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AP Racing


AP Racing World Radi-CAL II Calipers

Where do they come from?

These brakes may look alien but they come from the master minds in the engineering department at AP Racing.  In 2007 AP Racing revealed the original World Radi-Cal brake calipers to the world at Watkins Glen on Tony Stewart’s NASCAR race car.  He went on to win the race crediting his brakes with giving him the upper hand over his competition.

In fact, they were so dominant that NASCAR actually outlawed the brakes until all of the other teams were able to have equal access to them!  Since then the race spec calipers have become the spec calipers used on DTM touring cars, Aussie V8 super cars as well as filling out most of the Formula One field and sports cars around the world including LMP1.

When AP Racing were thinking of developing a new caliper they decided to take a very unusual approach… They started with a blank sheet of paper.  They did not want to rely on “what they knew” and instead they wanted to test themselves, their finite element analysis software and challenge themselves to reinvent what a brake caliper is.


During their testing and development they used an FEA analysis software that is common in the engineering world.  However, they quickly realized that FEA analysis software is designed to introduce a static load and the intense environment of a braking system is far from static.  The heat generated, the RPM of the rotor, the modulation of the brake pedal, all of these factors and more equate to a very dynamic environment that can’t be treated like a traditional mechanical part.

AP Racing knew that the only way to move forward was to develop their own proprietary FEA analysis software.  AP Racing began working on developing a software that could replicate the incredibly diverse and ever changing environment that is a braking system.

During their initial testing the AP Racing engineers recognized that the friction between the brake pads and rotors was literally trying to rip the caliper from its mounts.  In a static environment the only way to test the rigidity of a caliper is to introduce a pressure and measure the amount of flex in the caliper.  This flex is basically how much the caliper expands horizontally.

During their dynamic testing they noticed that the caliper was actually twisting diagonally due to the forces created by the RPM and mass of the rotor interacting with the friction created by the application of the brake pads.  The solution was to reinforce and stiffen the caliper in key locations to counteract this force.  In turn, AP Racing realized that they could remove material that was unaffected by these forces.  The end result is an asymetrical design that is incredibly stiff yet also lightweight.  To further improve the rigidity of the caliper AP Racing implemented their patented “stiffening bands” which wrap around the caliper to form a “chassis” of sorts which ties all points together offering an even stiffer design.


AP Racing knew that the World Radi-CAL brake technology was the way of the future and that they needed to find a way to bring this technology to the road car market.  While race calipers offer a no compromise solution, they also mean higher prices and more regular service intervals.  AP Racing leaned on their expertise in developing a road car brakes for the Bugatti Veyron and Chiron as well as McLaren, Lotus, Holden, and more.  By applying their OEM manufacturing standards and test procedures AP Racing was able to launch the World Radi-CAL I road car calipers with STILLEN at the 2014 SEMA show.

These road car calipers employ all of the features of the race calipers but also add other features that make them suitable for daily driving as well as high performance environments.  Road car calipers are manufactured out of pressure forged aluminum.  This manufacturing process is less expensive than a Monobloc caliper which makes these fantastic brakes accessible to the average road car enthusiast.

Additionally, these calipers are equipped with dust seals which prevent road debris and dust from entering the hydraulic circuit or caliper pressure seal over time.  Road car calipers also feature anti-rattle clips to prevent any issues with pad knock back or residual noises.


Never ones to settle, AP Racing again went back to the drawing board to develop a range of calipers that would take even more from the racing world.  Enter, World Radi-Cal II.  World Radi-Cal II calipers offer the unique look and style that is associated with the Radi-Cal race brakes.  The goals for Radi-Cal II were simple: Make the caliper stiffer, lighter and look even more aggressive.  We are excited to say that each of those goals was achieved with unbelievable results.  The Radi-Cal II calipers also feature the superior stiffening bridge that not only ties the caliper together horizontally but also vertically by connecting the top and bottom of the caliper.  Even with this incredible rigid structure the design still allows for quick pad swaps that do not require removal of the caliper.


Further improvements were made to the calipers by removing additional material and pocketing around the calipers and non-structural areas of the caliper.  One of the benefits of removing this material is not only the weight savings but also the improvements with the unobstructed airflow around and through the caliper.  This airflow improves cooling and reduces overall operating temperatures.

Not only is World Radi-CAL II the most technologically advanced caliper ever made.  The aggressive design also makes it the best looking caliper available today.  World Radi-CAL II calipers are sure to draw attention with their unique futuristic styling and their performance numbers to back it up.

AP Racing World Radi-CAL II Big Brake Kit

  • AP Racing patented asymmetrical, forged aluminum WR2 6 piston brake calipers
  • 6061-T6 aluminum high strength bracket and billet aluminum rotor hats
  • DOT Compliant stainless steel braided brake lines
  • Designed to work with OEM brake master cylinder and ABS system
  • Unique scannable QR code for authenticity
  • 6 piston calipers are 150g lighter and 33% stiffer than Radi-CAL I calipers
  • 4 piston calipers are 100g lighter and 28% stiffer than Radi-CAL I calipers
  • Engineered to fit most 18 inch wheels (370mm rotor applications)
  • Toughest testing standards in the industry
  • Engineered for compatibility with OEM brake master cylinder and ABS systems
  • Finished in OEM quality red or black anti-corrosion finish

In 2014 STILLEN introduced AP Racing World Radi-CAL road car brakes at SEMA show which very quickly became recognized as the best aftermarket big brake kits available.  For the past 3 years our customers have been reporting back that the STILLEN AP Racing brakes are adding improved looks and style to the car as well as reducing lap times when used at high performance driving days!


AP Racing World Radi-Cal road car calipers take the features of the asymmetrical design, reinforced stiffening bands and pair them with a cost effective, strong and lightweight pressure forged aluminum manufacturing process to deliver superior results for the road car market.

Following on from the success of motorsports Radi-CAL™ brake systems, AP Racing has brought the same design philosophy to the road performance market in the form of the new World Radi-CAL II calipers.  These new pressure forged aluminum 4 and 6 piston calipers incorporate AP Racing’s patented technology allowing the road user to experience the superior performance that World Radi-CAL™ offers.

05_Header_3_Calipers_v2World Radi-Cal II calipers incorporate all the features demanded by the road performance market including boot type dirt seals, advanced anti-corrosion attractive paint finish and noise abatement solutionsCompared to WR1 calipers, WR2 calipers are stiffer (6-piston: 33% stiffer, 4-piston 28% stiffer) and lighter (6-piston: 150g lighter, 4-piston 100g lighter). Utilizing the latest FEA (finite element) analysis software and brake dynamometer testing, it was designed to implement the latest technologies learned through 40+ years of highly successful motorsports participation and an unparalleled 700+ F1 Grand Prix victories.

AP Racing pressure forged aluminum caliper bodies are tested at over 500,000 cycles of pressure and torque to meet AP Racing’s stringent OE and high performance road use validation testing to ensure maximum stiffness and durability required for use on road registered vehicles. The forged aluminum process was chosen as it offers a 25% stronger and lighter caliper than similarly sized units using a casting process. These larger, lightweight AP Racing calipers replace the typical heavy cast iron OE calipers that are designed for low cost and little regard to high performance driving.


The opposed piston design guarantees maximum stiffness for better pedal feel, modulation and immediate braking action from the drivers input. Four piston and six piston designs allow a larger pad area to be used which decreases heat at the friction point between the pad material and disc surface while maintaining the same brake torque. This single detail increases both rotor and pad service life. Additionally, a larger caliper aids in braking performance by acting as a more efficient lever on the rotor. This in turn applies more torque to the rotor thus increasing the force applied to the rotor.

