10 tips for safe, sure-footed brakes

Photography Credit: Tim Suddard

1. Pick the Right Compound

  • Racing compounds go on a race car, while street compounds go on a street car.

2. Look for Leaks

  • If anything is leaking in your braking system, fix it immediately. Make a visual inspection of all brake components and look for wet areas–you should find none.

3. Make Sure They’re Assembled Correctly

  • If a car has had at least one previous owner, assume that someone with a lack of mechanical ability has touched the brakes.

4. Bleed Them Correctly

  • We’ve always preferred the two-person way: One person goes to each wheel and bleeds the brake according to the shop manual instructions, while another person works the pedal.

5. Adjust the Drums

  • After making sure the adjusters are not frozen, adjust the brakes so they just start to drag.

6. Adjust the Parking Brake

  • Stuck parking brakes can quickly make brakes feel and act funny, plus wear out things out quickly.

7. Check the Hoses

  • A visual inspection of flexible brake hoses is pretty easy–look for leaks and cracks, discarding any hose with either.

8. Check the Linkages

  • After you’ve checked that all the components are not leaking and are in good shape, look for wear (and therefore compliance) in the pedal/master cylinder linkage and in the rear brake/parking brake linkages.

9. Rotor & Drum Surfaces Matter

  • Obviously, grooves are bad, but so is glazing.

10. Do You Really Need Those Big Brakes?

  • If you can lock up your wheels and tires, you don’t need bigger brakes–you need stickier tires
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BimmerMaven New Reader
10/24/22 8:39 a.m.

7. Hoses

I've seen too many "looks OK" rubber bits that...aren't.  5-10 years for brake hoses, and they go.   Sooner for racing; steel braided for racing.



10.  Brake torque

Excellent point....if they can do it repeatedly at speed.   If not, better cooling.  Read the HP book.

frenchyd MegaDork
11/6/22 2:53 p.m.

In reply to Carl Heideman :

Always, always, arc the shoes to fit the drums.  

mcloud New Reader
10/3/23 12:12 p.m.

Did I not read in GRM or CM to not use the pedal-push flush method, but rather the Motive Products Power Bleeder?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/3/23 1:07 p.m.

We usually bleed the traditional, two-person way: pump, pump, pump, hold. 

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