Brakedown: 5 Reasons You Should Upgrade Your Brakes and Rotors

Brake caliper and rotor

One of the most neglected components in the average vehicle is the poor braking system. Everyone talks about horsepower, torque, sound systems, and fancy wheels. But the brakes in your car or truck are vital in keeping you and the rest of the world safe. The OEM brakes and rotors that are in your car are adequate enough to stop your vehicle safely. But sometimes adequacy still isn’t enough.

Have you had to panic stop before, and were only inches from avoiding contact? Upgraded brakes would have saved you then. If you have ever driven through the mountains, or drove with a literal ton of cargo, you have felt your brakes get spongy and weak. OEM brakes can fade easily under heavy use. Perhaps you find yourself eating through brake parts frequently, and would like to reduce the trips to the shop or parts store. You may have a show car that is 99% prepped for the weekend cruise, but the standard brakes have some ugly rust on them. If you have upgraded your vehicle in some way, you should upgrade how well your vehicle stops as well. There are so many details and applications that render different results when it comes to upgrading your vehicle’s brake, so allow me to provide you 5 reasons why you really should upgrade your brakes and rotors in your vehicle.

1. Brakes – Safety First, Second, and Third

Safety is the name of the game in brakes

The main goal of your vehicle’s braking system is to safely and controllably bring your car to either a lesser speed or a complete stop. In most vehicles, the manufacturer will equip it with a good medium tier of components. These will slow your car down at a good enough rate to make you and your passengers feel safe. Upgrading your brakes takes your braking performance to the next level. When a few inches separate you from safety and an incident, the room for error is critically low.

Chances are, your vehicle is equipped with organic material brake pads. Organic pads are made of various materials including glass, fiber, rubber, and carbon. They are efficient enough to slow your car safely, and inexpensive to produce. Although they are good enough for everyday use, there are options out there to increase your braking performance. Organic pads carry a low temperature threshold, meaning they are optimal in a small range of temperatures. When the braking temperatures exceed that threshold, your brakes will begin to fade. Brake fade means your stopping distance increases. Upgrading your pads to better materials will help reduce brake fade, and will have an overall better “bite” when the brakes are applies. On top of the high risk of brake fade, the soft materials wear out faster than the semi-metallic counterparts. Trying to stop in time with worn, faded brake pads is a scary thought. Take the worry out with upgraded brakes.

Opting for either semi-metallic or ceramic pads are your best course here. Both materials offer great braking performance with very little to no brake fade. Semi-metallic pads do a great job of braking and dissipating heat, but can give off brake noise and dust. Ceramic pads offer great braking performance with less noise and dust, but come at a higher cost. Whichever material you choose, it will be an upgrade from the OEM.

2. Brake Pads – Extending Their Life

No one enjoys dropping their vehicle off at a shop to get work done. You may need to wait in a desolate waiting room listening to music that was “cool” 6 years ago, read magazines published last year, drink stale coffee, and count the seconds until you give the shop your hundreds of hard earned dollars to replace your brake components. Now the auto shop may not go away for a long time, you sure can extend the interval between visits. Upgrading your brakes with more premium materials will extend your brake life.

TRX Brake Pad DiagramChances are, your stock vehicle is equipped with organic brake pads or even semi-metallic brake pads. Organic pads are composed over various materials such as glass, fiber, rubber, and carbon. Organic material pads are the least expensive to equip your vehicle with. They produce almost no noise when applied. When compared to semi-metallic pads, they produce minimal dust. Sounds great right? But there is a cost. Organic pads will wear out the quickest compared to the other materials offered. On top of that, their material make up can lead to early brake fade when they overheat. And overheating can occur easily due to the low thermal threshold they carry.

Upgrading to semi-metallic improves upon the faults of organic pads. Semi-metallic pads are made of about 50% metal by weight. The overall braking performance boosts significantly. The thermal threshold opens up wider than organic material. Your chance of overheating and brake fade does not diminish completely but reduces it greatly. Sounds too good to be true, right? Correct. Although the braking performance is increased, it emits brake noise audible to the human ear. The metallic composition gives off that unappealing brake dust you see on vehicles on the road. Finally, even though the life of the pads are increased, the high abrasion of the metallic pads can wear the rotors quicker than the organic material.

The ultimate upgrade to your brake pads are ceramic pads. Ceramic pads are made of a dense metallic material that carries many qualities of semi-metallic with less of its burdens. The ceramic pads are comparable to semi-metallic when it comes to stopping power. What makes them stand out is the lack of sound and dust. The sound ceramic pads emit are at a pitch that the human ear cannot hear. Although the ceramic pads produce brake dust, the material is lighter and finer than the semi-metallic counterpart which does not stick to wheels. And finally, the ceramic pads have a longer lifespan than organic or semi-metallic pads, making these the supreme choice for brake life duration.

