Brake Systems

Dec 2, 2009

Braking systems are an important factor to consider when undertaking modifications and upgrades to your customer’s vehicles. OE brake systems were designed for the vehicle as it rolled off the line, for standard duty street use. Modifying a vehicle can greatly alter the rolling mass, and upgrading the brakes from stock will improve your braking performance. Vehicles used for applications other than standard daily driving (race, off-road, towing) can also greatly benefit from a brake upgrade. Many aftermarket companies offer different types of products, from complete system replacements to relatively simple pad upgrades.

The Factors

There are many factors that need to be taken into account when considering brake products. Carl Bush of Wilwood Engineering offers: “The customer must accurately assess the intended use of the vehicle. Without the first thought yet given to style or aesthetics, the function and durability factors must be evaluated and properly matched to the vehicle. Brakes are unique in a sense that they offer style, performance, and safety to a vehicle. Few other elements of a vehicle share those qualities. Proper performance and the resulting safety must be the first considerations. Style can then become a matter of choice. The customer must also understand that other changes to the vehicle may be necessary to accommodate a brake installation.”

Another important consideration to take into account is wheel size. Help your customer decide whether to pursue wheels that fit the brakes, or brakes that fit the wheels. The two do not always coincide. Always check the brake manufacturers’ specifications for wheel clearance prior to deciding on any major brake system upgrade. You don’t want to be in a situation of field engineering to make your customer’s wheels fit because the brakes are already installed, the tires have been mounted, and the wheels can’t be returned. Many manufacturers do not advocate the use of wheel spacers, nor do they advocate modifying the brake system in any way to accommodate fitment. Once wheels or brakes have been modified in the field, it is possible and probable that safety issues will arise. Such modifications will also most likely void any warranties on the products.

The Replacements

When replacing or upgrading pads, desired performance and intended use need to be taken into consideration. A race pad is truly that. They are designed for the rigors of the track, and perform best when hot. Educate your customer that putting a race pad on a street car is not a performance upgrade. Nobody wants to slide through the first three stoplights before their pads get hot enough to bite. Conversely, street pads are not necessarily the best choice for a full-race application. Street pads are not designed to handle the additional heat generated during racing, and may not perform as desired. There are a myriad of different pad compounds, each for a specific use and application. Carl Harbert, Director of Global Marketing, Wellman Products Group weighs in with “Hawk Performance® offers a variety of formulations that are developed to work in their respective applications. Our brake products deliver a significant improvement over traditional replacement pads in terms of stopping power, fade resistance, and wear life. We offer an extensive line of brake pad products for current production, vintage and specialty caliper applications.”

The Information

The more information you can provide your customers, the easier it will be for them to make the correct, informed decision. Ray Gorman of Stainless Steel Brakes let us in on some of their most-asked questions:

Different types of rotors: one piece or two?

One Piece: This type of rotor is used for most applications. We add slotting to improve rotor life. The slots sweep the pads clean, allowing the rotor to run cooler.

Two Piece: This type of rotor is used for special applications. The addition of an aluminum center section (hat), allows us to make limited or custom applications. This same rotor “hat” is used in racing to reduce sprung weight.

Rear disc brakes: Why do you need them?

Front brakes can only do so much. Most rear drums do very little for stopping power, which is usually why they last 2 – 3 times longer than the front pads. By adding rear disc brakes, you can add as much as 30% more brake force to your braking system.

Boosters – Do I need one for disc brakes?

Many of the early muscle cars did not have power brakes. Power brakes were an option on 1967 and later models. Because of the increased valve overlap used in higher horsepower engines developed in many cars, there was not enough vacuum to run the boosters. Many of the restored muscle cars have the same problem. Manual disc brakes work fine. Boosters are designed to use less effort to stop. We offer many kits with manual or power disc brakes. 18″ of vacuum is required to allow a booster to operate correctly.

What amount of pressures are needed to stop my car?

