Have you thought about upgrading the brakes on your car or truck to performance brakes? You likely have, as most car enthusiasts consider that sooner or later. This desire may be because of your more aggressive driving style, your dissatisfaction with OE brakes, your vehicle being used to tow a trailer, or even your weekend stints at the track.
The more common approaches to better brakes start with a change to more effective brake pads, followed by improved rotors. (These hyperlinks will take you to our existing articles on performance pads and rotors.) However, when those upgrades aren't enough, and when you're ready for the ultimate in braking power, your only choice is to move up to a big brake kit.
We use the term "big brake kits" because the rotors are larger diameters, and typically drilled or slotted, and the calipers are larger, with more pistons. An additional benefit is the way that these brakes fill the space inside larger wheels. At the same time, before spending the bucks for big brakes, be sure they will fit! These kits will almost always specify a MINIMUM wheel diameter in order for them to be installed.
Installing a new big brake kit is also a "big" job, because there's more involved than just swapping out same-size pads and rotors. You will be unbolting caliper mounting brackets, removing old calipers, temporarily plugging exposed brake fluid lines to minimize air entry into the system, and bleeding the brake system once new parts have been installed.
And if you're fitting a kit to the rear of a newer vehicle with electrically activated rear emergency brakes, be aware that the addition of such a kit may disable the EPB (electric parking brake). Some may find that an acceptable trade-off, but please be sure to read the on-screen notes to be certain of any limitations.
For those who are ready to tackle the job, we've got big brake kits that will provide a massive boost to your level of stopping power. Read on to learn more about the variables in design and features among the kits we have on offer.
Caliper Design: Fixed Vs. Floating
Disc brake calipers house pistons that use the force of hydraulic brake fluid to squeeze brake pads against the rotor and create stopping friction. Calipers can contain a varying number of pistons, and feature either a "floating" or "fixed" design.
The vast majority of new vehicles on the road use floating calipers. A "floating" caliper slides so that a single piston on one side of the caliper puts pressure to pads on both sides. As the piston is applied, the inboard pad contacts the rotor first, causing the caliper to slide over until the outer pad makes contact with the rotor. Floating calipers are chosen by manufacturers because they are smaller and lighter than fixed calipers.
By contrast, a "fixed" caliper remains stationary over the center of the brake rotor. By definition, there are a minimum of two pistons, one on each side of the housing. (There also are 4, 6, and 8-piston fixed calipers.) Fixed calipers are larger, stronger, and exert more stopping power. ALL big brake kits include an upgrade to fixed calipers, but as we shall see, there are still some design variations available.
Rotor Construction: 1 Piece vs. 2 Piece
Because new vehicle design is almost always a compromise, the manufacturers look to provide technical features which "get the job done" but not much more. When it comes to brake rotors, which must be made of heavy cast iron, 99% of the new cars on the road have one-piece iron rotors.
While some entry-level big brake kits stay with the one-piece design, most brake rotors in our kits feature two-piece construction - meaning they have a lightweight aluminum center ("hat") bolted to an outer iron ring which serves as the pad contact area. These two-piece rotors weigh significantly less and have less rotational mass.
Advantages? Less unsprung weight, better heat dissipation through the aluminum center, less potential for warpage, and ability to reuse the center hat when replacing the rotor. Cosmetically, the aluminum hat can be a different color than the rest of the rotor.
Rotor Design: Smooth Vs. Drilled Or Slotted Faces
If you are still running OE rotors, your car or truck very likely has rotors with smooth faces (at least they were smooth when they were new!). All our big brake kits offer upgrades in the way of drilled and/or slotted faces.
"Drilled" (a.k.a. "cross-drilled") disc brake rotors feature holes that reach all the way through to the other side - a layout that ensures maximum dissipation of heat and debris. Because they pass off heat faster, drilled rotors offer an advantage during high performance driving and racing. They also look undeniably cool.
"Slotted" disc brake rotors feature indented, shallow slots cut into both sides of the rotor faces. The slots may be straight, or slightly curved. These slots allow more water, heat, brake dust, and friction gases to slide out from underneath the pads. Because this type of rotor stays cooler, they're good for aggressive driving and for 4WDs that haul heavy loads or tow trailers.
Higher Upfront Costs But Big Benefits
Big brake kits are pricier than performance pads and rotors, in some cases, significantly so. But when you consider that similar kits are offered by vehicle manufacturers, usually as part of a "performance package", you realize there is value to be found here. Our kits represent a cost savings compared to OE offerings, some of which might be bundled with options you don't want. If you're handy and can do the install yourself, there's more savings.
It is a fact that your big brakes will simply provide so much more braking power compared to what you're replacing. You can't put a price on the upgrade if these new brakes bring your tow rig to a stop more safely, or if they provide you with the joy of turning your tank into a track monster. Under these conditions, big brake kits become reasonably priced preventive medicine. And finally, it's hard to deny that nothing fills the space behind larger wheels more stylishly than big drilled rotors and brightly colored calipers!
