How Power Brake Conversion Works

Power Brake Conversion Kits
A cross-section of an automobile brake mechanism.
A cross-section of an automobile brake mechanism.
­©­­ Romanchuck


For older American-made vehicles, especially classics from the 1970s and earlier, you can probably find a kit made specifically for that car. This is important because the kit manufacturer has probably done the hardest part for you: They've done the engineering calculations to figure out the best part for the job, as well as the best place to put it, on each vehicle.

That said, you can piece together your own power brake kit if, for instance, you are building a street rod for which no other pre-existing kit is available. In that case, you may have to do a fair share of fabricating mounting points and custom bending of new brake lines. If you're not sure about any of this, you should leave it to the pros.

As for the actual installation itself, expect it to consist of several major sub-procedures:

  • Removing struts and items that crowd your access around the master cylinder
  • Disconnecting brake lines
  • Removing old master cylinder
  • Remove the brake pedal
  • Installing the new master cylinder, brake booster, pedal and vacuum hose
  • Re-attaching the brake lines and bleeding the brake system

[source: Cook]

While a brake kit installation is not an easy project, in most cases, it should be pretty obvious from the included instructions what connects to what. If not, most reputable kit retailers have a help line that you can call for technical support. The project's complexity lies in keeping track of all the stuff you removed in order to access the areas in and around the master cylinder and brake pedal. Keep in mind that you may also have to drill into the firewall of your vintage car or truck in order to provide anchoring points for the new brake booster and master cylinder.

The bottom line is this: Converting your beloved vintage vehicle to power brakes will be labor intensive. However, the improved performance, safety and the well-deserved rest that it will give your tired braking leg are well worth the trouble.

For lots more information about brakes, go to the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Carley, Larry. "Brake-By-Wire." AA1Car. (Accessed Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Cook, Miles. "How to Install a Power Brake Booster." Mustang Monthly. (Accessed Dec. 15, 2008).
  • Nelson, John. "Chevelle Brakes - Whoa Down; Installing a Hard-Stopping, Hydroboosted Four-Wheel Disc Brake System." Chevy High Performance. (Accessed Dec. 14, 2008)
  • Ofria, Charles. "A Short Course on Brakes." (Accessed Dec. 14, 2008)

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