One of the few bright spots that we have when restoring these vehicles is the abundance of pure mechanical parts, and nowhere is that more evident that with the braking system. For all Cougars 1983-88, common 10" front brakes were utilized. Out back, most cars had the standard 9" drum brakes, while later cars had 10" drums. All the brake parts (excluding the brake hardlines) were standard Ford pieces from the era, with no real hiccups in finding replacement parts.
But you do want to make sure that, if restoring, you get the most correct parts possible. This section will help you do just that.
As mentioned, the factory front brakes used on all 1983-88 Cougars were 10", regardless of engine size or model year therein. This simplification makes obtaining parts very easy, and as a bonus, the same parts were used on 1987-93 Mustang 4-cylinder vehicles. Keep in mind that brakes, like tires and batteries, are considered to be normal replacement items. It's not impossible to use all Ford parts but as time goes on, it's going to be more difficult to do so, therefore you must use the parts that are readily available to you.
Look for a good quality brand such as Bendix, Wagner or Raybestos, with a long warranty and preferably American-made as the Chinese-made rotors cannot typically be turned. It still may be possible to get new rotors directly from the Ford dealer; they will likely be very expensive. Motorcraft rotors, at last check, were available at Rock Auto but be warned that they carry only a 1-year limited warranty.
New Ford-stamped calipers may be possible to buy via the Ford dealer; however, as most calipers are remanufactured these days, it's very likely you'll find that a Ford-stamped core was used when purchasing calipers in the aftermarket or at parts stores. Also keep in mind that it may be cheaper to buy loaded calipers (with pads included) than purchasing the calipers and pads separately. Our cars used semi-metallic pads as standard equipment.
Again, look for semi-metallics for stock performance. Organic pads will be fine but they create more brake dust. A quality name brand will work perfectly. Be sure to use new anti-rattle clips supplied with the pads; the old ones will likely not be tight enough to reuse.
While not being known as a part that wears out, we've had our experiences with sheared caliper pins before. Replacing the pins will go a long way for peace of mind. The 10" caliper used a Torx (star) head pin with a round barrel front. There was never a hex head on the front of our caliper bolts. Earlier cars (at least 1983-84) seem to have used T-47 Torx bits in the OEM pins; later cars used T-50. Replacement pins that are very similar to factory are available at parts stores—be sure to check the fitment of your Torx bit. Also, aftermarket pins tend to be a hair shorter than factory; usually that does not affect performance as the smaller end is inside the rubber boot anyway. Occasionally we'll see Ford caliper pin kits on eBay so keep your eyes open (it's unknown if those kits are still available from Ford). By the way, if all you would need is the slider pin rubber seals, those are usually available in a disc brake hardware kit sold in stores and online.
There's nothing really surprising here—just get good quality, name-brand outer and inner bearings and you're fine. One thing to note: beginning in 1986, Ford started using nylon outer bearings in the rotors. When they wear out they produce a really distinctive high-pitched wail. We're not sure if those are even possible to get again; we're big believers in steel roller bearings anyway so we'd recommend ditching the nylon bearings regardless.
Geniune Ford hoses may be difficult to find so prepare to purchase aftermarket units. Really there's nothing special to know except to get a good name brand with a long warranty (some may be lifetime so keep the receipt).
You'll find clips, washers, banjo bolts, etc. at your local parts store or online. Sometimes they're under the Help! brand. Nothing special or out of the ordinary about these parts.
Now here's something most people never think about replacing, yet you may need to. Although our dust shields are metal from the factory we have seen OEM-style plastic shields with Ford part numbers. Those would be acceptable for restoration purposes. They may be only available as a restoration part at LMMRS or Fox Restoration.
Readily available in the aftermarket and online. Ours were steel, not plastic; zinc coated is just fine.
The 9" drums are the same used on 4-cylinder Mustangs from 1987-93. They are finned on the sides for visual reference. However, there were two different types of 9" drums, depending upon your model year/rear axle:
1983 through Mid-1985 (November 1984):
Mid-1985 through 1988:
Beginning in 1988, just about all Cougar/Thunderbird V8 cars received 10" rear drums. They were likely available in earlier cars that had the optional towing or suspension package; we've also had reports of some 1988 V6 cars that had them as well. The 10" drums have no fins and are smooth sided.
Regardless of whichever drum setup you have, just like the front rotors, be sure to get a good quality name brand rotor with a long warranty. We don't know if there are any Motorcraft drums out there; it's possible but again, they will not be cheap.
Again, name brand parts. Be sure to buy new, not relined, and we always recommend bonded/riveted shoes. You can also get severe duty shoes for a little extra durability.
Any other drum hardware part (spring holddown, return spring, bar, etc.) can be easily purchased online or at parts stores...no need to hunt down Ford parts.
Cars with both the 9" and 10" drums use wheel cylinders with a 3/4" bore. Be sure to get a good quality brand name with a decent warranty.
One of the most difficult things to deal with is a broken steel brake line. You really shouldn't attempt to have it spot repaired; the entire section of line needs to be replaced. At this point it is probably not possible to order new Ford lines for our cars. Mustang lines were slightly different and shorter in some spots. Therefore the only real solution is to have a section replaced with common, off-the-shelf roll tubing. Hard lines were found between the master cylinder and proportioning valve; between the prop valve and the front brake junctions; between the prop valve and the rear brake junction; and between the rear junction and each rear drum brake on the axle.
Between the front brake hard line and the caliper is a flexible front brake line. This allows the line to flex with the suspension. It is known to collapse from the inside, and can also show exterior cracking. When replacing, a factory-correct line will be rubber with pressed, zinc-coated steel ends. Any good aftermarket line will be fine.
This is a flexible rubber line, similar to a front brake line, between the rear hard line and the rear axle. A Mustang-style junction should be acceptable to use, but double check for your application.
The proportioning valve used in our cars should be the same used in 4-cylinder Mustangs. We've not seen a Ford unit lately, although a Motorcraft unit may be available at the Ford dealer. You may also have to reuse your brake light sending unit.
Our brake booster seems to have been unique to our cars; Mustang boosters are not as wide but deeper. We've yet to find another Fox vehicle, save for perhaps the Mark VII, with a similar sized booster. Therefore you will need to get one specifically made for our cars. Original Ford boosters are very rarely seen; you will need to look to the aftermarket for one. Also, be sure to get a new vacuum check valve with the new booster. It is available under the Help! brand, among others.
We again luck out, as the m/c for our cars is the same as many other Fords from the era. A good aftermarket m/c is easily obtained. We've yet to see a Motorcraft (p/n E4DZ-2140-A) master cylinder show up at a parts store but it's possible that the dealership can order one. The new m/c should come with a new cap; if it's not correct enough, you can get a new one under the Help! brand at parts stores.
Long the bane of mechanics, the brake light switch is available online and in parts stores. Motorcraft does sell a new switch (p/n E9ZB-13480-AA or E9ZZ-13480-A). Fortunately they are cheap; unfortunately they're not easy to install. Wiring tends to fray, split or break off completely from this switch so be sure to inspect your wiring and repair as necessary.
Yes, you can get these, under the Help! brand at auto parts stores. They are pretty much identical to OEM. You can also get a parking brake pedal cover pad (which doubles as a clutch pedal pad) as well.