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Tech Talk with Master Power Brakes

Adding Horsepower?  Don’t Neglect Your Brake System

Posted by toby on Jul 30, 2015 2:51:35 PM

Make no mistake about it, most classic car enthusiasts like to go fast.  We spend countless hours in the garage figuring out ways to go faster.  Adding more horsepower guarantees you’ll impress your buddies and have a blast every time you pull away from a red light, but that extra giddy-up can cause some problems too.  Every time you play a little at a red light, the next stop light shows up faster than it used to.  You could try cruising in a different part of town, but where’s the fun in that?  The bottom line is simple—that extra horsepower may require a brake upgrade to maintain safety.

If you are currently out there with drum brakes, it may be time to look at disc brakes. Drums are prone to brake fade—they simply don’t have the capacity to handle repetitive braking. The first time you experience fade might be fine but the more fun you have, the less the brakes are going to be there for you when you really need them. There simply isn’t a way to remove the built up heat from hard braking from the drums in an efficient way. Going to a disc brake system will give a much more efficient brake rotor that is veined to remove heat and draw air through the rotor.  If you have limited budget and don’t have the coin to do a four wheel conversion, remember, the front brakes carry most of the load.  In some cases, a front disc brake conversion is all you need to regain your lost safety margin.

If your horsepower gains are on a car with factory disc brakes, there is still room for improvement.  Just because you have disc brakes doesn’t mean you can’t improve performance. There are better rotors and of course, much better brakes pad compounds that can greatly improve your stopping ability. Even the brake hoses can make a difference. A firmer braided hose is subject to less expansion and will greatly improve pedal feel.  Better brake hoses translate to a more consistent pedal too.

In addition, let’s throw another wrinkle into the mix and say you have gone and done all of your go-fast goodies and while doing them, you decided that a nice new shiny set of wheels were in order. But instead of a consistent to factory size, you went bigger. That is definitely not a bad thing as the increase in wheel size and better tires will make the car ride and drive better, but you have effectively made the brakes worse. Remember, bigger wheels mean more leverage on the brakes at any given speed. Therefore, every time you press the brake pedal means you need a little more distance to bring your car down to a stop. It may be time to look at going to a bigger brake system with larger rotors and a more robust multi-piston caliper.

Remember, the laws of motion say what speeds up must slow down.  When you add bigger horsepower to the mix, chances are good your old brakes will no longer be up to the task of stopping your car.  Make sure your tinkering means the thrill comes from going fast and not wondering if you’ll be able to slow down.  If you have lost significant braking performance as a result of an engine upgrade, give us a call or drop us a note and we’ll make some brake system upgrade suggestions that fit your needs and budget.

The bottom line is that everything we do to our pride and joy hot rod generally means there is something else that then needs attention. It is a never ending cycle!!

Topics: brakes, Brakes for Classic Cars & Hot Rods, classic cars, drum brakes, rotors, Vintage Cars, Disc Brakes

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