When most people think about building a car, the first thing they usually do is power, then handling, and braking always tends to get pushed on the back burner. However if you actually take your car to a track day event, you will quickly learn how having adequate braking is more important than power. Just because your brakes “feel” good on the street doesn’t mean that they will work well under harsh track driving conditions. No one better understands this then Nate, You see a few weeks back we set up a little race course on some freshly built roads just outside of Vegas, that weren’t actually open. We were able to race around on our makeshift 8 turn track, and by the 2nd lap Nate’s brakes were completely gone (like not even slowing him down gone), and he had to call it quits. This was a major bummer not only because he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity before the roads opened to the public, but it really made him realize how important brakes were, and how having a proper set up was really important. Mind you his set up at the time was eBay cross drilled/slotted 10.3” EX/SI front brakes with basic AutoZone pads, and 92 civic SI oem rear disc with unknown pads (assuming cheapest possible). Nate does have a JDM F20b swap, so he is asking a little more from his brakes then someone with a SOHC would. But, even if he only had a SOHC I believe that the cheap pads/rotors he had were not designed or capable of being used in such a fashion.
Let’s face it, not everyone can afford to get a BBK or to go 5 lug on their EF/EG/EK/DA/DC chassis. I mean shit, it took me 15 years to finally get some spoon calipers on my track car. I used to just run a good GSR set up, then was able to upgrade to NSX/Mini cooper set up because Ever upgraded his NSX to spoon calipers, and finally on to my current track car set up of spoon calipers/mini cooper rotors, and project MU club racer pads.
A BBK is beneficial because you will increase the rotor size. Increasing the rotor size is Important because the rotor size has two important aspects: diameter and thickness. The diameter is easier to understand and easier to see. basically, the larger diameter of the rotor, the more force that is available to stop a wheel, just like using a longer wrench makes it easier to break a bolt loose. If you kept the same caliper and same pads, but installed a larger diameter rotor, you would get greater stopping power. This power can be referenced in Newton-meters of torque. Factory rotors are sized according to many factors: wheel sizes, calipers used, unsprung weight, tires, price, etc. Initially, it would seem that the largest diameter rotor that can be obtained should be used, but those other factors must be kept in mind. Even, a reasonably larger diameter rotor will provide increased stopping power. Remember that you CAN go too BIG, and if your tires aren’t up the challenge, they will just lock up and skid, so a general rule of thumb is that better brakes need grippier tires. The brake rotor thickness is more difficult to determine. The thickness of a rotor is proportional to the amount of heat we want to retain and dissipate, two very different properties. A properly designed brake system will take into account the optimal operating temperature of the rotors and the pads. A thin solid rotor will retain more heat than a thicker vented rotor. The key is to choose a rotor that will dissipate the excess heat, but still remain within the working temperature range of the brake pads. Some brake pads operate well while cold, others need some heat before they have any bite. The brake rotor thickness must be chosen to match the pads and to match the driving that will be done. A short, tight road course (Las Vegas Speedway, 1.8 mile) may need different pads or possibly rotors. Due to the high demand for braking, more heat will need to be dissipated. You may need to use thicker rotors or higher temperature pads. A long open track (Road America, 4.0 miles) may need lower temperature pads or thinner rotors to order to keep some heat in the system. Different pads again may be needed for street driving. Another approach may to be to use a thick, vented rotor and adjust the amount of cooling air that is available to the rotor. This of course is really just speaking in terms of real race car stuff. The meaningless track days that we do with our econo box cars just to set our own PB’s don’t warrant such a crazy amount of factors. A decent pad and rotor and will do just fine. Pad choice is really down to your preference of pedal feel, initial bite, operating temps, and how linear you want the pedal to be. Of course as I have stated above, having the cheapest pads from your local auto parts store will not suffice and you will need to purchase a quality brand pad. Most quality brand’s will have a “key” that will describe each level of their pad so you can choose the best pad for your application. (street, auto x, track, race) The coefficient of friction of a pad can change with the temperature. Some pads have excellent cold bite (good for daily street driving) and others have almost no bite until they have some heat in them. The amount of friction available combined with the mechanical advantage of the larger diameter rotor must be matched to the traction ability of the tires. (like I stated above) Some other areas to consider are brake dust, noise, and rotor life. You may find a pad that fits your driving style only to find out that they tend to chew up the rotors. Then again you may find a pad that leaves an excessive amount of brake dust, for just mostly daily driving. The path is yours to choose and remember that everyones driving styles are different so don’t blindly follow what people say on car forums, try out different pads yourself to see what works best for you.
