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Rear Disc Installation

74672 Views 116 Replies 48 Participants Last post by  GladePlugIn
After completing my rear disc installation I decided to post up all of the information I gathered. This post should answer most of the questions asked in regards to converting a drum brake equipped 1997-2004 Dakota/Durango to rear disc. The information has been gathered from my own experience as well as other posters. I used some images from one of 70CUDA383 posts and information from one of Duner posts for Jeep rear disc. Thanks for the info guys!
If anybody has anything to add, post it up and I will edit this thread.

This thread deals with factory rear disc options only and does not deal with any of the aftermarket offerings.

In short, there are no bolt on options for factory rear disc on our drum brake equipped Dakota/Durango's regardless of year of manufacture. All of the options require some kind of modification. Listed below are the options, positives and negatives to each, as well as what is required to make them work.

The absolute best way to swap over to rear disc is to get the complete axle assembly out of an 03-04 Dakota/Durango. If you are swapping from Durango to Dakota or Dakota to Durango the only thing that needs to be changed is the shock mounts. This is a piece of cake when compared to changing the axle flanges.

The primary reason disc brakes will not bolt onto drum brake rear ends without mods is due to the backing plate flange location. The pictures taken by 70CUDA383 show the differences in flange placement.

From these pictures it becomes obvious why the disc brake backing plates will not simply mount onto a drum brake rear end. That leaves us with needing to modify something to make this swap possible.

1. Mid 90's Jeep Grand Cherokee rear disc. This is probably the easiest swap as the Jeep uses the same axle flange location as the drum brake rear ends in our Dakota/Durango's. Duner has completed this swap and had this to say regarding modifications.

Rotors need to be redrilled for the 6-lug bolt pattern.
The center of the backing plate needs to be opened 05" to clear the larger axle tube.
The mounting holes for the backing plate need to be opened up .0625 to mount on the axle flange.
Parking brake cables have not yet been installed but, I can't see that being very difficult.
Rotors on the Jeep are a little bit smaller than what came on the 03-04 Dakota/Durango, they measure 11.2"
These rotors are solid.
This brake setup will fit under 15" wheels.

2. 03-04 Dakota rear disc. The only modification that needs to be done to use these brakes are axle flange relocation. This is not a particularly easy modification. It can be done but it is not fun.

Axle flange needs to be relocated.
Parking brake cables need to be from a vehicle with the same chassis length, they can be found at Rock Auto or obviously the dealer.
The rotors are 12.1" in diameter and are solid.
This setup uses updated single piston rear calipers.
The backing plate has an integrated caliper mount. It is a single piece unit.
This setup requires 16" or larger wheels.

3. 03 Durango rear disc. Like the 03-04 Dakota rear disc the axle flange needs to be relocated. The 03 Durango rear discs share nothing in common with the 03-04 Dakota rear discs.

Axle flange needs to be relocated and flipped on one side.
Parking brake cables need to be from a vehicle with the same chassis length, they can be found at Rock Auto or obviously the dealer.
The rotors are 12.1" in diameter and are ventilated.
This setup uses what appears to be the same caliper that was used on the mid 90's Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is a single piston caliper.
Backing plate and caliper mount are separate pieces.
This setup requires 16" or larger wheels.

The photos below show the differences between the 03-04 Dakota rear rotor and the 03 Durango rear rotor courtesy of Rock Auto. 03-04 Dakota on top with the 03 Durango below.

There may be other options. If you know of any that will work, post them up.

Well after having all this new knowledge if you still want to proceed with swapping your rear drums for discs follow below and I will show how I did it with 03 Durango rear discs.

Before starting you are going to need a pair of these. I cut these on our CNC machine when it became obvious I would need them. They were made from 3/8 plate steel. Trying to remove the factory flanges for reuse is not something I wanted to attempt.

