Brakes: The Final Frontier

Upgrading your Modern Mopar’s brakes for Performance & Style

baerkitpicYou don’t really think about them, do you? Your brakes I mean. Well, not until you have to make that panic stop because the carbon based life form in front of you that wasn’t paying attention and causes your legs to stretch out and push that brake pedal with every ounce of strength to avoid turning your precious Mopar into a crushed sardine can. While brake technology has made leaps and bounds of advancement over the years, there’s always room on the table for improvement. Also, while you’re upgrading your ride’s braking capabilities, there’s no harm in making them look better at the same time, right? So let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to upgrade your brakes.

Pads. Obviously the least expensive upgrade and the most wearable item, your brake pads can be upgraded depending on what you use your vehicle for. Most vehicles come from the factory with a semi-metallic compound due to it being inexpensive and suitable for all cars that see daily driving use. However, they do tend to be a bit dusty and can get noisy over time. The SRT owners with awesome Brembo Brakes know what I’m talking about with the dust! A quality upgrade, such as a ceramic compound pad, will often be a lot quieter and produce less dust. Brake dust, as you know, can be a killer if you show your ride and have a set of custom rims. The heat generated from braking can actually cause the dust to “bake” into the finish of the wheel. For the show guys, that’s unacceptable. So consider going to ceramic when it comes time to change pads. For those that race their cars, you’ll want to upgrade to a carbon-metallic compound. They’ll work better with heat and take a lot more punishment, but the drawback is that they’re extremely dusty and usually on the more expensive side. Also, because of their nature, a carbon-metallic pad will wear down faster and have to be replaced more frequently. Companies like Hawk and EBC make a variety of brake pads to suit your needs and wants. But remember, you get what you pay for. If you pull the low-buck commercial grade pads off the shelf at your local parts store, don’t be surprised if you have squeaky, dusty pads that fade quickly after a few hard stops and have to be replaced more often. Brakes are a safety item, looking for the cheap way out isn’t always a wise decision.

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Rotors.
They’re just discs, right? Well, like in the movie Tron, they serve a purpose and have a personality all their own. Back in the day, disc brakes were an “option” and not available on all cars. Manual drum brakes were the norm and ran hot, were a pain to maintain and just archaic technology. Nowadays, with vented disc brakes coming standard on pretty much every car built, braking is a lot safer than is used to be. But, they are made of metal and under constant abuse. Heat is the natural enemy to a brake rotor. It’ll warp it and kill it. So the logical thing to do is find a way to dissipate that heat. Most enthusiasts have taken to swapping out their stock rotors for ones that are slotted, cross drilled or both. Companies like R1 Concepts have all but cornered the market on building brake rotors to help builders get the most out of their brakes. They can also custom make your rotors to fit the theme of your ride. Various logos can be engraved into the rotor for a custom touch. Or, if that’s not the route you want, you can stick to the traditional slot or cross-drilled look. The argument is the slots and/or holes in the rotors will help the heat escape under heavy braking, thus reducing brake fade and also help extend the life of both the pads and the rotors. Plus, who doesn’t love it when you look through an awesome custom wheel and see a giant slotted and drilled rotor looking back at you. Well, except for that ‘Hello Kitty’ brake rotor we’ve all seen floating around the internet. We’ll pass on that!

Brake lines and fluid. Face it, rubber lines are inferior and will deteriorate and crack over time. The lines are responsible for getting the brake fluid to the calipers and therefore a critical component not to be overlooked. The smartest upgrade to complete, and not very expensive, would be to install stainless steel braided brake lines. A quality company like Stop Tech produces stainless lines that can be installed in little time and will help keep the fluid to the calipers constant; subsequently reducing brake fade and keeping a firm pedal. Usually stainless lines can be purchased for around $100 a set and normally don’t require any special tools to install them. At the same time, it’s wise to periodically flush and change your brake fluid. Dirt and contaminates can build up and cause blockage resulting in poor brake performance as well as potential damage to other braking components. Always make sure to use a quality brand brake fluid and check if your car requires DOT III or IV when changing or adding fluid.

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Big Brake Kits.
Go big or go home, right? Nothing screams performance and style like a massive brake kit with flying saucers for rotors and a multi-piston caliper. Now, there are several ways to accomplish this on your ride. The first would be to upgrade your model with the brakes from a higher model on the roster. For example, several LX/LC owners with the V6 or R/T package have swapped in the Brembo kits from the SRTs because they choose to stick with Mopar parts. And while that’s often a logical course of action, sometimes that can prove to be a little more costly than people would like. Another option, albeit a limited one, is to use the brakes from a totally different vehicle and retrofit them to your ride. Dodge Dakota owners have taken to swapping the brakes from the iconic Dodge Viper onto their trucks. Sadly, the Dakota’s factory brakes weren’t the best for such an awesome truck and needed the boost in capability. Fortunately, the early Dakotas and Durangos shared the same 6 lug bolt pattern as the Vipers and with some tweaking, were able to make them work. Now THAT’S an upgrade. You might not be able to afford a Viper, but you can put Viper brakes on your pickup truck. Like a boss! The easiest and most cost effective way to accomplish a major brake upgrade is with a big brake kit from a company like BAER Brakes. They’ve done all the R&D for you to give your Mopar unreal stopping power. Furthermore, they’ll usually be even better than what’s available from the factory. For example, the Brembo Brake kits are 4 piston calipers with a 13″ or maybe 14″ rotor. BAER’s kit for the LX/LC platform is a 14.25″ rotor and a whopping 6 piston caliper. That’s enough to stop on a dime and give you 9 cents change. These kits will drastically reduce your braking disances in a panic stop, potentially saving yours and other people’s lives. Also, because these companies spend millions of dollars developing these kits, they’re almost always “plug and play”, requiring no modifications to the vehicle other than installing the kit. Plus, you can usually customize the kits by ordering colored calipers to fit your theme. Remember, it’s all in the details!!

So there you have it. We at Modern Mopar Magazine want you all to be safe and have fun. So we hope you’ve taken away some valuable information from this when building the Mopar of your dreams; be it a show car, daily driver or track star. If you’ve done any brake upgrades, feel free to share them with us.

By: Shawn Kaufman

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