The other good thing about a BBK is you get a better caliper with a larger piston, or more pistons. Many factory calipers are a single-piston piece. This is good for a simple caliper and they keep the piston inboard and allow good wheel clearance and fewer moving parts for less service issues. They do have their drawbacks, however. Typically they are made of cast iron so they are heavy and they have some type of “slider” so clamping force isn’t always equal from side to side. Multiple piston (or “pot”) calipers offer more even clamping force than a single piston. The force is distributed across the pads better, yielding a better contact area. Often times when using a four-pot caliper, the total brake fluid volume is less than a single piston piece, so for a given brake pedal effort we can get more clamping force. (P1×V1 = P2×V2) For this reason, master cylinder capacities must be referenced when designing a brake system or changing calipers. On most good 4-, 6-, or 8-pot calipers, the pistons are of staggered sizes which gives more even pad wear. And when selecting a caliper for an application, it is critical that the proper leading or trailing calipers be used. The calipers will be marked with the proper disk rotation. Failure to follow this simple step will result in uneven pad wear, noise, and possible piston damage. It also works the same way as too large of a rotor… having 4-/6-/8- pot calipers without the use of an R compound tire (100 TW or less) would probably hinder you more than it would help. Just because you don’t have crazy calipers doesn’t mean that you’re going to be slow around the track, I might just mean that you have upgraded everything to work in unison and maximize the performance of your car, thus making the car well balanced.
Most of what I said above is all really just for racing cars, or people that are tracking every weekend. However I did it to help you understand the differences, and grasp the concepts of braking upgrades. Fortunately for us, for Hondas, people have already figured out the best recipe’s when it comes to upgrading your brakes. So all the research and complicated R&D has already been done. I will break down your options below.
- GSR/LS/RS/SI all have a 10.3” (262mm) front rotor with a 9.4” (239mm) rear rotor the EX will also share the same front rotor size, but have drums in the rear.
- ITR has 11.1” (282mm) front rotor and a 10.2” (260mm) rear rotor
- ITR/NSX/Legend/spoon caliper with the use of a 07-13 mini cooper BASE (not S,or JCW) I don’t care what people say, look it up for yourself. The rotor diameter MUST BE 280mm to work with the listed calipers. The cooper S is 294mm and the JCW is 316mm. If you are staying 4 lug you would use the base cooper rotor, If your car is 5 lug just use an ITR rotor.
These are the basically the three options you have when upgrading your brakes on a EF/EG/EK/DA/DC chassis. I know there are other actual BBK out there, but they are a lot of money, and honestly it would be more for a cool factor rather than a performance factor. There are PLENTY of fast guys on TYPE R calipers! For how light our cars are it’s just not that necessary, until you are getting into 300plus hp, 17 inch wheels, 245 tires, and major aero.
Moving on to Nate’s car and what we did to keep his brake upgrade on the cheaper side. He was originally going to get Type R calipers, but coming across them used is a challenge, and I’m pretty sure that all new OEM ones are discontinued. So next best thing in terms of OEM, is the Acura Legend calipers. Without opening a can of worms, let me just make this statement. There are two types of Legend calipers: one has a large single piston, and the other has two smaller pistons per each caliper (much like the NSX) from my understanding the 91-92 legend calipers are the large single piston caliper (like a Type R), and the 93-95 legend has the two pistons caliper (like the NSX.) please don’t hold me to the specific years. Just know that they will both fit on your EX/SI/GSR/LS/RS front spindle. If you’re lucky enough to find the two piston ones at the junkyard then you’re stoked. Otherwise you can just use the single piston ones (which are much easier to come across)
Nate went to the junkyard and got a pair (left, right) single piston 91 Acura Legend calipers.
