Torque Shop: Is it a good idea to modify car brakes?

The need for bigger brakes arises if you would like to drive your car on a high-speed track. PHOTO: PEXELS

It is becoming common to see cars with modified brakes, especially in the front. These brakes have calipers which are usually brightly coloured and with the brand names clearly visible. Recently, I saw a Nissan Qashqai like mine, with large blue calipers in front. Is it a good idea to modify the brakes and are there any downsides?

Brakes are a critical safety component in any road vehicle. In most cases, the car's original brakes are more than sufficient.

The need for bigger brakes arises if you would like to drive your car on a track such as Sepang in Malaysia.

Frequent hard braking from high speeds during circuit driving causes tremendous heat build-up in brakes, especially the front ones. Often, original brakes are unable to handle this kind of heat build-up.

Extreme heat results in a condition known as "brake-fade", a loss of friction due to very high temperatures. The brake pedal will feel spongy and no amount of force from your right leg can slow the car down.

Meanwhile, the brake fluid will reach its boiling point, leading to a loss of hydraulic pressure and worsening the situation.

Upgraded brakes can enhance braking performance by reducing stopping distances. Those meant for the track have special discs, larger calipers with multiple pistons, fade-resistant pads and steel-braided brake fluid hoses.

In order to accommodate larger brake discs and calipers, it might be necessary to use bigger wheels. So, the investment can be substantial.

There is no need to upgrade if you are not a regular track-day participant.

But bear in mind that it is still important you use good-quality brake pads, replace the brake fluid every 40,000km or so, and at least visually inspect brake hoses for minute cracks and disc surfaces for excessive scoring.

Finally, correctly inflated tyres will also enhance braking performance.

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