Hydratech Hydroboost Installation - 2/14/04

First off, I would like to let everyone know that dealing with Paul from Hydratech was a real pleasure. He is one of those people that really knows what they are talking about, and takes pleasure in sharing his knowledge with you. And let me tell you - his knowledge is EXTENSIVE. I called him several times to inquire about details of the kit I was ordering before finally placing my order, and every time I spoke with him he generally seemed happy to talk to me. Which, these days, is a rarity, because people normally want to just complete a sale and get you off the phone as quickly as possible. Paul is the true definition of a professional, and although I have never met him in person, I have the utmost respect for him.

I would also like to thank my new friend Al Harris for helping me out with this system as well. Thanks Al!

Now, on to the kit. I ordered the Hydroboost Level III kit with a Corvette C3 master cylinder. This was after extensive discussion with Paul about the details of my braking system, and what I wanted to accomplish with this kit. I also ordered some extra length on the hose, and an additional hose retaining clip, because of the special way I wanted to route the hose. Paul was more than accomodating, and I feel gave a more than fair price for the additional pieces. I ordered the system over the phone, Paul sent me a confirmation e-mail with a receipt, and installation instructions. Both were very clear and easy to understand. When I opened the package I was immediately suprised at how well everything was packaged, and checked the kit for completeness and shipping damage. I found no problems.

Here's some pictures of what arrived in the kit :

This is the entire kit contents.

The longer length hoses, and the fittings / fasteners kit.

Side shot of the new hydroboost unit - pretty sweet looking.

Another shot of the hydroboost. I received one of the new units with the billet aluminum backing plate.

The new master cylinder.

Now that I verified everything was present, and stopped by the store to pick up brake fluid, power steering fluid, a bench bleeder kit, and some brake cleaner (for cleaning up all the fluid I knew I was going to spill) I was ready to start.

Here's what I was starting with. Please ignore the dirt in the engine compartment - my car is a daily.

The booster and master cylinder are from classicperform.com They came as part of their disc brake conversion kit. It's a dual 8" booster - and provided decent, but not shocking, stoping power.

Here's a shot so you can kind of see how big this unit is, and where everything is positioned. Also, ignore the washer hoses, I just installed this motor and pump this morning, and was testing it prior to getting the bug to install the hydroboost unit. I'd rather stop than have windshield wipers!

Anyhow - the instructions start off by telling you to inspect the braking and power steering system. I knew my brake connections were good, I just installed them about a year ago. I do not have the braided steel hoses it recommends, but the hoses I do have are in good shape. I do plan on replacing them when I have a free weekend to try to bleed all the air out of the old Cadillac style brakes. If anyone's ever done this, you know what I'm talking about. My power steering system is on the fritz, so it was a little shaky installing the hydroboost unit. I'm pretty sure my pump is shot, or at least on it's last leg. It's noisy, and screams when I reach either wheel stop. I do have a quick ratio steering box in there, which is only about a year old as well, so I wasn't too concerned about that. The power steering pump is a saginaw style, and is about to be replaced with the remote canister style to accomodate my conversion to a short water pump setup. But, having this old pump, I decided to go for it. The first actual step in the instructions is to disconnect the battery, and the brake lamp switch electrical connector.

My lonely Optima. On a side note - I would recommend this battery to anyone. They are awesome.

Where the Optima used to sit. I use all four posts when connecting it to my electrical system.

And here's the brake lamp switch electrical connector, disconnected.

The next step is to remove the high pressure line that comes off the back of the power steering pump and goes into the steering box. This is accomplished by using a 5/8" wrench.

Here's the high pressure hose removed from the system. The guy that owned this car before me went berserk in the engine compartment and interior with a can of flat black spray paint. I think that's the thing that pisses me off the most about what he did to this car.

And here's a shot of the power steering pump reservoir with the high pressure line removed. I have it draining into my wifes basting tray. It's the only thing that would fit under the front sway bar, since the front of my car is lowered 2". You can also see where the line has been removed from the steering box, and a small amount of fluid has seeped out. All in all, I was suprised on how little fluid actually escaped with this line was removed. Now, hopefully next year's Thanksgiving turkey doesn't have some strange Dot 3 taste to it.

The next step is to remove the brake pedal rods clevis pin. Pretty simple removal with a flat tip screwdriver.

Here's the clevis pin and the retaining piece sitting on a dirty shop towel.

On a side note - it describes in the instructions how there are two positions on the brake pedal assembly where the clevis pin can be inserted. The hydroboost unit uses the manual brake hole, which is about 1 1/2" above the power brake hole on the brake lever. On my car, the upper "manual" hole was filled with a bolt and nut and strike plate for the brake light switch. I included some pictures in case someone has never seen this before.

you can see the nut and part of the strike plate in the upper part of the picture. Below that, you can see where the power brake hole is, and the brake rod with the clevis pin removed below that.