The asymmetrical design achieves improved stiffness while also reducing weight by removing material where there is little dynamic load and relocating that material to areas that need additional reinforcement due to the dynamic forces that occur during high performance driving.  This revolutionary caliper design guarantees maximum stiffness for better pedal feel, modulation and immediate braking action from the drivers input.  Additionally, AP Racing WR2 calipers offer the largest pad possible.  The larger pad decreases heat by distributing the kinetic energy generated during braking across a larger surface area thus better controlling the thermal dynamics of your braking system.  Additionally, this larger piston/pad surface area applies superior clamping force to the rotor.  Furthermore, the larger diameter rotor allows us to move the caliper further out thus increasing the brake torque applied to the rotor assembly.


By controlling the operating temperature caused by the friction between the pads and rotor we are able to better manage the performance of the big brake kit. Controlling the temperature in a braking system is one of the biggest goals when engineering a system. A vehicle will create the same amount of heat when stopped from the same speed, the brake component choices will control how that heat is managed. Both pads and rotors have optimum operational temperature ranges. For a street car, we must make sure the brakes work flawlessly at sub-zero temperatures but still offer excellent performance when being pushed in a high performance environment and being pushed to their limits. All calipers are double sealed to protect piston bores and pressure seals from road debris. High temperature seal material is used to ensure safety at high temperature use. These seals are designed to minimize off brake pad drag on the disc which will increase pad and disc life.


Light weight, improved rigidity and better cooling characteristics than other competitions’ conventional brake caliper designs.  AP Racing World Radi-CAL™ concept represents a major innovation in braking technology.



The AP Racing discs in the Radi-CAL big brake kits are directionally curve vane vented for maximum air flow through the disc. AP Racing’s unique curve vaned discs are Dyno and race proven as the best designed rotors for optimized cooling. The curve vane rotor acts as an air pump pulling air into the center of the rotor and blowing it through the veins and out of the top of the rotor. This act allows the rotor to be self-cooling and work extremely efficiently.01_Header_Rotor_v1

AP Racing’s Wide Disc Technology (WDT) is used for the most efficient way to transfer heat to from the disc. Designs using wider discs with larger air gaps increase air flow rates within the discs as proven by AP Racing’s FEA, CFD and TSA testing. This goal was achieved while also  decreasing disc weight and  disc stress as well as  decreasing disc temperatures by up to 300 degrees F.


Larger two piece rotors allow for greater thermal capacity with an eye on weight by using aluminum center bells (hats) that minimize the unsprung weight of the overall disc assembly. This means greater heat management without increasing corner weight. It also increases the effective radius (leverage point) of the brake system which creates more brake torque with same braking effort.

Floating rotor assembly hardware is used to allow the brake disc and bell (hat) to move freely radially and axially to allow the disc to expand and contract under thermal stress without  binding or cupping. This allows the disc to stay centered to the caliper and reduces pad knock back. STILLEN utilizes McLaren tension springs on all floating assemblies to reduce any noises or rattles and to meet our NVH standards.


Lightweight billet aluminum bells (hats) are made vehicle specific to match the OE bell (hat design) for a perfect match to the OE hub. For the AP Racing Radi-CAL brakes STILLEN has selected an aircraft grade 6061-T6 billet aluminum. This is the same material used by AP Racing in their aluminum hats.   6061-T6 aluminum is considered the standard aluminum used in all aerospace applications and offers excellent strength and durability along with excellent longevity and service life.  Caliper and rotor location is optimized during the hat and bracket engineering phase by moving the caliper and rotor as far inboard to the wheel well as possible.  This ensures that AP Racing by STILLEN big brake kits fit the widest range of wheels possible.


“Industry standard” is to use a 10 point bolt pattern to connect the rotor and hat assemblies.  AP Racing and STILLEN have chosen to go with a 12 point bolt pattern configuration.  This means that the stresses and loads put on the braking system is distributed more evenly across both the rotor and the hat thus reducing the stress and fatigue placed on the system components.

  • All kits feature 2 piece full floating rotors for lightweight and high durability
  • All rotors are available in either J hook or cross drilled slotted patterns
  • Rotors feature AP Racing wide disc technology to allow for better cooling and longer service life
  • Directional vanes are used in every rotor to allow optimal airflow and cooling efficiency

Performance Brake Pads

The friction material used in the brake system is a key factor for the overall performance of the system. There are many variables to consider including pad material heat range, dust, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) issues and of course performance characteristics. Most OE and aftermarket brake pad materials concentrate on low dust and NVH issues while sacrificing performance levels. AP Racing and STILLEN consider all four points in the selection of the supplied brake pad material.


The result is a material that produces a high, linear mu level for high initial bite and consistent grab through a wide heat range. These low dust brake pads are equipped with noise abutment shims that control NVH issues. Unlike carbon pads or ceramic pads, our high performance pad material is also environmentally complaint to the upcoming California and Washington legislation (pending in other states) that requires the elimination of copper and other harmful pollutant byproducts in brake dust that eventually make their way into our water systems.

STILLEN has also worked hard to ensure a wide range of pads are available for this caliper.  All kits come with the standard brake pad optimized for low dust, NVH and performance driving however race pads are available upon request.

  • Performance street brake pads included (various pad compounds available)
  • Standard pads feature low dust composition with performance street driving in mind
  • Optional brake pads for enthusiasts looking to take their driving to the next level

Stainless Steel Brake Lines


This is an often overlooked component in performance braking. Brake lines used in the AP Racing Radi-CAL kits are built using extruded PTFE hose that is wrapped in corrosion and fire resistant stainless steel braided hose and then covered with a clear plastic coat for additional protection. Each brake line design goes through rigorous testing and must pass the whip test, where the line is whipped through thousands of cycles, before being approved for production.

The result is the most efficient delivery of fluid pressure to the brake caliper, bringing a solid feel to the brake pedal sure to inspire confidence at every brake zone. By reducing the factory rubber lines ability to swell or expand means a quicker response, firmer more consistent pedal feel that allows for great brake modulation.


All AP Racing by STILLEN brake lines are provided by Goodridge.  Goodridge is the leading brake line supplier in the industry and one of the only companies to achieve DOT compliance.


Who is AP Racing

For over 50 years AP Racing has been recognized as the leader in motorsport friction technology.  In 2016 alone AP Racing supplied brakes and/or clutches to over 30 champions across multiple disciplines of motorsport.  AP Racing is the primary brake component supplier to NASCAR, WRC and other major forms of motorsport around the world as well as the spec clutch supplier for Formula One while also supplying half the field with racing brake components.  To date AP Racing has won over 700 Formula one Grands Prix.

There is no other friction manufacturer that has the experience, or track record to match AP Racing.



In 1990 STILLEN company founder Steve Millen was testing at Mosport International Motorsport Park only one day after joining his team in a successful campaign at the 24 hours of Le Mans.  The purpose of the test was to develop a new braking system for the world famous IMSA 300ZX twin turbo race car which Steve would later take to victories at Daytona, Le Mans, Sebring and multiple world championships.  During the test Steve discussed his passion for tuning high performance roads cars and that he was looking for a solution to improve the brakes.  He was making the cars more powerful, handle better and as an experienced racer knew that this improvement in speed needed to be matched with an improvement in braking.  Since this initial conversation in 1990 STILLEN has continued developing high performance big brake kits for all makes and models of cars, trucks and SUVs.

Best Brake Systems 401: Bigger Calipers Clamp Speed

By Richard Fong

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It’s no secret that brakes serve an important role from the standpoint of both performance as well as safety. After all, the typical street vehicle (cars, motorcycles, etc.) generates approximately 80-percent of stopping power from its front brakes. In Brake Systems 101, we covered some of the basics of braking, focusing on pads and rotors. Brake Systems 201 put emphasis on two-piece rotors as well as stainless-steel braided lines and higher performance brake fluids. The third installment, Brake Systems 301, introduced one component of the Big Brake System, larger rotors, which increases the heat capacity and friction surface area relative to stock. Now we’re going to look at the visual and functional star of the big brake kit, the brake caliper.

