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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
I was going to add this to my "rear drums to discs" thread, but the title is no longer appropriate, so I decided to start a new one.

Las week I swapped in 4th gen front discs into my '97 (3rd gen). As with the rear disc swap, I followed in petet's footsteps, so all credit goes to him. I am just going to add some more details and pictures, along with some notes that I made along the way.

First thing's first, the difference in braking performance is phenomenal! I was already extremely pleased with the results from the rear disc swap, as it greatly improved the pedal feel and the braking action. With the front brake swap, however, the braking action is even better. I can easily brake hard enough to kick in the ABS, something I could never do before on dry pavement. It makes the minivan feel safe to drive again in all situations, something that cannot be taken for granted by most 3rd gen owners, based on the discussions on the braking threads.

Having said that, the front swap is significantly more involved than the rear. I did the rear swap in about 3 hours (not counting the parking brake issues), whereas the front swap took closer to a full weekend. Granted, part of it was my fault, as I chose to replace (rather than reuse) all wear items. So I am sure this can be done faster, but I would count on at least a full day, once all the parts are on hand.

Speaking of which, let's talk about the parts that I bought. Everything I got was for a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country, with 4 wheel discs. I believe most other 4th gen years would work too. Keep in mind that the 4th gen uses different front calipers on the disc/disc and on disc/drum models. The disc/disc front calipers have 2.6" dia pistons, while the disc/drum ones are 2.52". Since the whole reason for doing the swap was to increase clamping force, it made sense to go with the max piston size, i.e. calipers from the 4 wheel disc model.

Whereas I got most of my stuff for the rear swap from the junkyard, I went a different route for the fronts. There are a lot of wear items involved (struts, calipers, rotors, bushings, etc), and I decided to just go wild and get them new, instead of swapping them out later. It cost a bit more, but it's less stuff to worry about down the road. I got most of my parts from Amazon and Rockauto; the only thing I got used from a junkyard were the knuckles.

Here is a picture of everything I needed: a 4th gen strut, a 4th gen knuckle (junkyard), 4th gen rotor, 4th gen caliper (disc/disc), brake pads, 4th gen control arm, 4th gen tie rod end, and wheel spacers.



Most of the parts are self explanatory, but some need some explaining. The 4th gen knuckle uses a tapered style front ball joint, unlike the 3rd gen clamp type balljoint. My initial plan was to press out the balljoint from my control arm, and to press in the new 4th gen balljoints. Then I thought that while I'm at it, I might as well put in new bushings into the control arms. Then, I priced the balljoints and bushings, and realized that for a few dollars more, I can buy brand new control arms for the 4th gen, with bushings and balljoints already installed, that would bolt right into my 3rd gen, saving me tons of time and aggravation. That's where the Dorman control arms came in, $71 at Amazon. And here is how they compare to the 3rd gen arms.



Here is the only difference, the balljoint. Already installed, saving me the hassle.



I swapped all of the strut components from my 3rd gen onto the 4th gen strut, they fit perfectly. I recently put new strut mounts and bellows onto my 3rd gen struts, so I just reused them on the 4th gen strut. Otherwise, I'd recommend getting new parts, to save future hassle.

Here are the struts side by side, you can see the bolt spacing is different, to match the knuckles.




Here are the struts with the swapped components from the 3rd gen to the 4th gen.



Here are the two knuckles side by side. The 4th gen is aluminum, and uses a bolt-on caliper bracket; the 3rd gen is cast iron and uses an integral caliper bracket.



To be continued in Part 2.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited by Moderator)
Part 2.

The tie rod ends are slightly different between 3rd gen and 4th. I am pretty sure that the 3rd gen tie rod ends would work on the 4th gen knuckle, but my tie rod ends were shot, so I just bought new ones for the 4th gen. They have identical internal threads, so they bolted on perfectly onto the steering rack.



Here is the picture of the original setup.



Here is the wheelwell with everything gutted.



Here is the new control arm in place.



Here is the new strut installed.