Here's the bolt, nut, and striker plate removed.

Next step : free the master cylinder from it's vacuum boosted slavery. It's best if you can move it 4-6" forward in the engine compartment to help the booster clear when it's coming out. This required removing 2 nuts with a 9/16" wrench. The booster was then dismounted from the firewall with 4 more 9/16" nut removals.

Master cylinder removal is a snap.

4 nuts, and the booster slides easily away from the firewall.

The next step is to transfer the clevis pin from the old booster to the hydroboost unit. Simply unscrew it from the old booster, and screw it on the hydroboost unit, making sure to engage at least six threads minimum.

Off the old one.... (notice the diode numbers written on a post-it in my "wallet")

And on to the new... it just seems so much more at home there.

Next step - install the hydroboost unit onto the firewall, making sure to align the clevis pin on the brake pedal assembly. This is a two person operation as far as I can tell, but I was able to accomplish it by myself by threading the clevis pin all the way on to the hydroboost, and then aligning it after the hydroboost unit was attached to the firewall by backing it out onto the brake pedal assembly in the correct position. Hope that makes sense. The hydroboost unit is attached to the firewall using 4 1/2" cool looking nuts - I believe they are an addition along with the billet backing plate. Either way - they look totally sweet, dude.

Like a glove... this thing fits in perfectly. Also, look at the sweet nuts. (Huh huh, I said "sweet nuts")

Shot from the passenger side. No interference whatsoever.

Driver side shot - nice and clean.

Here's the clevis pin and retaining clip mounted in the upper hole on the brake pedal assembly. You can see the vacated lower "power" brake hole below it.

Set the proper height for the brake lamp switch, and voila! You're set. Before setting the brake lamp switch, make sure you adjust the pedal height to the proper setting by turning the brake rod in or out, depending on where you like the pedal.

Next, I disconnected my old master cylinder to make room for the new one, and also to make it easier to attach the lines to the hydroboost unit. I am routing these lines differently than the instructions say, and that is why I required the extra line length. The details will be shown in the pictures. Basically, you set up the lineset so it comes out of the high pressure port of the power steering pump, into the inlet port of the hydroboost unit, out the outlet port of the hydroboost unit, and then into the steering box. The low pressure used fluid return line from the hydroboost unit gets ported into a tee fitting that is inserted into the return line from the power steering box to the power steering pump. Stick with me here, this will all make sense in a second when you see the pictures. The hardest part about this was assembling the fittings, which you only have to do two of. The hose is cut a little long leaving you room to work with, so the two fittings that attach to the power steering pump, and the steering box are not made up. The two fittings that attach to the hydroboost unit come pre-assembled. I recommend you do not disassemble this, as reassembly is less than pleasant. If you have slight mechanical aptitude, assembly of the fittings is not that big of a deal. You just have to be sure to get the teflon part of the power steering line inside the ferrule, and the braided hose portion outside the ferrule. Once you've done that, you're home-free. To cut the lines, I used a dremmel set on highest speed, and then wrapped the lines with electrical tape where I was going to cut. Once cut, I removed the tape, and cleaned up the ends with the cutting wheel. It's a snap, with the right tools. Okay - on to the pictures on how the lines were attached and routed.

This is the hydroboosts inlet fitting, it's on the drivers side of the unit.

And, the outlet port - it's on the passenger side. I have to say that a lot of thinking went in to the angles of these fittings, as it was a breeze to assemble, and fit like a glove. No modification of anything was necessary to route these.

In the back you can see where I have the lineset running up over the drivers side fenderwell. I don't like hoses running through my engine compartment, so this was the path I chose. The "stock" hydroboost system is a little different. These hoses look good enough that I would run them through my engine compartment though, so when I re-assemble this system when my new power steering pump comes in, I might just run them under the unit, like they're supposed to be.

Here's the underside of the unit, showing the hoses going off towards the fenderwell.

And, here's the new fitting that gets inserted into the steering box. Perfect fit, once again.

And here's the two hoses coming from the hydroboost unit to the power steering pump, and the steering box. I think this routing looks super clean.

And here's a closer shot on how the hoses attach to the power steering pump and the steering box. Once again, let me point out that the angles on these fittings make it a snap to install. Please ignore the crap on my header. I will clean it, I swear.

Here's the return line attached to the unit. I did take the hoseclamp out and flip it around so I could get the screwdriver and socket onto it from the passenger side of the engine compartment - which would have been a lot easier than trying to get at it from under the unit itself. If you have one of these units - I would recommend doing this.

