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Upgrading to a 19mm Master Cylinder

Pelican Technical Article:

Upgrading to a 19mm Master Cylinder


3 hours3 hrs






Metric line wrenches, pressure or vacuum brake bleeder, paper towel roll, metric socket set, metric wrench set, flathead screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver

Applicable Models:

Porsche 914 (1970-76)

Parts Required:

19mm master cylinder

Performance Gain:

Your 914 will stop better and faster

Complementary Modification:

Replace your brake fluid

If your brakes feel spongy, and you recently bled them, and replaced the flexible brake lines, then it's quite possible that you're master cylinder has worn out.  Although it would seem logical to rebuild your master cylinder, newer and larger ones are relatively cheap (around $100).

The 914 and very early 911s originally came with a 17mm master cylinder.  The 914-6 and later 911s came with a 19mm master cylinder that allowed the driver to apply more direct pressure to the brake system.  The 19mm unit is externally almost identical to the 17mm unit, and is a direct bolt-in replacement. Pedal travel is reduced a little bit, but I never really noticed any discernable change.   The more direct result is a bit more stomping power on the pedal.

Although this article can be utilized for both the 914 and the 911, we'll talk mainly about the 914 replacement, since it's my 914 in all the pictures. Generally, the replacement procedure is the same for the 911.

The first step in replacing the master cylinder is to bleed the brake system dry.  You can place a pressure or vacuum bleeder on the system and simply open one of the bleed nipples on one of the rear calipers.  Let the system run dry.  There should be no brake fluid in the reservoir inside the front trunk.   Have a roll of paper towels on hand, as this can be a messy job.  Also, be very careful not to get any brake fluid on the car's finish, as this will eat the finish off of the paint.  If you do happen to spill some, then don't wipe it - blot it instead, because you will just increase the damaged area.

After the brake system is bled, remove the belly pan from underneath the car.  This pan covers and protects the master cylinder, gas lines, and steering rack from road debris. The master cylinder can be seen in Figure 1 after removing the belly pan. After the cover is removed, remove the electrical connection to the pressure switch on the side of the master cylinder.  This can be seen covered by its rubber boot in Figure 2.

Now remove the brake lines that are attached to the master cylinder.  Becareful when loosening the nuts, as they are usually fastened very tight and won't relent very easily.  You may want to invest in a crescent wrench that wraps around the entire brake fitting to avoid stripping.  If you strip the lines, you can still obtain replacement ones.  After the brake lines are detached, then remove the reservoir lines from the top of the master cylinder.  These simply pull out from the top.  If it is really difficult, you may want to do this after you detach the master cylinder from the car.

After all the brake lines are removed, then loosen the two nuts that hold the master cylinder to the car.  The studs that stick out of the chassis are directly attached to the pedal cluster inside the cockpit.  After the master cylinder is removed, the car should look like Figure 3.

Installation is a bit more difficult than removal.  The tough part is getting the reservoir fittings to properly seat into the new master cylinder.  The new master cylinder should have new rubber boots that surround and secure the reservoir lines.  In Figure 4, you can see how the lines are supposed to wrap around the rubber grommets.   After doing this twice, I have not yet figured out a completely painless method of inserting the lines into the master cylinder.  If you remove the rubber grommets from the master cylinder, place them on the ends of the reservoir lines, and then insert them into the master cylinder, you can usually tell if they have slipped, or if they have seated properly.  The toughest part seems to be getting enough leverage when your crouched underneath the car.

After the reservoir lines are inserted into the master cylinder, then attach it to the chassis with the two nuts.  Then reattach the brake line fittings.  They do not need to be as tight as they were when they came off.   Reattach the electrical switch.  The reassembled master cylinder is shown in Figure 5.

Now rebleed your brakes.  Everyone seems to have a different method of bleeding.  I personally have had the best luck with the old fashioned method of stomping on the pedal with someone turning the bleed nipples.  Some people think that this is the only way to properly bleed the proportioning valve in the rear of the 914.  There's a good article about bleeding 914 brakes in the January '98 (#74) issue of Excellence.

I wouldn't recommend replacing the belly pan until you are completely happy with the brakes.  Also, if there is not enough brake pressure, the electrical switch will trigger and need to be reset by pressing the little button on it's side.  This tip is explained in detail in our Q&A section.

Well, that's about it. If you have any questions or comments about this article, please drop us a line. Bill Kohnke adds the following:

Hey Guys the 19 MM cyl looks great fits just right

A suggestion possibly you should suggest new copper gaskets for the one line to the front brakes take it apart there and it's easier but I do like to always use new in any brake job. To remove the master cylinder I removed the "Banjo" fitting rather than remove the brake line from that.  This fitting has copper washers that are the gaskets in a brake system.  I always like to use new washers when working on brakes.

