Why uprated brakes are one of the best ways to make your car faster
When we think of car modding, the images that spring to mind are of twin turbocharged Supras and MX-5s tuned to within an inch of their four-cylinder lives. Essentially, more power is seen as the golden ticket to the top tier of car modification. But when it comes down to it, being able to slow down is actually much more important, despite it not being the sexiest of transformations for your motor.
The one job of the brakes on a car is to convert kinetic energy into heat energy. If you’re planning on driving your car in a way that is outwith its usual comfort zone (an extended, hard drive on a winding country road or even a bit of a track workout), the thing that will help get you as quickly from point-to-point as possible – and in as safe a manner as possible – is an uprated set of brakes.
So where to start?
Let’s start with everything being larger. Larger callipers, larger pads, larger pistons, larger discs and larger ducting will all contribute towards greater braking performance. The main thing that will ruin your driving experience when pushing your car or when you’ve added power is brake fade, a scourge that will force you to take your foot off the loud pedal and ease your way home.
Brake fade is the reduction (or in the worst cases, complete loss) of braking force, most commonly caused by overheating. Heat can cause the friction between the pads and the rotors to quickly decrease, leading to some twinging buttocks in the cabin.
A build-up of heat can end in the breakdown of the pads, leading to the production of an unwanted gas that creates an opposing force between the pads and the discs, resulting in a braking force reduction
Size is everything
Increasing the size of all of the aspects of the braking system will do wonders for heat management, making sure that most of the heat energy can be dissipated to the surroundings through a nice big surface area. This will allow the brakes to stay cool and within their operating temperature range, doing their job as efficiently as possible.
Larger pistons in the callipers also mean a larger and better-distributed braking force across the pad, making for a strong brake feel when you decide to slam on the anchors.
Don't forget about airflow
Ventilation is another aspect of braking that can add performance in bucket loads, again centring around reducing the risk of overheating and fade. Whether it be through specific brake ducting to allow incoming air to transfer heat energy from the brakes to the surroundings or even through actual ventilated brake discs that allow air to course through them, airflow can be the key to efficient braking.
The materials used can also have a big impact, with the main factor again being the talents of a material’s heat management. Cast iron brakes sit at the bottom of the engineering heap, followed by steel which can be seriously capable if engineered properly. Nowadays, carbon ceramic brakes are the go-to performance car disc material, and some hypercars are even experimenting with carbon-on-carbon like the Brabham BT62.
But what if I need attention and want my friends to notice my latest mod?
You can make a brake upgrade that will be noticed by your petrolhead peers, if being noticed is your kind of thing. Get yourself a set of Brembos that scream ‘I know what I’m doing with my vehicle’, with the iconic font and striking colours poking through the wheel spokes, making sure people realise that you’re anything but basic.
Having a decent set of brakes can allow you to commit to driving at speed like never before, with a confidence-inspiring brake feel and performance allowing for swift progress that additional power simply can’t match. Much like a set of stickier tyres, brakes are pivotal to creating a capable performance machine, with an upgrade helping everything from a Clio 182 to a Ferrari 812.