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Thread: Volvo Upgrade DIY

  1. #1
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    Volvo Brake Upgrade DIY

    I decided to rewrite the Volvo brake DIY to clear up the usual confusion (I still get questions on what rotors to use and what calipers to use) and have a fresh new post within bimmerforums that has the info at the top of the thread.

    The Volvo/Girling front brake upgrade is the biggest bang for the buck in E21 brakes. This allows you to run the stock 323i vented rotors without the price tag of upgrading to the 323i vented calipers. For much less than stock 323i calipers you can get 4 piston calipers with about 30% more pad area.

    Parts List:
    L Girling Caliper '75-'91 Volvo 240 w/ Vented Front Rotors - Volvo P/N 5002028
    R Girling Caliper '75-'91 Volvo 240 w/ Vented Front Rotors - Volvo P/N 5002029
    Pads of your choice - I'm running PBR Metal Masters, for a hi performance street pad you can run the Hawk HPS which is also available for e30 rear calipers
    Brake Hardware Kit (does both wheels)
    '77 320i vented rotors (or 323i rotors from any year - same part number)
    (4) m12 or 7/16" washers, 1.5 mm to 2.5mm thick
    (2) Metric Brake Line Tee - Jbugs.com
    (2) M6 x 1 x 1 bolt (to mount tee to strut)
    (2) 10" or shorter metric brake line - M10x1.0 tube nut fittings and bubble flares (from braided line to tee, cut to fit)
    (4) 14" metric brake line - M10x1.0 tube nut fittings and bubble flares (from tee to calipers)

    Tools needed:
    tin snips (to trim the backing plate)
    dremel tool/die grinder & carbide bit (to slot holes in calipers)
    Brake line tubing cutter
    Brake line flare tool


    I bought my calipers brand new for about $60 each including core charge at fcpgroton.com, but prices have gone up since then. You can also find reman calipers for less at rockauto or your local autoparts store.

    First off, the backing plate needs to be trimmed to make room for the caliper:




    This is a fairly straight forward swap, bolt the calipers on using the washers as a spacer to center the caliper over the rotors. Unslotted calipers will overhang the rotors by 6 to 7mm.

    Unslotted caliper with 7mm overhang:



    To help correct this, slot the mounting holes by 5mm to get down to a 1mm overhang (I used a carbide bit and die grinder). An m12 washer with thickness of 1.5mm to 2.5mm will work to center the caliper. 7/16" washers may provide a better fit, the last set of calipers I did I had to buy 7/16" washers because the metric washers my hardware store had were too large and would interfere with the dust boots. Make sure you measure the washer thickness to keep them all equal. I actually go to the hardware store with measuring calipers and measure washers to make sure I have all the same thickness since washer tolerances aren't very tight.

    Slotted Holes:



    Slotting the mounting holes put the caliper so far back that I had to grind a little material off of the front strut where the caliper mounting bolt holes are for brake pad clearance, and also had to grind some material off of the pad backing plate. Note: As seen in the pic, I ran double spacers up front until I could get custum made hub centric spacers for my wheels (the wheel center bore is much larger than the E21's hub dia.). This was a temporary setup, I don't recommend this.





    Calipers mounted after slotting the holes, only 1mm overhang. Note: clips installed backwards in the pic, they should be over the metal backing plate on the pads.



    I decided to use the E21 master cylinder for now because I already had a new one. I used a metric brake "T", bought mine from Jbugs.com (a VW supplier), but its the exact same "T" that is used in the rear brake circuit of the E21. I bought brake metric brake lines at Autozone for a few bucks (along with their rent-a-tool flare kit) and bent my lines by hand. Despite the single circuit split to 2, the brake pedal feel isn't too soft for my tastes. An E12 cylinder is the best way to go though.


    Here are the pre-cut & flared lines, washers, and brake line T's needed:


    Bending the small elbow from the flex line to the T:



    Cutting to length:




    Set the line to the depth of the ridge on the flaring mandrel:



    Tighten both wingnuts all the way:



    Insert the mandrel and flare wrench and tighten until it bottoms out. Keep the mandrel square to get a good bubble flare:


    Setting the last line up to mark for where to cut:







    And here they are installed. The brake "T" can bolt in location on the brake line bracket using the longer M6 bolt.






