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How Power Brake Conversion Works


Tools for Power Brake Conversion
Power brakes were a luxury addition to vintage vehicles like this 1971 Chevrolet Camaro for decades, but you can now install them yourself for a few hundred dollars.
Power brakes were a luxury addition to vintage vehicles like this 1971 Chevrolet Camaro for decades, but you can now install them yourself for a few hundred dollars.
©­­­istockphoto.com/Eddy Lund

­Power brake conversion is not a do-it-yourself project for occasional tinkerers. This is a job for experienced mechanics that requires patience and a good understanding of how brake systems work. If you do it yourself, be sure to have a standard set of brake tools handy, including brake line wrenches, a brake bleeder kit and a socket wrench set with any attachments that allow you to better maneuver on both sides of the firewall. A stubby-handle wrench would work well here.

How long should it take to convert your brakes? Conversion kits and so-called bolt-on projects are notorious for having missing parts, unclear instructions and imperfect fits. If you're planning on doing a full-on power brake conversion, it's a good idea to set aside an entire weekend for the project.

Why so long? Because for kits that go with certain vehicles, such as popular vintage Mustangs, you'll need to remove several of the surrounding pieces to access critical parts of the braking system. One Mustang power brake installer, for instance, had to remove the brake pedal, the steering column and the gauge cluster to swap out his manual brakes for a Master Power brand conversion kit.

You might want (or need) a power brake conversion, but how much will it cost? Well, that depends on several factors, like your car's make, the quality of the parts you choose to install, the system's manufacturer, and many others as well.

Despite the many variables involved, plan to spend at least $300 to $500 on a power brake system, including the diaphragm and master cylinder. That figure does not include labor, which could vary widely depending on how easy or difficult it is to access your car's brake system at the firewall. For that money you'll usually get a new master cylinder, along with the actual booster diaphragm, vacuum hose connection and sometimes even a new brake pedal.

For an overview of the different parts involved in a power brake conversion, go to the next page.


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