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Old 09-15-2017, 11:15 PM   #1
SaturnHunter
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Idea Rear Disc conversion

So I have a 2002 Saturn SL1 and I was wanting to do a rear disc conversion on it. Could anyone tell me what parts I would need from any other Saturn and possibly post links to a parts site that would have them? When I do the conversion I'm going to record it and post it on YouTube for others to learn from. Thanks

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Old 09-16-2017, 08:19 AM   #2
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

It's a direct bolt-on swap from any '91-'97 DOHC w/ABS (SOHC's still had the option of drums w/ABS '91-'97 but can be used if they have rear disc). Rear disc was dropped entirely starting in '98.

The only "gotcha" is the parking brake cables, for a SL/SW you should be good with cables for a '96-'97 SL/SW. The cables are the same length for both brake styles but the tab on the end of them are just enough different you can't swap between disc & drum. '91-'96 SC cables are roughly 3" shorter than every other model because their shorter wheelbase is taken out on the poor rear seat foot-well, so don't get those cables for any SL/SW.

I'll never buy another '80's/'90's GM with rear disc, the looks and ease of working on them is not worth the requirement of tearing apart every 4-6 months ('89 Gutless Supreme went through calipers yearly, 3 S-Series with rear disc had to at least be re-greased every 5-6 months if not replaced).

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Old 09-16-2017, 09:01 AM   #3
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

There are a couple of brands of aftermarket brake cables that are too short, be careful as they will not stretch. You can go to RockAuto and look at the overall length and figure out which ones will fit. Do not buy off brand cables as they will not fit or last.

As fetch pointed out this is not a great idea of a performance increasing swap, it is a major continuing maintenance headache.

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Old 09-18-2017, 12:37 PM   #4
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

And on the other hand, Luke mentioned that in the entire ~650,000 miles that he drove his Saturn, he did so on the original rear brakes - never replaced any part of the drum brakes

...
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Old 10-08-2017, 07:55 AM   #5
Astrofarian
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Dizzy Re: Rear Disc conversion

So....apologies for thread-jacking here a bit but am I correct in concluding that this is a mod that I shouldn't consider? I THOUGHT discs on the rear would be an upgrade but the general consensus here seems to indicate that it's just adding a failure-prone headache to a perfectly reliable system. Can someone please clarify this for me?
-M!ke-

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Old 10-08-2017, 08:21 AM   #6
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

Disc brakes require more maintenance than drums, this is made worse with rear disc on FWD cars...the moving parts never get moved to keep them freed up TO move so you need to re-grease them at least every 12 months. Half the rear disc S-Series I've had required new calipers because the idiotic parking brake mechanism seized up due to rust.

If you want better looks and don't mind higher maintenance then rear disc is fine, but unless I got a parts car of the same model as what you have now with rear disc...IMO it's just not worth the effort even for the "looks".

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Old 10-08-2017, 08:40 AM   #7
Waiex191
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

My drums have needed surprisingly little attention in 205,000 miles. Not at all like the old 4 wheel drum brake cars. So while they are still a pain because they are drums, you almost never get to feel that pain.

...
Bryan Cotton
'99 SL2, 5SP bought new
Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
'98 SC2, 5SP bought 2018

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Old 10-09-2017, 06:49 AM   #8
Astrofarian
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

Ok, got it.....thanks guys. I was dreaming of doing this mod "one day" but now I guess I'll just spend the money on something else for the SC2.
But I AM going to sandblast and paint the drums so they 'show' a little better through the Enkei rims.
-M!ke-

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Old 10-10-2017, 08:53 AM   #9
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Thumbs Down Re: Rear Disc conversion

After changing the rear pads and rotors on my 94 Homecoming Edition-

What a pain in the ass. There's no room at the back, when you are trying to get to the Calipers.

I know others here think highly of doing a Mod swap on Brake conversions...

Do yourself a favor- if you don't "HAVE" to do the Swap... DON'T

In my opinion, after wrenching on these cars for 20 years, it's simply not worth the time, money, and effort that you will spend under the back of the car with extensions- trying NOT to hit the muffler when trying to get to the Caliper brackets and other parts... I'm still amazed that GM even decided to have rear pads and rotors on the back of these cars, and everything held together with 10mm bolts.

Better off sticking to the Drums Brakes. Easier to get parts, and easier to fix, if needed.

...
Bryan

94SL2 HCE, "Pearl"

99 SL

94SL2 260K Miles
1/15

97SW2 266K Miles
2/15

Always
94SC1 340,501 Miles
Org. Engine/Auto Trans
2/97-10/08
Gone 3/12

92SL1
05VUE
91SC

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Old 10-10-2017, 10:20 AM   #10
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

Don't some folks say they have slightly better brake performance / handling with rear disks? Racers / autox, etc

...
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7/2010 Craigslist white 1997 SC2 project
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Old 10-10-2017, 12:28 PM   #11
Waiex191
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

There is a tendency after spending money and time to feel it was worth it.

...
Bryan Cotton
'99 SL2, 5SP bought new
Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
'98 SC2, 5SP bought 2018

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Old 01-15-2018, 02:48 PM   #12
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astrofarian View Post
So....apologies for thread-jacking here a bit but am I correct in concluding that this is a mod that I shouldn't consider? I THOUGHT discs on the rear would be an upgrade but the general consensus here seems to indicate that it's just adding a failure-prone headache to a perfectly reliable system. Can someone please clarify this for me?
-M!ke-
it looks cool, but doesnít stop any better. itís surprisingly simple how easy this mod is, tho. if you skip the correct brake lines, you may end up paying for it with your life.

