There are those that say "naaah, you don't need a
big brake kit… just get more aggressive pads for your original
brakes, and you'll be fine. Big brakes are a waste of money!"
But is this really accurate? The answer is a
clear "There are indeed many compelling reasons that a
performance brake kit may be right for you.".
The advantages of a brake kit are readily
apparent with just a little bit of analysis:
1. More disk and pad area/thickness equals better
functionality without aggressive pads.
This means that with the same pads, the brake
system can go through the energy conversion cycle (kinetic energy
to heat energy, and then dissipate the heat energy) of braking much
more efficiently. The "aggressive pads" of shortsighted
recommendations means "dusty" or "squealing" pads for street use,
or "chews through rotors" or "does not work well when cold" for
track use. In this one aspect, a big brake kit gives the
functionality of the "aggressive pads" with the benefits of a
2. Repeatability of performance
Besides the general idea of better heat management,
heat issues affect other aspects of the braking system. In addition
to simply being able to withstand harder use, a performance brake
kit will be able to deliver the performance over and over without
overheating. While a standard brake setup may be able to accomplish
a "hero" stop from high speed once, the performance brake kit will
do it again and again without overheating the pads, rotors,
calipers, or fluid.
3. Lighter weight.
The majority of brake kits use some type of cast
aluminum caliper. With some (not all), the total weight of the new
calipers and new rotors is less than the original brakes, which use
an inexpensive but heavy cast iron design. Depending on the exact
model, the UUC/Wilwood brake kits save up to 25lbs of
unsprung weight at each axle. For a racecar, this is a huge amount
of weight. For a street car, it is still significant enough for
sensitive drivers to notice. For more details on brake weight
reduction, please click
4. Better pedal feel and feedback.
The key to a good relationship is communication.
For the relationship between driver and car that makes for good
performance driving, "talking" is equally critical. The difference
between a performance brake kit's calipers and the standard
calipers is a fundamental change in the basic design. A performance
brake kit uses a "fixed" caliper that is rigidly mounted, the only
moving part being the pistons that clamp the pads against the
rotors. In contrast, the standard calipers use a "floating" design
for economy that moves the entire caliper to clamp the rotor. The
caliper itself moves on rubber-isolated guide pins, and the flex
and looseness of these rubber guide bushings is what gives the
standard calipers a soft or mushy feel which is also affected by
heat and wear. As such, the difference in performance driving
(where the brakes will expectedly get hot) is dramatically
apparent. The performance brake kit is capable of much finer
modulation and control. Good performance brakes "talk" to the
driver. The analogy can be made that performance brakes are like
playing the piano normally, compared to standard brakes as playing
the piano while wearing gloves.
5. Lower operating costs.
This may seem counter-intuitive, that once the
initial price hurdle is overcome, using a performance brake kit can
be cheaper than using standard brakes. First of all, the oversized
components last longer because they are less stressed than the
standard components. Secondly, in the UUC/Wilwood kit, consumables
such as pads are usually less expensive than the standard
equivalents by 15%-30%. For a comparative analysis of the
UUC/Wilwood brake kit versus competing brands, please click
Looking further at the simplistic "say "naaah, you
don't need a big brake kit" statement, let's consider what
we do with our cars and what it is that the performance driver
Does your car need stickier tires,
performance suspension, or motor upgrades?
You don't need any of this if all you are
doing is using the car as basic transportation. You don't
need a BMW at all when a basic Chevy Cobalt will comfortably
and reliably transport five adults anywhere you like. For
comparison, pure "performance cars" such as Porsches and Ferraris
always have standard equipment brakes of the same type as
aftermarket brake kits offered for BMW. Those manufacturers are not
making any concessions, they are simply delivering performance.
Unfortunately, as BMWs have to appeal to a broader customer base,
some without performance needs, we BMW owners get shorted in that
But you buy a BMW for a reason. Hopefully
it's the good "I enjoy a performance car" reason. And in generally,
those that have sought a performance car also continue to seek ways
to get more performance. "Wanting better" is an ongoing quest, not
Maybe not everyone needs brakes with a
higher level of capability, but enthusiasts, performance drivers,
and racecar drivers who honestly evaluate the benefits usually
realize that they do need performance brakes. Except
for the racing classes that require standard brakes, the racers
that consistently win are quite happily "wasting money" on a
performance brake kit. For the UUC/Wilwood kit, this is represented
as an ongoing series of class wins in various venues such as BMW
CCA, NASA, and SCCA racing and autocross.