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Applying Pressure

Brake calipers serve one purpose, to squeeze the pads against the rotor to generate friction, shave speed and eventually bring the vehicle to a stop. Calipers come in a variety of types, configurations and sizes. One of the most common factory caliper types is the sliding caliper, where one or more pistons press against the inboard brake pad, while the brake caliper housing slides inward, pulling on the outer pad to equalize the pressure to both sides of the rotor. Automakers often favor this type of caliper for its low cost and satisfactory stopping performance on the street. Unfortunately, these calipers suffer from excessive deflection under performance conditions and contribute to less than ideal braking performance. By contrast, fixed or opposed calipers, as the name implies, do not slide or move. There are an equal number of pistons that press on the pads isometrically to ensure equal pressure is applied to both sides for even wear.

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Bigger Rotors, Bigger Calipers

Increasing the heat capacity and the friction surface area by way of larger rotors prompts the use of correspondingly larger calipers. Upgrading to larger brake calipers and the use of larger brake pads make best use of the increased area availed by larger rotors for improved stopping performance. Larger calipers also tend to employ multiple pistons to ensure even application of pressure to the backing plate of the larger pads as they generate friction with the rotor surface.

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Pumped Up Pistons

The number and size of the pistons that a caliper employs is typically an indicator of the size of the calipers, pads and rotors. As rotors and pads get larger, so do the size of the calipers necessary to make use of the available friction surface. In order to evenly apply pressure to all of the available friction surface area, it becomes necessary to increase the number of pistons pressing on the pads. Sliding calipers employ a single, dual or even triple piston configuration, while fixed calipers feature an even number of pistons in an opposed configuration (pressing toward each other.)

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In an opposed, multi-piston caliper, the caliper body stays in a fixed location while the hydraulic fluid builds pressure behind the pistons and forces them to squeeze the pads to the rotor surface.


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Cast, Forged, One Piece, Two Piece

Calipers are not only defined by their size but also their construction. Calipers are included among the components of unsprung weight and are subjected to a variety of conditions such as extreme temperatures and pressures. Thus, caliper design must take several variables into consideration.

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In the case of a single piston sliding caliper, the piston (red arrow) pushes on the inboard brake pad onto the rotor. The caliper body moves the opposite direction from the piston (green arrows) and pulls the outboard brake pad (blue arrows) onto the rotor surface.

The least sophisticated is the cast sliding caliper. Sliding calipers strike a balance of cost, weight and performance for the average streetcar. However, these calipers suffer from deflection and inadequate pressure under performance conditions, resulting in less than satisfactory results: Best Brake Systems 401: Bigger Calipers Clamp Speed.

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The cast two-piece caliper features an opposed piston configuration that resists deflection while offering improved application of pressure to the brake pads. An even stiffer solution is the forged two-piece caliper. This fixed caliper shares similar design traits to its cast cousin, but benefits from being forged for greater strength and stiffness.

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The stiffest and lightest solution, which also happens to be the most expensive, is the fixed, forged one-piece monoblock caliper. These tend to be machined from a forging of aluminum for strength and light weight. While offering the greatest performance, the cost to manufacture this type of brake caliper becomes cost prohibitive for all but the most well-funded of individuals or teams.

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Racing calipers are massive, stiff and look really cool. But they’re not for street use. Racing calipers must be rebuilt on a regular basis throughout the racing season. As you can see, they do not have dust boots covering the pistons. This could lead to failure if debris or other contaminants damage the seals. Street calipers do not require the same maintenance schedule as racing applications, making them ideal for street driven vehicles.

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Piston Power

As mentioned earlier, calipers feature a greater number of pistons based on the size of the pads and the rotor. When increasing the pad and rotor size, applying equal pressure across the entire pad surface becomes essential for even application of pressure for optimal generation of friction. This can be achieved (up to a point) by way of larger pistons. When the caliper design calls for a lower profile to fit within the barrel of certain wheel sizes, adequate pad coverage can also be accomplished by way of additional pistons. Typical multi-piston configurations can range from four to six pistons with some designs employing up to as many as twelve pistons.

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Bigger isn’t always Better

So, when four is good, six is better and twelve is fantastic, right? Not necessarily so. Optimizing your brake system depends on a myriad of variables, including purpose, vehicle weight and power output, to name a few. There is such a thing as overkill, and overkill on brakes could actually compromise other aspects of performance like handling and feel. Brakes fall under the category of unsprung weight, which has a direct effect on responsiveness and overall feel. This is why a smaller and lighter vehicle like a first generation (NA) Mazda Miata that weighs in at just over 2,000 pounds would not benefit from the massive factory six-piston, forged monoblock brakes engineered for the 3,800 pound Nissan R35 GT-R. Not only would the Miata have to run much larger wheels just to fit this brake system, it would be far too much brake for the fly-weight Miata. The nimble feel of the NA would also be lost due to unsprung weight gained at each corner. Conversely, the much heavier R35 GT-R would brake as if it were in the vacuum of space while trying to stop with the NA Miata’s diminutive braking system. Exaggerated examples aside, a properly sized brake upgrade can lend greatly to vehicle performance. The right combination can improve feel, heat capacity and longevity while mitigating detrimental side effects related to unsprung weight. Ultimately, the right brake system upgrade for your ride will complement the overall build as well as its appearance.

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Sized Up: Brake Master Cylinder

Brake systems function on the mechanics of hydraulics, which is the use of fluid to perform mechanical force. In this case, the movement of the piston(s) in the calipers to apply pressure to the brake pads by displacing the pistons with brake fluid. The brake master cylinder forces fluid through the brake lines to each caliper to apply pressure to the pads. Since the amount of fluid displaced depends on the size and number of pistons, properly sizing the brake system includes evaluating the size of the brake master cylinder. When upgrading to a larger brake system, it is necessary to measure the displacement of the system to ensure that the brake master cylinder displaces enough fluid to deploy the pistons to press the pads against the rotor surface. Small bore brake master cylinders produce high pressure, while larger bore master cylinders deliver more volume.

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Automakers go to painstaking lengths to properly size the brake master cylinder to the brake calipers they equip the vehicles with to ensure a balance of pedal feel and brake system performance. Properly sized, bolt-on brake systems should be designed to work with the factory master cylinder. If upgrading to significantly larger brakes, it is sometimes necessary to increase the size of the brake master cylinder to ensure that the feel and performance is not thrown out of balance.

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Science of Stopping

Properly-engineered brake system improvements ranging from the most basic pad and rotor upgrades to full Big Brake Kits will enhance the feel from behind the wheel while delivering longer sessions on twisty highways or quicker lap times. While horsepower will make your car faster, balancing that horsepower out with improved braking performance will help you navigate the streets and the track safely and, in record time.

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Find out what STILLEN has to offer to improve your brake system! Check out www.stillen.com and click through to the brake section. 

Best Brake Systems 401: Bigger Calipers Clamp Speed

Brake Rotors

Brake Pads

Big Brake Kits

Brake Fluid

Brake Lines

Got questions or ready to upgrade your brake system? Reach out to STILLEN at 866-250-5542, by email at sales@stillen.com, or via Live Chat at stillen.com!

Best Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface Area

By Richard FongBest Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface Area stillen_u_banner_v1 (1)

Best Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface Area Practice and experience lend to improving your driving skills. As you go faster and quicker, you will inevitably uncover more limitations of your vehicle’s hardware setup. In Brake Systems 101 and 201, we explored the basic bolt-on upgrades that help to improve initial bite, heat capacity and feel while retaining the stock calipers and rotor dimensions. However, even aftermarket upgrades have their limitations, especially when it comes to heat capacity, which leads to brake fade. This is where upgrading to a big brake kit could prove an effective solution.

