You know what’s fun? Taking your car or truck up to high speeds on an open run. Know what’s more fun? Being able to stop. Because if you can’t, then, well, life is gonna get real short, real fast. Thing is, upgrading your brakes is expensive, right? Sure. But isn’t your life worth it?
All hyperbole aside, brakes are a pretty critical part of your build, and there are a ton of different approaches to doing it right and wrong. Let’s walk through the process.
There are a lot of different approaches to upgrading your brakes, and the term “the right way” is definitely subjective. If you’ve got the cash, you can dive in head first and pick up that big-brake kit of your dreams. But most of us aren’t in that scenario, so we have to be a little more realistic.
The easiest mods you can make to your existing setup are better brake pads and rotors. On the surface, getting new pads doesn’t seem like an exciting purchase. But cheap brake pads suck, and having to replace them constantly isn’t a great use of your time. Instead, look at upgrading to something better. Spend a bit more money on your pads and you’ll get longevity and better braking, both of which are solid additions to your system.
Then it’s the rotors. There are plenty of companies out there that make aftermarket rotors that require bigger wheels, but stock replacement rotors with upgrades can be found, too. Slotted and cross-drilled models that help vent the gasses built up when braking are out there, and they’re not too expensive. It’s an easy way to get better (and cooler looking) brakes without braking the bank.
(Sorry. There had to be at least one of those puns in this article. Legal requirements.)
Upgrade your rear.
A lot of cars and trucks come with drum brakes standard in the rear. Lots of arguments can be made for the use of drums out back, but nowadays, many manufacturers have upgraded their new cars and trucks with rear disc brakes. If they’re upgrading, then you might want to consider the same.
A disc brake conversion kit is your option, and there are kits out there for everything from Civics to Silverados, so there’s probably one for your vehicle. You may also have to upgrade your master cylinder and/or booster at the same time, so consider that as well. Speaking of …
Look at a new brake booster or master cylinder
While new rotors and calipers get all the attention, you should think about your brake booster and master cylinder, too. Heck, depending on the year of your vehicle, you might not even have a booster.
What’s the point? Well the brake booster converts vacuum power from the engine into braking power in your system, and leaks or a poorly functioning booster can cause problems. Same applies for the master cylinder. And if you’re upgrading to discs out back, going with a new setup up front should be mandatory. The improvements are pretty impressive.
And if you want something really interesting? Consider a hydro-boost. These are hydraulic brake boosters that use the hydraulic pressure from your power steering system to supplement your braking power, instead of the vacuum stock boosters offer.
Then there’s the ultimate setup: A big brake kit. These are upgraded rotors and calipers that upsize what your ride came out of the factory with, and provide a much better braking experience. Usually they have more pistons per caliper than stock, and the rotors tend to be slotted and/or drilled to aid in cooling. Ultimately though, the added diameter and everything else make sure that you stop hard and stop well.
The downside? Lots of big brake kits require that you go with larger diameter wheels. Although that’s not a problem for most folks, there are those that want to run the stockers. And those people won’t be able to upgrade, at least not to that kind of system.
It’s all a big puzzle.
You’ve got a lot of decision to make with the process, but fortunately, now you know the ins and outs. It’s not that hard, really. All you have to do is look at your budget and realistically assess how much you want to dive in. Then figure out if your vehicle is going to be setup for what you want. Is it complicated? A little, sure. But if you ever need help, just give us a call and we’ll lend an ear.