He ordered Oriley’s/AC Delco blank rotors for a 07 mini cooper base model. Yes the metal quality isn’t going to be as good as some high end aftermarket brake companies. However I know plenty of people that run Autozone or likewise cheap rotors on their track car with out incident. Brake rotor material affects its thermal characteristics, friction and wear properties. So at high level wheel to wheel racing this will matter more, but for most of us that don’t see the track more than a few times a year these will be fine. They will wear out a little bit quicker with the use of an aggressive “racing” pad, but that’s why you get the “lifetime warranty.” You can Just keep bringing them back. Keep in mind that ALL rotors (OEM, Aftermarket, Racing) will develop small hairline cracks, just make sure you are keeping an eye on this. He also got Aletheia motorsports rotor shims. So he doesn’t have that slop in the rotor, since the Honda wheel studs are a smaller diameter than the Mini cooper ones. Check them out on instagram @aletheiamotorsports. (note these are not necessary, and lots of people have used this setup on track with out the shims, but it will just give you peace of mind.)
He bought Goodridge SS brake lines F/R. ATE DOT 4 brake fluid, and Winmax W3 front brake pads for a 04-10 TSX (must be this pad, or you will have a slight pad over hang if you use an ITR pad) To be honest I’m not exactly sure why I can run ITR pads on my NSX calipers with mini cooper rotors, and have no over hang. But regardless his set up works perfectly with the TSX pads. just trust the process!
(OPTIONAL) New rear bake rotors, and Duralast ceramic rear pads.
Lets total all that up!
- Front calipers 40 bucks
- Mini cooper (07 Base model 280mm) rotors 80 bucks
- Aletheia motorsports rotor shims 50 bucks
- Goodridge SS brake lines 120 bucks
- ATE brake fluid 15 bucks
- Winmax W3 front pads (for TSX) 135 bucks
- (OPTIONAL) rear pads, and rotors 75 bucks
Grand total: 515 bucks! or a whopping 440 bucks! if you don’t do the rear. (which would be fine and you would still notice a huge difference) plus you could always do them a little later.
This is a great option if you’re looking to upgrade your whole brake system, and just think about it… for about another 200 bucks you could have Winmax pads in the rear, and front “Aftermarket” slotted rotors with more superior metal for better thermal characteristics
He also had previously installed a 15/16 brake master cylinder, with the OEM 40/30 prop valve, and stock booster. Another side note is that he opted to go with the Winmax W3 pads because they will work cold or “no temp” up to 600*C (or 1112*F) as compared to the W4 pad that needs to have a little heat for them to work 50*C (112*F) up to 650*C (1202*F) just because he drives his car on the street more than he does on the track, and in Vegas its gets pretty damn cold in the winter.
Now I bet you’re all excited, and why soundly you be. You can literally redo your whole brake system for 515/715 bucks depending on what you get. This set up will allow you to get out on the track and have tons of confidence that your braking set up is ready for the abuse you will be giving it. See you don’t really need all these bling bling baller parts on your car to have a good set up. You can spend all that money you’re saving on track days so you can get the MOD that matters most “Driver mod.”
Now that you have all your parts let’s move on to the install process.
Break lugs loose, jack up the car and place on 4 jack stands (one at each corner of the car), and remove wheels.
Front Step 2:
remove the calipers that are on the car, X2 17mm bolts are holding the caliper on to the spindle. We just let the caliper hang since we were replacing the brake lines anyway, we left it all attached until we had all the new stuff bolted on so brake fluid wasn’t leaking everywhere. Remember that if you run the brake master cylinder dry, you will have to bench bleed the master cylinder to completely evacuate all the air. So just keep an eye on the fluid level throughout the brake line replacement process.
Front Step 3:
Remove the old rotor, and cut the dust shield to fit the new larger caliper. his rotors didn’t have the screws holding them to the hubs, so it came off super easy. Just had to tap it medium/hard with a rubber mallet to free it up due to rust, and corrosion that fuse the rotor on to the hub.
Front Step 4:
slide the new rotor on, add the Aletheia motorsports shims, and clean new rotor thoroughly with brake cleaner to remove the oils the manufacture put on it during shipping and storage so its doesn’t rust.
Above you can see the before and after of no shims and shims. Also the screws that hold the rotor will no longer be able to be used since the rotor is not for this car, so use a lug nut like so to keep the rotor as flat as possible which will make for easier installation of the caliper and pads. This will just keep the frustration levels down.
Front Step 5:
Installing the calipers. You are going to have to install the L caliper on the Right side of the car, and the R caliper on the Left side of the car. This is because the bleeder screws have to be on top of the caliper, or you will not be able to properly bleed the air out. You will also have to use the 17mm caliper bolts that came off your car. DO NOT USE the caliper bolts from the legend. they are too long as seen below.