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Understanding Big Brake Kits

As had been mentioned before, the factory equipment on most vehicles are selected as a compromise of cost versus performance – meaning that the vehicle manufacturer will offer you a safely adequate braking system necessary for your vehicle within their targeted budget. This opens the door to aftermarket improvements, and a big brake kit usually rides high on the list of upgrades. However, contrary to popular belief, upgrading to a big brake kit is not for the sole purpose of shortening stopping distances. Its greater merit is increasing the heat capacity of the braking system. Best Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface Area increases the heat capacity of a braking system by incorporating larger rotors, larger pads and larger calipers. The increased surface area lends to greater heat capacity and an increased friction surface. (NOTE: Before investing in a big brake kit, consider the wheel size you are running, as some kits might require specific wheel sizing and offset to clear the rotor diameter and the larger brake calipers. Contact STILLEN for more information.)

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Physics of Braking

Braking is the conversion of kinetic energy (motion) into heat (and stopping power) by way of friction generated between the brake pads and the brake rotor surface. Put simply, the greater the friction produced, the greater the stopping power. However, with more friction comes more heat. While certain pad compounds thrive in specific operating temperature ranges, the collective brake system also has particular temperature requirements. Individual systems begin to fall short once their optimal temperature range has been exceeded. Increasing the temperature capacity by way of fluid upgrades and rotor cooling strategies are logical first steps. To take upgrades a step further, increasing the heat capacity by way of larger rotors and correspondingly larger calipers and pads add to the available rotor surface area and the size of the pads that can be used to generate friction.

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A Big Brake Kit not only benefits from increased friction surface area and greater heat capacity, it also benefits from a greater moment of torque.

Get More Torque From Your Brake System

Increasing the heat capacity and applying more friction are just two of the benefits that a big brake kit offers. Another important benefit comes in the form of increased torque. The application of torque is a matter of leverage. In the same way that increasing the amount of leverage by way of a breaker bar (torque arm) helps to increase the torque applied (moment of torque) to a bolt or nut, the same principle applies when increasing the rotor diameter and caliper size. Increasing the diameter of the rotor increases the torque arm and subsequently increases the moment of torque for braking. This is one of the significant advantages that a big brake kit has over a factory brake system.

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Rotor Designs

Most vehicles come equipped with vented rotors up front, which help to facilitate cooling of the rotors in order to mitigate the potential for brake fade. A variety of vent types (radial, pillar and directional) have been developed in the pursuit of efficient rotor cooling.


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The Disc Brakes Australia proprietary “Kangaroo Paw” pillar design (left) compared to a typical radial vent design (right).

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As mentioned in Brake Systems 101, the various brake pad compounds deliver varying levels of endurance, initial bite and resistance to heat. Pads designed for the street require little warm up and offer great initial bite, but sacrifice braking performance (reduction in friction under conditions of excessive braking and heat build up) when subjected to an endurance or heavy use situation. By contrast, an endurance race pad can take a lot of heat while maintaining optimal friction, but they must be heated to racing temperatures before becoming effective, which is unlikely to be achieved during normal street driving. Somewhere in between, there are pads that offer a balance of performance and endurance that suit a wider variety of driving situations.

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Exotic Materials – STILLEN CCM-X Brake Upgrade

Technology and space-age materials have enhanced our world in many ways. When it comes to stopping, STILLEN and AP Racing have worked together to improve on the heavy yet nimble, Nissan R35 GT-R. Their efforts led to the development of the high thermal capacity (HTC) Carbon Ceramic Matrix brake rotor (CCM-X) that offers superior heat capacity compared to its iron counterpart. Once found only in the world’s most exotic sportscars, this is the first CCM rotor offering for a production tuner vehicle. In addition, STILLEN worked with Pagid to formulate its RSX1 pad material to offer easy bedding and greater performance for both street and track applications. During extreme performance testing at Auto Club Speedway, the HTC CCM-X rotors and RSX1 pads proved to run 142F cooler than previous generations of CCM rotors (1,346F vs. 1,488F), which validated the test results recorded on the brake dyno at AP Racing’s facilities in Coventry, England.

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At the Limit

At this point the question is, how do you know when you’ve reached your brake system’s heat capacity? Since the friction between the pads and the rotor generates heat, this heat transfers into the components of the brake system (rotors, pads, calipers and brake fluid.)  If you’ve upgraded these basic brake system components with aftermarket components (as outlined in Brake Systems 101 and 201) and are still experiencing unresponsive braking and/or a spongy pedal feel after aggressive driving, you’ve likely reached the heat capacity of the brake system. This condition is referred to as brake fade.

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Don’t Get Faded

Brake fade occurs because the heat generated by the friction between the pads and the rotor has built up to the point that the pads are no longer able to create friction with the rotors (unresponsive braking) or pockets of air have formed in the brake lines due to brake fluid boiling (spongy pedal feel.) In both situations, heat is the culprit, which drives home the value of cooling the brake system. While adding brake ducts that direct air to the calipers and rotors certainly helps to facilitate cooling, increasing the amount of surface area available offers greater heat capacity and an increased friction surface area for use with larger brake pads and calipers.

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 More Surface Area

Generally speaking, improving a brake system’s heat capacity typically requires more iron and thus, larger rotors. Larger rotors offer more material to absorb and dissipate heat, as well as a larger friction area for a larger brake pad to be employed. This is also why larger calipers are an integral part of the big brake kit (to be covered in Brake Systems 401). By increasing the amount of friction surface, more heat can be stored before reaching temperatures that cause fade. The increased heat capacity also increases the usable range brake pads have that would not have been practical on a lower heat capacity setup.

Best Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface Area IMG_0903

Mechanical Grip Improves Braking

While increasing the size of the brake calipers, pads and rotors inevitably improves the heat capacity and overall brake performance, a brake system is limited by another factor, mechanical grip. Mechanical grip refers to the tires, the only thing between your vehicle and the pavement, ground or terrain. In the case of road vehicles, the brake system’s ability to slow and stop a vehicle depends heavily on the tires. A vehicle with worn or inappropriate tires (i.e. endurance tires being used at a track day, rain tires when its dry, etc.) will not perform optimally compared to one fitted with tires suited to the purpose at hand.

Best Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface AreaIMG_0901

Continuing on the subject of big brake kits, the next issue of STILLEN University, Brake Systems 401, will go into caliper sizing and selection along with the mechanics of how they work. Do you need a 4-piston or 6-piston caliper? Is bigger always better? Check back with us soon!

Check out some of the available Best Brake Systems 301: Torque Friction Surface Area brake rotor and pad upgrades available at www.stillen.com!

STILLEN Sport Brake Rotors

Disc Brakes Australia


STILLEN Brake Pads

Hawk Performance Brake Pads

Ferodo Brake Pads

Mintex Brake Pads

Pagid Brake Pads

Got questions or ready to upgrade your brake system? Reach out to STILLEN :
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Brake Systems 201: Upgrading the OEM Brakes with Rotors, Pads, Lines & Fluids

By Richard Fong

Brake System 201: 2-Piece Rotors Fluids Lines stillen_u_banner_v1

In our Brakes 101 edition of STILLEN U, we took a look at the basics of the automotive brake system and how your car’s brake system works. Now that you’ve gotten familiar with some of the first and most straightforward brake upgrades in our Brake Systems 101: Pads and Rotors, it’s time to look at the next modifications in line to optimize the factory brake system. In this edition, Brake System 201, we’ll take a look at how upgrades like 2-Piece Brake Rotors, Fluids and Performance Braided Stainless Brake Lines can further improve your factory brake system for greater performance on both the street and the track.

The important thing to remember here is that Brakes, like tires, are a wear item, and that means you’re going to have to buy replacement brake parts no matter what, whether you’re just daily-driving or running an autocross campaign. While the factory equipment is generally adequate for an everyday street use, it is often less-than-ideal for high-performance driving. It’s also worth noting that with today’s generation of performance cars incorporating hybrid tech, for example, it may not be possible to install a Big Brake Kit on a hybrid vehicle with features like Regenerative Braking. However, that said, upgraded rotors, pads, lines and fluids are still an option for increasing braking performance while retaining functionality.

