Project Honda Civic EJ: Fast Brakes Big Brake Kit
By Chuck Johnson
Photos by Joe Lu
In the past few months, we've completely revamped Project Civic's suspension with a plethora of Skunk2 components; and then most recently, equipped it with a new pair of running shoes in the form of Enkei PF-01 rims and Nitto NT01 tires. Combine the results of these modifications with our goals of producing 200 plus horsepower and we should see some serious reduction in lap times. To truly realize Project Civic's full potential though, it's obvious that we need to balance our modifications and address its brake system.
During our baseline testing at Buttonwillow Raceway, Project Civic's brakes turned out to be one of its biggest shortcomings. (Asides from the head gasket of course.) Our resident shoe, Annie Sam, couldn't even make a full hot lap without battling brake fade. (See Annie's baseline lap at Buttonwillow here.) Knowing that the front brakes do the majority of the work on a front wheel drive car, we decided to start out our brake modifications by retiring the 260,000-mile, OE front brakes in favor of a Fast Brakes big brake kit.
The Fast Brakes big brake kit is centered around a well endowed 11.1″ diameter rotor, which is vented in design and then drilled and slotted. The radial venting sandwiched between the rotors' two friction surfaces, helps dissipate the tremendous amount of heat created during braking by channeling cooler ambient air through the rotor. (Think about it in terms of a less-efficient turbo pump, shrouded impeller wheel or a turbocharger compressor wheel in its housing.) Without this feature, there would be a significant decline in braking capability.
The additional “cross drilled” holes on the Fast Brakes rotor also help dissipate heat, but their main function is evacuating friction material debris and hot gasses that form between the pad and the rotor during braking. Likewise, the slots on Fast Brakes rotor can serve this same function, but also increase the transient response at the same time. This improved feeling of brake bite is created when the brake pad comes in contact with the sharp edge of the rotors slots.
It's something of a misnomer that the primary advantage of a big brake kit is decreased stopping distances. Instead, the main advantage of Fast Brakes big brake kit is the larger rotors increased ability to absorb thermal energy (heat). See, the true test of a brake system is not its ability to stop once in a short distance, but rather its ability to decelerate a vehicle reliably again and again and again in rapid succession. It becomes very tricky to do this without creating a larger heat sink to absorb and dissipate the massive amounts of heat caused in scenarios like road racing.
|A Fluke Thermal Imager depicts perfectly how a brake rotor acts as a gigantic heat sink which absorbs the thermal energy caused from the friction of braking.|