If you want to spend a lot of time on the track but have limited disposable income and parking, you may need to drive the same car every day that you drive on the track. This is associated with certain risks and some inconvenience. It’s like listening to squeaky, loud brake pads in traffic.
Keeping an eye on the mechanical condition of the car and maintaining a high level of vigilance on the track is the key to accident prevention. But even if you’re able to keep your car clean on the go, you still need to work out the equation of how much noise, vibration, and harshness you’re willing to endure on a Monday commute so you can try to cut down on Sunday’s lap time.
If speed is all you want, you’ll be willing to sacrifice comfort for performance. Upgrading car brakes from regular street pads is a very important step in improving its performance on the track, but contrary to what you might think, “car race” brakes can actually be sub-optimal. Especially when they’re not being used, you know, on the road.
The great thing about track and field running is that you can really lift anything as long as the mechanics are in good shape and no fluid is leaking.
If you are starting to upgrade or want to have a better and safer time in a regular car on the track, the best place to start is with the brakes. Just as important as accelerating and cornering, braking is what allows you to fully enjoy fast driving. It is essential to have powerful brakes that can withstand higher temperatures with repeated use. They also provide a more immediate feel, making trail driving more fun and helping to improve lap times.
DOT Grade 4 brake fluid has a higher boiling point than DOT 3, which is how most vehicles typically operate. DOT 4 ensures you don’t lose stopping power with repeated use at higher temperatures and has a longer life than traditional DOT 3. However, DOT 4 is more hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water more easily and therefore requires more frequent replacements. I used to think that DOT 3 would take a little longer to reach operating temperature, but it actually depends on the performance of the pad (more on that later).
I started upgrading the brakes on my Mazda 2 to Castrol SRF DOT 4 racing fluid with high performance road pads and reinforced stainless steel brake lines. Braided cords will not expand and contract, nor will they lose their effectiveness due to heat like rubber cords. Think of the steel braid as a tie or corset – if the wire tries to swell or warp (which can happen at high temperatures and impair brake response), it stays in place and your brake pedal feels stable.
Steel can also be used as armor. Lines are less likely to be damaged by deviating from the track or hitting debris. Some people disagree and say rubber cord is good, but how cheap is steel cord, why not? the mod is in my book.
Replacing high performance road brake pads will help maintain braking performance at higher temperatures than factory style pads. In general, because performance pads contain more metal, they can wear the rotor faster and create more dust, but they are certainly a huge upgrade for OEMs. After trying this mild upgrade, I wanted to move on to something more aggressive as I was faster on the track. That’s when I experienced the inevitable but annoying side effect… the more powerful and track-oriented pads I chose, the more annoying it was to use them outdoors.
As I drove faster and faster around the track, the performance street pads were overloaded and overheated due to the shorter, more intense braking zones. No more cutting. They would disappear and lose power, causing me to either go astray or understeer or both. I then switched to more aggressive pads and they literally cut through it – they are very strong and quickly eat up and cut grooves in the rotor.
After some research and trial and error, I fired up the G-LOC R10. These mats are a popular compound in SCCA B-Spec races; the race-ready caged version of my Mazda2 shines in its class. They have excellent physical shape, they are very strong and remained strong throughout the course. They are also not rigid with respect to the rotors. Modulation is key; being able to feel how much force is being pressed against the rotors, especially when braking through tight corners, is critical to keeping momentum and getting the 100-horsepower Mazda 2 around the track in the right amount of time.
As I said before, stronger mats are more durable mats; on the street, they grab and slow my Mazda much better than the OEM floor mats. However, due to the different temperatures on the road and on the track, the characteristics of the brake pads also differ.
G-LOC takes some time to warm up. This has never been a problem on the track. Even on the outer laps where the car is warm, there will be enough hard braking to get the car warm before the first lap. But the streets are different. Cruising my area at 25 mph after I had just started 2 required a little more pedaling at the first stop sign.
Then there is noise. Oh my star noise. Light street riding, especially on cold or wet Southern California mornings, means the G-LOC squeaks almost all the way until the brake pedal is pressed hard. From 1/4 to 1/2, the cigarette lighter stopper emits a sharp squeal. This is a deep and noticeable grind. I’m not the type to cringe when hammering nails into a chalkboard, but the sound was brutal. Sometimes I feel like I’m dragging a big heavy pipe under the car.
The only remedy is to make as many abrupt stops as possible, while acting as a jerk.
Smooth, smooth highway driving is also annoying – it turns the mat into a kind of noise purgatory. It’s too cold to stop the constant screeching, and gentle braking when needed results in slightly less annoying friction.
This is a lesson in compromise. Rather, stock brakes should be a “compromise” between functionality and comfort. The compromise I made was “damn comfort”. Brakes that work well on the track mean you have to deal with unfavorable elements on the street – and there’s a lot of meat in the middle of this Venn diagram.
Once the racing pads are warmed up, they perform very well. Seems to be really good. This is handy for dealing with sloppy drivers who like to get in the way and hate using their turn signals. In such situations, strong and durable brake pads are reassuring.
Then have fun on the winding roads of the canyon. Durable track shoes provide sufficient stopping power for quiet driving, as well as in any emergency. Like the inevitable boulder in the middle of the road, or the idiot in the car or motorbike crossing the double yellow line in front of you, being able to stop early or change direction means more chances of avoiding a bad situation.
There’s another street benefit: loud braking can save a life. Like the old adage that a loud handset saves lives, it’s always a good idea to remind other drivers of your presence on the road, especially if you’re driving a small car. Feeling your presence with loud racing brakes will come in handy and maybe even drown out Nickelback horns from some badly driven bulldozer or a bunch of dark sedans.
People can also change mats on the track or the night before the event. Most caliper designs are very simple and can be removed and reinstalled very quickly with the right tools.
Even though my BMW 128i and previous Mazda 2 weren’t performance oriented, both had very basic single piston front brake calipers and that’s fine. For 2: Unscrew the cap of the brake fluid reservoir, unscrew the two 14mm bolts, remove the caliper and place it on the rear casing, remove the gasket, use a caliper expander if necessary, insert a new one, reinstall. caliper and screw the reservoir cap back on. full. This way I can walk every day on a high performance outdoor pad and an aggressive trackpad. The rear brakes are 2-drum brakes that don’t need to be replaced, luckily my 128′s rear brakes work well on the street and on the track with very street oriented pads.
However, there are some risks associated with this. Many original and high performance outdoor mats require some of the mat material to be transferred to the rotor for optimal performance, so research carefully when choosing a mat. Track shoes remove this material because they are aggressive and mostly made of metal. It is highly recommended to repeat this with original or road pads after reinstallation, this is done using the break-in procedure specified for the pad brand.
Another approach is to have separate rotors for each set of pads. In fact, it may be a step to avoid squeaking and having to fall asleep again.
However, changing pads before and after a track day makes life less painful. This requires more preparatory steps and frequency of review, which in itself is a trade-off. Especially if your time is limited. But heck, write a comprehensive checklist and use it as an opportunity to test your car’s braking system for optimal performance and safety.
Post time: Dec-22-2022