EXHAUST AND SERVICE BRAKE UPGRADES
Many enthusiasts think about adding more power or making their truck look better. The last thing on their list is figuring out how to make their truck stop better while pulling a 10,000-pound trailer. It usually never comes to mind until you’re doing 70 mph down the interstate with a fully loaded trailer pushing you toward dead-stopped traffic. It’s then that you realize the stock brakes generally come up a little short.
Vincent Uriah, a concrete contractor who regularly pulls heavy loads with his 2003 7.3L Power Stroke F-350, already knows the need for improved stopping power. Since Uriah tows heavy on a regular basis, he wanted to upgrade his wheel brakes as well as add an exhaust brake to the 125,000+ mile Ford for maximum help when needed. Luckily for the owner, Swamp’s Diesel Performance is right in his backyard. For the exhaust brake, we turned to Pacbrake for the company’s air-actuated PRXB inline exhaust brake valve and their vehicle interface to control the automatic transmission for maximum braking performance. Then, for the wheel brake upgrade, the crew at Swamp’s installed new EBC Ultimax rotors and EBC Orange Extra Duty brake pads on all four corners of the truck. We followed along as Chris Murra installed the components on Uriah’s truck over a two-day span.
Installing the engine brake is quite involved and requires mounting the brake valve in the exhaust system, but also mounting, plumbing and wiring the compressor, tank, valves and integration module. You will even need a welder to install the supplied exhaust couplers on the exhaust pipe after removing a section of tubing to make room for the brake valve. The included installation manual is well written and should help skilled DIYers complete the installation without problems, but if you’re a beginner it may be better to let your local diesel performance shop handle the installation for you.
After the Pacbrake exhaust brake installation, attention turned to the wheel brake system. Armed with new rotors and pads from EBC, this upgrade really comes down to about the same thing as a basic brake job, which most DIYers can handle for themselves. Since Uriah’s F-350 is a 2WD dually and has the large full-floating rear axle, changing out the front and rear rotors is more involved than your typical brake job. When performing the upgrade, it’s a good idea to pick up a new set of front and rear inner seals as well as a new set of brake hardware to make sure everything goes back together smoothly and continues to work well for years to come. Also, be sure to thoroughly inspect the wheel bearings for any signs of wear or pitting and replace them as needed while you have things taken apart. It’s also a good idea while you’re inspecting the wheel bearings to thoroughly clean them and repack them with a quality wheel bearing grease such as the Valvoline Multi-Purpose grease used by the team at Swamp’s.
Working on the brake system is not something for amateurs or beginners. There’s too much at risk if something goes wrong. If this is beyond your comfort level, there’s no shame in calling in the professionals to do the job properly. It will be money well spent to ensure the safety of not only you and your family, but also other motorists on the road.
The Pacbrake PRXB kit even comes with an accessory kit that can be used for inflating tires or just about any other small air needs you might have. This kit comes with a coiled hose and a soft case to keep everything organized in your truck so it’s all in one place when you need it. Driving with the system in the “off” position, the truck operates normally as though the system isn’t even installed. When the system is activated, the LED in the switch will glow red, indicating that it’s enabled and ready for activation. The LED will glow green during initialization of the controller and will glow orange when the engine brake is active.
When driving with the Pacbrake system enabled, the exhaust brake will only activate if the accelerator position is at zero throttle and vehicle speed is more than 22 mph. It’s worth mentioning that the cruise control function of the truck is disabled when the Pacbrake is enabled; we presume this is to prevent the system from falsely activating when the cruise is maintaining speed but the physical position of the throttle is at zero. The system works well slowing the truck greatly whenever you let off the throttle; it can be used to help control speed when traveling downgrades, allowing the wheel brakes to stay cool and ready for use in an emergency situation if needed.
The EBC Extra Duty Orange brake pads come with a break-in surface coating like their other pads to season the rotors to the pads during your initial couple hundred miles of driving. Extra Duty pads are built to provide low noise and long life along with improved stopping power compared to stock pads. They’re also rotor friendly thanks to the carbon granule construction that also minimizes dust.
As we drove the truck, the brakes provided good pedal feel and excellent stopping power as we’ve experienced with EBC Brake upgrades in the past. When combined with the Pacbrake PRXB exhaust brake, Uriah’s truck is now ready to tackle heavy loads and the steep grades commonly found around Southeastern Tennessee and Northern Georgia, where he commonly uses the truck for work, which consists of towing heavy earthmoving equipment.DW