Max Cooper's RX-7 Web Site www.maxcooper.com
GalleryParts InformationVendorsMy CarHow-ToLinksSearchContents

 

Good Brakes on the Cheap

I was faced with having to replace my brakes recently and I wasn't quite sure what to get. I have warped two sets of stock front rotors, and I would like some big brakes for track events, but that wasn't in my budget this time. With the expectation that I would warp my next set of stock or stock replacement rotors, I decided to seek high quality stock replacement parts at the best prices. I think I did an excellent job of meeting that goal, so I wanted to share the details of my purchases with you. I added some optional upgrade parts in the interest of improving braking feel and performance, perhaps with the hope that these would be good enough for my purposes for a while.

Good Brakes on the Cheap

Total Cost: $465

Rotors $260
Brake Pads $66
Brake Fluid $12
Brake Lines $92
Speedbleeders $35
Total $465

Rotors

Since I was getting stock replacement rotors, I had the choice of solid-face, slotted, or cross drilled replacements. Cross-drilled rotors have a reputation of being great street rotors as they offer improved bite and a flashy appearance. They also have a reputation of cracking when used on the track, and they cost more, so I passed on the cross-drilled this time. Slotted rotors are supposed to be more durable, and offer improved bit and consistency as they scrape the pad surfaces clean. I have heard that these can also crack, that they tend to increase pad wear, and they cost as much as cross-drilled so I passed on these, too. I ended up getting high quality solid-face rotors from Brake Parts Warehouse [http://www.brakeco.com/] who were local, had great prices, and could get them quickly. I got Brembo fronts for about $60 each, and Ikuta rears (Brembo makes rears, but they were not readily available) for $70 each.

Brake Pads

I don't want to change my pads at the track. Many people who do track events a lot said that this was the only way to get decent performance on the street and track. Apparently, there aren't any pads that have good street characteristics (cold stopping power, low dust, low squeal) that can give fade-free performance on the track. I have only had the brakes fade once (going into turn one at Summit point) and I haven't bled the fluid or anything in over a year. I am not a good enough driver to really tax the brakes, so I am going to try and get by with a compromised street and light track use pad.

There is a lot of confusing information about brake pads. I got some good information from fellow owners and from many web sites, but there are a lot of conflicting opinions about what works and what doesn't. This makes sense because there are a lot of different cars, tracks, and driving styles, but it makes it hard to select the right pad. In the absence of a clear best choice, I decided to start with the least expensive option that seemed like it might meet my needs.

I ended up getting Hawk HP+ for the front and HPS for the rear. Pegasus Racing has unbelievably good prices for these pads at about $37 for the fronts and $29 for the rears. The HPS are supposed to be a great street pad and I was originally going to run these all around, but Hawk does not recommend them for use on the track. The HP+ pads are street pads that are 'track-worthy' so I decided to try these for the front. They are supposed to maybe squeal a little more and dust a lot more than the HPS, but I would like to see what they can do on the track so I switched. I stayed with HPS for the rear because the rear brakes don't do as much and I heard that the RX-7 does well with lighter pads on the rear. I heard one complaint that the HP+ pads don't get hot enough during street driving when used on the rear, and that led to excessive rotor wear.

Update March 13, 2000:

The HP+ pads faded at the track, but were still better than stock. Even though they faded, they seemed to have more friction than the stock ones and never went away entirely. I did have to stand on the pedal really hard and brake early after the first few laps, but it didn't get any worse. The HP+ dust too much for the street and still don't work on the track.

I tried some Hawk HT-8 pads at the track last time and they never went away. Lap after lap I could stop the car quickly. However, I skimped on the break-in and they killed my rotors and wore out quickly. I was down to 1/3 pad after 100 miles on the track. My rotors were badly grooved and had lots of little cracks. Others who tried the pads had similar pad wear but did not experience any rotor damage. It was my fault the rotors were destroyed, but the pads seem to lack longevity. I'll try Hawk Blue pads next time.

I have all but given up on trying to find pads that work for the track and street. It is easy to swap the pads, so I might just go with Hawk Blue pads for the track and use Hawk HPS for the street. I will remember to break them in to avoid ruining my rotors. I still haven't tried the expensive Performance Friction or Endless pads that may still fit the bill for dual-purpose street and track use.

Brake Fluid (not pictured)

I chose some Neo High Performance brake fluid from Baker Precision. It is DOT3 fluid with a 310 degree F wet boiling point, and amazing 568 degree F dry boiling point. I got it on special for $6 a can. I got two twelve ounce cans with the expectation that I would be flushing and refilling the whole system.

Brake Lines

Stainless steel brake lines are supposed to improve the feel of the brakes, giving a firmer pedal. The idea is that the stock lines are fabric-reinforced rubber and tend to degrade over time. They will expand as you hit that brakes and give the pedal a spongy feel. The RX-7 is said to have excellent stock lines so the difference should not be dramatic, but I thought this was a good idea while I was going to be replacing the brake parts and changing the fluid. I arranged and participated in a group buy from Brake Parts Warehouse where the price of the lines was $92, or 20% off their $115 list price (which is a good price to begin with). I have heard many stories of people having fitment problems with lines from various manufacturers, and BPW seemed to be aware of these issues and have good quality lines so I bought from them. The lines are DOT certified, use metric hardware, and appear to be of high quality.

Update March 13, 2000:

The BPW lines went on smoothly. The only problem was that the hex part was too big to fit in the shock bracket all the way. Fortunately, it fit well enough to install the clip. Pedal feel improved to a greater extent than I expected. See RobRobinette.com for instructions.

Speedbleeders

Since I was going to be bleeding the brakes, I thought I would try these Speedbleeders that people have been raving about. They are bleeder screws that have a built in check valve, which prevents air from being sucked back into the caliper. With these, brake bleeding becomes a one man job. I ordered direct from the manufacturer and got an additional bleeder for the clutch cylinder. The total price including shipping was just under $35.

Update March 13, 2000:

Speedbleeders rule! These things make bleeding the brakes so easy that it is almost fun. It is way easier than with a vacuum pump or anything like that. Highly recommended.

I do have two small pieces of information to consider when installing and using Speedbleeders. The first is that they don't work well when there is a lot of air in the system (like when you install the brake lines). However, you can just use a vacuum pump to create some vacuum on the bleeder and all is well. Also, watch out for the ball bearing that comes out of the clutch slave cylinder. It will probably fall out when you remove the old bleeder screw. Just be sure to stick it into the hole before you install the Speedbleeder.

 

 

The information on this page is Copyright 1999-2002 Max Cooper
If you have any questions or comments about this page, send email to: rx7@maxcooper.com