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Brakes

Brakes are, in my oh-so-humble opinion, more important than making a car go fast, because being fast doesn't mean squat if you can't stop the car. With that in mind, I've come up with a list of potential brake upgrades in increasing levels of "oh-my-god-that's-fuckin-expenive".

Essential Upgrades

No matter what else you do in terms of brake upgrades, you should AT least replace the brake lines with steel braided parts, and drain the OEM brake fluid and use high-temperature fluid, such as Motul DOT 5.1 High Performance brake fluid. You can get steel braided brake lines from AmericanMuscle:

J&M Front Steel-braided Lines(05-14) ($125)

J&M Rear Steel-braided Lines(05-14) ($100)

Stage 1 - Performance Brake Pads

Replace you OEM brake pads with high-performanc ebrake pads. Semi-metallic are the best at stopping power, but they're noisier. Ceramic are almost as good at stopping power, but are quieter. You can get performance pads for $130 for all four wheels, and you can replace them yourself.

Stage 2 - Rotors

Replace your OEM rotors (yes, front AND rear) with slotted/dimpled rotors. The slots will help wick brake dust away fom the pads, and the dimples will dissipate more heat. You've probably heard of cross-drilled rotors, but I would stay away from those on a street car. While they do dissipate heat, and are lighter than non-drilled rotors, they tend to develop cracks around the holes and could cause a catastrophic brake failure.

Stage 2.5 Improvements (V6 Owners)

Consider upgrading to GT rotors on the front (the rear are already the same size as the GTs). Bigger rotors mean better stopping power (and cooloer running brakes). Combined with slots/dimples, your braking power is even better. The side benefit is that you can retain your OEM caliper, but you will need to get a pair of GT caliper brackets (probably from Ford or from a local salvage yard).

If you have 17-inch wheels on your car, you will need to upgrade to at least 18-inch wheels in order to make this particular upgrade stage fit your car.

Stage 3 - Brembo, Baer, Wilwood

This is where things get REAL expensive. If you're buiing new, you can spend anywhere from $1300-4000. If you get lucky, you might find a set of take-off Brembos on ebay, but if you do, at least rebuild the calipers and replace the pads before installing them on your car.

Online Parts Resources

Brake Performance

CJ Pony Parts

TPS Motorsports

Don't forget Summit, Jegs, and other performance brake parts suppliers. Finally, Roush Performance often has Brembo take-offs posted on Ebay.

My Brakes

Click image for full size version.

When I was deciding what components to get, I decided that I did NOT want to have to buy new wheels, so I opted to simply upgrade my brakes to GT front rotors. The only other real change is that the rotors are dimpled and slotted. I ordered my rotors from Brake Performance, and the rotors came with free semi-metallic pads.

A few days after ordering the rotors, the company called and informed me that the free "standard" pads were out of stock, and I had a choice - either take a $20 credit, or pay an extra $40 for their "premium" pads. Since the only thing I knew about their pads are that the company makes their own, I opted for the $20 credit, and bought some Hawk HPS pads for $140 (front and rear).

Since I was upgrading to GT rotors, but keeping the OEM calipers, I had to get front caliper brackets. Tousley Ford wants $67 each for the brackets (!), and only $78 for calipers WITH the brackets. I wandered over to Roush Takeoffs to see what they had, and lo and behold, they have new takeoff GT calipers (with the brackets) for $75 for THE PAIR. Score!

Since the GT rotors are so much larger than the OEM V6 rotors, I also ordered some GT splash shields from Tousley Ford, thinking they'd be larger as well. They are not - either I ordered the wrong part, or they really are the same size as the V6.

Another weak point in OEM brakes is the brake lines. They tend to expand when brake pressure is applied, so I decided to upgrade to the Ford Racing Boss 302 brake lines (front and rear). You get a firmer pedal without completely losing the progressive feel, and I think that's better for a street car. I started my brake job, and noticed that the only difference between the stock brake lines and the Boss 302 lines is the color of the plastic clips. Seriously, the part number stamped on the brackets are identical. Take my advice and don't waste your money.

Finally, changing the brakelines and calipers are going to require a brake bleed, so I figured I'd go ahead and flush the brakes and replace the fluid with ATE Super Blue. To facilitate the task of flushing the brakes, I also ordered a Motiv Power Bleeder fit from Summit Racing.

Parts sources:

  • American Muscle - Ford Racing BOSS 302 Brake Line Upgrade (11-14 GT; 07-12 GT500)

  • Roush Takeoffs - Front GT claipers with brackets
  • Brake Performance - Front and rear rotors (slotted and dimpled)

  • Auto Anything - Hawk HPS front and rear pads

  • Tousley Ford - Pair of GT front splash shields

Installation

Since I discovered that there is no apparent difference in the OEM brake lines and the FRPP Boss302 brake lines, I chose not to install them. This save me a lot of time.

Changing the rotors was a piece of cake. When you go to take the OEM parts off, be aware that there is a thin spring steel "nut" on one of the wheel studs. This was put on at the factory to keep the rotor in place wile the car was being assembled. You can safely remove this and not re-install it (and this is true of all four wheels).

Even if you're not replacing pads, new rotors are gouing to be thicker than used rotors, so you're going to need to compress your caliper pistons in order to put them back on the rotor.

Compressing Caliper Pistons

First, loosen your master cylinder cap (you can completely remove it if you want). This will ease the effort required to compress the caliper pistons.

You're going to need TWO different compressors. One for the rear rotors, and one for the front. DO NOT bother with the little cube compressor tool sold at AutoZone. It's not big enough. Instead, go to NAPA and get one made specifically for 1987-later Fords. It's round and requires a 3/8-drive ratchet (and a 6-inch extension) to use. You have to TURN the piston clockwise as you push down on it. And yes, you MUST turn it until it stops going in.

For the front caliper, you need the screw-type compressor, and you cave to compress both pistons on the caliper. Again, you have to compress them all the way.

Even after the pistons are compressed, it will be a tight fit. My advice is to use the anti-squeak grease that should have come with your new pads (Hawk HPS pads come with this grease). It will serve to ease reinstall of the caliper AND prevent squeaking.

Final Notes

Changing your pads/rotors shouldn't take more than four hours. There are no surprises you need to be aware of (unless you cound the piston compression thing). If you're just replacing pads, you have two bolts per wheel, if you're changing rotors, it's 4-bolts per wheel. This is a job EASILY performed on your own. If you're not flushing your fluid or otherwise disrupting the hydraulic system (replacing lines, or just plain removing the calipers for whatever reason), you don't even have to bleed your brakes.

Flushing Your ABS Brake System

Here's a good link for flushing your ABS brake system.

Summit Racing sells the appropriate Motive pressure bleeder tool for $58. I got the wrong one (the MVP-0107 for "Fords"), and the cap didn't fit the master cylinder. This was actualy a "good thing" because if I had used it, it would require me to pump up pressure, and the go to the wheel in question, loosen the bleeder, let the vaccum bleed off, and then return to the pump, pump it up, blah-blah-blah.

So I went to AutoZone, and got their hand-vacuum bleeder tool. It's cheaper, and you don't have to keep getting up to add pressure.

Flushing your fluid takes about an hour.