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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
To start off, the reasoning for this swap is that the 98-99 front brakes are pathetically undersized. Especially when going from 15" to heavier 17" wheels, both with 31" tires (about 15lbs heavier per wheel & tire) it was even more noticeable. Despite trying fancy pads with better friction rated edge codes and making sure all was well with rear brakes, I couldn't get adequate performance. I was avoiding driving the Durango in traffic because of the poor braking performance.

I'm hoping that with the bigger front brakes with good powerstop pads (same for the rear shoes, both are GG rated) that the braking performance will be much better now.

This swap is a bit more complicated on the 98 and 99 trucks because the control arms changed in 00 and with this came a lower balljoint with a bigger taper, so the newer knuckles won't just bolt on. The lower control arms don't swap over either. The good news is that the newer lower ball joints can work in the 98-99 control arms.


I got some 03 calipers from the local junkyard.



Some cleaning up, new seals, and paint and they look new.






The knuckles I had to order from out of town (not many 4wds local here). They were crusty and got wire wheeled and painted.






The rotors are r1 concepts coated. I've had drilled/slotted on here before and they all just crack. The last ones I had on it (powerstop) rusted like crazy and had lots of buildup in the slots, along with cracking. Solid = more thermal mass too.

11" 99 rotors vs 12" 03 rotors.






Here are some measurements of different Durango balljoints. Keep in mind all of these were $4 rock auto specials.




I measured the joints that I pressed out of my control arms and this time got about 1.963" - 1.965". The Mevotech joints were about 1.973" to start. Since my lathe is 500 miles away, I just had to make do with some sandpaper. Got the new joints down to about 1.969". Ideally you'd turn down the shoulder of the joint some too, but more on that later.



After sanding:



They were a good bit tighter going in than the old ones were coming out, but they went in. I got the snap ring to go on the passengers side, but couldn't on the drivers side. Looks like that taper on the shoulder of the joint hits first. Either way it's so tight it's not going anywhere. Eventually I might get another set of joints and turn down the shoulder some to get it that last 1/16" or so.






Everything other than the balljoints was pretty easy. The original brake lines work and everything (mine aren't very old).






The only thing I found a little bit different is that the ear for the tie rod is about 3/4" lower on the 03 knuckle than the 99 knuckle. I suspect due to lower mounting of the steering rack. I had to eyeball my alignment until I can take it up the street to get aligned during the week, took about 6 turns out to get the wheels looking straight. The geometry doesn't look drastically different than before, so hopefully it doesn't introduce excessive bump steer or anything like that.





I drove around the street here a couple times, and so far they seem like they're working well. After I get it aligned I'll have to go out and bed them in. I'm sure they'll feel much better after that.


They definitely look less puny behind the wheels.






One interesting thing to note is that the pads aren't much taller than the 99 pads, so they don't extend all the way down to cover the entire face of the rotor. It looks like the 2nd gens had the same pads but another inch larger rotors (13"). So just having more leverage being further out must make enough difference on its own.



 

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Discussion Starter #2
I had the front end aligned yesterday. Didn't hear any issues from them, looks like it all lined up. Drove it to work today (about 25 miles round trip) and it drove fine. Aimed for a couple big dips (I've seen it bottom out cars) on the interstate and didn't get anything I could perceive as bump steer. I'm going to keep looking for different ends to straighten out the tie rods, but for now it drives fine.

I haven't gone out and bedded the brakes in here, but so far the brakes seem to be working great. The stopping force is definitely much improved for any given pedal effort compared to before.


Here's the angle the tie rods sit at.

 

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Yeah, those 17" R/T wheels are HEAVY!
The ones you really want...though they don't look anywhere near as good IMO...are the forged 16" stock wheels. Those are LIGHT compared to the 17" R/T wheels.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yeah, they're heavy, but I always liked the look of them. My 15" wheels with 31x10.5r15 tires were about 62lbs a piece. These with 265/65r17 (pretty much the same size) are 75lbs a piece.
 

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Awesome write up, very detailed. This is one of the updates I definitely need to do on mine. After driving some mountain roads last summer I realized the stock brakes leave a lot to be desired. Thank you for posting.
 