Upgrading brake pads and rotors can make a considerable improvement to a vehicle’s braking performance, and the cost is often around the same price as stock replacement parts (and sometimes can be less expensive than the stock part), making this a great upgrade for enthusiasts who daily drive their ‘fun’ car.


Picking The Right Brake Pad Compound for the Way YOU Drive

Each pad type and compound is optimized depending on your vehicle’s intended purpose- a luxury car will likely have pads designed for low dust and quiet, smooth operation, and a performance oriented vehicle might come with oversize semi-metallic brakes that often squeak but offer fantastic stopping power. There are a plethora of High Performance OE Replacement Brake pads available from STILLEN, DBA Brakes and Hawk Performance to name a few, and these pads are offered in a variety of friction compounds ranging from organic and ceramic to semi-metallic to suit a variety of different driving demands. Each compound has its own pros and cons.

As we mentioned in our discussion of Brake Pads in Brakes 101, the operating temperature range of your brake pad’s compound has a significant impact on how it performs under aggressive, hard use, such as racing- as well as how it handles crawling freeway stop and go traffic. As we explained in Brakes 101, the demands of racing are totally different than the demands of street driving – that means you can’t just throw “RACE” pads on and drive around town, because a race brake pad is designed to perform well in a much higher temperature range than your street-spec OEM pads. While your OEM pads might not work once you get them too hot, conversely, race pads won’t work when they’re too cold, such as when you first start driving, or get off the freeway after driving at speed for a while.


Balancing Street Performance & Track Day Fun

With all of that in mind, it might seem like an impossible task to balance street performance with the needs of a track day without going to an all-out big brake kit. However, that’s not the case- As we mentioned in Stillen U: Brakes 101, there are a few upgradeable parts that can significantly enhance the performance of your car’s factory-design brake system before making the jump to aftermarket calipers and larger rotors. Many manufacturers, like AP Racing, STILLEN, DBA Brakes and HAWK Performance for example, offer a high performance replacement for the OEM rotors, pads and lines which provide a marked improvement in braking performance without the expense of a full on Big Brake Kit.

OE Replacement Brake Discs and Pads

It’s More Affordable Than You Think

Many enthusiasts are scared off by the sticker shock of a big brake kit’s average cost, so one might think performance replacement parts would be equally pricey, but not so. Funnily enough, performance aftermarket replacements for the OEM brake rotors and pads can often be less expensive than the OEM parts typically cost at a dealer or brake shop.
As we’ve already said, you’re going to have to buy new brakes no matter what you do. The cost is likely around the same as the non-performance replacement parts, if not cheaper – and it takes the same amount of effort to install an upgraded replacement as it is to pop in another set of stock brake components. Taking that into consideration, upgrading your OEM design brakes with performance replacement parts is a no brainer.

stillen 2 pc rotors jhook w hat detail

Know When To Service Your Brakes – Watch out for Bad Vibes

A smoothly-operating vehicle typically indicates that all is well and functioning properly. When an ABS-like vibration feeds back through the brake pedal, it can be disconcerting to some and annoying to others. In either case, it’s certainly an indication of something amiss that requires attention. That vibration could simply be caused by uneven pad material built up on the surface of the rotor, for which a proper brake service (new pads, resurfaced or replaced rotors, brake fluid flush) would remedy. However, in the case of performance and heavy utility applications, the damage to the rotors could be more severe, so be cognoscente of the feedback you get from your brakes and don’t procrastinate on checking out vibration issues.

Getting Rid of Your Car’s Achilles’ Heel
Beyond the fact that the cost of Performance Replacement Brake Rotors & Performance Brake Pads from AP Racing and other aftermarket brakes are often comparable to the cost of ‘stock’ brakes, it’s also worth saying that the brake systems of certain cars can get overwhelmed VERY quickly, making an otherwise controllable, predictable sportscar into something dangerous.

As we mentioned in Brakes 101, Brake Fade is the gremlin you’re fighting against when trying to get more out of your brakes, and brake fade sets in as your brakes get too hot. As the rotor and pad exceed their heat limits, the pad’s friction compounds don’t work anymore, and as the calipers get heatsoaked, the brake fluid boils.


Pushing down on the pedal pushes down on the fluid, and that force engages the brakes.
The system depends on the incompressibility of the hydraulic fluid to work. Air is compressible, and that void in the lines will prevent effective hydraulic system function. (Concept Illustration via Wikipedia Commons)

Bubbles Are Bad

When the brake fluid boils, the rubber brake lines expand as bubbles form in the boiling fluid, causing braking to become spongy and unresponsive. Since the hydraulic system cannot effectively exert pressure on the calipers due to all the heat-induced expansion, and so the brakes lose much of their stopping power. On a racetrack, brake fade could be the difference between making the next turn and kissing the Armco barriers.

Unfortunately, accidents caused by overwhelmed and overheated brake systems aren’t just wild hyperbole and conjecture – they’re very much a reality. One such example of an under-performing, fade-prone brake system is a platform we’re very familiar with here at STILLEN – the Nissan 370Z, and 350Z as well, though the 350 isn’t quite as bad. Let us be clear, they’re by no means the only vehicles suffering from braking issues, but for the purposes of this discussion, they’re a great example. The 370Z in particular is notorious for brakes that quickly overheat and fade badly after only a few laps of hard trackday driving, or say, a 10/10ths canyon run – a flaw which caused one automotive magazine to crash the 370Z they were reviewing into the wall at VIR. Ouch.

In the cases like these, upgrading to better brake pads paired with more efficiently cooled Brake Rotors, in addition to replacing the OEM rubber brake lines with Stainless Steel Braided Brake lines helps correct this potentially dangerous shortcoming.


One option is 2-Piece Vented Rotors, such as those offered by AP Racing, STILLEN and DBA Brakes to name a few examples. These 2-piece OEM replacement rotors offer dramatically improved airflow, which enhances thermal transfer for better cooling, while more aggressive pads offer better bite and shorter stopping distance, and the Braided Stainless Brake Lines eliminate the expansion problems of rubber brake lines. Last but not least, replacing old, dirty brake fluid with fresh high-temperature Racing Brake Fluid raises the boiling point of your brake fluid, helping to make spongy, faded brakes a thing of the past.

STILLEN 2 Pc Rotors no Hats

The Big Advantage of 2-Piece Rotors: Superior Heat Dissipation

A vast majority of brake rotors on the market are manufactured as a single piece of iron for cost and durability. As the friction surface for the pads, your rotors are subjected to extreme heating and cooling cycles. Since the center or “hat” of the rotor bolts to the wheel hub, it is sandwiched between the hub and the mounting pad of the wheel. The force of the wheel pinning the rotor against the hub limits the rotor’s ability to expand and contract freely when subjected to the heavy thermal loads created by extreme braking conditions (as would be the case on a racetrack or during an aggressive mountain drive). Preventing and limiting this expansion could lead to warped rotors.

STillen 2 pc rotors hub side jhook

A viable solution is upgrading to a OE replacement 2-Piece Brake Rotor. In a 2-piece rotor, a billet aluminum hat is fastened by way of “floating” hardware to the brake rotor disc, which allows the rotor to expand and contract to effectively dissipate heat without being restricted by the hat.

Rotor Vane Cutaway

A 2-piece rotor also permits the use of exotic lightweight rotor materials as well, like a carbon-ceramic matrix.  An added benefit to having a billet aluminum hat and/or lighter rotors is that they offer reduced unsprung weight. This reduction in ‘unsprung weight’ helps to sharpen and lighten steering response which further lends to improved handling.

Brake System 201: 2-Piece Rotors Fluids Lines 3R1A9595 Zoomed 2

Two piece replacement rotors are definitely the better option as performance replacement rotors go, however, if 2-piece rotors are too spendy, you can still improve over stock with a set of drilled or slotted 1-piece rotors. The improvement is less dramatic when opting for 1pc over 2pc, but it’s still better than stock.

