When modifying your ride for increases in power, handling and ride quality, many newcomers to the tuning scene often tend to skimp out on one of the most important parts of the vehicle: The brake system. While the standard setup of OEM disk brakes on your Civic can handle typical city driving or even a solid emergency stop or two, you may wish to consider upgrading your brakes especially if you are involved in circuit events or autocross. There are many ways to tackle this in a cost-effective manner that suits your vehicle’s needs.
The first and most simple bang-for your buck is to change the brake pads that are equipped on your vehicles disk brakes. Various manufacturers such as EBC and Hawk make different kinds of pads appropriate for the situations your car will deal with. For example, you may wish to use a ceramic brake pad as it offers much better heat transfer and stopping power, with far less brake fade to allow for repeated stops if you take part in circuit racing, time trials, autocross and the like. The downside is the increased noise and dust levels in comparison to OEM semi-metallic material pads, making them not suitable for stop-and-go traffic. Of course, this is all up to the user’s preference.
Secondly, the type of disc brake rotor itself makes a large difference – you can install rotors that have been cross-drilled, slotted, or a combination of both. Cross-drilled rotors are found as OEM equipment on performance cars such as Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghini. They provide better ventilation for the braking system for repeated hard braking, though on a downside, poorly made rotors of this variety may develop cracks along the drilled holes on the surface and this leads to quicker rotor deterioration. Slotted rotors are exactly as named; with multiple slits along the surface of the rotor to allow air and heat to escape. Being only on the surface, they will not develop cracks like cross-drilled rotors, however their more agressive design will eat your brake pad material at a much faster rate.
Many popular vehicle platforms feature aftermarket ‘big brake kits’ that provide the ultimate package for stopping power. However, take note that when fitting these kits, be sure to check if the current wheels you have on your car will still fit following kit installation. While big brake kits are definitely the way to go if you have the cash, many drivers out there would rather spend that money elsewhere. A typical kit can cost you well over 3,000$ where upgraded pads and rotors may cost you a sixth of that amount and still deliver solid stopping power.
Lastly, be sure to use DOT4 or higher brake fluid as it has a higher boiling point than standard DOT3 brake fluid, and the last thing any competitive driver wants is for their brakes to boil over and become virtually useless. This is one of the least expensive steps, and is a must if you intend to drive the car aggressively. With the proper brake system setup, you will be able to stop smoother, faster, and achieve better lap times in the process – while at the same time can cost far less than working on the engine to squeeze out a few more horses to shave a second or two on the straightaway.