How Brake Upgrades Work

Big Brake Upgrades
Check to make sure your big brake upgrades are compatible with the wheel size.
Check to make sure your big brake upgrades are compatible with the wheel size.
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Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to all things automotive. But when talking about brakes, size generally does matter.

That's because braking performance depends in large part upon how much surface area the brake pads have to bite into. Larger pads and larger brake discs make for shorter stopping distances. In addition, the increased surface area allows for greater heat dispersal. Excessive heat, as we learned, is the enemy of stopping effectiveness.

Before investing in a big brake upgrade kit or individual big brake parts, there's one thing you should check. You must be certain that your current wheel size is compatible with the kit. Factory wheels often don't provide the clearance necessary for big brake upgrades.

The kit or upgraded, upsized rotor in question will usually indicate on its packaging or description the minimum wheel size. The wheel size refers to the diameter of the rim only, not the diameter of the rim and tire combined. You'll also want to be sure about other issues with each big brake part: Are the rotor and caliper compatible with anti-lock braking systems (if your car is so equipped)? Is there enough room between the caliper and the backside of the rim? If not, can you use spacers? Or, is there a better-fitting kit on the market for your vehicle?

If you're new to brake work, you may be wondering, "Can I do this myself?" The short answer is yes, with the proper tools and safety equipment. The brake installation procedure is beyond the scope of this article, but it's fairly straightforward. Be forewarned that dust from older brakes may contain asbestos, a highly toxic substance that is inhaled easily. Also, brake fluid is highly caustic to paint, so if you do it yourself, make sure to keep the brake fluid clear of the painted surfaces on your vehicle.

To learn even more about the world of braking, stop by the next page.

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More Great Links


  • "Automotive Brakes and Mesothelioma." (Oct. 27, 2008)
  • Bumbeck, Mike. "Bleed The Brakes." Jalopnik. June 29, 2007. (Oct. 24, 2008) 273668.php
  • Maretti, Angelo. "Performance Brakes." (Oct. 26, 2008)
  • Memmer, Scott and Helperin, Joanne. "Keep Your (Braking) Distance: More than Just Slowing Down." Nov. 23, 2000. (Oct. 27, 2008)
  • Paradise, Alan. "Civic Duty: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Popular Sport Compact Car -- The Honda Civic." Bentley Publishers. Cambridge, Mass. 2000.
  • Temple, Steve. "Brake Upgrade Tech Tips." (Oct. 26, 2008)

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