In many cases, just upgrading the brake components themselves goes a long way to stave off brake fade, but sometimes that’s not enough. In some mof those cases, the brake heat issues are exacerbated by poor ventilation. In the case of the 370Z, we offer a Brake Cooling Kit to correct this. These brake ventilation kits further help fight brake fade by adding a set of ducts to route cool air directly to the inside of the rotor, improving its ability to shed heat quickly – this is important, as just venting cooler air at the rotor’s outside surfaces would be ineffective.

AP Racing Brake Fluid STILLEN

Don’t Forget The Performance Brake Fluid…
If you’ve upgraded your pads and rotors, but have not upgraded the brake fluid, this could cause poor braking performance, despite the other upgraded parts. The solution is to upgrade your brake fluid. You might have seen the term “DOT” used when people talk about brake fluid – this refers to the Department of Transportation (DOT), which has established standards to indicate a fluid’s capabilities. The name denotes the fluid’s heat capacity and performance capability as required by the DOT.

Boiling Point

A recurring theme in brake systems – and frankly, automotive performance in general – is that heat is the enemy, and managing heat effectively is what makes the difference between finishing and a DNF. For the most part, this is true, the exception being specialized brake pad compounds formulated to function optimally at higher temperatures (eg, racing brake pads such as those used on the NASCAR example earlier). Aside from this and other “special exceptions”, heat isn’t good for the car or its performance– and the heat that is generated by the friction between the rotors and the pad material eventually transfers to the calipers, then the brake fluid. And once the fluid boils, braking efficacy decreases dramatically, so fluid is more critical than you might think.

Street vehicles rarely exceed the capabilities of DOT 3 fluid under normal driving conditions, so as a result, DOT 3 brake fluid is the type most commonly used in automobiles. When brake fluid heats to the point of boiling, pockets of air form in the brake lines. Air, unlike hydraulic brake fluid, is compressible, and those air bubbles are compressible voids, which translates into a spongy brake pedal and an unresponsive brake system with dramatically reduced stopping ability. Under performance conditions such as on a track or a road requiring significant and frequent brake input, upgrading to DOT 4, DOT 5 or DOT 5.1 brake fluid will help to maintain the responsiveness and effectiveness of the brake’s hydraulic system.

AP Racing Brake Fluid STILLEN reverse

DOT Standards

Typical factory brake fluid is engineered to function within a prescribed temperature range optimized for the majority of driving conditions that the manufacturer expects a vehicle to encounter. This covers a broad spectrum of conditions ranging from freezing to triple-digit ambient temperatures. While these requirements cover a seemingly broad range of temperatures, the brake fluid must endure far more extreme temperatures. DOT 3 fluid is the most common fluid type employed by automakers with some requiring DOT4 fluid (in the case of higher performance or heavy duty applications). DOT 3, 4 and 5.1 are polyethylene glycol based fluids while DOT 5 is silicone based. The hygroscopic traits (propensity to absorb moisture from the atmosphere) of the DOT 3, 4 and 5.1 fluids could render the fluids less effective over time. Regular flushing of the brake system mitigates this effect. The silicone-based DOT 5 fluid tends to cost more but benefits from its hydrophobic properties.

*DOT Performance Standards are not indicative of all Manufacturers’ Brake Fluid Performance.

Fluid Grade               Dry Boiling Point                  Wet Boiling Point

DOT 3                                          401 F                                              284 F

DOT 4                                          446 F                                                311 F

DOT 5                                          500 F                                                356 F

DOT 5.1                                       500 F                                                356 F

Containing the Pressure

As we just said, brake fluid boils when it gets too hot, and when it boils, it creates air bubbles in the brake lines. Virtually all modern brake systems are hydraulic, which means that they rely on incompressible hydraulic fluid (in this instance, brake fluid) to create the force that pushes the pistons against the pads when the brake pedal is depressed. Hydraulic systems depend on the lines being free of air bubbles to be able to work and effectively slow the vehicle.

Brake System 201: 2-Piece Rotors Fluids Lines 3R1A9539 Edited2

Typical OEM rubber brake lines tend to expand under hard driving conditions, resulting in slower response and a spongy pedal feel.

Most stock brake lines are high-pressure rubber hoses – and though we know of rubber’s shortcomings, the reason rubber is used is because the lines are designed to be flexible, so as to allow movement throughout the full range of travel for your suspension. For the majority of applications and the way most people drive, that’s fine. However, during high performance braking when they get too hot, these factory lines stretch and expand as extreme pressure of the boiling brake fluid creates air bubbles in the lines, resulting in a non-responsive, spongy brake pedal and dramatically reduced braking performance. This is why replacing rubber lines with stainless braided brake lines offers such significant improvement in pedal feel.

Stillen BRaided SS lines Goodridge

Performance brake lines (such as those offered by Goodridge) feature a PTFE liner (inner hose) that is shrouded by a flexible sheathing (stainless steel, most commonly) that protects the liner and prevents expansion. This keeps the fluids moving toward the calipers, preventing the mushy pedal feel that expanded rubber lines cause, delivering much more responsive braking and firmer brake pedal feel under all driving conditions.

Brake System 201: 2-Piece Rotors Fluids Lines 3R1A9545 Edited 2

Stainless-steel braided brake lines like this Goodridge unit feature a PTFE liner for durability. The braiding helps to protect the liner from abrasion while also mitigating the expansion of the line under pressure.

Easy Installation
If you’re concerned about keeping your vehicle ‘close to stock’ or the ability to easily reverse the modification, upgraded replacement brake components are a direct bolt-on part for your vehicle, and can be replaced with stock components again when they wear out. While removing a big brake kit isn’t terribly complicated, bolt on parts like this are easy to reverse, as both installation and removal are as straightforward as a standard brake job.


Maxed Out

Now that you’ve learned about the basics of brake systems, you can maximize the stopping performance of your vehicle. Slowing and stopping are paramount for safety as well as performance, regardless of your application. From streetcars and track cars to tow and utility vehicles, a good braking system is a must. If you’re pushing your vehicle beyond these bolt-on solutions, you could be a candidate for a big brake upgrade, which will be covered in the next two installments of STILLEN University. Stay on track!

In short, upgraded replacement brake parts offer much better braking performance at a fraction of the cost of an outright Big Brake Kit – with better-cooled brake rotors, a more aggressive brake pad and expansion-free stainless lines and high performance brake fluid, stopping power is improved and brake fade is kept at bay longer. Since these upgraded parts are often around the same price as stock replacement parts as well, that makes this bolt on brake upgrade a great option for the daily driver enthusiast, and in addition to better performance on track, upgraded brakes reduce your stopping distance, which increases your margin of safety, too.

If you’re pushing your vehicle beyond these bolt-on solutions, you could be a candidate for a big brake upgrade, which will be covered in the next two installments of STILLEN University.

Have questions about what combination would be right for your application and the way you drive? Reach out and give us a call at 866-250-5542 to speak to our knowledgeable staff, and if the phone’s not your thing, you can always email us at sales@stillen.com or use the live chat on stillen.com to help guide you to the brake product that best suits your needs, and we have a massive range of performance and replacement brake components in stock and readily available.


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Best Brake Upgrades 101: Rotors & Pads

By Richard Fong

Best Brake System 101: Rotors Pads stillen_u_banner_v1

There’s no point in being able to go if you can’t stop. While an engine provides locomotion to a car, the braking system is what brings your vehicle to a stop. The average automotive brake system is hydraulic and typically consists of the pedal assembly, vacuum booster, master cylinder, hydraulic lines, calipers, rotors and pads – and of course, on nearly all modern vehicles, an Anti-Lock Brake System module and pressure tank.


The braking system is not only a CRITICAL performance element, it’s also imperative for safety and the safe operation of a vehicle. That’s why STILLEN offers Brake Upgrades for a variety of vehicles, from big brake kits to performance replacement parts.