Optimal brake pressure varies by vehicle and the type of brakes being used. Disc brakes generally require 1,200 – 1,400 PSI for proper operation, while drum brakes require only 600 – 800 PSI. Other factors which affect pressure include weight distribution, tire/wheel size, and suspension type. For example, a car that is very nose heavy and has narrow rear tires with rear disc brakes may only be able to tolerate 800 PSI before brake lockup occurs. A car that is well balanced and has a wide rear tire with rear disc brakes may tolerate as much as 1,200 PSI before lockup. For this reason, Stainless Steel Brakes recommends an Adjustable Proportioning Valve, which allows fine adjustment to optimize the brakes on specific vehicles. The idea is to prevent rear wheel lockup during severe braking.

Carl Bush of Wilwood Engineering added: “For competition vehicles, there may be sanctioning body rules that must be accounted for. Unfortunately,common calls arefromcustomers that did not benefit from an informed decision making process. The customer is experiencing difficulty from an improperly applied product, a product that is one that is not actually correct for theapplication, or a part thatbeing used with other mismatched components.These problems are often traced to customers who found “a great deal” on some parts at a swap meet or online auction and just assume they are a one size fits all part. Master cylinder size problems, caliper piston size problems,brake pad compound problems, and rotors that are too light for the given applicationare common topics intheproblem oriented tech calls.”

The Options

Once you have an informed customer, able to choose the correct brake products for their vehicle, there are many options to choose from. Some of the top products are…

Stainless Steel BrakesCorporation

  • Accessories – Combo billet master cylinder with built-in adjustable proportioning valve and brake light switch. Correct metering for disc brake systems, provides the highest quality and can easily be serviced with OE replacement piston and seal kits.
  • Light Truck / SUV Applications – New quick change caliper kits for ¾ ton and 1 ton trucks. Direct bolt-on performance aluminum calipers provide better braking on specialty vehicles and can handle the increased rolling mass of today’s larger aftermarket tires and wheels.
  • Big Bite Rotors – Cross drilled and slotted OE replacement rotors for the widest range of applications. Computer designed and exceed OE specifications.
  • Race Series – 4-piston calipers -SSBC’s comp series of aluminum calipers allows racers to directly replace other aftermarket calipers with bolt-on replacement calipers that last longer and provide more braking power.

Wilwood Engineering

Light Truck / SUV Applications- TC6R and W6AR Big Brake Kits. These kits include 14″ or 16″ rotors and new radial mount design calipers that attach to the OE caliper mounting bosses. In addition to offering a stylish upgrade to compliment custom wheel and tire upgrades, they restore the braking power that is lost when installing larger diameter and/or heavier wheels and tires. TC6R kits with 16″ rotors are built for trucks and SUV’s with 20″ and larger wheels. W6AR kits with 14″ rotors can be used with wheels 18″ and larger.

Complimenting rear kits that work with the OE parking brake assemblies are also available to maintain the overall aesthetics and functional brake balance on the vehicle. All of the kits in this category are designed to maintain full ABS function and are compatible with the output of the OE master cylinder.

Hot Rod and StreetPerformance

ProSpindle with a range of brake kits from 11″ to 14″. TheProSpindle was developed as a high strength replacement for the cast steel Pinto/Mustang II spindle. ProSpindles arebuilt from one-piece steel forgings that have tested up to three times stronger than the OE style spindles. The brake mounting points were substantially fortified to properly handle the load of big brakes and big wheels on heavy vehicles. The spindles were also designed with a 2″ inch drop and a 1/2″ taller body. The 2″ drop gives a moredesirable lowered ride height for style, but also effectively lowers the center of gravity on the car. The taller spindle body also serves to raise the front roll center height.

Wellman Products/HawkPerformance

Light Truck / SUV Applications: Hawk Performance has applied their severe-duty brake pad friction technology to the braking demands of trucks and SUVs. Heavier vehicles with larger brake systems are more likely to experience higher temperatures, requiring a brake pad that has excellent heat dissipation characteristics.

The new LTS (Light Truck & SUV) Brake Pad Compound utilizes Hawk Performance’s established and proven Ferro-Carbon formulation to provide superior stopping power for full-sized light trucks, SUVs, and vans without noise and dust.

LTS features improved braking over OE, superior fade resistance, low dust, excellent pad and rotor life, and are virtually noise-free.

The Brakes

Brake upgrades are available to fill just about any need. Educate yourself, and your customers for a trouble-free experience in the sale and/or installation of brake upgrades. With the correct products matched to the correct application, you will be creating happy repeat customers.