There’s a lot of information available about rotors, pads, big brake kits…etc. But how do you know what’s right for your car and your driving style?
Start by ask yourself these questions:
- What do I mainly use my car for?
- Am I looking to improve performance or a more sporty look, or both?
- Do I plan on participating in any track or driving events?
Answers to these questions will help guide you to products that will benefit you the most. Also keep in mind that, for most vehicles, over 70% of the stopping power comes from your front brakes, and the majority of braking performance is determined by the type of brake pad and is characteristics, not the rotor.
If you use your car for driving back and forth to work, picking up groceries and generally getting you around town, then stick with an original setup. If you’re happy with the performance of your brakes and are looking to maintain what originally came with your car, then use OEM or OEM equivalent products. Many OEM brake system components are made by the following companies for the vehicle manufacturer such as: NISSIN, Brembo, Akebono, Pagid, Textar, ATE, Jurid and more. Choosing replacement parts from one of these brands will provide the same braking performance and longevity as the original parts.
STREET PERFORMANCE BRAKE PADS
Looking to improve the performance of your brakes, while still using them everyday on the street? If you choose to upgrade to a performance type brake pad, there are some compromises to keep in mind. Most performance brake pads use friction materials that provide improved stopping power and temperature capability thus leaving you with additional noise, vibration, dust generation and rotor wear. If you plan on participating in any autocross or Solo2 type events, you may want to consider a street performance pad to improve response and stopping power. These are well suited for autocross/slalom/Solo2 events where high temperatures aren’t usually a factor. There is a wide variety of brake pads with different friction materials and various characteristics available. The choice is not always simple, you’ll see as we continue….
Start with upgrading your pads first. There are performance street pads available from Hawk, Akebono, Brembo, StopTech, Wilwood, and many more.
Upgraded to performance type pads will provide you with improved braking power while keeping you reasonably quiet on the street and not chewing through your rotors and/or having to replace pads frequently.
UPGRADING YOUR BRAKE LINES
The next place to look for additional braking performance is replacing flexible hydraulic lines that connect to the calipers. OEM flexible lines are made from rubber and nylon, and have some inherent stretch to them. When using your brakes aggressively, the high pressure causes these lines to expand which softens the feel and increases the travel of the brake pedal. Upgrading the flexible lines to ones made with teflon lined stainless steel braided hose will provide improved pedal feel and control in addition to improved ABS system performance as these lines are less prone to stretching/expanding under high pressures. For most vehicles DOT approved performance brake lines are available from manufacturers like StopTech, Goodridge, Russell Performance, Wilwood, and more.
PERFORMANCE BRAKE ROTORS
If the above upgrades are not enough performance for you, combine performance pads and upgraded hoses with slotted and/or cross drilled brake rotors. Slotted rotors are designed to improve initial bite creating better response and modulation, but can contribute to accelerated pad wear. Cross drilled rotors will give you a sporty look, and some improvement in bite/response, but have some disadvantages to consider. Drilling the brake rotor removes material which reduces the rotor’s ability to absorb heat. It also makes the rotor more prone to cracking at high temperatures, so it is best to avoid drilled rotors if you intend to participate in track events. If you’re only going for a sporty look then you can install cross drilled rotors that will perform similarly to OEM rotors under normal street driving conditions. Cross drilled or slotted rotors are available by the following brands for most applications – StopTech, Brembo, Hawk, Performance Friction, DBA, and more.
Many vehicles like BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Audi to name a few, will be equipped with “drilled” rotors from the factory. Keep in mind that the manufacturer has designed the brake system this way and has added material to the rotor with additional thickness and/or diameter to compensate for the loss of material in the holes. Also, for most OEM applications that have holes in the rotors, they are not drilled at all. The holes are cast into the rotor at the foundry, which reduces the risk of cracking. Aftermarket drilled rotors are, in most cases, a standard replacement rotor which has been drilled thus reducing mass and weakening the rotor. For autocross use, it is not necessary to upgrade brake rotors unless you feel the vehicle is not performing to your liking and class rules allow such modifications.
TRACK/RACE BRAKE PADS
For track use, race compound pads are recommended. Street compound pads will fade and wear rapidly at the high temperatures encountered in road racing (track) environments. Track/race compound pads generally don’t play nice on the street. These types of pads use aggressive compounds for improved stopping power, and high temperature capability, but will wear through your brake rotors in very little street driving time and cause excessive noise, vibration and dust. This is normal as racing pad compounds are designed to work at high temperatures and pressures encountered on the race track. On the street, your brakes will never reach the desired operating temperature, leaving you with noisy brakes that wear out very quickly and don’t offer much better performance for street driving. You want to have a separate set of brake pads that you use on the track from the ones you use on the street. Racing brake pads are available from many manufacturers such as: Hawk Performance, Performance Friction, Ferodo, Pagid, Raybestos, Wilwood, Brembo, AP Racing, StopTech and Cobalt Friction to name a few.
COMPLETE BRAKE KITS “BIG BRAKE KITS” “BBK”
If upgrades to the OEM brake system still don’t meet your needs, the next step is a big brake kit with upgraded calipers and rotors such as those available from Brembo, AP Racing, StopTech & Wilwood.
As most of the braking is done at the front, you can start with a big brake kit there. If that’s still not enough, then you can upgrade the rear as well. In addition to caliper and rotor upgrades, various performance or racing pad compounds can be selected along with a variety of disc slot patterns to tailor brake system performance depending on your application. There is also a variety of street pads available for big brake kits so you can used them everyday.
If you’ve made it this far, and are more confused than ever after reading all of this or want more information on the products mentioned, please contact us with any questions you have or stop by and visit us.