If speed kills, do brakes give life? That's the million-dollar question. Turbo magazine has always been at the forefront of generating horsepower. On the flip side, many of us often overlook the importance of having a capable braking system in place to handle the extra power being generated by our performance-tuned dream machines. Prime examples are street-driven Hondas dropping 300-plus hp utilizing the factory braking system. You'd think a vehicle making two to three times more power than stock would have a braking system to match, but most people overlook this aspect of vehicle performance.
May we remind you that Hondas were originally designed as econoboxes, not sports cars. The factory braking system was designed with econobox speeds in mind, not triple-digit speeds. Ever try coming to a complete halt from 100 mph in a Civic? It's not the best stopping vehicle. Most Hondas are equipped with small-diameter rotors and single-piston calipers. The 1992-2001 Civics came equipped with 9.45-inch front rotors, only the 1992-'95 Civic Si came with larger 10.31-inch front rotors. Considering the age of some of these vehicles many probably have warped rotors and overworked rubber brake lines.
Founded in 1977 by Bill Wood, Wilwood Engineering has been engineering high-performance and race-application brake systems for nearly three decades. With the growing interest in the sport compact market Wilwood has developed an affordable 11-inch rotor kit specifically engineered for Hondas.
The key to any performance brake system is to not only increase the stopping power, but to also make it lightweight to reduce unsprung weight (free horsepower!). By utilizing forged-aluminum rotor hats and lightweight calipers, Wilwood brake systems are often lighter than factory components, even with the larger diameter rotors.
The stock Civic rotor and the Wilwood rotor weighed in exactly the same at 8.5 pounds, even though the Wilwood rotor was 1.5-inches larger in diameter. The most dramatic weight savings comes from replacing the factory single-piston caliper with the forged four-piston Dynalite Wilwood caliper. The stock caliper, with pads, weighed in at 9.0 pounds vs. the Wilwood caliper, which barely tipps the scales at 3.5 pounds. Of added benefit, the Wilwood caliper is a four-piston design that is better at distributing even brake pad pressure over the rotor surface and also distributes the pressure equally on both sides of the rotor. The overall weight savings for the entire front brake system with the Wilwood equipment was 11.0 pounds over the stock components.
When installing any brake system components, safety should always be your first priority. So unless you are skilled in the area of brake maintenance the job should be left to a professional. A high-performance brake system is useless if it is installed improperly.
Along with changing the front brakes, we drained and replaced the brake fluid with Wilwood Hi-Temp 570 Racing brake fluid. The low-viscosity brake fluid features a 570-degree dry boiling point to withstand the duty of severe racing application.
To fully reap the benefits of Wilwood's brake fluid, we needed to flush the entire system of the old brake fluid. Once all the old fluid was removed the brake reservoir was filled to the rim with the new fluid and the system was bled completely. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's procedure for bleeding the brake system. Once the system was completely bled the rotors were cleaned with brake cleaner to prevent contamination of the brake pads from any greasy fingerprints.
With the Wilwood brake system installed we took the Civic out for a spin to bed in the brakes. After installing new rotors and pads it is important to properly break in the new pads and rotors. Different brake manufacturers will have different break-in procedures so be sure to read the instructions carefully. Once the break in was performed we put the Wilwood system to the test. We found the Civic required less pedal effort to bring the vehicle to a halt as opposed to the stock system. Als, during 60-0 brake testing we could easily lock up the brakes if we weren't careful, while before the stock brakes would just fade.
The standard test for vehicle braking is to perform several 60-zero-mph runs and then average the distances to get a number. With the invention of ABS, obtaining repeatable 60-zero runs without huge fluctuations is easy. Unfortunately our econobox Civic wasn't equipped with ABS.
For our 60-zero brake test we used the new G-TECH Pro SS meter. The sampling came back with substantial variances due to the lack of ABS. We recorded a best of 118 ft. and a worst of 129 ft. (due to locking up the brakes). Not bad considering we were in the mid- to high-120-f00t range with the stock setup.
Besides being able to perform 60-zero runs the G-TECH meter has tons of other features. One feature we were astonished with is the shift light and RPM readout. You have to remember the G-TECH only plugs into the cigarette lighter, no additional wiring. The RPM readout is pretty accurate to the factory tach and the shift lights can be set at different rpm levels.
The key features of the G-TECH meter are its capabilities to measure zero-60 mph, 60-foot, eighth- and quarter-mile times.
Not everyone has access to a dyno or can afford one. Now you can. Along with the other features the G-TECH meter can measure horsepower and torque. This feature can be used when performing before and after runs when installing performance products on your ride. The best way to utilize this feature is to perform several runs before and after the install, then average the results.
Another feature we used quite a bit is the real-time G-Meter. In this mode, the G-TECH displays a combination of G-Value and G-Arrow. The G-Arrow indicates the direction of the G-force while the G-Value indicates the amount of g-force. The meter will also record the highest value and store it in memory until it is reset.
The G-TECH meter is an extremely neat gadget to have fun with, with a small price tag. For the extreme enthusiasts G-TECH offers a top-of-a-line model, the RR with more features than the SS.
Our Civic was equipped with a brand-new set of 215/45-16 Falken Azenis RT-215 tires. The Falken Azenis is an extremely popular tire among autocross racers and street enthusiasts due to the inexpensive price tag.
Fortunately, the inexpensive price tag does not mean poor performance. The Azenis' rubber is awesome on dry conditions. The 200 tread-wear rating means reduced tread life but the performance benefits can't be dismissed.
Unfortunately for the time being, the Azenis only comes in limited sizes. Word on the street is that Falken will be releasing the next generation Azenis with better dry and wet performance. And the best part of it all is Falken will expand its tire selection to include more sizes.
Although we are part of a society that lives by the "bigger is better" attitude we felt the Civic's handling would be hampered with too large of a wheel-and-tire combination. And our tester Civic only generates 105 hp to the wheels in its current state of tune.
Installing 18-inch wheels would kill all straight-line acceleration and cornering. We opted to equip the Civic with 16-inch Rota Slipstream aluminum wheels because they are probably the lightest wheels on the market that won't break your bank account. Our 16x7-inch Slipstreams weigh only 14.5 pounds each.
Considering other 16-inch aluminum wheels tip the scale at about 17 to 20 lbs the weight savings is substantial. The five-spoke wheel also provide adequate cooling for the brakes during track situations.