You will also have to remove the center brake pad clip, This will rub on the rotor if you don’t remove it. The two side clips can remain.
Before you install the caliper you must push the piston back into the caliper. I use a C clamp to do this. Yes I know there is proper tools for this exact thing, but my method works just fine.
Make sure you put thread lock on the two 17mm bolts holding the caliper to the spindle.
Now bolt your caliper on
Front Step 6:
Grease the caliper slide pins. Leave the caliper bracket bolted to the spindle and use a 14mm to remove the 2 bolts that hold the caliper to the bracket.
hang caliper out of the way.
carefully slide the pins off the rubber bushings, making sure you don’t tear the rubber.
Take note on the picture above that the pins are flat where his thumb and index finger are. these flat parts must be on the top and bottom of the pin, If not the caliper won’t line up, and you will not get it back on. Once you slide the pin back in, and the caliper back on you will notice that the flat part of the pin will line up with he caliper and allow it to properly seat. This is so the pin doesn’t spin as you re install the bolts. I know I didn’t really explain that too well. But if you just look at the caliper you are working on you will figure it out.
Clean off all old grease, reapply new grease to the pins, and slide both the upper and lower pins back in.
Final product all back together. We chose to do it once we were all the way done with the whole project, thats why you see the SS lines installed. We probably should have just done this while the calipers were out of the car on the work bench. * below you can also see how the flat part of the pins sit against the caliper, allowing the pin to not spin while tightening the bolt.
Do these exact same steps for the other side of the car.
The Front is all done, But before we move on to the rear let me address a few things. Using the Mini cooper rotor will allow you to use either a Legend, Type R (dc2/ek9), NSX, or Spoon caliper. It just depends on how baller you are. You must use an EX/SI/GSR/LS/RS front spindle. A DX/LX/VX/CX/HX will not work. If you don’t already have the correct spindles then you will have to go to the junkyard and pick some of those up too. If you are going to use an NSX caliper I have heard that you have to use a 23t caliper bracket (the one off the type r, or a Legend. This is for proper caliper spacing, so the pads don’t wear unevenly.) BUUUUT, I have NSX calipers on my car and I didn’t change the caliper bracket. Im using 91 NSX calipers, with ITR pads so I don’t now if that matters, and I’ve gotten over 20k miles on them with no issue.
Here are some comparison pictures between the EX/SI 10.3 inch rotor and the Mini Cooper 11.02 inch rotor
Rear Step 1:
Let the E Brake off, and remove the two 14 mm bolts that hold the caliper to the rear trailing arm. you can still leave the E brake cable connected at the caliper.
Rear Step 2:
Taking off the rotor will require you to unscrew the two Philips screws that hold the rotor to the hub. This is also the same for the front, unfortunately his front didn’t have them them so we couldn’t show you how to do it. It’s not uncommon for the screws to not be utilized, and there is no performance issues either way. After all, once the wheel is bolted on it will hold the rotor where it needs to be. Removing these screws can be a super PIA, so be careful as they strip out easily and you will have to end up drilling them out if they strip. You can use and impact screw driver (the one where you hit it with a hammer and it spins the screw off) I just use an impact gun, it uses the same sort of “jolt” to initially loosen the screw. If you use the gun just make sure you are applying pressure firmly inwards so that it is less likely to strip/round out the screw head.
Rear Step 3:
Once it’s all removed you will need to manually thread the rear piston back in to the caliper, much like the front where we used the C clamp. This again is because you are using new pads and you will not be able to fit them on if you don’t screw it back in. This will make the gap between the pads large enough to go over the rotor. There are tools specifically designed for this, but I just take some needle nose pliers and open them enough to the get each end of the tips to span the horizontal line across the piston, and simply twist Clockwise back in. you can also use a very large headed flat head screw driver, or a smaller chisel.
Rear Step 4:
Slide the new rotor on, clean with brake clean, make sure you have threaded the piston all the way back in, slide in the new brake pads, re install the X2 14mm bolts that hold the caliper to the rear trailing arm, DON’T FORGET thread lock! Just reassemble in reverse of disassembly. the rear is very easy, just don’t forget to clean the new rotors with brake cleaner thoroughly.
