Project Civic EJ: Fast Brakes Rear Disc Brake Conversion Kit
By Chuck Johnson
Photos by Joe Lu
After completing the install of the front Fast Brakes big brake kit, we knew that we had to do something about the drum brake lameness that was taking place on the rear of Project Civic. Project Civic had been retired to commuter car only status almost a decade ago and since then had only the basic maintenance performed. We were pretty suspicious that the rear drums weren't contributing any work in the whole braking equation since there seemed to be an abnormal amount of front brake bias. Never mind that the rear drums and shoes had not been replaced ever even after 260,000 miles of use.
After pulling off the drums, it was pretty obvious that the rear brakes had checked out and gone on vacation over a hundred or so thousand miles ago. (Speaking of vacations, I could sure use one right now.) There was plenty of friction material left on the shoes, perhaps caused from poor adjustment or a frozen brake cylinder. Who really cares, though?
Honestly, drum brakes suck in almost every way. Well, except for trapping heat and creating a crappy pedal feel as they distort and grow under compressive and thermal loads. They're pretty efficient at that stuff. Unlike disc brakes, drum brake's friction surfaces are encased in a cast iron “shell.” This shell makes expelling heat a real challenge, causing heat to build up inside the drum. Also, the force of the drum brake's shoe is not opposed by an equal and opposite force like on a disc brake. On a disc brake system, the pads are essentially squeezing against one another with the rotor in the middle. Why is this important? Without equal forces acting on each side of the drum, we are left to rely on the stiffness of the drum's cast iron material to resist the compressive load of the shoe that's pushing against it. Ultimately, the drum itself gives way and distorts elastically under this load causing poor brake feel and performance. I'm sure there are applications where drums might be preferred but again, they're drum brakes and who really cares? I don't. Honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing them follow the dodo bird and the carburetor down the path of extinction.
So, instead of diagnosing the problem with Project Civic's rear suck brakes, we quickly removed Project Civic's drum brake assembly and pawned them off to the first scrap metal guy who drove by the MotoIQ garage. Our original thought was to replace Project Civic's drum brakes with the rear disc brakes from a Civic Si, but there's only one thing that we can't stand more than crappy, knock off parts and that's crappy, stolen parts. Stolen parts are just bad karma, so instead of risking getting a frozen pair of freshly stolen Civic Si calipers and seven years of bad luck, we opted for another one of Fast Brakes' big brake kits. This time though, the Fast Brakes kit was not only a big brake kit, but also a drum to disc brake conversion kit.