Here is the new knuckle, along with the original hub. One thing to note here. The bolts holding the hub to the knuckle are longer on the 4th gen than on the 3rd, because the aluminum knuckle is thicker. Therefore, you must use the 4th gen bolts, or the hub will be held by a thread, see the picture below.




Here is the completed installation, with all the miscellaneous items installed. A couple more notes. I reused the 3rd gen brake hoses (I put new ones in last month), but this required me to slightly bend the mounting bracket on the strut. No big deal at all, just something to keep in mind. Also, the locating hole for the speed sensor is larger in the 4th gen knuckle than in the 3rd gen knuckle, so it requires some centering. To fix that, I used a short length of a vacuum hose, whose ID fit over the speed sensor knob, and whose OD fit closely inside the knuckle. Voila, a centered speed sensor.



One final note. Petet noted that he needed a wheel spacer to clear the calipers. I bought the 7/32" spacers, but I found that my wheels (the factory gold mesh wheels) clear the caliper with about 1/16" to spare. Not huge, but I think I'll go without the spacers for now and see how things work out.

I think this is all, but if I think of any other notes, I'll be sure to report back. Like I said, not a project for the faint of heart, but well worth it IMO, given how awful my brakes were, and how great they are now.

Hope you enjoyed this.
 

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Has anyone compared the 4th gen caliper to the 3rd gen's? I'm looking at pictures and it looks like they are almost identical in dimensions. If so, why wouldn't a 4th gen caliper bolt up to the 3rd gen knuckle and make this an easier swap.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Has anyone compared the 4th gen caliper to the 3rd gen's? I'm looking at pictures and it looks like they are almost identical in dimensions. If so, why wouldn't a 4th gen caliper bolt up to the 3rd gen knuckle and make this an easier swap.
Andy,

The 3rd gen and 4th gen calipers are apples and oranges. The pads are held completely differently - the 3rd gen uses those tabs on the pads to ride against the knuckle abutments, while the 4th gen pads ride against the bracket that is bolted to the knuckle. I haven't checked if the two caliper mounting bolts have the same bolt pattern on both vehicles, but the two designs are completely different.
 

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I need to get a 4th gen caliper from a junk yard next time I'm there. I was thinking just a 4th gen caliper and rotor with 3rd gen pads to make sure they fit in the caliper brackets properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited by Moderator)
I need to get a 4th gen caliper from a junk yard next time I'm there. I was thinking just a 4th gen caliper and rotor with 3rd gen pads to make sure they fit in the caliper brackets properly.
Andy, you can try, but it won't even be close. Don't forget that the 3rd gen knuckle also holds and positions the 3rd gen caliper (see photo below). The 4th gen caliper needs the 4th gen bracket to position the caliper. These dimensions are all different, not to mention that approach of positioning the pads is different.



You are probably better off investigating machining a bigger bore in the 3rd gen caliper and putting the 4th gen piston in there than you are trying to swap the 4th gen caliper onto the 3rd gen knuckle (and no, I would not recommend doing what I just said :) ).
 

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Lol I had thought about boring the caliper, but I really have no big interest as my brakes are still working great in stock form. I do have a warped drum that I should take care of (mom drove the van a few miles with the parking brake on :jpshakehe) but it locks the wheels at will.

I'm more interested in making my van rattle free.
 

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Oh, I'd like to hear about THAT fix!! :).
My plan of attack (if I ever feel like doing it) i to take off EVERY bit of plastic crap from the interior and put it back in place with double stick foam tape. That in addition to the factory clips should work.

It is good to hear that you finaly have satisfactory braking performance.
 

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Nice job. Having driven both, I have no doubts that a 3rd gen van would feel much more agile with the 4th gen brakes. My Dakota uses the same type of integral caliper mount that the 3rd gen vans use, and I hate it! The pads ride against the ears on the knuckle and wear grooves into them. I wish there was a knuckle swap option for my Dakota that you guys have for your 3rd gen vans.
 

