I recently drove a VF Engineering-supercharged Spyker C8, which is not equipped with power-assisted brakes. I was reminded of the importance of each and every part of the braking system, down to the brackets, pads, and fluid. And while the Spyker’s brakes are ideal for use at the track, for street use you might feel better off using your feet, Flintstone-style. No matter the horsepower you have under the hood, the braking system is a crucial part to any vehicle. There’s a tendency to think of a braking system as a whole and I often hear my brakes suck or I just upgraded my brakes. However, the braking system is modular and its efficiency and effectiveness is determined by the sum of its parts.
Big brake kits are designed to replace the stock external braking system parts (rotors, calipers, lines) and are re-engineered to combine high performance with aesthetic design. The caliper rigidity and piston area are increased and larger rotor surfaces with slotted or drilled designs allow for better cooling and less heat build-up. AP Racing, distributed by Stillen, has various kits suitable for most driving needs, whether it be for the track or a daily driver, and their combinations of caliper sizes, pad compounds, and rotors allow you to choose the right kit for your needs. One of AP’s latest innovations is the Strap Drive System for big-brake rotors. The disc achieves better balance and expansion contraction rates by using a series of stainless steel straps that produce a flexible coupling between the rotor hub and disc surface, which gives better pedal feel and brake response while reducing noise.
Price: Varies by application
Since heat is such a critical issue in your brake system, Evosport has developed a set of front and rear heat shields, dubbed Ti-shims, for the Mercedes-AMG 6.2-liter-equipped vehicles. These special titanium shims are strategically placed between the brake pad and the caliper pistons to prevent heat transfer from the rotors and pads to the brake fluid. Because titanium has a lower thermal conductivity compared to steel or aluminum, the shims work almost like an oven mitt that prevents your from burning your hands. Reducing the heat transfer decreases the risk of boiling your fluid boiling to maintain optimum braking power.
At a microscopic level, most stock calipers are a matrix of nooks and crannies that can become filled with sooty black brake dust and can be a pain to clean. The High Performance Caliper Paint Kit from Dupli-Color offers a solution to enhance your brakes’ looks and make your car pop. The brush-on paint comes in a variety of colors (red, yellow, black satin, silver, blue) and application requires simply masking the caliper off with tape without having to remove it. And since brake calipers tend to generate so much heat, the paint includes heat dissipating ceramic resins to resist blistering, flaking, or peeling.
Price: $17.99 (est.)
Porsche pioneered caliper design as an art form and showed the world that brakes could have both form and functionthe ability to stop on a dime and look good doing it. But to many the ability to install Porsche calipers on their own car can be a costly undertaking. With Apikol’s adapter brackets, anyone can have the a Porsche Boxster caliper gracing their Audi A3/TT or VW Mk V or Mk VI chassis for a reasonable price. Apikol sells the CNC-machined, zinc-plated bracket by itself to allow for the installation of a Boxster caliper over a stock A3, TT, or GTI rotor. For Rabbits or Jettas without these 312mm rotors or for those who want a whole new system, Apikol also offers a kit that includes all the necessary parts for the conversion: rotors, pads, lines, and calipers.
Price: $1,149 (kit); $239 (bracket only)
Some of the best brake upgrades are typically factory original equipment pilfered from a vehicle’s more powerful or sportier brethren. The benefits of using OEM parts is that they are durable, give the peace of mind of a factory fit, and can clear almost any wheel. A classical example are the Mk V R32 345mm front brakes that can be applied to an Audi A3, Mk II TT, and all Mk V chassis Volkswagens. While it is possible to source these parts yourself, Autotech Sport Tuning has a one-stop shop combining all the parts needed into a ready-to-wear kit. Not only does the kit include the factory calipers, rotors, and dust shields, but Autotech also throws in stainless steel brake lines and performance brake pads.
Autotech Sport Tuning
As important as the oil and fuel coursing through your engine, brake fluid is the lifeblood of your brakes. Like all fluids, especially those subjected to constant heat, it will degrade over time and thus be unable to maintain the same pressure and braking capacity. Even on the shelf, stock brake fluid can be a ticking time-bomb with a limited shelf life, the main reason for the recommended brake fluid perfusion every two years or 24,000 miles under normal driving conditions. Motul’s 660 polyglycol high-performance brake fluid has dry (617) and wet (339) boiling points to withstand extreme driving and weather conditions, preventing vapor lock, and brake fade. Not only does Motul exceed DOT 3 and 4 standards, it comes packaged with nitrogen to increase shelf life, and prevent moisture accumulation and ultimately contamination, making it a worthwhile investment.