First thing I did was remove the studs. They can be knocked out with a hammer fairly easily. Don't worry about damaging them, they are too short for the disc brakes and will need to be replaced with the proper length stud.
Don't forget to stuff some rags in your axle to protect the bearings.
Below is the stock flange before any work has been started.

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cheater! you cut your new flanges on a CNC machine?!

real men use torches, an angle grinder, and an electric drill with a grinding stone and drill bits!

...then again, yours is done, and I'm still hand working my new flanges!:jester:
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Sure, those kits are "bolt on in an afternoon" kits, but at nearly $1,000 for them...they better put themselves on!

I have less than $300 tied up in this brake swap so far. $200 for a complete axle with everything I needed to include parking brake cables (but it's an 8.25, not a 9.25 so NO, I can't just swap axles!) --plus brand new calipers ($60) and a few cans of spray paint (then, once i sell the rest of the axle with the drum brake stuff installed on it...subtract that from the total cost of my swap)

maybe $10 for the steel to make new flanges from, and the cost of materials used (torch gas, grinding stones, etc.)

not trying to knock the pre-engineered kits, but for about 1/3 the price and a day or 2 longer, you can have the factory kits knocked out, and save $600 for other mods:mullet:
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yes, that's a valid point, that your own time does cost money, but that all really depends on how you view your truck as well, to include the time spent working on it.

if it's a hobby, then you don't really care how long a project takes, especially if it's not your primary mode of travel or work vehicle. like me. I drive a roller skate to work and I have an un-modified, bone stock quad cab that i use for trips to the hardware store, etc. I don't really care if my truck sits all winter while working mods to it. that time is "free time" because it's hobby time, I'm doing something I enjoy doing. it's definitly not work.

but if your truck is needed for work around the house, or if it's one of your primary means of transportation, and you cannot afford to have it parked for a week or 2...then yea, that's where a pre-engineered, bolt on kit has it's benefits.

it's good for someone who wants to swap rear drums to discs, to know ALL the options out there, what they require, cost, etc. and then they can make the informed decision themselves on what to do!

I keep going back and forth myself on the viper fronts...do I want to buy the kit and have big ass, viper front brakes, or is the stock set up from an 03/04 going to work for me? 12.2" vented rotors should be more than enough for a street driven truck that will probably NEVER be autocrossed--then again...those large rotors and viper calipers are sexy!:jester:
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Here's my pics from the swap. didn't take me 2.5 hours to grind off the old flange, but it was definitly the better part of an hour.

tacked the new one in place, made sure it was square, mocked it all up, check fine, took it all apart and burned it in solid, and put it all back together!

my new flange might not be as pretty as scott's, but remember, he used a CNC machine. I used a cut off wheel and an electric hand held drill.

This just shows that you don't need a nice machine shop to do this swap!

tools used: standard wrenches, sockets etc, 4.5" angle grinder, 3/8 chuck electric drill, and a cheap 110v flux core wire feed MIG welder.


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I'm still a few weeks away from driving it myself I still have to install the 03/04 parking break cables and brake lines as well as installing my new clutch and shocks (which are on back orderright now)
heres an idea...with you guys that have the drum axle...and can either get the 03/04 dak brakes or the jeep brakes....which will be the best option....

just make a spacer for the backing plate instead of cutting the old plate off and welding a new one

now if all you can get is the durango ones...have fun

anybody have any measurements for the newer jeep brakes?

I don't think you understand the problem with the alignment...

on BOTH the Durango and Dakota 03/04 rear disc brakes, the mounting flange is 5 cm from the end of the axle tube. on the drum brake axles, the flange is 3 cm from the end of the axle tube...so if you're going to take the disc brakes that are built for a 5cm "backspacing" and put it onto an axle with a 3cm mounting flange...it's goingto be 2cm TOO CLOSE to the end of the tube...not sure how a spacer is going to correct that problem! the only solution is to either cut the caliper mounting bracket into the shape of a "C" and slip it on BEHIND the flange for the drum brakes, and THEN use a spacer, or, cut off the old flange, and weld on a new one.
your right...i went back a rechecked....my bad...that was a lot of tech info to go thru with lack of sleep...thanks for setting it strait.....plus thankfully i didnt have to go thru that to do my brakes.....but im glad someone did
but you did put viper brakes up front right? what wheels are you using? could you fit OEM 16x8s and OEM R/Ts over them? your stuff is totally different than the viper conversion offered by sidewinder,right?

