The Holy Trinity of Better Braking

As people upgrade the engine and handling performance of their vehicle, a natural progression (and a necessary one at that) is to upgrade to a big brake kit (BBK). However, merely adding a larger rotor and caliper may not achieve the desired results. Braking systems are made up of more than just the caliper and rotor. The system is actually comprised of three main items working together in balance.

Stopping power is not based solely on the caliper and rotor kit. The trinity is a combination of the caliper/rotor kit, pad type and tires. Their sum is greater than the parts, and as such, a compromise on any one of the pieces forces a compromise on the others.

1. The Big Brake Kit

BBKs come in all shapes and sizes. Most big brake kits feature more pistons per caliper than OEM versions. More pistons does not add more brake pressure, but instead spreads it out over a larger surface, helping to dissipate heat. Stiffness is one of the keys to a great caliper. AP Racing’s mono-block race calipers are some of the stiffest money can buy and Sparta Evolution’s two-piece calipers are some of the stiffest two-piece versions, machined from 2014-grade aluminum and bolted together with ARP fasteners.

2. Brake Pads

Brake pads form the second part of the trinity, however, they are directly tied to the grip level of the tires being used. As the grip level of the brake pad increases, the grip level of the tires must also increase (and vice versa). Keep in mind that a brake pad with a large amount of bite on a non-performance tire can be dangerous.

3. Tires

Tire choice is often overlooked when considering a brake package. In the end, the tires are what physically stop the vehicle. Tires need to be matched not only to the power of the car but also to the power of the brake pads. Low grade or low grip tires matched to a set of aggressive track pads will cause the ABS system to trip too early and can also create issues with traction control. The opposite is also true, a too sticky tire matched to a lower torque pad can make the vehicle’s stopping distance increase. 

Just like pads, tire type is also dependent on driving style and environmental conditions. If the type of driving is normal daily driving, then a general tire would work well with an intermediate set of pads. If the roads are prone to rain or sand then a lower torque pad could work well with a set of wet weather tires. Dry track tires then would usually need to have an aggressive pad type. Again, it all comes down to context of use.

For Example

I talked with Hawk Performance to help me pick what pads would match the Nitto N555 G2s tires that were equipped on my Nissan 370Z. For daily driving, their 5.0 pads were chosen because of their low temperature grip. For road courses, they recommended DTC30 pads because they have a wide optimal temperature range and high levels of sustained bite. However, after a few track sessions, I noticed an imbalance. The car’s ABS was being activated too quickly, which meant that the DTC30s were a bit too much for the N555 G2s with my new Sparta setup. The way to solve the imbalance was to go to a less aggressive pad or a stickier tire such as a set of Nitto NT05s. Since the DTC30s worked well with my driving style, I need to get the stickier tire.

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The Brake Report
The Brake Report

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