OE Replacement Brake Discs and Pads

As is often the case, many standard vehicle components are designed as a compromise – balancing quality versus price, versus Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) concerns – the end result being a pad that isn’t well suited for trackday performance. This means that in all likelihood, your OEM brake pads probably don’t do very well in ‘high performance’ conditions.


Brake Pad Construction

Brake pads are composed of a backing plate and a friction compound that creates friction when placed in contact with the brake rotors, enabling a vehicle to stop. The way your brakes work is kind of like how the brakes of a bicycle work. Pushing the pedal causes the calipers to squeeze the pads against the spinning wheel hub/rotor, slowing its rotation, much like your bike’s rubber brake pads grab the edge of the wheel of your bicycle to bring you to a stop.


Before moving on, we need to remind you that a high performance pad is going to be noisier and dustier – those are the facts. If you’re wanting a pad that offers extreme performance without dust or noise, know that it just doesn’t exist, at any price. Sorry, but if you want performance from your brake system, you’re going to have to deal with brake dust.

Your Stock Brakes Probably Aren’t As Good As You Think

With the exception of premium performance-oriented vehicles that include performance brake components from the factory, most vehicles are equipped with braking systems that are best described as “Adequate”. If you take the average stock vehicle to the track or even on a spirited drive, and you’ll quickly learn its shortcomings. The sad thing is, many car’s brake systems can start to get overwhelmed after just a few aggressive corners.

Stillen Brake Pads Metal Matrix


What happens if my brakes can’t deal with the demands of performance driving?

To understand the importance of a good brake compound and just how big a role it plays, let’s do a quick thought exercise.

Imagine accelerating down a stretch of canyon road, you’re accelerating hard on the straights, and then braking just before engaging a turn, or series of switchback curves. The first time you hit the brake pedal, everything works as it should, shaving speed and allowing you to hit the apex of the turn with ease. However, a few corners (or hotlaps) later, suddenly, the pedal gets all mushy, and instead of slowing and allowing you to adjust your line, the car just plows ahead, because the brakes don’t have any bite. You desperately stomp on the brakes in hopes you can still adjust your speed, correct and make the turn– but your efforts are in vain. Before you realize it, you’re way past the apex and are either off line or off track, or even worse, into the guardrail or Armco barriers. This is the biggest problem of an insufficient brake system rearing its ugly head. This is the beast known as Brake Fade.

Brake Fade Graphic

What is Brake Fade, exactly?

Brake fade is the enemy of safe and reliable braking and it’s not your friend. Brake fade occurs when the friction efficiency and/or heat capacity of the brake pads or rotors is exceeded, and as a result, the ability of the brake system to slow or stop the vehicle becomes compromised. Whether it’s on a twisty mountain pass or on a racetrack, when you discover the limits of your vehicle’s braking performance firsthand, it leaves much to be desired in terms of performance. Fortunately, the aftermarket could be the answer to your problems, because chances are, someone offers a solution for your application. There are a few ways to mitigate brake fade.

Best Brake System 101: Rotors Pads HawkCleaned

Bring Back the Friction

One of the best performance mods for your car and most straight-forward upgrades you can make is a set of Brake Pads. Brake pads, like rotors and fluid, are wear items that can be replaced with upgraded versions of replacement parts. Most factory brake pads are designed to be as quiet as possible with as little dust as possible. These characteristics require compromises that take away from the performance of your brake pads.

Can You Put Race Pads On And Drive On The Street?

The demands of racing versus stop and go traffic are very different, OEM street pads don’t perform their best under race conditions, and outright RACE brake pads won’t perform well if used for street driving conditions. Logically, one might think, pads designed for “RACE” performance must be overkill for the needs of street driving, right? Frankly, no.

Way back in the good ol’ days of 2002, Popular Mechanics compared Jeff Gordon’s #24 NASCAR Monte Carlo against a fresh-off-the-line FWD Monte Carlo SS to get an idea how the race car performed relative to its streetcar namesake. One would think that the race car’s massive brakes would make it the obvious winner, right? Both cars were tested as is standard practice for a head-to-head – cold, like your car is when you first start driving after being parked for a while.  Can you guess what happened?
(ref: Popular Mechanics, November 2002, A Tale of Two Chevys)

Well, the street car Monte Carlo outperformed the #24 NASCAR racecar’s gargantuan race brakes and the street car stopped much shorter – the polar opposite of what ‘common sense’ would suggest. That generation of Monte Carlo wasn’t exactly a performer either, making its victory over the racecar that much more shocking.

Why? Because of the temperature the brakes were designed to work at. The NASCAR race car’s brakes are designed to be used HARD, over and over again when hot, braking from speeds well over 100… to get that kind of performance when the brakes are that hot, the engineers had to sacrifice performance when cold.


This chart from HAWK Performance offers a great visual for the temperature ranges that brake pads are designed to operate in. As you can see, pads that perform well cold do not perform well past 700*f or so, and conversely, pads that perform well when hot don’t start to grab until 200-300* f.

The Right Pad for the Right Purpose

Each pad type and compound is optimized depending on your vehicle’s intended purpose. There are a plethora of High Performance OE Replacement Brake pads available from STILLEN, DBA Brakes and Hawk Performance to name a few, and these pads are offered in a variety of friction compounds ranging from organic and ceramic to semi-metallic to suit a variety of different driving demands.

The other thing to note here is that sometimes, a car is factory-equipped with high performance brake pads, but the generic replacement available from the local auto parts store might perform terribly by contrast. So, despite every part of the system working properly, underperforming brake pads mean it suddenly takes much more distance to stop than it used to- and if you’re used to the car’s original stopping distance, this increased in stopping distance could cause an accident, so be sure that the replacement pads you’re installing are able to handle the way you plan to use them, before you buy.
Pro-Tip: If the brake pad has “Quiet” in the name, it’s a safe bet that pad won’t do well on a track.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of different brake pad compounds so you can better determine what might be best for your needs.

Picking The Right Brake Pad Compound for the Way YOU Drive

Brake Pads Graphic

Organic (Common OEM Material)

Pros: Less aggressive rotor wear, decent initial bite, manageable brake dust generation

Cons: Mediocre braking performance, tends to wear quickly, prone to brake fade

Organic pads offer good initial bite (initiation of friction and slowing of the vehicle) and modulation for daily driven vehicles, but generally suffer rapid wear and fade when subjected to aggressive driving.

Best Brake System 101: Rotors Pads HawkFrontPads

Ceramic (Common OEM Material, Aftermarket Upgrade)

Pros: Moderate rotor wear, good wear characteristics, less prone to brake fade, moderate dust production, ideal for rotors lacking slots or cross drilling, the middle ground between organic and semi-metallic pads

Cons: Higher cost, limited compound options, less aggressive friction traits, not ideal for the track

Ceramic pads cost more but take the best traits of organic pads and can add longevity as well as reduced brake dust production. However, these pads suffer accelerated wear under heavy loads and are not ideal for track or heavy-duty braking situations.

Mintex Brake Pads NASCAR

Semi-metallic (Common Aftermarket Material, Aftermarket Upgrade)

Pros: Broad selection of available compounds, improved resistance to fade, improved heat rejection when used on slotted or cross-drilled rotors, permits tailoring of braking performance traits depending on driving conditions by changing compounds

Cons: Potentially aggressive rotor wear, excessive dust, noise (brake squeal)

Semi-metallic pads tend to resist fade better and offer superior heat capacity and dissipation compared to organic or ceramic pads. They are offered in a variety of compositions enabling the end user to choose the braking characteristics desired of their vehicle. When choosing a semi-metallic pad, aggressive initial bite could be desirable in the case of a vehicle driven hard for short intervals.

