Once you start to modify your vehicle for off-road use, it’s often the parts that you don’t modify that are the first to fail. We’ve done quite a bit of work on our WJ Grand Cherokee by installing a 4-inch BDS suspension kit, trimming the fenders and installing Bushwacker flares, and then stuffing 33-inch tires under the WJ.
Now that the Jeep is up off the trail and less exposed, it has additional travel with the upgraded Fox shocks and better approach and departure angles thanks to the front and rear Trail Ready bumpers. The problem with all these upgrades is weight, and the additional strain it puts on the stock brakes. The WJ platform was produced in model years 1999 to 2004, and in those years there are two different brake types – ATE/TEVES or Akebono. The short explanation on the difference between the two is the ATE/TEVES (stamped with a #4835 on its backside) setup features a metal wire retaining clip to help hold the brake pad in place, and the Akebono (which should be stamped with a #4802) does not.
The Grands made from 1999-2002 are fitted with ATE brakes, which our ’99 has, and as we and other WJ owners have learned over the years the brakes don’t handle the additional weight of larger tires and other upgrades so well. Our biggest issue was in relation to the retaining clip, which simply fell off on more than one occasion, which meant the brake pad would shift and move providing inconsistent braking or an unsafe condition where the brake pad would lock in place. Hearing consistent complaints of rotor warping on the ATE/TEVES brakes on ‘99-’02 models, Jeep addressed the issue and swapped out the ATE/TEVES setup in favor of an Akebono setup instead on 2003 and 2004 models.
So when we realized we needed to swap out our front brakes on our ’99 WJ, we hunted around for options. StopTech, the high-performance division of Centric Parts, offers all the parts necessary to swap our brakes to an Akebono-style setup and upgrade them in the process. StopTech has been around since before the turn of the century, and it offers a number of brake parts for a wide variety of vehicles. For the swap, we would be adding new Akebono calipers (part # 141.58005/006e), vented rotors (part # 126.67042sl/sr) and a set of Akebono front pads (part # 306.09450).
Installation is fairly straightforward and can be completed in a few hours by the competent garage mechanic. If you don’t have access to good hydraulic jack and jack stands, an automotive shop can knock out the job for you in a few hours, and a reputable place shouldn’t charge any more than a few hundred bucks for labor if you supply the parts.
In the end, what we really liked most about this upgrade is the quality of the parts and the ability to get everything we need from one reputable company. We also like the directional-vented rotors StopTech offers, as they help vent rotor heat more efficiently than a rotor with straight vents. Since swapping out our front brakes we have noticed smoother, more consistent braking and less fade on the trail. The feeling of better, more reliable braking is priceless on a modified vehicle, and it’s something easily overlooked with most modified vehicles. We’ve been very pleased with the upgrade and the quality of the StopTech parts and would recommend the same upgrade to WJ owners.
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