A lot of drivers have major dissatisfaction with the way their cars’ brakes work. What you have may be sufficient for regular safe driving but every once in a while you need brakes that can handle aggressive driving as well as a bit of heavy towing power as well. If your current setup falls short in that department, getting a performance brake kit is possibly the best option going forward.
If in addition to owning a car you are also an automobile enthusiast, you have probably already given some thought to the above. OEM brakes come with many limitations that make themselves felt more strongly as time passes. The first thing people generally do when that happens is change the brake pads to superior ones, after which they install better brake rotors. Much of the time, these two things fail to deliver the kind of stopping power some drivers want. Here, a big brake kit can make a huge difference.
What are Big Brake Kits?
“Big brake kits” are called that because of the larger diameter of their rotors. These are normally slotted or drilled, and the calipers are bigger as well, containing a higher number of pistons. One lateral advantage of these brakes is that they fill up the space inside bigger wheels. Which also means you need to check the size before buying a brake kit, and make sure it will fit.
Installing One in your Car
Adding a new brake kit is no small job, and would require a lot more involvement than changing out rotors or pads. You would need to unfasten the brackets in which the calipers are mounted, take these out, and plug any brake fluid lines that have been exposed. The last bit is meant to ensure air entry is kept to a minimum. After the new brake kit has been installed, the brake system needs to be bled completely.
If your car is a newer model, which has rear emergency brakes of the electrically activated type, adding a big brake kit to it might disable the electric parking brake. Most people are OK with that, but before proceeding, make sure the boost in stopping power outweighs any new limitations.
Choosing between Floating and Fixed Calipers
Disc brake calipers contain pistons propelled by hydraulic pressure, which is transmitted by the brake fluid. The calipers squeeze the brake pads up against the rotor, causing the friction necessary to slow the wheel or bring it to a stop. The number of pistons inside a caliper can vary, and may be of either “fixed” or “floating” design.
Most new vehicles come fitted with floating calipers, which have the benefit of moving out of the way when a piston puts pressure on both brake pads. When this piston is applied, it causes the inboard pad to contact the rotor; meanwhile, the caliper slides over just enough to make the outer pad touch the rotor as well. Floating calipers are also smaller and lighter when compared to the fixed type.
A fixed caliper, on the other hand, stays in place over the rotor’s center, and requires a piston on each side to exert pressure on the pads. These calipers are stronger and larger, and consequently deliver better stopping power. Big brake kits always come with an upgrade option to fixed calipers.
Choosing between 1 Piece and 2 Piece Rotors
For any manufacturer, the design of a new vehicle requires compromises in a few aspects. The goal they work towards is providing technical features capable of “getting the job done”, and normally not one speck more. In the case of brake rotors, most cars come fitted with single-piece cast-iron varieties.
A few entry-level kits go the same way, while others bring two-piece constructions with lighter aluminum centers. This hub is fastened to an enclosing iron ring, which is where the pad contacts. Two-piece rotors are significantly lighter, and have lower rotational mass. The practical benefits of those include less unsprung weight, less chance of warpage, better central heat dissipation, and the option to reuse the center part when you replace the rotor. On top of that, you can have the aluminum hat in a different color from remainder of the rotor.
Choosing among Smooth, Drilled and Slotted Rotor Faces
The OEM rotors that you get after first buying a car would generally carry smooth faces. These lack the heightened performance traits of more specialized rotor designs, such as the drilled and the slotted ones.
Drilled disc brake rotors have holes that go through the disc, which are intended to facilitate faster and more thorough heat and debris dissipation. It does not hurt either that they definitely look cool. Slotted rotors, on the other hand, carry shallow slots cut etched into each side, to allow heat, water, friction gases, and brake dust to slide out.