    Also, If you are doing a big front brake swap and a rear disk conversion, you should consider an adjustable proportioning valve. I used a Wilwood valve (bought from summitracing.com) pretty cheap, and looks good too. I had to use a combination of metic and SAE bubble and inverted bubble flares to adapt it into the system. Summit's wilwood valve is SAE, but I have read that Ireland Engineering sells a re-tapped metric version.

    Prop valve installed:



    bypassed (and removed) stock proportioning valve:
    Last edited by jrcook320; 09-09-2010 at 08:01 AM.

    '81 320i turbo | t25, 931 CIS, 250hp, 13.92@100mph | 2.2L m10 Turbo Build | My E21 Videos |

  2. #2
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    Thanks I plan on do this soon.

    Josh I heard that you can use a different master cylinder instead of T-ing it.
    Any advantages to this?
    "..Horsepower is a measure of work done over time, or the rate at which work is done."




    http://www.cardomain.com/ride/579694/1


  3. #3
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    Thanks Josh, very informative write up, I used this DIY for my 320 and it worked out great (link). Iwill be doing it for the 2nd time on the 323i. I would like to add that when I was slotting the bolt holes I must have put steady pressure on the caliper for 20min and got no where as far as taking down the material. So as an alternate option I used an end mill and had all 4 slotted in about 20min total.

    I also used a different set of pads for this set-up, they are Axxis Ultimate Carbon/Ceramic pads and am happy with them. Additionally I did not have to grind the area where the caliper bolts to the plate for clearance for what ever reason.


    Quote Originally Posted by jjgbmw323 View Post

    Josh I heard that you can use a different master cylinder instead of T-ing it.
    Any advantages to this?
    Did you read the article? He said what to use. But since you didnt, you can also use the E12 MC as it has 2 extra ports, that are also 2mm larger in diameter so you do not have to use a T.

    I used a T and the pedal feel, IMO is good.
    Last edited by blitzed310; 03-24-2008 at 06:20 PM.

  4. #4
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    The e12 cyl is often used just for its bigger bore (more pressure but less travel required on the pedal), I don't see the benefit of running extra lines though. The T looks fine to me.

    Why bother notching the backing plates Josh? I ditched mine years ago and never looked back. Does anyone believe they are necessary or even beneficial? (I do not) Plus they are very much the wrong size once you put 15's on. Removing them does require removing the hubs, but who doesn't need to repack their bearings anyway?

    Great write-up as usual!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layne View Post
    The e12 cyl is often used just for its bigger bore (more pressure but less travel required on the pedal), I don't see the benefit of running extra lines though. The T looks fine to me.

    Why bother notching the backing plates Josh? I ditched mine years ago and never looked back. Does anyone believe they are necessary or even beneficial? (I do not) Plus they are very much the wrong size once you put 15's on. Removing them does require removing the hubs, but who doesn't need to repack their bearings anyway?

    Great write-up as usual!
    I agree, I am not putting the backing plates on and I am piecing together the volvo setup right now. Thanks for the info Josh.

  6. #6
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    that's pretty hot.

    so, i'm guessing that it won't fit under the stock wheels?
    Last edited by joeworkstoohard; 11-10-2008 at 07:24 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

  7. #7
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    Thumbs up

    Josh thanks for the write up.
    Looks great and I can wait until I get my calipers back and on my 323i.
    Thanks for working on them.
    "..Horsepower is a measure of work done over time, or the rate at which work is done."




    http://www.cardomain.com/ride/579694/1


  8. #8
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    They fit under the 13" steel wheels, but not under the turbines.

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  9. #9
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    and not under basketweaves

  10. #10
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    so only under steelies?
    Still in the game

  11. #11
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    correct. Or 14"+ wheels.

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  12. #12
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    Thanks, btw, for writing this up. It is this kind of post that makes this forum so incredibly helpful.

    Motronic M20B25 E21 Legion Page

  13. #13
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    That underbody is mint O.O ... nice writeup btw

  14. #14
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    well, that kind of bites. one of the things that i really liked is my turbines.

    i've always thought they were sharp looking wheels.

    has anyone tried using the 15 inch alpina clones that bavarian autosport offers?

  15. #15
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    This is a great write-up and very useful. Out of curiosity, is there a larger rotor we can use instead of having to slot the moutning holes? I'm thinking that most people that do this will likely be going from non-vented to vented rotors and might as well buy rotors that fit.