I need better front brakes but I wanna keep my OEM wheels, both the 16x8s and the 17x9s so that pretty much limits my options to the 03/04 dakota's front brake set ups
is buying a '03 Durango rear disk diff for $500 worth it for a rear disk swap on a '01 Durango rear drum diff?

No. I paid $200 for the complete rear suspension--axle, shocks, springs, sway bar...

$500 for a complete axle is a joke. most junk yards only charge $300 for the whole deal, and if you can find a you-pull-it, you can get the parts cheaper.

for $500 I'd pass...or swap out the entire axle, but in my case, I couldn't do that, the axle I bought was only an 8.25, and I need the 9.25 for my power levels.

you can buy brand new stock rotors for like $60 each, and new calipers for like $80 each, or $30 if you have a core exchange, so the only thing you really need is the caliper mounting bracket on the axle, because I think that's either a dealership only item, or not available, parts stores definitly won't have it. so for $500, you're paying $280 for the brake components, and $230 for the brackets.
update to my swap:

I was able to use the entire parking brake assembly from the 03/04 dakota to go with my new rear disc brakes. that metal sleeve you mentioned was a bitch, as it puts my cable almost into a bind, but it seems to be working ok for now.

the older trucks had a bracket welded to the frame. the newer trucks have a bracket bolted to the frame and an under brace for the bed. I cut my old one off, and drilled a hole to bolt the new on onto the frame.

I then replaced the ENTIRE CABLE all the way up to the parking brake cable. it's working ok for now, a bit loose, but working fine for parking. I may try to take some of the slack out so I have a better "Emergency" brake if the need ever arises.

finally got the rest of my mods done as well to the dakota, and took it for a drive. it's stopping great so far, no squeeks, squeels, shimmys, vibrations...very nice and smooth. and it looks so much better than the ugly drums! (mine are the ones with the red painted calipers...eh, I know...a bit over-done, but then again, I have a red truck, so I can say I painted them body color, not "high performance red":jester:
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Looks like a fun road...quickly scanning the link you posted, do they shut down the road for "events" so folks can go play and be safe while doing so? lot of the pictures made it seem that way.
Unfortunately, no. Most drivers scope out the LEO's locations and hammer certain sections, at their own risk. The biggest gathering, I think, is the Mini Cooper bunch in April with up to 300 cars. I tried to host an event in Oct. 2007, but the THP had a sting operation going on at the time prompted by 4 motorcycle deaths that Spring. Things have calmed down considerably since then. Search for my old post: Dakotas on the Dragon, or the ton of Youtube vids with "Dragon 129" in the title. See the whole lap on "Tail of the Dragon Deals Gap".

Looks like they should. they could turn it into a tax revenue as well. shut the road down 1 saturday a month and charge folks $15 to make a pass on the road. they could keep a few mounties along the road and loosly enforce a speed limit so you don't get idiots thinking "it's a closed road, with no traffic i can go as fast as I want" and killing themselves in a single car accident.
the easiest way is to swap the entire axle, but then you have to deal with the different yokes on the pinion, and worry about screwing up your crush sleeve and pinion bearing pre-load.

where at in Ohio is cannfield?

I could do to your truck, exactly what I did to mine, but you'd be without the truck for a week or 2, since i'd be doing it in my spare time. I'd charge you a LOT less than any mechanic shop would!

you bring me the parts and I'll do the work!
I forgot about my old thread a few months ago!