3. Brake Rotors – Bringing That Load to a Halt

Curt Trailer HitchWhether you are towing your water toys to the lake house, or hauling your racecar to the next track, towing puts wear and tear into every aspect of your vehicle. People usually upgrade their hitches to accommodate their trailers. They will tune their engines to help pull that load efficiently. But when it’s time to slow down and stop that trailer of goodies, you need the best components out there to not only save your rear, but the water toys and race cars on your trailer.

Upgrading the brake rotors and pads on your towing rig is a necessity. When you add weight to the total haul, you add more work and stress on those pads and rotors. When things get heavy, things get hot. And when things get hot, they tend to fade and fail. The entry level stuff out there just won’t cut it. Cheap materials can’t keep up with the heavy hauls we tow in our everyday travels.

The optimal choice for getting this job done are semi-metallic brake pads. The unique composition is tough and durable. With these equipped, brake fade reduces to nearly non existent levels, keeping your tow vehicle under control regardless of conditions. The setback of brake noise with semi-metallic pads is so negligible, you may not even notice it while hauling your track toy to the infield.

All of that heat from the heavy braking does a number on your brake rotors as well. Whether you opt for better material like a heavy duty carbon infused rotor, or upgrade to slotted rotors to help dissipate heat and debris, your OEM rotor could use an upgrade. Slotted rotors wipe dust and debris from the braking surface. This ensures a clean contact of the pad to the rotor every time. When you are towing thousands of pounds, a clean brake surface is critical.

4. Brake Your Way to the Finish Line

If you are of the apex predator type, braking is just as vital as accelerating. If you can’t stop efficiently, you’ll end up eating the dust of your competitors; or eating up a cone or barrier. You brake a lot differently on the track compared to driving on the road. When on the road, you may lightly brake to slow down in traffic. And unless you are running late to work, you aren’t mashing your brakes at every stop sign. On the track, you want to slow you racecar down to the desired speed as quick as you can. This generates a ton of heat and abuse compared to your everyday driver. Brake noise and dust are the least of your worries when braking into corners as well. Your standard OEM pads are not made for that type of work. If you want to end up on the podium, and not on the back of a tow truck, you need to upgrade your brakes if racing.

The abuse and heat the brakes see in race form is a lot similar to what you will see in towing situations. You need the best braking performance while preventing them from fading or glazing over. Semi-metallic pads are your perfect companion for your race car. They brake the hardest, have a higher temperature threshold, and resist brake fade miraculously. If your vehicle is strictly a track machine, they offer carbon ceramic pads that are made for the track only. These offer the highest braking performance, but are only operable when warmed up. These pads are not recommended for daily driving use.

With heavy duty braking comes heavy duty heat and wear. Your brake rotors need to be upgraded along with your pads to help slow that track machine down. Your standard rotor could use some dressing up for the application. Adding machine slots or cross drilled holes will help push some of that heat away from your brakes. The slotted rotors also help wipe away dust and debris on your surface leading to a clean braking surface. If you are looking for the ultimate track rotor, opt for steel rotors. Steel rotors weigh less than your iron rotor, leading to less unsprung weight. The setback on steel rotors is the risk of heating and warping. A warped rotor leads to a pulsating feel in either your brake pedal or steering wheel.

EBC pads and rotors

5. Look Good, Feel Good, Brake Good

Just like your wheels, brakes can give off a great appearance when visible. Have you ever looked at the brakes of an exotic sports car or high performance muscle car? The brake calipers are colored and shiny, the rotors are drilled and slotted. They look like a mean machine. Pair your brake system with a nice set of wheels, and your car will be car show ready in no time. Your stock rotors are typically made of iron. Iron tends to rust Racing brakes that look as good as they performwhen exposed to the elements of the outdoors. Rust never is a pretty sight. When you buy upgraded rotors, some come coated with a special coating to prevent rust from accumulating on the metal. This coating will keep your rotors looking sharp throughout its duration.

Whether you just want an upgrade for your work commuter, making your tow rig more safe, putting some bite into your street machine, or want your show car to look 100% flawless, upgrading your brakes are a necessity for your vehicle. Most performance upgrades don’t hold any appearance upgrade, and most appearance upgrades don’t yield any performance upgrades. With upgraded brakes and rotors, you get the performance and the looks to back it up.

Finding the right brake upgrade for your vehicle is easier than ever at AutoAnything. Simply select your year, make, and model to see the brake pads and rotors we offer for your car or truck. We even helped you by splitting our products into different applications. That way you don’t mistakenly buy a set of racing brake pads for your tow vehicle. That can end bad! And as with all of our products, you are covered by our 1-year low price guarantee.


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