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This is an awesome write up — thank you for sharing. I have been considering this upgrade for my 2000 D. Two questions —

Are 17 inch wheels required to clear the larger caliper/discs? Or will a 16 inch wheel work? I believe the stock 15 inch wheel is too small.

Are the new knuckles/ball joints required for this swap on a 2000 D? Or is it just required for the 98/99 D?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The 16s will work. I don't think 15s will. I do still have a 15 as a spare but I figure if needed I can put it on the back and put one of those on the front if I get a flat.

2000 was a changeover year so it's hard to just blanketly say yes. I think if you have a 4wd with rack and pinion steering it means you also got the newer knuckles and control arms. Might be best to take a look at the bottom of the body of the lower balljoints and see if they're cylindrical or concial on the shoulder of the body (not the part going into the knuckle).



I definitely think this has been a worthwhile upgrade. Especially with the 17" wheels the original brakes were sketchy. These actually can stop the thing.
 

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Thanks for your reply. I am going to explore this upgrade.

Did you consider the rear brake upgrade to the 2003 discs, which I think may require some pretty large changes? That does not seem worth the time and expense to me given how little braking the rear drums do, more of an appearance upgrade than functional although some on this forum will disagree.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've thought about it. So far the only justification I've had for wanting to do it is that the drums piss me off with out of round issues. I put on a new set of wagner drums and powerstop shoes a couple weeks before getting the new front brakes. With the old brakes on it still seemed like the drums were out of round somewhat (could feel pulsation of putting on the parking brake some while moving to rule out the fronts), but since putt on the fronts I haven't noticed it. Maybe the fronts are doing enough of the work that the rears aren't picking up the slack now.
 

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If the rear drums are adjusted and working properly, they do make a difference. From when I had my '01, I eventually discovered how the auto adjusters work. In many cases, they wear and then are not properly adjusted.

See the procedure at #12.

Don

1 - STAR WHEEL
2 - LEVER
3 - BRAKE SHOE WEB
4 - SCREWDRIVER
5 - ADJUSTING TOOL
6 - ADJUSTER SPRING
(6) Rotate adjuster screw star wheel (move tool handle upward) until slight drag can be felt when wheel is rotated.
(7) Push and hold adjuster lever away from star wheel with thin screwdriver.
(8) Back off adjuster screw star wheel until brake drag is eliminated.
(9) Repeat adjustment at opposite wheel. Be sure adjustment is equal at both wheels.
(10) Install support plate access hole plugs.
(11) Adjust parking brake cable and lower vehicle.
(12) Drive vehicle and make one forward stop followed by one reverse stop. Repeat procedure 8-10 times to operate automatic adjusters and equalize adjustment.
NOTE: Bring vehicle to complete standstill at each stop. Incomplete, rolling stops will not activate automatic adjusters.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I usually like to adjust one side while the drum is off the other that way I know whatever I'm feeling is just that one side. Just got to remember not to hit the pedal while a drum is off.
 

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Excellent advice. How often should the rear brakes be adjusted like that? I went through a similar process when I replaced the rear drums/shoes last year but thought that the auto adjustment handled it from there.

I have never had an issue with the rear drum brakes since I bought my D in 2003 and in fact did not touch them until I replaced the drums/shoes last year, at over 95,000 miles.

I have replaced the front pads three times over that time (and most of the brake lines once).
 

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Yes:
Not sure how often, but maybe once or twice a month would be good. Many folks report the rear drums lasting 100K+ regularly on the Gen 1 D's. When I checked mine the last time at 80K, they were like new.

Don
 

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Yes, that is why I think the swap to the rear discs isn’t worth the time and expense. The drums work just fine. I suppose if your D was used for a lot of towing, the rear discs could be worth it because of greater fade resistance.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I changed my original drums at 140k. Don't know if the shoes were original or not. I do remember that the shoes weren't worn horribly, but the wheel cylinder on one side leaked and got fluid on the shoes.

Every once in a while coming to a stop for 5-10mph in reverse might be enough to keep them happy.
 
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