So it seems like my issue is that I have 15" rims....I can't replace those so will grinding make it work with a 15? Anyone?
if you're looking to keep 15" rims, don't bother with an axle swap from an 03 or 04 truck, the brakes are too big for 15" rims, which is why they came out with those ugly ass 16x7" 6 spoke wheels.

if you're willing to swap wheels to 16s or bigger, then yea, the 03/04 axle will bolt in.

if it's from an 03/04 4x4 dakota, it is a bolt in deal, as long as you have the complete parking brake cable to swap as well.

if you have an axle from an 03/04 2wd Dakota, then you need to move the spring mounts to the top of the axle tubes--2wd dakotas are spring under axle, 4x4 dakotas are spring over axle.

if you have an axle from an 03 Durango, you will need to move the spring mounts to the top of the axle tubes--ALL Durangos were spring under axle. you will also have to weld shock mount tabs onto the axle tubes, as the durango's incorporate the shock mount into the axle mounting plates that secure it to the springs.
My truck is in a million pieces right now. I am installing a stereo and waiting on my engine so I can't say how well they will hold up. I would expect stock 03 brake performance.
Sorry I don't really have time to make any flanges. I can send you a copy of the CAD file that would allow you to get some made. They aren't difficult at all, any machine shop would be able to cut them.
you haven't driven your truck since you did the swap? holy crap that was almost a year ago!!!

Mine has held up fine. I put 2,000 miles on it this summer, and I've not had any problems.
Well, I guess I'll have to deal with my shitty brakes. I can't spend the money on new rims and tires at the moment. I had to lock up my brakes about a month ago while I was doing 45mph because a guy cut me off in an intersection and they worked...
yea, for 1 time panic stops--if you can lock up your brakes now, going bigger won't make you stop any faster! you can only stop as fast as your tires allow.

where brake upgrades help is when you're towing or hauling heavy loads, and you need more brake energy to stop the truck due to the additional weight, the larger brakes allow for more braking and better head dissipation, as well as with spirited driving where you might be on the brakes hard several times in quick succession, and the larger brakes again, will dissipate heat faster, delaying or preventing brake fade due to heat.

with drums, you get 2, maybe 3 panic stops before they're too hot and won't work anymore.

that's ok for normal street driving though, one good panic stop is all you really need--how often do you have a short bus full of little kids pull out in front of you forcing you to slam on the brakes? if that happens twice in a row, then you need to go help an old lady across the street, or go serve food at the local soup kitchen...do anything to improve your Karma before you total your truck!

but if you weight down your truck with cargo or tow a lot, or like to auto-x your truck (even if it's not an official SCCA event or at a track:D) then you should consider brake upgrades.
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Hey guys, you're right, it is easier to just swap rear ends. if you can do that, I suggest that you do.

however, finding the perfect rear end, isn't always possible. if you have a 2wd truck, and find a 4wd truck...something gotta be cut and welded to make it fit into your truck anyway. or what if you have 3.92 and an LSD on a 98 axle, but you found an 03 w/ 3.55s and open? you have to decide, lose the LSD and the better gear ratio, or swap internals, or swap brakes.

what if you just spent $1000 on 4.56s, detroit true trac diff, and new bearings for your 9.25 2wd Dakota rear...then 6 months later find a cheap 8.25, with 3.55s and an open diff, with disc brakes on it...

what are ya gonna do then?

that's why I did what I did. I just had a killer rear end built for my truck, 9.25 axle with 4.56s, detroit true trac, rear end girdle, all new bearings in the whole thing, and had it sand blasted and painted while it was all apart. then came across a disc brake rear end from an 03 V6 4x4 truck. I sure as hell wasn't going to toss all the good parts I bought, to turn around and do an axle flip kit to the 4x4 8.25" axle...so I did the disc brake swap that you see here in this thread.

if you have a stock 98 9.25 w 3.55 open on your 4x4 and you happen to find an 03 9.25 w 3.55 open and disc brakes, our of a 4x4 then yea, swap the whole thing out--it's a bolt in deal. ....after you swap the yokes on the axle.
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