    Also, I'm not too comfortable relying on bolt pressure to keep the caliper aligned. Particularly for people like me that run their cars very hard on track days - makes me nervous!

    Cheers,
    Marco
    Marco = 82 320i Hennarot - 95 Porsche 911 Carrera - 95 Red MR2 NA Hardtop

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marquinho View Post
    This is a great write-up and very useful. Out of curiosity, is there a larger rotor we can use instead of having to slot the moutning holes? I'm thinking that most people that do this will likely be going from non-vented to vented rotors and might as well buy rotors that fit.

    Also, I'm not too comfortable relying on bolt pressure to keep the caliper aligned. Particularly for people like me that run their cars very hard on track days - makes me nervous!

    Cheers,
    Marco
    rotors, generally, come as blanks, and then are machined and drilled to fit. so, if you measured the offset of the BMW rotor, and found out the stock diameter of the volvo rotor that the 240 used, i'm pretty sure that it could be made. in fact, just looking at photos, the stock volvo rotors may very well work if you could get a set drilled for 4 lug as opposed to 5 (although that's just by how it looks in photos, the centre hole may very well be different.)

    i wonder if any of the "big brake" rotors for the e21 would be close enough in size to work.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marquinho View Post
    This is a great write-up and very useful. Out of curiosity, is there a larger rotor we can use instead of having to slot the moutning holes? I'm thinking that most people that do this will likely be going from non-vented to vented rotors and might as well buy rotors that fit.

    Also, I'm not too comfortable relying on bolt pressure to keep the caliper aligned. Particularly for people like me that run their cars very hard on track days - makes me nervous!

    Cheers,
    Marco
    I have personally tested the slotted caliper on autox and track days with no problems. There is no major force that will pull the caliper outward other than the caliper wanting to rotate around the lower bolt. This force is minor compared to the force pulling the caliper in the direction of rotor rotation. Either way, we rely on nothing but bolt pressure to hold your entire vehicle together. Being an engineer who has taken machine design courses (which covers bolt and screw calculations and design), I know that it is this clamping force that provides friction between 2 objects bolted together. It is this friction that resists shear forces, NOT the bolt.

    And to answer your other question, yes there is a larger off the shelf rotor that will work. The mini cooper uses a larger 276mm vented rotor (compared to 255mm 323i rotor) that fits but the rotor hat is shorter.

    Thanks to J.K.jr.bad. on Jeroen's network (and posted with his permission):

    You can run 276mm new mini (2003+) rotors which are 21mm larger than the stock 255mm 323i rotors. The rotor height is 44mm, thickness is 21.9mm, and the hub bore is 64.1mm (compared to 63mm for the e21 hub bore) so you'll have to use hub centric spacer rings to center the rotor on the hub. You may also want to drill the rotor for the hold down bolt.



    In this picture you can see the gap between hub and disc center bore and a new hole for the hold down bolt:



    The caliper has to be mounted on the outside of the mount ears rather than the inside. This will make the caliper difficult to bolt on since the rotor will be in the way. You will have to "walk" the caliper and rotor down into position as you tighten the bolts. Another option would be to drill out the strut threads and use a longer bolt and locking nut behind the rotor. J.K.jr.bad recommends seperating the caliper halves, attach the inside half, install the rotor, then bolt the other caliper half on. I would never do that on my car simply for the brake fluid mess. Before you buy mini rotors, bolt your calipers on and verify you have wheel clearance.

    They do not need to be slotted, but the pads will overhang the inside of the rotor surface by ~5mm. It may be possible to slot the caliper in the other direction to move it out ~3mm, but take care to not go too far and weaken the casting.





    You may also have to do some minor clearance grinding on the inside of the caliper for the width of the disc, J.K.jr.bad said his was probably due to casting roughness.
    Last edited by jrcook320; 04-27-2010 at 11:59 PM.

    '81 320i turbo | t25, 931 CIS, 250hp, 13.92@100mph | 2.2L m10 Turbo Build | My E21 Videos |

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeworkstoohard View Post
    rotors, generally, come as blanks, and then are machined and drilled to fit. so, if you measured the offset of the BMW rotor, and found out the stock diameter of the volvo rotor that the 240 used, i'm pretty sure that it could be made. in fact, just looking at photos, the stock volvo rotors may very well work if you could get a set drilled for 4 lug as opposed to 5 (although that's just by how it looks in photos, the centre hole may very well be different.)

    i wonder if any of the "big brake" rotors for the e21 would be close enough in size to work.
    Thank you for chiming in... what you say is mostly true, but you can't judge the size of the volvo rotor by looking at how the caliper fits in the BMW. The hub bracket on the Volvo may be totally different (position and spacing) than the one in the BMW, so difficult to tell.

