afterwards.

52. Place the new spindle on the lower ball joint and finger tighten the nut.

53. Jack up the lower control arm and guide the spindle onto the upper ball joint.

54. Place the nut on the upper ball joint.

55. Tighten lower ball joint and install cotter pin.

56. Tighten top ball joint and install cotter pin.

57. Install grease fittings on both top and bottom ball joints.

58. Pack grease into the inner bearing.  I put a large dollop of grease in my palm and then push the outer surface of the bearing into the edge of it.  Then with a dragging motion, I smear it across my palm and using the pad of my palm, I push it into the bearings.  Then turn the bearing slightly and repeat until the whole bearing is packed.  Set it into the back of your new rotor.  Repeat the process for the outer bearing but set it aside for now. I usually leave it sitting on the inside lid of the grease can.

59. Gently tap the dust seal over into the rear of the rotor covering the bearing.

60. Put the rotor onto the spindle and hold it all the way on.  Then slide the front bearing onto the spindle while holding the rotor so it doesn’t move forward and fall off. Once the front bearing is in place, place the washer on the spindle (note it has an index key on it that mates with the index on the spindle).  Thread the nut onto the spindle.  DO NOT USE THE NUT TO PUSH THE BEARING IN.  You will damage the bearing and/or spindle. You may have to giggle the rotor a bit for the front bearing to slip in place.

61. Once you tighten the nut, insert the cotter pin.  Make sure you bend the ends enough so the don’t rub on the dust cover. (Been there, done that.)

62. Now install the dust cover.  Use a screw driver and gently tap on the ring, moving side to side and top to bottom.  Don’t be one of those guys that hit the end of the dust cap and then have all the ugly dents in them.

63. Place the new brake shoes into the calipers.  Note: the caliper and shoes are both new.  You don’t need to put new calipers on, but I would never re-use brake shoes.

64. Slide the calipers over the rotor and install the upper and lower bolts.  These are hex head and require either an Allen wrench or Allen socket.

65. Bolt the new shock top bolt in.

66. Bolt the bottom of the shock in.  I use a screw driver to pry the shock up and in place.  Slow, steady pressure and the shock moves.

67. Remove the spring compressor.

68. New inner and outer tie rod ends and coupler.  The one in the picture is from CPP.  This allowed me to change to the new spindle without having to change the whole steering rack.  One end of the coupler has the new tie rod end’s thread size and the other end has the stock size.

69. I thread each side in about 20 turns.

70. Place the tie rod back in and tighten the nuts.  Add the cotter pins.

71. Repeat steps 3 to 70 on the other wheel.

72. Measure the distance between the fronts of both rotors and the distance between the backs of both rotors. This should be the same. Adjust the couplers until they are the same and then tighten the nuts on the couplers. Fear not, this is only to get it close enough so you can drive it to your local shop to have it properly aliened.

73. Grease all the grease fitments.

74. Remove the old master cylinder.  Two bolts on the firewall and one on the brake pedal.

75. Install the new power boosterI used two angle irons on both side bolted together to make a “Z” shape. This bolted to the booster and then to the firewall.  Before you bolt it to the fire wall, make sure you adjust and connect the push rod to the pedal.

76. Bolt the master cylinder and portioning valve in place.  Convert to disc brakes requires a portioning valve. The one I am using from CPP has its own mounting bracket and mounds directly below the master cylinder making it a compact package.

77. Make sure you have a set of flare fitment wrenches.  Do not use an open end.  The fitments need to be very tight and you will round them using an open end wrench.  A three piece wrench set cost around $15.

78. Connect the two lines from the master cylinder to the two inlets of the proportioning valve.  Make sure these nuts are very tight.

79. Connect the end of the flexible brake line to the caliperUse a new copper washer on either side of the hose fitment.

80. Remove all your old brake lines.

81. From the proportioning valve run a 3/16” line to the left front caliper and a separate line to the right front caliper

82. Run one 1/4 inch line from the proportioning valve to the rear brakes.

83. Bleed the air out of the system.  Add brake fluid to the reservoirs then I attach a vacuum pump to the bleeder valve at the caliper. Run the pump for about a minute to make sure there is no air in the lines (only vacuum) and start pumping the pedal. Make sure to keep an eye on your reservoir – don’t let it run dry or you will get air in the line. Keep pumping until you get brake fluid at the bleeder valve of the caliper. Repeat on all four calipers.

84. Hook up the vacuum line from your intake manifold to the power booster.

85. Put the wheels back on and drive it to the shop for a front end alignment.



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