Rear Step 5:
Re grease the caliper slide pins (just like you did up front) There are two 12mm bolts that hold the caliper to the bracket.
Clean off all old grease and apply new grease.
Slide the pins back in, remembering just like the front pins the rear are flattened (picture below has the pin in the wrong orientation) flat spots must be on top and bottom of pin.
Again follow these same steps for the opposite side.
Installing the SS brake lines is very straight forward, and I don’t have any pictures of the installation process. Just do one corner at a time so you don’t leak fluid everywhere, again keeping an eye on the fluid level in the reservoir so you don’t have to bench bleed the master because it ran dry. Make sure you use a flare nut end wrench to loosen the hardline from the rubber line in the wheel wells. This nut also strips out super easy, so be careful. If you strip it, most likely you will have to go to the junkyard and get another hardline. Make sure you’re using all the new hardware supplied with the kit. Make sure you use the copper crush washers on both sides of the banjo bolt, and make sure the old ones have come completely off the caliper so you don’t stack crush washers. Some times the SS line brackets won’t bolt completely to the car, this is no big deal. just make sure you get at least one bracket bolted on. Make sure you route the lines so they won’t Kink, bind, or rub on anything *pro tip, turn the steering wheel lock to lock, and have someone watch to make sure nothing is binding. Then when you put the wheel on check to make sure the line won’t rub on the tire/wheel at full lock in either direction.
Lastly you will need to bleed the brakes, I have already done a write up on this. you can click the link below to read how to do it.
Here are some pictures comparing the old and new brakes.
You can see that it really fills the wheel a lot more. It’s also worth noting that you need to make sure your wheels will fit the new larger brakes. Nate actually had to buy new wheels just to fit the new brake set up. Previously he had Enkei RPF1 15×7 +42 and there was no way in hell it was going to clear (we had previously tested it on my 4 door ek since I’m running the NSX caliper mini cooper rotor) RPF1’s are notorious for not being able to fit larger brakes, due to the stepped inner barrel they have. So he had to/wanted to upgrade to a 15×8 +35 wheel. I used to run a Kosei K1 15×7 +36 wheel and they cleared my NSX set up. just be aware and do your research to see if your wheels will clear this upgrade.
Heres a comparison without the wheels, you can use the dust shield as a reference for size.
And here is the caliper number for reference
And then a few artsy shots
Don’t forget to tighten your wheels
Summing this upgrade up… I wish this was an option when I first started upgrading Hondas. Technically people were doing all these calipers before, but they were having to re drill prelude rotors, thus making it a little more challenging to do. You couldn’t just buy over the counter parts. Thank god for the Mini Cooper AMIRITE? I run spoon calipers with the Mini cooper rotor, and ITR pads on my track EG. I run NSX calipers on my 4 door EK with the mini cooper rotor, and ITR pads, and now Nate is running the Legend calipers with the mini cooper rotors, and TSX pads on his car. Sure I have the spoon calipers and the NSX calipers, but honestly the set up on Nates car is all anyone will need to run respectable times at the track, and still maintain the daily driver aspect of your car. Of course you could always upgrade to a more aggressive pad that would yield a little bit better performance under extreme track conditions, but for the regular enthusiast this set up is perfect. Nate couldn’t be happier with the upgrade. he says “I didn’t even know my brakes were that bad, until I did this upgrade.” He now enjoys driving his car every morning on his commute because he can drive more spiritedly. He now also feesl like his car is more balanced in the sense that he had good suspension, good tires, good motor, and now good brakes. “It really rounds out the whole cars performance and breathes new life into it.” Even for myself I have my EK with the SOHC motor and its slow as hell, but its a lot of fun being able to out brake people on the streets. Plus just having the confidence that your whole brake system is top notch, really gives you that extra confidence when driving spiritedly. If you have a Honda, I HIGHLY recommend doing this upgrade. It will be such a huge improvement compared to what you have now I guarantee it. If you have a little more money to spend I would spring for the Winmax pads in the rear as well. Another great pad option would be the CarboTech Xp8/Xp10 depending on your tire set up.
I hope you enjoyed reading about ways to improve your cars overall performance, and if you have any questions related to this or anything else. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, either on Instagram @FUNCTIONTHEORY, or via email Billy@functiontheory.com, or just post a comment on this post. Also if you like what you’re reading please share, and like so that more people can learn how to improve their cars.