    Perhaps getting a rotor is a bit larger that fits the e21 will work as it can be machined down to size if needed.
    Marco = 82 320i Hennarot - 95 Porsche 911 Carrera - 95 Red MR2 NA Hardtop

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marquinho View Post
    Thank you for chiming in... what you say is mostly true, but you can't judge the size of the volvo rotor by looking at how the caliper fits in the BMW. The hub bracket on the Volvo may be totally different (position and spacing) than the one in the BMW, so difficult to tell.

    Perhaps getting a rotor is a bit larger that fits the e21 will work as it can be machined down to size if needed.

    well, the thing with disc brakes is that almost all of them use similar angles as far as how they go together.

    while you're right, and there is no way to be 100% sure that it would fit just on size alone, i'm merely offering that as a starting point, not as a how-to guide.

    personally, i don't feel that the stock brakes are as bad as everyone seems to think, as my car has always been more limited by tires than the actual brake hardware.

    that said, when she is re-born, i plan to do a better set up, mainly due to the "cool factor" than anything else.

  20. #20
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    I'm not sure what you mean by "using the same basic angles", there are no angles involved. The dimensions that matter are rotor diameter, rotor offset, rotor thickness, of course lug pattern, and hub bore. Rotor offset and thickness are the most important measurements as they can't be changed. There is no sense in speculating from pictures. You can probably look up volvo rotor dimensions online, or go to a parts store and measure yourself. Regardless, running the volvo rotor has been discussed many times.

    The issue with the stock brakes is not inadequate stopping power. They easily lock the front wheels on dry pavement. The difference comes in the ability to modulate your braking force at the limit of tire adhesion vs. lockup due to greater friction available with the larger pads, and also the brakes ability to dissipate heat. A vented rotor cools much more quickly than a solid rotor and will also stay cooler because there is more material there to heat up. On the street or even autox it's not an issue, on the track even the volvo setup falls short. A larger diameter rotor provides more stopping force for a given clamping pressure and also acts as a larger heat sink to disipate more heat.

    '81 320i turbo | t25, 931 CIS, 250hp, 13.92@100mph | 2.2L m10 Turbo Build | My E21 Videos |

  21. #21
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    i think you're missing what i'm saying. the angle of the caliper to the rotor does matter, if you look at how it works on the rear as opposed to the front, you'll see what i mean. motorcyles have a very small contact area and very large rotor.

    now, as far as easy to modulate goes, i do get that. i like the idea of the mini rotors...

  22. #22
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    I also have the volvo setup and autox is no issue. A lot easier to lock up though, but the stopping power is greater. I also removed my rear proportioning valve allowing the rears to do more which further helped. The fronts still lock up before the rears, and really I've never had the rears lock up anyways.

    I managed to get mine to fit under turbines, but it was so close you could hear a minor tick from the rubbing and I had to file a little bit of the outer edge of the caliper down. Buy 20mm spacers and E30 wheels and you will be set.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeworkstoohard View Post
    i think you're missing what i'm saying. the angle of the caliper to the rotor does matter, if you look at how it works on the rear as opposed to the front, you'll see what i mean. motorcyles have a very small contact area and very large rotor.

    now, as far as easy to modulate goes, i do get that. i like the idea of the mini rotors...
    I am missing what you're saying, sorry. The caliper angle is going to be tangent to the rotor, not 5 degrees off tangent or something. I assume that's not what you're talking about..

    '81 320i turbo | t25, 931 CIS, 250hp, 13.92@100mph | 2.2L m10 Turbo Build | My E21 Videos |

  24. #24
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    Maybe talking about the mounting angle? i.e. not perpendicular to the ground but at some angle looking axially into the rotor? I don't think it makes any difference at which angle its mounted.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonomaGTLN2 View Post
    Maybe talking about the mounting angle? i.e. not perpendicular to the ground but at some angle looking axially into the rotor? I don't think it makes any difference at which angle its mounted.

    exactly right. it does matter, because it has to do with how the pad contacts the rotors. if it is rotated out on the bottom, it will actually wear the pads down faster than normal.

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