Vanagon Jaguar Brakes Tips and Review
Alright brakes are a good thing right?! Well if you are a serious adventurer you may want to consider a Vanagon Jaguar brakes upgrade! Stock vanagon brakes are not so good at all, and there are many known issues with them. Straight from the factory new they were not so desirable considering the size and weight of the Volkswagen Vanagon. They were just underpowered with small single piston calipers with solid non vented rotors. If you had to just stop quickly, do some kind of braking maneuver to avoid hitting something or have long declines making you consistently use your brakes you better start praying because they will likely fail you. The fault in the design is the solid non vented rotors. Once they heat up they don’t dissipate the heat fast enough to keep up with the use so you eventually will get brake fade until they will nearly not be able to slow you down anymore at all unless you pull over to let them cool. Because of this problem, these rotors are also very prone to warping which will make your brake pedal jump up and down and your steering wheel wobble when brakes are applied, not good. All the more reason to consider a Vanagon Jaguar brakes upgrade. Along with the standard rear drum brakes it makes for a rather poor braking performance with these vans. These vehicles from the start are very heavy even before you start loading them up so upgrading at least the front braking system on our vanagon was a mandatory upgrade.
Choosing your Vanagon Jaguar Brake setup
There are many different brake upgrade kits for the vanagon that many different companies sell that are pretty much a bolt up without too much hassle but come with a big price for piecing these parts together in my opinion. They just take parts from a certain list of other European cars Audi, Mercedes and even from the newer Volkswagen Eurovan. Yes they finally upgraded them after the T3 Vanagons when they came out with the next generation which was the Eurovan. I didn’t want to pay the $1000 price tag most came with so I decided to upgrade them myself. It was a little bit of work so if you don’t want to get your hands dirty or have no concept of working on brakes or automobiles in general maybe just pay the high price of the kits. Here’s what I did. After a lot of research found a nice set of four piston calipers with around 11″ vented rotors that will have enough stopping power to stop our big loaded up bus! They are off an ’89 Jaguar XJS, well made for it, but we bought new refurbished calipers with brand new rotors to start out with fresh stuff. On the cheap though to perform a Vanagon Jaguar brakes upgrade like this you can go to a pick a part junkyard and grab a set of calipers and the rotors off either a ’76-’96 XJS or a ‘76.5-87 XJ6 I believe and that would be very cost effective. Make sure they have all the pins and clips for the pads, and you will need to get longer brake lines that connect to the caliper itself. We went with a 12″ steel braided line for a little more toughness in case they continually rub on things offroading plus they don’t expand under pressure so much so you’ll get a firmer petal when pushing.
Assembling your Jaguar Brake System
Ok, so there are more things you will need to do in getting these brakes to work other then just picking them up and throwing them on! You will have to modify a thing or two to make these work but it will be worth it in the long run. First things first you have to take off your old rotors and when you do you will notice that it’s all just one piece. The rotor and hub are one piece so when your rotors are shot you replace that whole piece and because of that you have no way to connect the new rotor so that’s where the modification comes in.
You need to get the disc part of the rotor machined off leaving just the hub which will fit inside of the new Jaguar rotor and hold it onto the spindle. If you like you can press in studs like we did so you won’t have to use the lug bolts that you normally would have to use with the stock Vanagon brakes. With your Vanagon Jaguar brakes upgrade this makes it easier to put the wheels back on cause you won’t have to balance it up on your toes. If you’ve changed a front Vanagon tire you know what I mean. You will have to get a different banjo bolt with the correct angle fitting to clear the upright from the spindle which you also have to grind a notch so that the banjo bolt will fit in properly without hitting the caliper bracket. After that re-attach the hub and push the new larger duel vented rotors on overtop and place the burly new four piston caliper on over the rotor with the new pads installed in the calipers already. We went with ceramic pads instead of the more common semi-metallic because they are more durable, last longer and leave minimal brake dust compared to the semi-metallic ones. Make sure everything lines up right and the rotor spins without dragging against anything. This is a very important step with your Vanagon Jaguar brake upgrade. It may take a couple times taking them on and off to adjust things or grind a little bit here or there but not much.
Once lined up and spinning freely hook up the new longer steel braided brake line trying not to spill too much brake fluid everywhere while doing so. Duplicate on the other side then it’s time for bleeding! You can install the calipers on either the proper right on right left on left or do it like we did left on right and right on left. We didn’t do it on purpose but it let us install them with little grinding to get them to fit and bolt up properly. That’s the good side of it but the bad side is that the bleeding screw is now on the bottom of the caliper instead of the top where the air will accumulate unfortunately. We didn’t want to go through the hassle and process of having to grind more metal so all we did is took the caliper and rotor off just by removing the two caliper bolts holding things together and just flipped them so the bleeder screw was up and then bled. Always start bleeding the brake that is the furthest away from the master cylinder which is yes above the instrument cluster of the dash in your vanagon. You just have to remove the top cover above the cluster and there it is. Take the cap off the reservoir and start bleeding, remember you will be using excessive amounts of brake fluid if you purchased new or refurbished calipers cause they’re empty so be ready to be adding brake fluid to the reservoir continually. So rear right, left rear, right front, then left front last. That’s the order you want to bleed them and after you get the new right front bled flip them back around and then go flip the drivers side up so you can properly bleed that side
I know this isn’t the perfect scenario but once you get them bleed your good to go cause you very seldom have to bleed brakes unless you have a leak somewhere. So there you go for under half the price of the expensive kits these Vanagon companies sell you you’ll actually have bigger, stronger, more powerful breaks for when your really going to need them. Yes this four piston caliper brake set up will have more braking power then most if not all the kits on the market for a fraction of the price. We have put a few thousand miles on them so far without a problem unless stopping too quickly is a problem! Always bring an extra set of pads especially when traveling out of the US just to be sure you have a backup set in case you can’t find the right ones where your at. The pad overhangs just a touch over the rotor maybe a millimeter but shouldn’t be an issue at all so you can always just ask for the stock year Jaguar model you pulled them from and just pop em on when they get thin.
Vanagon Rear Drum Brake Options
The rear drum brakes I also wanted to upgrade to full caliper and rotor style but we just ran out of time and needed to get on the road so those are still on the list of things to upgrade in the near future. Until then we just replaced the leaky cylinders and inspected the drum and pads but were pretty fresh. There are also some kits out there for the rear also, but I think I’m going to go with the BMW 745 rear brakes I’ll piece together myself as I see it’s working with a few other people so I’ll save my money doing it myself to invest in something else for the van as there is an endless list.
I will soon be putting together a very detailed ebook listing step by step, part numbers for all parts needed, and pictures for every step of the way for all you do it yourself type people but would like a little instruction to be sure your doing it right. I will even try to have all the parts needed linked up so you can easily just click a few buttons and purchase all the parts needed. Email us at [email protected] and let us know if this would be something you would be interested in. The more interest the quicker I get it done for you guys!