Big Brake Kits With 1-Piece Rotors
We'll start with two kits from StopTech that represent best values when it comes to big brake upgrades. Manufacturing costs are minimized in their "Touring" line because the fixed calipers are 2-piece construction instead of single-piece, and rotors are of the single-piece, all-iron variety without aluminum centers (centers are painted black for looks). However, that doesn't mean they're not effective improvements - because these larger rotors are available in your choice of drilled or slotted form. Also included in the kit are essential items such as 6-piston front calipers and 4-piston rears (4-piston fronts for some small vehicles), and replacement braided steel lines.
Brembo offers the GT Series 1-Piece Rotor Brake Kit with fixed monoblock (one piece) aluminum calipers of 4- or 6-piston design depending on vehicle size. You again have a choice between slotted rotors or drilled rotors.
Baer offers similarly-outfitted Extreme Brake System and Alumasport Series Braking System kits with slotted and drilled 1-piece rotors for various full-size trucks. Note that these kits may offer a choice of rotor diameters for some makes and models. They also offer calipers finished in your choice of color, as do many of these other kits.
Big Brake Kits With 2-Piece Rotors
Moving up into 2-piece rotor midrange category, we've got Brembo's GT Series 2-Piece Rotor Brake Kits with rotors in slotted and drilled configuration, Baer's Extreme Plus Brake System with rotors that are slotted or drilled for cars and trucks, StopTech's slotted or drilled Trophy series Big Brake Kits, and StopTech's slotted or drilled Performance Big Brake Kits.
The Wilwood Street Performance Drilled and Slotted Brake Kit features 2-piece drilled/slotted rotors, your choice of caliper finishes, and for some models, a choice of rotor material. Some rotors are available in Wilwood's proprietary spec-37 iron, which has a higher degree of resistance to heat, distortion, warping, and cracking.
With KSport's ProComp Brake Kit, while all the rotors are 2-piece, you can select between "standard" or "floating" rotors (NOT to be confused with floating calipers). The KSport floating rotor allows more flex between the iron outer ring and aluminum inner hat, bringing better self-centering, more cooling, and less pad drag. Further, make your choice among slotted or drilled rotors, street or race pads, and 6 different caliper colors (custom colors too). Calipers are available with up to 8 pistons.
If you're looking for a big brake kit that offers serious performance off and on the track, Brembo's GT-R series Brake Kits are feature nickel-plated aluminum monoblock calipers with 6 pistons front/4 rear. Rotors can be chosen in cross-drilled, slotted, or curved center vane (maximum cooling) slotted surface configurations.
KSport offers the SuperComp Brake Kit, with many features over and above their ProComp Kit: larger diameter rotors, 8-piston front and 6-piston rear calipers (in most models), "floating" 2-piece rotors, and two sets of brake pads in the 8-pot calipers. In the Product Options field, rotors can be selected in slotted or drilled form.
If you've got a 2009-later Nissan GT-R, the Brembo Racing Series Slotted Type V 2-Piece Rotor Brake Kit is a full race system meant to correct known fade and braking issues with stock GT-R brakes during track use. Note that brake pads are sold separately. In Product Options, select "Sprint" pads for short-duration races, or "Endurance" for extended-length races.
For the ultimate in high-performance brake upgrades, Brembo offers the GT Series 2-piece CCM-R Cross Drilled Brake Kit for high-end vehicles such as Mercedes AMGs, BMW M series/Z8s, Maseratis, Ferraris, Porsches, and Cadillac CTS-Vs. Rotors feature a two-piece design with carbon ceramic construction for the outer rotor (instead of iron alloy).
Carbon ceramic is an exotic material, made from a special mixture of powders, resins and fibers in a complex manufacturing process. First developed in the 1970s for aerospace braking applications, carbon ceramic rotors became widespread in motorsports during the 1980s because they offer substantial benefits in wet and dry performance. They're very lightweight, resist heat buildup extremely well, and have strong resistance to corrosion - making them fit for racing or street use. Brake pads in the kit feature ceramic-based construction as well.
Wilwood also offers the benefits of carbon ceramic construction in their Street Performance Carbon-Ceramic Brake Kit. Rotor sizes for some newer vehicles such as Corvettes and Mustangs may not be larger than OEM, but braking performance will definitely be bumped up. This Wilwood kit does, however, provide big size gains for owners of classic General Motors cars from the 1960s and '70s.
Please be sure to browse our entire Brake Kit section, as here we were only able to feature a few of the many big brake kits we have. Once you punch in your vehicle's year, make, and model, our website will deliver the specific kits designed for your ride. One thing is for sure: once you've bolted the brake kit to the car, expect to be knocked out by the incredible braking performance!