...
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:17 PM   #13
Saturn Night
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
Don't some folks say they have slightly better brake performance / handling with rear disks? Racers / autox, etc
Yes. The overall braking system does improve in both response and efficiency, when using disc brakes. Drum braking systems are less problematic and tend to suffer from more brake fade as a trade off.. Disc brakes allow for the advantage of cross=drilled rotors, as well. All of this translatea to greater heat dissipation, thus increasing the effectiveness of the braking system.

However, on a daily driven vehicle, it is not a needed upgrade and similar to the turbos of the 1970s-80s, if they aren't used regularly, you have lots of problems with them.

I would recommend staying with the drum brakes. I have fought pulling far too many rusted up, seized brake calipers from a variety of cars over the years. I don't like drum brakes, but they are the better choice for a street car that is light weight and not running on a race track everyday

...
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"He checks the gas, and fills the oil....."

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Old 01-27-2018, 06:37 PM   #14
HFHEARD
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

I converted my 97 SL1 a few years ago and I think that it was the best thing that I ever did. I run cross-drilled and slotted rotors with ceramic pads and Wilwood Dot 4 racing fluid and OMG. I have fantastic feel and control and brake fade is a thing of the past. I live in the state of Washington and with all the foot hill and mountain driving good brakes are a requirement. That being said here are the caveats:

1) With any small bodied GM car with rear disks USE THE PARK BRAKE! The park brake is what adjusts the calipers as, unlike the front calipers, the rears are not the sliding, self adjusting type. So use the park brake, even on a level surface. If you do not you WILL destroy the calipers. (Ask any GM owner that went through the recall in the late nineties. I was a GM parts manager then, I know!)

2) You will not stop any faster than before. Sorry but that is the way that it is. Ultimately braking speed is determined by the rubber meeting the road. What you will have is better, finer control over the braking process. If you stomp on your brakes and the tires lock up then you have cheap brakes. If you can hit your brakes hard and revel in how they respond, how hard they are to lock up, how hard it is to induce fade, all while trying to avoid an emergency situation, then you will appreciate properly built brakes. Believe it or not with my custom brakes I can all but stand on my brake pedal and, on dry pavement, I can not get the brakes to lock up. I once braked so hard I thought I was going to bend the pedal and all I got were the tires to chirp a little. Once you get used to that it is a wonderful feeling. Like the difference between very sloppy steering and very precise steering. Both will do the job but which would you prefer?

3) Maintenance required (and this is true for ALL vehicles) is to flush your brake system once a year (and this is the one thing that almost all car owners neglect). The master cylinder and calipers are made from cast metal which is porous. Any cast metal can and does absorb water. Water is not a brake system's friend. This is why brake fluid can turn a rusty color. Believe me this is the single best thing you can and should do for your brake system, whether you have disk or drums. You brake system will last years longer for it.

I have to admit I too ran into the park brake cable length complaint but I realized it was the way that I was installing them. Install the brake cable to calipers BEFORE you mount them. Then using a brake caliper piston tool (a must have item for your tool box) reseat the caliper pistons to their fully depressed position. Then install your pads and mount the calipers on the brackets. Then once you are completely done then sit in your car, depress and hold then park brake handle button and continuously raise and lower the park brake lever for a few minutes. You will fell it stiffen up as the caliper pistons properly seat themselves.

There is probably more I can say here but I will add just one: If your buy the performance rotors and pads buy American made. I do not say this with patriotic pride just that the Chinese steel is, in my experience, suspect.

Last edited by HFHEARD; 01-27-2018 at 06:43 PM..

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Old 04-04-2018, 02:22 PM   #15
Highmile
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by alordofchaos View Post
And on the other hand, Luke mentioned that in the entire ~650,000 miles that he drove his Saturn, he did so on the original rear brakes - never replaced any part of the drum brakes
I've replaced mine once. They were not really bad but with the age and miles one them I decided to replace everything.

Highmile
'95 SL1 654k and counting

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Old 04-05-2018, 06:32 PM   #16
PrestonIII
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Default Re: Rear Disc conversion

I vote for disk brakes:

I have a '94 SL2 HCE with an original 54K miles on it. A month ago, I put the first set of rear disk brake pads on it EVER in 24 years. The rotors didn't need replaced since they met thickness specifications, and the brakes didn't pulse beforehand. The rear pads were thinner than I expected, probably because the car has gotten such little use and the pads are always wiping away surface rust on the disk. That has likely taken it's toll. It doesn't pulse now either with the new pads. They did take a little longer time than normal to seat probably because of the original rotors. My personal choice for pads is a softer one. It saves the rotors and is less likely to squeal. On the other hand, it's hard to beat the original GM pads for longevity and noise issues. I got 67K miles on original front pads on an IROC-Z Camaro that I drove "quite vigorously". LOL

I only replaced the pads on my Saturn because I was replacing both rear wheel bearings for noise issues. Since I had it apart, I thought to replace the pads at the same time. My front pads are still original.

I'm unsure why everyone complains about pulling the calipers off the car.
With the right tools it's not a problem. I didn't even have to lay on the ground. There's a socket adapter called a "wobble" that makes quick work of it all. It's easier if you get the car way up in the air by jacking the whole rear end at once. For safety, do this on a flat concrete surface of course; no rocky driveway or dirt yard.

After 24 years my calipers weren't locked up and everything works well. I use the emergency brake once a week maybe to ensure that it stays loose. Though the driver's side rear caliper e-brake lever seemed to move a bit sluggishly, it freed right up with some spray on lithium lubricant and generous wiggling before reassembly.

Last edited by PrestonIII; 04-05-2018 at 06:37 PM..

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