One of the joys of buying a second-hand four-wheel drive with a few kilometres under its belt, despite having a full-service history, is that there are bound to be issues regardless. While I’m happy so far with the FJ Cruiser, I noticed there was a bit of brake shudder when coming down the infamous Lapstone Hill in the Blue Mountains. On closer inspection, there was plenty of meat on the brake pads and the rotors hadn’t developed any lipping to indicate excessive wear – there was, however, plenty of heat spots on the front rotors, which explained the brake shudder.
Now, I’m not one to do things by halves. My motto when it comes to 4WDs is: if you break it, you upgrade it. I was advised I couldn’t have the rotors machined due to the heat spots, so it was time for new front rotors. As I’m planning on further accessorising the FJ Cruiser, thus adding weight, this was the right time to upgrade the stock braking system to something that would better suit my needs. I’d much rather do this early on in the piece, rather than fit all the gear and then discover the factory brakes aren’t up to scratch when I need them most.
Enter the Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit from Bendix, which I chose for a few key reasons. Firstly, they had them in stock and could get the parts shipped ASAP, something I found refreshing in this current climate. Secondly, the kit was complete, with everything required for Shannon, my mechanic at Advanced Installation Service in Emu Heights (NSW), to perform the installation. Lastly, the kit came in a sweet 60L icebox, and I’m a sucker for a good stubby holder.
The rear brakes on the FJ were in good condition, so we opted to fit a front kit with extended braided brake lines all ’round; I’ll be raising the suspension soon, so it’s wise to think ahead if you are considering this upgrade.
Let’s take a look at what you get in the kit, and how the installation went.
What’s in the box?
My mechanic and I were very impressed with the packaging and how complete the kit was when it arrived. Every component was included in the box, from the new upgraded rotors and pads, right down to new clips and pins for the front calipers, and even some rotor wipes to ensure they were clean before installation.
This is the gear included in the Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit from Bendix:
- Bendix Ultimate brake rotors
- Front set of Bendix Ultimate 4WD brake pads
- Front and rear extended braided brake lines
- Two bottles of brake fluid
- A can of brake cleaner
- A tube of brake parts lubricant
- Bendix rotor wipes
- New clips and caliper guide pins
- A 60L icebox with stubby holder, as a cherry on top … sweet!
The installation was fairly straightforward, thanks to the expert touch of my mechanic Shannon. I asked at the start of the process if this was an easy job, and Shannon told me that, as far as brakes go, the FJ wasn’t a challenging job. It still took a few hours, as we had to stop for photography.
Once the vehicle was up on the hoist and all four wheels were off, he hooked in to the front end. There are two 17mm bolts that hold each caliper on the vehicle; with those removed the calipers were tied up out of the way so the rotors could be replaced. While the rotor was off, Shannon took the time to wire-wheel the hub area, cleaning any rust and road grime, giving a much neater final finish. Shannon also mentioned the pads have to be installed in the right orientation, and to look at the part numbers to see which pad goes where.
The brake lines were next to be removed and replaced with the Bendix braided lines. This took the most time during the installation, as there are six lines that need to be removed and replaced with the extended blue braided brake lines.
With the lines replaced, it was time to bleed the entire system, which took a few goes to get spot on – I’m a fussy customer.
All in all, it took a few hours to get the job done, but it would take much less time if you don’t have a photographer getting in the way. Now the brakes have been upgraded, it’s time for a road test to see how the brakes feel and if the
shudder is gone.
1. The first step is to jack up the car and remove all four wheels. It is possible to do this task on the ground; but if you have access to a hoist, it will make life so much easier when it’s time to bleed the brakes.
2. Here you can see the old rotors with heat spots; this is what was causing brake shudder, which has now disappeared thanks to the new Bendix gear.
3. Shannon wire-wheeled the hub, removing 10 years of rust and road grime for a neat finish.
4. Out with the old and in with the new. The Bendix upgraded rotors look sensational and fitted as easily as you’d expect from a quality product.
5. The kit even came with rotor cleaning wipes. This is a complete kit that actually bolts on, which tends to make mechanics happy.
6. The new pads only fit one way, so it’s important to make sure you have them orientated the right way. You can identify them with the printed part numbers.
7. Shannon applied a small amount of Loctite to the caliper bolts before reinstalling them. Brakes are kind of important, you know …
8. The finished product. It’s looking a million times better than when it drove in, and with a peace of mind knowing the job is done right.
9. The front brake lines were then replaced with the Bendix braided lines, which look terrific and have absolutely improved the FJ’s stopping ability.
10. With the front end buttoned up, Shannon moved to the rear and installed the four braided brake lines supplied for the rear end. Luckily, this all came to bits without issue, and no knuckles were skinned in the process.
11. The last step is to bleed the entire braking system, topping the fluid reservoir up periodically. All fluids required are supplied in this Bendix kit, with plenty left over.
The brakes on the FJ Cruiser are pretty damn beefy to start with, so I wasn’t sure I’d notice a massive difference in performance – this was more to get ahead of the game when I added extra weight from accessories, and to get rid of the shudder by fitting these upgraded parts.
However, I was pleasantly surprised, as there is definitely a noticeable improvement by upgrading to the Ultimate brake kit. Firstly, the shudder is completely gone, which is a massive relief. Secondly, the pedal feel is vastly improved. There’s an initial bite to the brakes that wasn’t there before, and this remains the entire way through brake pedal travel. I’m sure this is due to both fitting the Bendix Ultimate front rotors and pads, as well as the braided brake lines.
All in all, I’m stoked with the braking performance, and I’m happy I decided to upgrade these parts rather than replace them with stock gear. If you find yourself in a similar position, I’d definitely recommend spending a little more and opting for the Bendix Ultimate brake upgrade kit. As Shannon my mechanic said on the day, you’d be mad to not do this if you have the opportunity.
Having such a complete kit also saves time and money in the long run when it comes time to install the brakes. I did have to fight him for the icebox, though.
Special thanks to my mates at Advanced Installation Service for staying back late and installing the Bendix Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit. If you need a knowledgeable 4WD mechanic or accessory installer in the Sydney area, give these guys a call.Phone: (02) 4739 9009
Available from: www.bendix.com.au
RRP: From $1199 (sans installation – that cost me a case of Coopers Pale Ale and six fresh cinnamon donuts).
WHAT WE SAY: A comprehensive bolt-on brake upgrade, with everything required to do the job included.