The process went easy especially in having a New Mexican car All fittings come apart with no rust/problem, You ought to see what we go through with a car that is only 4 years old and winter driven (9 1/2 months of our year.

Another tip: Bolt the master Cyl up to the Floor then get ready to put the rubber gasketed filler lines in the top of the Cyl.

If you take a very small but long screwdriver,get the cheap one, flatten the end in the grinder then bend the end over in a U shape. (that's why the cheap screwdriver! anything good at all and It'll snap off) Hold one side canted in the hole with one hand and use the blunted end to work the filler tube and gasket down into the intended borefrom the other side.

Only takes 1 Min for each gasket broke my heart.

Thanks Bill Kohnke

Scott Guthrie adds:

Thanks to your article, my installation of a 19mm master cylinder went   really well. My one contribution is that, if you're working in a quiet garage (okay, the radio wasn't _really_ loud) you can hear/feel a *snick*  when pressing the feed lines into the rubber grommets if they're still in  the master cylinder. A couple push-pull-twists to make sure they were seated and I was done! 

Shawn O'Brien adds:

I have skinny arms and still could not get the reservoir lines in to the master cylinder either way that was suggested. I decided to unfasten thebrake fluid reservoir from its clamp and slide it down in between the fuel tank and wheel well. This gave me enough slack in the hoses to push them into the master cylinder grommets and then fasten the m/c to the floor. Refasten the reservoir and get ready to bleed.

Master Cylinder Installed
Figure 1

Master Cylinder Installed

Master Cylinder Installed with Brake Lines Shown
Figure 2

Master Cylinder Installed with Brake Lines Shown

Master Cylinder Removed
Figure 3

Master Cylinder Removed

 Reservoir Line Fittings
Figure 4

Reservoir Line Fittings

Master Cylinder Reinstalled
Figure 5

Master Cylinder Reinstalled

Comments and Suggestions:
Dave Comments: Due you have to remove the foot plate and disconnect the master cylinder from the brake peddle, before you remove it?
May 22, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Going by memory, the push rod will stay attached to pedal. So no.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
lugnits Comments: I am confused about the 17 vs 19mm. My question is - IF you move more fluid into the same size line wouldn't that increase pressure.
August 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, not necessarily. The increase in bore size (from 17 - 19) would result in a firmer pedal feel a but less pressure. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Kevin Comments: Sorry, but you're flawed in your understanding of the physics you're referencing here as an "upgrade"... in short, you've got it completely BACKWARDS. Increasing the m/c diameter from 17mm to 19mm translates to greater piston surface area... which translates to more VOLUME of fluid expelled for each distance the piston pedal travels. Correspondingly, this greater volume will be sent into the system at lower PRESSURE-less mechanical advantage from a larger diameter hydraulic piston-thereby requiring more leg/pedal pressure for equal effect but less pedal TRAVEL to achieve same volume/effect. In conclusion, if you want more "bite" power? in your breaking effect, you should move to a smaller diameter m/c piston...