Price: $31.00 (500mL bottle)
The rotors take the brunt of braking force and are consistently abused from constant spinning and stopping. For this reason rotors are subject to numerous ailments. Excessive heat can build from the friction generated by the clamping pads to stop their rotation, and then cooling during normal driving makes them more prone to warping, causing vibration and possibly making them crack over time. When they’re at rest for long periods they can also be prone to rust. Power Slot rotors are machined with signature Vac-U-Slots that are cut in such a way that pushes out gas, dust, heat, and water from the brake pad surface, ensuring a better bite and reducing the risk of brake fade. While most rust will be scrubbed off the rotor surface during normal use, Power Slot’s non-friction rotor surfaces feature a durable black e-coat designed to prevent corrosion and rust and maintain their good looks.
Price: Varies by application
Any job dealing with brakes usually requires two people, one to bleed the line and the other to pump the pedal to remove the air from the lines. The problem is, finding someone to help you is like trying to find someone to help you move, no one wants to do it. However, pumping is the most critical part since even one bubble left in the system from changing the lines or replacing the fluid, could equal catastrophic brake failure. Motive Products has developed a simple to use power bleeder that eliminates the need for a second person and ensures the removal of air bubbles is done correctly and completely. Pumping the tank creates pressure which helps force the all the old fluid and air out once the caliper bleeder is cracked.
Most factory brake systems use rubber lines to transfer fluid to the brake caliper. Normally the brake fluid rests in the lines in a vacuum system, but under hard braking situations the master cylinder pushes the fluid through the lines like a wave. To transfer the motion the rubber lines must first expand slightly, causing a delay from the time you hit the brake pedal to when the caliper clamps the rotor. For faster braking on the Audi A5, Neuspeed has specifically engineered a set of performance brake lines that replace both front and rear factory rubber lines with an inner Teflon tube coated with a stainless steel braided weave. Not only is the delay eliminated for enhanced safety and braking, but the lines are more durable and give the brake pedal firmer feel.
Rotora’s Super Challenge brake system is designed to provide not only the benefits of a true track-specific setup, but also the durability and easy maintenance of the company’s line of Street Challenge systems. These competition-ready kits are equipped with all-new lightweight aluminum calipers in both four- and six-piston versions. They are engineered to offer weight reduction up to 15 percent without losing any performance. The rotors are full-floating two-piece discs with proprietary Anti-Rattle Extended Float Drive hardware. They are slotted, heat-treated, and ventilated with directional staggered-design vanes to increase thermal capacity and heat dissipation. A set of H9 carbon-metal pads come pre-loaded, and braided stainless lines are included to deliver quick pedal response and consistent brake pressure. Applications are available for Audi, BMW, and Porsche vehicles.
Price: Varies by application
While StopTech is known for its big brake kits, over the years the company has expanded its product line to include replacement and performance upgrade parts to enhance OEM braking systems. Brake pads are the determining factor in comfort, noise, accumulated brake dust, and overall stopping response. A harder pad material designed for use at the track will not be as responsive on the street since it must be heated in order to bite effectively. Conversely, a softer pad designed for street use will melt away under hard track use and the associated high temperatures. StopTech Street Performance brake pads use a para-aramid composite material that gives a good balance for both street and track use, combining comfort and performance for a variety of driving conditions.
Price: Varies by application
A perfect way to balance out a front big brake kit is to do a rear brake upgrade; after all, you don’t want your rear stoppers to have brake envy. But this also usually dictates a loss of the parking brake’s functionality. Wilwood has figured out a way to let you have your cake and eat it too with a rear big brake kit with integrated parking brake functionality. The kit features oversized 11.75-inch two-piece rotors, high performance calipers, and high friction BP-10 pads not only can you balance out your aesthetics but also even out your braking power and performance. Calipers are available in either black or red finishes.
Price: $952.66 - $1,067.64