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Souped up engine! Need souped up brakes, too?

  • Posted: 08-06-2015 03:36 PM
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People will find all kinds of ways to justify car upgrades. Upgrading the brakes seems to most readily be justified when horsepower rises higher and higher. Seemingly, increasing the braking performance of a vehicle makes the most sense when a vehicle is capable of attaining extremely high speeds.

The fact is, any vehicle that can exceed 50 miles per hour in speed and is need of making the occasional turn could make use of excellent braking capability.

No, a souped up engine does not imply the need for souped up brakes. The need for souped up brakes should be abundantly obvious independent from the amount of power a vehicle has. It is definitely true that higher speeds do require generally better braking systems, but this has more to do with the weight of one's right foot than it does the amount of power an engine produces.

A simple pad upgrade and maintaining the freshness of the brake fluid, along with reliable and resilient brake lines, is usually all that is needed to improve the confidence and reliability of a vehicle's braking system. Rotors, while generally worthwhile and an aesthetic benefit, are not really at the heart of better braking capability.

Another point that is often overlooked is rooted in the reason behind doing braking upgrades in the first place. The main reason really boils down to improving the need to perform repeated braking action. Repeated meaning, over and over again. An emergency stop from 75 mph on the freeway is not a braking event beyond most stock braking systems' capability. But to perform this stop 3, 5, or 7 times successively is something that demands a greatly improved braking system. Pads to cope with heat. Rotors to dissipate heat. Lines to resist expansion. Fluid that resists boiling. Calipers that resist flex.

The final huge point to make on the topic of braking is the same as one that comes up a lot in both acceleration and turning. That is the word "traction." Yes, you can have the best brakes in the world, but without grip, a vehicle won't slow efficiently. Great tires are a requirement for great stopping. Too little tire and you'll lock up all over the place. Too much, and you will over-tax the brakes. So the limit of braking is ultimately the tires...until it becomes the brakes themselves.

Does that mean that a car that is faster needs better brakes? Yes, but only really if you drive the car at fast speeds and need to brake from those speeds repeatedly. Mostly, this need is found on a race circuit. Rarely will heat built up to this degree on public roads. And if it does, make sure you've got the right brake upgrade for the task, and keep yourself on good tires in good condition. Your driving habits and goals for improving will answer the question better than this post will, however know that Heeltoe can help you zero in on those needs.



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