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2009 Brake Buyers Guide - Brake Yo 'Self

Brake Upgrade Explanation Guide

Charles Trieu
Jun 1, 2009
Photographer: Super Street Archives
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Sstp_0906_01xx_z+brake_guide+wheel Photo 1/31   |   2009 Brake Buyers Guide - Brake Yo 'Self

Brakes are one of the most overlooked upgrades on a car. There's no point in building an engine and car if you can't brake in time for a turn. Good brakes will keep you from slamming into a wall. Brakes can also lower your lap times by allowing for a later braking point. Not just for the big bling factor, but there's several good advantages for upgrading your brakes. From upgrading pads and rotors, to full-blown kits, we're going to show you what's available and explain to you why you need it.

Pads
The simplest and most inexpensive way to gain brake performance is upgrading the pads. Pads are made with various materials. Factory pads are usually organic. Organic pads emit low amounts of dust and are typically quiet. Although they work great when cold, the problem with organic pads are they don't work too well when they get hot. Ceramic compound pads are a great choice for added performance without the extra dust and noise. These are a great middle ground. Semi-metallic or metallic pads are what sports cars and race cars are usually equipped with. They'll offer the same cold bite as pads, but bite better than any at high temperatures. But having a better biting pad comes with drawbacks because metallic compound pads do emit more dust and noise.

Rotors
The entry-level upgrade usually consists of slotted, dimpled or drilled rotors. This will help dissipate heat for better braking. Lately, manufacturers have been offering dimpled rotors as drilled rotors and although they have better cooling, they have a higher chance of cracking. For a better upgrade but at more money, you can choose a directional vane or two-piece rotor. Typical rotors have a straight vane between the rotor surfaces. Higher-end manufacturers offer rotors with vanes that are curved to help increase airflow and cooling inside the rotor. Rotors can also be heavy. To reduce the heavy rotating mass, some two-piece rotors will come with a lightweight aluminum hub hat.

Brake Lines
To increase pedal feel, stainless steel lines are a great upgrade from the factory ones. Even though some factory brake lines come with an inner steel lining, aftermarket ones have a heavier duty steel mesh. This lining makes the lines act more like hard lines, keeping the flex and expansion down to a minimum. When shopping for lines, some characteristics to look for are plastic- covered lines for higher dirt retention and swivel ends for ease of installation.

Calipers
If your car is equipped with front calipers with only one piston, then your car sucks arse. But don't feel too bad as there are many options for you to blow major gwap on. Aftermarket calipers can come with anything from four to a ridiculous twelve pistons. Having more pistons will give you a better grab on the rotor, as well as better pedal modulation. Aluminum calipers also help to reduce unsprung weight and more even pad wear because factory calipers can be very heavy. Monoblock calipers are just like how it sounds: one block -- because they're made from one block of aluminum, and are less likely to flex, whereas twin-block calipers are two pieces that are bolted together.

Complete Brake Kits
For the ultimate braking system, you can buy or have a custom kit made with every important upgrade. Keep in mind you don't want calipers that are too large for your car because there is such as thing having too much braking power on a car. Brake kits are put together with several things in mind, such as caliper piston size and possibly a larger brake master cylinder. But note that if your master cylinder doesn't push enough fluid, the calipers will not work as beneficial as they could be. Just the same, if your proportioning valve isn't dividing the brake fluid properly, your car could be doing nosedives at every turn.

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By Charles Trieu
161 Articles

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