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Some aftermarket pads come with wear shims that install between the knuckle abutment and the edge of the pad. There are at least two different types, which are also sold separately.
One is the kind that clips to the pad (two per caliper) and the other one clips to the knuckle. I will use them at the next pad pad replacement or possibly sooner.
 

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One final note. Petet noted that he needed a wheel spacer to clear the calipers. I bought the 7/32" spacers, but I found that my wheels (the factory gold mesh wheels) clear the caliper with about 1/16" to spare. Not huge, but I think I'll go without the spacers for now and see how things work out.
I have he 5 spoke 17" wheels. These must have slightly different back spacing.
 

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Some aftermarket pads come with wear shims that install between the knuckle abutment and the edge of the pad. There are at least two different types, which are also sold separately.
Those would be ideal. I couldn't find any for my '07 when I did the brakes for it, and there aren't any for the Dakota. I'm glad they sell those for the 3rd gen. The two sedans I've owned lately both use the wear shims in the caliper mount, eliminating the issue of wear due to the sliding brake pads.

Do you know which brands come with those shims? I also looked for a "hardware kit" for my '07, but couldn't find one. :(
 

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I thought that bracket-style calipers always have some kind of wear shims from the factory, although those could have been removed and not replaced during servicing.
RockAuto does have those shims in the "Disk Brake Hardware Kit" category.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I thought that bracket-style calipers always have some kind of wear shims from the factory, although those could have been removed and not replaced during servicing.
RockAuto does have those shims in the "Disk Brake Hardware Kit" category.
The calipers for the disc/drum vehicle do have shims for the pads to ride on. But the disc/disc calipers do not have shims.
 

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Mine has no wear shims, never seen them either in the 4-5 sets of front pads I've put on my van. I've done them on other vehicles though.

But I have to ask, at what mileage does this take to be a problem? Some people have reported that the pads get stuck in the grooves acting like a stuck caliper. My brackets have a very mild wear in them at 112k miles and I can't see it causing any issues soon. And you all know how my van gets treated so its not like its living a highway only old lady driven life.
 

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My plan of attack (if I ever feel like doing it) i to take off EVERY bit of plastic crap from the interior and put it back in place with double stick foam tape. That in addition to the factory clips should work.
Shoot the entire van full of expanding foam. After it cures, trim access to whatever you need with a razor knife...

-Jim
 

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But I have to ask, at what mileage does this take to be a problem? Some people have reported that the pads get stuck in the grooves acting like a stuck caliper. My brackets have a very mild wear in them at 112k miles and I can't see it causing any issues soon. And you all know how my van gets treated so its not like its living a highway only old lady driven life.
This is exactly what happens. It's likely more of a problem on larger vehicles; it's a known issue with Dakotas. My Dakota has just shy of 180k miles and there's noticable wear on the pad abutments. Because this is integral to the knuckle (like the 3rd gen vans), you only have a few ways to fix it: replace the knuckle or weld and grind new material onto the abutments. Mine is bad enough to cause weird braking symptoms when the pads are worn, but since I installed new pads on the front, the pad liners are pushed out on the abutments to fresher metal, so the problem isn't as severe now. I really should have the knuckles repaired, but I just don't drive the truck enough to justify the expense. I've already had to Heli-Coil one of the caliper mounting holes in the knuckle because of stripped threads (another common problem).

What year and drivetrain is your Durango? I'll bet you can see evidence of the same on it, even if the wear isn't severe enough yet to cause problems.
 

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What year and drivetrain is your Durango? I'll bet you can see evidence of the same on it, even if the wear isn't severe enough yet to cause problems.
Its a 2000, 5.2L rwd 42re (I think?) with the bigger rear end and 3.55 gears. It has 180k miles as well and shows no odd braking symptoms. Still stops our boat beautifully, but the engine has issues pulling it up 2 large hills on our tow route lol. I'll have to pull the wheel one day and take a look as I did the brakes in the spring and don't remember anything odd.
 
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