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THE SIX MOST COMMON MYTHS WHEN IT COMES TO BRAKES


Text | Idris Talib
Photos | Low Fai Ming, Moses Tng

1 August 2020
Do big brake kits matter? Do noisy brakes mean they need to be changed? We talk to the specialists at Braking Point to bust some myths.

The car's braking system is one of the most important safety devices of a vehicle. But yet, there are many misconceptions about them.

We speak to Braking Point - authorised distributors of AP Racing products in Singapore - to better understand what are the common misconceptions surrounding these anchors of stopping.

With its expertise in braking solutions, Braking Point has the best people to better bust myths surrounding brakes. Here, we find out more about six of these myths.
brake pads
Myth #1: My brakes are noisy - it means they're worn and need replacement

We naturally think that if any mechanical part makes a foul noise, it means it is broken or needs replacement. While some brake pads are designed to squeal when the lining breaks down, it doesn't mean all brakes do the same.

Some high performance brake pads do emit an audible sound under braking. As braking systems rely on friction, the materials used for high performance pads and rotors may emit a squeal under braking. For these, it is normal.
AP Racing
Calipers
It isn't just squealing noises; there are knocking noises, too. Calipers that are designed for competition and race use also have allowance in fitment, allowing for expansions and contractions.

This prevents brake calipers from seizing under high temperatures. In turn, knocking noises can sometimes be heard for normal driving use. Brakes using street calipers will not have such problems, and are quieter in operation.

To check for worn out pads and rotors, the best solution is through visual inspection, and following a set replacement schedule by the manufacturer.
Brake Pads Box
Myth #2: Brake pads that produce lesser dust are better!

Brake dust is quite an unsightly thing, and is perhaps the first indication of a dirty car.

Brake dust is a natural after effect of braking system. Some of the best performance brake pads and rotors do produce brake dust. The basic function of a brake system is friction between surfaces, and brake dust is expected. Hence, pads that produce less dust aren't designed for the best braking performance.
Brake pads 2
Brake Pads 3
Some performance brake pads with ceramic or Kevlar properties might highlight less dust as one of its qualities. But in fact, it produces dust in a whitish colour, which is less visible. Brake dust is still very much present when using such pads.

In short, dust should not be a factor when you're looking for well-performing brakes. You'll just have to keep up with the car wash routine.
wheels1
Myth #3: Big brake kit means that when I brake, the car will immediately stop!

Braking abilities of a car can always be improved. Stopping distances can be reduced with the addition of big brake kits to a certain extent, but it won't stop time.

Upgrading your brakes can increase braking force, as bigger calipers allow for bigger brake pads and rotors, increasing surface area. But this isn't the main purpose of installing a big brake kit.

The main advantage to having such kits is that they're less susceptible to heat build-up, due to their design allowing for more heat dissipation.
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With lesser heat to deal with, there's lesser chance of fade. It translates to improved consistency under braking. Drivers can expect the same braking abilities every time, especially useful on track days or fast road driving.

But if your main goal is to improve stopping power by a considerable margin, The first step is using better tyres and brake fluid. If you have poor quality braking fluid, or worse, worn out tyres, having the biggest brakes on the market will be pointless.
cars on the road
Myth #4: My brakes are hot. I shall cool them down with water

No! This is the worst thing you can do to brakes, even for stock or upgraded systems.

Braking components such as pads and rotors expand and contract under normal usage. Pouring water directly on the brakes when they're incredibly hot will cause it to cool down too rapidly. The result? Warped pads and rotors.
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Warped rotors will commonly cause vibrations through the steering wheel when you brake, but it isn't just an uncomfortable sensation. It can significantly reduce the brake system's abilities. In worse cases, it might cause complete failure.

What's the best way to cool brakes down? Leave them alone.

Hence, when you're going to wash your car after a spirited drive, it is always a good idea to let the car sit for a while just to let the brakes cool down first.
rotors
Myth #5: Having drilled or slotted rotors means they are ventilated and cool down better

This is a common misconception when it comes to rotors with slotted or cross-drilled designs.

All brake rotors on modern cars are in fact ventilated, especially at the front. Small, ventilated slats exist between the middle of the brake discs, allowing for optimised heat dissipation.
drilled rotor
slotted rotor
Slotted or drilled rotor designs are something that adds to the aesthetics of any brake system, but if also offers some functionality.

Cross-drilled rotors can help in heat dissipation and can improve wet weather braking, while slotted rotors allow for gases and brake dust to escape between the brake pad and brake rotor under braking.

But the disadvantages of cross-drilled rotors are that they are more susceptible to hairline cracks. Slotted rotors also tend to have a shorter life when compared to original replacement rotors, as they wear down pads faster.
wheels zoom
Myth #6: If you want to install big brake kits, you need to upgrade all four brakes

A common myth is that once you upgrade your front brakes to better ones, you will mess up the brake bias of the car. This isn't true.

In fact, it is the exact reason why it is a good idea. While the rears do contribute to a certain extent, up to 80% of your car's braking abilities relies on how much your front brakes can cope.

And the purpose of upgrading your brakes, as mentioned earlier, is about offering more consistency under braking. Upgraded brake kits will offer better fade resistance and heat dissipation, and the brakes which are most susceptible to such conditions are up front.
blue car back
blue car front
Upgrading the rear brakes can also add further complications. Dual brake caliper setups in the rear may have to be installed to retain handbrake functions in certain cars.

Hence, upgrading only the front brakes is a common practice, as you want to work with the brake bias, offering a more effective set of brakes doing most of the job where it is needed the most.