And here's where the return line tee's into the return line from the steering box. I was suprised at how little fluid leaked out of this portion of the system when I cut the hose to install the tee. Once again - the fluid is captured by the infamous basting pan.

The new master cylinder is installed, and set up for "bench bleeding" This was the only part the instructions didn't cover.

UPDATE : The instructions did indeed cover this. The new master cylinder came with a set of plugs for the outlet ports, and had detailed instructions for bench bleeding the master cylinder using these plugs. The bench bleeding procedure can be accomplished with the master cylinder in a vise, but since I am working out of my laundry room with the car in the driveway, I pretty much had to do it the way I did. Thanks to Paul for correcting my error on this matter.

I would definitely bench bleed any master cylinder that gets changed out. It will save you tons of headaches down the line. Especially if you have old style Cadillac brakes. Bench bleeding can be accomplished without any boost assist, so I completed this after I had completed the priming steps of the hydroboost instructions.

To prime the system - disable the ignition....

Install the battery.... and crank a couple of times for 5 seconds - checking fluid levels each time.


From here there's a whole series of priming and filling instructions, and I followed them to a t. My old crappy power steering pump did moan and groan a little bit, so I think I will be bleeding the power steering system tomorrow morning when I have a little more motivation, and a couple of Newcastles. After I got everything installed, I sprayed everything down with a liberal coating of brake cleaner which removed any power steering fluid or brake fluid mess I had created. I then ran the system per the instructions, and checked for leaks - and as far as I can tell, I don't have any. I did take the car for a short test drive tonight, and noticed an incredible difference in the brakes. I was able to lock them up with no trouble at all. The only thing I did notice was that the pedal is slow to return to the top of it's travel, and leaves the brake light on a little longer than I'm comfortable with. My power steering pump is also very loud at this point. I'm sure it's a combination of it's age, and my needing to bleed the system tomorrow morning. I'll update the page once I have that done.

UPDATE : As expected, the instructions covered these two issues as well. Leave it to me to get all excited and skip reading part of the instructions. Paul was kind enough to direct me to the following paragraph :

*Please allow up to 500 miles of operation for systems to fully "settle /
break in"! Until all the air pockets and "micro bubbles" settle out of the
assist unit and power steering system, operations may be initially noisy,
accompanied by some "pedal kickback" upon braking, and "stiff / slow pedal
return" caused by air in the systems.

And you know what? I fully believe this. I took the car out the day after I installed this system and put about 100 miles on it. (OUCH! 10 gallons of gas!) Not only did the system quiet down, but it seems that it has "settled in" as well. I have the utmost confidence that this unit will be 100% by the 500 mile mark, because it's at 99% right now. The pedal is still a little slow to return, but I did notice an improvement yesterday after the 100 mile drive.

On a side note : I do feel much more confident in my braking system now, and had no qualms about being able to stop after burying the needle.

I'll be calling Paul on Monday to ask him about the return speed of the brake pedal, and I'm sure it's something easy to remedy. At least - he'll talk so knowledgeably about it, that it will make it easy! (I didn't even have to call Paul, I wrote him and told him about this web-page and the pictures, and he wrote back telling me about the bleeders and the paragraph I skipped. What a great guy!)

All in all, this was a very simple install, and a fun little project. I'm super pleased with how the system came out, and am impressed with the lack of "adaptation" needed to install this kit. I didn't have to use the grinder, drill, or any other destructive tool even once. It's amazing. I started the project around 2:30 in the afternoon and was done, parked back in the driveway by 6:00. I didn't use any special tools, and I don't even think I cursed once in the whole process, which is amazing. Well, maybe I cursed once singing along to some of the devil music that I listen to, but hey - what's the fun in listening to music if you can't sing along?

I would recommend Paul and his Hydratech Hydroboost system to anyone. Hands down this is the best aftermarket product I've installed on my car yet. If you have any questions about this install, or would like my take on this system, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at naps@angryamerica.com and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Additions :

1. I almost forgot to include that I will have to re-route the brake lines out of the master cylinder itself into the proportioning valve. The hydroboost unit sits a little closer to the fenderwell, and thus, my old lines ended up being a little too long. This is a pretty simple fix, and can be accomplished in an hour or so. My proportioning valve was hung off a bracket that attached to the master cylinder, and as it is right now, that bracket won't fit. So, I'll have to come up with another way to support the bracket - I might just move it over to the other side of the master cylinder where there's plenty of room. This is in no way Hydratechs doing, it was just the funky rig that I initially started with.