Disc Brakes for your Toyota 4x4 Land Cruiser
Stopping on a dime, even if it costs you a few hundred
The Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 is one of the sturdiest short wheelbase 4WDs on the trail. You don’t see them much, but when you do, they certainly stand out. Something else that really stands out about them is how poorly the brake system works, especially when you are trying to control oversized off-road tires.
The 1970 Toyota Land Cruiser came equipped with 4 wheel drum brakes—pretty low tech by today’s standards. Most late-model vehicles are equipped with front disk brakes and rear drum brakes. Some late model trucks and SUVs even have factory rear disk brakes. We usually find 4-wheel disc brake systems on off-road race cars, race trucks and purpose built rock crawlers. It’s this race technology that we want to tap into for our trail rig.
To help out the old Papa Smurf Cruiser, we decided to upgrade the front 1960’s drum brakes to something more current—power disc brakes.
Front brakes in a vehicle generally work harder than the rear brakes. The front brakes control about 80% of the stopping , while the rear controls about 20%. Trucks, 4x4s and SUVs have the engine and transmission in the front half of the vehicle—so you really need your stopping power up front.
I talked to some Toyota guys about front disc brake conversion for these early Land Cruisers. I was told that an early 1980’s Toyota 4WD pick-up front-end would be the way to go. The knuckles and disc brakes would swap with my FJ40—later I found out about all the extra modifications involved, including having to re-spline the axles. That might not sound too bad, but finding an early 80’s donor Toyota pick-up isn’t quite easy these days.
I kept looking for a better solution. Finally, I found a company that had an out-of-the-box solution that would work with my Toyota Land Cruiser front axle. JT Outfitters out of North Carolina has developed a new off-road disc brake kit for the 1970 – 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser that works on FJ40/FJ45/FJ55 (part# TLCFDB870975).
Their kit runs about $549.95 for the complete set-up. This is a really good deal, especially when you factor in that you are getting all new components and custom brackets.
GM single piston calipers are used as part of the disc brake conversion.
The JT Outfitters disc brake conversion kit includes:
2 – disc brake conversion brackets (the most important piece)
2 – disc brake rotor
2 – disc brake caliper assembly
2 – disc brake pads set
2 – disc brake line
*all necessary hardware is included for installation
I finally saved up enough money and ordered the disc brake conversion kit from JT Outfitters. The sales and tech people were very helpful with answering questions. They even gave me some advice on the installation and getting the front to rear brake ratio dialed in.
We tackled this project on a weekend—a father & son effort. The old parts came off pretty quickly, as if the Cruiser was giving us a break.
Here’s what you do for the disc brake conversion:
- Remove the front locking hub cover and remove the axle snap ring.
- Remove brake drum.
- Remove hub body to access the axle nuts.
- Bend back the locking tab washer and both nuts.
- The bare spindle and backing plate are now exposed.
- Remove safety wire from spindle bolts and remove bolts.
- Remove flexible brake line attached to the axle housing.
- Test fit the backing plate bracket. Line up the bolt holes, the bracket off-set should be closer to the engine with the ears facing the back.
- If everything lines up, install the spindle bolts (The kit comes with new replacement bolts, but we decided to use the OE since they were drilled for safety wire).
- Reinstall hub. If the rotor doesn’t fit, you might need to grind off some excess metal on the hub. JT Outfitters recommended only grinding to the casting mark on the hub (about 1/8-inch).
- Install the rotor on hub.
- Install axle nut, axle nut washer set preload on bearing.
- Install C-clip and locking hub assembly.
- Install the caliper by removing the Allen head bolt pin and sliding it over the rotor. Align with the bracket ears and then reinstall the caliper bolt pins.
- Install new supplied lines; however, if you vehicle is lifted more than 4-inches, you may need to get some longer brake lines.
- Install wheels & tires. Check to see if there is any rubbing either on the wheel or tire.
- Bleed the brakes.
Ready to rock!
Overall the JT Outfitters disc brake kit is well designed and packaged. Its simplicity makes it a great choice for an off-road upgrade. The Land Cruiser stops a lot better than before. It’s a night and day difference how responsive the disc brakes are compared to the old front drum brakes.
Service parts for this kit are easily found at the local auto parts store: Chevy 4x4 rotors and GM brake pads. This is a big plus for the kit.
Another good thing about the JT Outfitters front disk brake conversion kit is it uses the same brake pads, calipers, and rotors found in common rear disc brake conversion (e.g. Downey Off-Road rear brake kit). This means that if you end up doing a complete 4-wheel disk brake conversion, you will only need to carry a limited amount of spare parts on the trail.
My only gripe is with the instructions. There exist a few sections that could be refined—especially when it comes to installing the backing bracket. This part was a difficult to follow, especially for a weekend warrior. Some additional diagrams and better wording would help identify the order in which to install the parts properly.
Installation time: 4 hours
Parts quality: B+
Notes: CNC cut metal brackets are nicely welded and powder coated. All high-grade hardware included, OE replacement brake pads, rotors and calipers.
3134 NC 89E
Walnut Cove, NC 27052