The typical brakes your average car leaves the factory with are meant for vehicles with standards engines -- cars that perform mundane jobs such as commuting to and from work, driving the kids to school and shopping. If you are into drag racing or drifting, or you are a track day addict or a car enthusiast, these factory-fitted brakes are often simply not good enough.
A good hint that your car might need performance brakes would be if the engine has been modified to substantially boost power output.
Why OEM brakes are sometimes just not good enough
The most common problem is what car enthusiasts refer to as ‘brake fade’. Under prolonged heavy use standard brakes will start to loss their effectiveness the harder you stress them. That is because automotive breaks take the kinetic energy of the vehicle’s movement and convert that to thermal energy, i.e. heat, when the brake calipers press down on the brake discs.
Once things start to get sufficiently hot down there, the standard car brakes start to fade or lose their effectiveness. You might have noticed this if you’ve ever had to drive down a steep, winding mountain road where you had to brake around every corner. After some time you practically have to stomp on the brake pedal to get the vehicle to slow down or to stop.
How performance brakes can help
If you are into track racing or drifting, high performance brakes are for all practical purposes non-negotiable. The reason is that they are designed to disperse the heat build-up more effectively than standard brakes.
Different types of brakes are not all equally suited to performance motoring. The typical factory-fitted brake pads are made of various blends of petro chemical resins and a couple of other ingredients. If your car is used for sport or racing purposes, fitting performance brakes is one of the first things you should do.
A high performance brake pad will be one that offers good pedal feel on first application and delivers great friction levels. It should also be able to maintain these pedal feel and friction levels throughout the day, i.e. there must be no performance loss during repeated heavy braking.
Materials such as coke or copper are often blended into brake pads for high performance systems to enhance performance and durability.
Since the brake pads press down against the rotors, using the right kind of rotor is as important as brake pads. Similar to brake pads, rotors are very susceptible to heat damage. A warning sign is when the steering wheel shakes and the brake pedal shudders when you apply the brakes.
In years gone by rotor castings used for car brakes were atmosphere aged or annealed to enable the castings to settle after being manufactured. Because of cost constraints this is no longer viable for standard production vehicles.
If you upgrade the brake rotors should therefore preferably be made of high quality G3000 Grey iron and if at all possible a virgin alloy ingot instead of the standard reprocessed irons that can be found in 99% of aftermarket kits.
Stainless steel brake lines
Teflon brake lines with their steel cases flexes substantially less than ordinary rubber hoses, creating a firmer pedal feel. If these are, however, not protected from debris or replaced regularly they can fail. This is why you should always make sure only to buy from a reputable buyer. An excellent idea is to use Compare Parts, the first global search engine for performance and aftermarket parts.
While they might not be as sexy as a shiny set of new rims, brake callipers are as important as any other part of your car’s brake system, if not more.
A good performance parts specialist will offer brake calipers with different types of coatings in a variety of colours, e.g. clear, black and red.
The majority of standard brake fluids are hygroscopic, i.e. they easily absorb moisture that decreases their effectiveness. For performance motoring purposes you need a higher specification brake fluid, which is regularly changed and flushed to ensure your car’s brake system is in prime condition.
Where to find performance car parts
A quick Google search will no doubt produce a long list of performance car parts ‘specialists’. The problem is that you might find out too late that the expert knows less about performance parts than your teenage cousin.
Looking for any car part is very time consuming at best, and then trying to find the most competitive price makes the job even longer. Fortunately these days you can fast track this by using comparisons sites such as Compare Parts, they are the world’s first dedicated aftermarket and performance car parts search engine, this makes finding competitive prices much easier.