Good Luck
June 3, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it. I will have someone look into it and have the article updated if needed.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
S2Andy Comments: Robert is absolutely correct in his analysis of the effect of increasing the m/c piston diameter. It will require more pedal pressure from the driver for the same braking effect at the calipers. If you want more 'bite' from the brakes then a smaller m/c will achieve this albeit with more pedal travel. I'm not sure I'd call this an upgrade unless it was linked to upgrading your calipers to a larger piston size, which could introduce unacceptable levels of pedal travel with the standard m/c. Then you'd need a bigger dia m/c to shift more fluid for the bigger caliper pistons. I'm doing calcs for this now, as I am big braking my 964C2 to Med blacks 36/44 pistonsand 4 pot 30/34 rears. Lots more caliper piston area to push with the std m/c but I may have too much pedal travel as well.
October 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for reinforcing Robert's point. I will have the article updated. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
AJ Comments: I tried some of the methods suggested for attaching the feed lines to the master cylinder. None seemed to work. The way I did it, and the way I would highly recommend, was, on a "74 911, is to disconnect the plastic feed lines from the reservoir. You may have to break the seal of the line after loosening the clamp by taking a small screwdriver and wedging it between the tow hoses. The plastic feed line can be pushed/pulled through the firewall with just a little effort. Take note which line goes where. I believe the line that goes through the passenger side hole in the floor goes to the forward side of the reservoir, which feeds the front brake portion of the master cylinder and the opposite for the other. Anyway, now you can press the grommets in from the top don't forget the washers that go in the M/C like I did and ensure that the grommet is seated under the machined lip of the M/C. This is all but impossible to verify if the M/C is on the car. Now, just feed the lines up from the bottom and reconnect everything.
September 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
caveman Comments: I'm work on brakes in 914-4 and after installing new rotors and calipers and pads,they seemed to Tight,Brake in will help. After bleeding 5 times pumping the Pedal with a helper I found the master cylinder failed too bleed rear brakes same as front...New m/c is on the way and thanks for comments,,big help..
February 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Are you still having issues with the caliper being too tight? Check that the brake pad, rotor and caliper part numbers are correct. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rasta Comments: ROFL @Robert. . .somebody does not understand hydraulic force.
July 11, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I hope its not me! - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Red Comments: In my 1969 911E brake fluid leaked into the foot-pedal area at a significant rate, ruining driver carpet and endangering the bushings of foot controls. It seems the master cylinder has to be replaced or/and repaired with a gasket kit. What is available, where and at what cost.
Red de Witt 613 722 4685 Ottawa, Canada
October 16, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would replace the master cylinder. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
oldalfaparts Comments: I know this may sound stupid...but putting a little brake fluid on the grommets really helps them go into the m/cyl. and the feed line barbs go into the grommets. You have to try it to believe it.
June 8, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Robert Comments: Warning:This,so called upgrade is dangerous. By increasing the size of the master cylinder you decrease the line pressure on the other end. Think about it this way,if you have a master cyl. with 1 square inch of area and apply say 200lbs that = 200lbs per square inch line pressure. If you increase the size of the master cyl. say to 2 square inches, to make the math easy, and apply the same 200 lbs you end up with only 100lbs per sq. inch of line pressure. I found this out the hard way years ago when I thought that I could make my hot rods brakes better by changing from a 7/8" master cyl. to a 1" master cyl. Guess what ? I could not stop the car with both feet on the pedal.
I have a 914 with a buick turbo v6. It never stopped very well. It wouldent lock up the breaks no matter how hard I pushed the pedal. During a full resto I found out why, it had a 19mm master cylinder.
Please think about this, less travel on the pedel dosent = more pressure to the calipers it just means you are moving more brake fluid with the same stroke. Pressure on the brake pads is what stops the car. Compare the size and number of the front caliper pistons from the 914 to the 911 I will bet you the 911 has more area, or at least larger diameter discs i.e. more leverage. Thanks for listining. Ignore at your own peril.
August 16, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
flash951 Comments: I can't believe this is a level 3 repair. The job is messy and difficult. Even if my brakes was drained out of fluids for months, it was still dripping in my face and hands, and then loosen up some of the paint on the new master cylinder and made it sticky as well.

How I handled the upper feeder lines:
I loosened them from the luggage apartment reservoir, and removed the pedal floor board inside the car, and simply pulled the feed lines out of the car from under. And then inserted them into the new master cylinder on the workbench, away from the tight impossible space under the car.
June 17, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback and additional info. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Michael Comments: Installing those rubber grommets is a pain. I used a 11mm flare nut wrench to distribute the force while pushing down to shove the grommet and line into the bore on top of the master cyl. 11mm is the smallest tubing wrench that will fit over the steel line. Laying directly under the installed master cyl, I could use one hand on the wrench handle and the other hand right on top of the wrench opening on top of the grommet, and push down hard. If the grommet gets cocked, use a flat screwdriver to carefully push down.
April 8, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Amphicar770 Comments: One very important omission here ask me how I know.

Under each of those rubber grommets on your old MC there are washers. Make sure you have those in the new MC BEFORE fitting the rubber grommets.

I picked up a door trim removal tool which is essentially the screwdriver described above. Also a spark plug removal wrench. Both helped a lot with seating the grommet.
September 20, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Good point, thanks for the note. For those people missing these, the part number is 901-355-936-00 - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Mark Comments: Alright....tried pushing the lines into the rubber gaskets while they were in the master cylinder - no luck getting them to seat. Then removed the gaskets from the m/c, placed on line ends and attempted to press back into the m/c - no luck - just not enough room to work the gasket while applying constant pressure. Of course a better design would be a treaded fitting at the m/c like the rest of the brake system. Any other ideas?
September 9, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I remember doing this 15 years ago, and it wasn't pleasant. I think I needed some type of tool to grip the top while guiding it into the master cylinder, but I can't 100% recall. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 1/17/2018 02:18:12 AM