The counterpoint is that this pad could eventually suffer from fade with prolonged aggressive driving. By comparison, a semi-metallic pad formulated for endurance offers increased heat capacity for longer driving intervals, but will likely lack initial bite when cold and suffer reduced braking performance until brought up to optimal operating temperatures. This is not ideal for short driving intervals or street driving since the ideal temperatures are much higher and might not be reached under these conditions.

In other words, semi metallic endurance RACING brake pads will be unable to perform for “street use” because they will not be at their intended operating temperature a vast majority of the time – meaning it’s not smart to drive from your house to the race track on your ‘trackday’ brake pads. It won’t be fun when you roll right past that first stop sign or can’t slow down as you get off the freeway because the RACE COMPOUND brake pads are too cold.

As the only USA Distributor of AP Racing products, we’ve got a huge selection of replacement and performance replacement brake pads for a variety of applications here at STILLEN in stock and or readily available to suit your needs from the most trusted manufacturers in performance brakes. Whether it’s a daily driver or a track rat, we likely have a solution available – talk to our team today to see what we have for your application.

STILLEN J-Hook 2pc Rotors Set of 2

Release the Heat

Another common brake system improvement involves upgrading the surface that the brake pads apply friction to, the Brake Rotors. Brake rotors are not only a friction surface, they also serve another important function – they are also heat sinks. This means that they must draw away and dissipate the heat produced by the friction of the pads efficiently to stave off brake fade and ensure consistent braking performance. Factory brake rotors are typically made of iron, because it’s inexpensive and offers longevity and enough heat capacity for the average everyday driver. Trick is, the way the “average driver” drives a car is nothing like the ‘Spirited Drives’ you and I enjoy.

Not all iron is created equal, and STILLEN rotors are produced using an alloy that offers more efficient thermal transfer characteristics and features bigger, better flowing cooling vanes to create a rotor with superior cooling characteristics, but these added features and the use of more expensive materials does increase cost. As a result of cost-saving concerns, typical factory rotors do not benefit from the design elements and use less expensive alloys that lack the heat dissipation characteristics found in STILLEN brake rotors, making a set of Performance Replacement Brake Rotors an especially effective upgrade.

STILLEN J-Hook 2pc Rotors Detail pair

Fighting Fade With Improved Brake Rotors

Aftermarket brake rotors, like those offered by STILLEN, AP Racing and DBA (for example) feature a variety of benefits, thanks to engineering innovations like improved vane design (in the case of vented rotors) as well as cross drilling, slotting and other surface treatments. Many people mistakenly believe that rotors suck air in through the vanes, but it’s actually the opposite. Think about what happens when you have a dirt bike’s rear tire caked in mud, and then blip the throttle. The wheel spins, flinging mud OUTWARDS off the wheel and away. Same idea applies to how air flows through your rotor. Brake rotors draw in air from the center of the hub and the spinning of the rotor flings the hot brake gases outwards through the vanes, cooling the rotor.


It works like this, when your brake rotor turns, it acts as an air pump, drawing in cooler air at the hub and forces that air out, carrying away hot brake gases out through the vents, so it’s worth saying that a rotor’s internal design can play a huge role in its effectiveness.

Best Brake System 101: Rotors Pads IMG_5988 Best Brake System 101: Rotors Pads IMG_5959

In the search for improved methods of heat dissipation, some manufacturers of vented rotors have implemented proprietary vane designs to facilitate improved airflow for better cooling of the rotors.


As an added measure of cooling, some have turned to cross-drilling the rotor surface, which provides additional pathways for hot brake gases to escape, thereby enhancing cooling.


Another brake rotor type is the slotted rotor. Most commonly, simple slots are cut into the rotor surface help to optimize the friction surface area while helping to release the gasses that build up between the friction material of the pad and the rotor surface. However, the downside of this rotor type is accelerated wear on the pads, meaning slotted rotors shorten the typical service life of the pads used with them.


Some enthusiasts choose to go with both of these features and opt for Drilled & Slotted rotors, and still others go for the polar opposite and get “blank” rotors for an OEM appearance.

Step Up and Stop Better

Best Brake System 101: Rotors Pads IMG_8172

With a better grasp of the basics of brake upgrades and the first steps toward better braking for both performance and safety, contact us to order your upgrade today! Do you have more questions about what would be right for your application? Reach out to us at 866-250-5542, at sales@stillen.com or by live chat on our website stillen.com to help you select the product that best suits your needs.

In our next installment of STILLEN University, we’re going to explore brake system upgrades in greater detail and dig into Torque Friction Surface Area in Stillen U, Brakes 301! Check back with us soon!

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Top Ten SEMA 2016: STILLEN

#1 – AP Radi-CAL II and AP Racing by STILLEN

AP Racing by STILLEN introduced the World Radi-CAL II Braking System. These revolutionary Forged Calipers are the most advanced brakes on the market. Forging makes them Lighter and Stiffer than Casting. The Asymmetric Design allows for optimal strength while still using Sequential Sized Pistons for even pad wear. Quick Change Pads are as simple as removing the retaining pins. The calipers still feature High Temperature Double Sealed Pistons so they are safe for road use but will stand up to the high temperatures of track use. The AP Radi-CAL II are available in Red, Black or Silver Calipers (custom colors available – contact us for pricing). Top Ten SEMA 2016: STILLEN

Comparison: Radi-CAL I vs Radi-CAL II

  • 4% Lighter than Radi-CAL I
  • Stiffer than Radi-CAL I (6-piston: 33% stiffer | 4-piston: 28% stiffer)
  • Incorporating iconic Radi-CAL Stiffening Band
  • 6-Piston Radi-CAL II Caliper can effortlessly fit behind an 18-inch wheel with a 370mm rotor.

One of the best parts about Radi-CAL II is you can easily swap out Radi-CAL I Calipers for a Radi-CAL II upgrade! So if you already have our Radi-CAL I kit, you can simply swap out calipers to upgrade!


AP Radi-CAL II behind a HRE Flow Form FF15 18×9.5 in Satin Black Finish

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#2 – Widebody Civic Sedan from Seibon (teamed with AP Racing and Mackin Industries)


The Honda Civic is still one of the most commonly modified cars of all time. The thing is, this isn’t a true statement for a lot of Honda’s post millenia change. Countless enthusiasts started out in the Honda scene and many have moved on to different platforms because of the void of performance potential left vacant by Honda with the early-to-mid-2000’s Civic. Perhaps not on purpose, but certainly to our delight, the Civic now comes with a turbo motor available. While the 10th generation Civic is still developing in the market, it is exciting to see what is already available.

This wide body Civic Sedan kit produced by Seibon Carbon was inspired by the Type-R concept to give the sedan an aggressive look and stance. This kit also allows for you to run wider wheels and tires for the performance minded. We assume we will see these kits on the turbo model sedans mainly as we have already seen impressive results from bolt-ons and tuning. This kit will be available exclusively through STILLEN. If you would like more information on the Seibon wide body kit please give us a call or email sales@stillen.com.


This build featured some of the best names in the industry with AP Racing by STILLEN creating a prototype Radi-CAL Brake Kit, Rays Performance Wheels, Cusco Suspension, Pioneer Audio, Razo Lighting, and Continental Tires. After seeing this kind of effort put into the new Civic we can only imagine what kind of resurgence we will see in the Honda scene.

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#3 – Honda Civic Type-R Concept & the Honda Civic Variants


The Civic Type R Prototype is all kinds of crazy and we love it. The visual differences are instantly obvious, but the most impressive part of this car is it is all functional. The wider fenders accommodate a larger tire for additional grip while the splitters and diffuser aid in down force and overall aerodynamic efficiency. The 3 tail pipes are all completely functional as is the hood scoop to feed the 2.0L Turbo motor. Numbers haven’t been officially released but the European Type-R makes 306 horsepower and there are rumors that there may be a 340 horsepower version.

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#4 – Vossen Wheels


Vossen Wheels has been an industry leader for years in the aftermarket wheel industry. STILLEN has been privileged enough to work with them on several projects and are always blown away with how they are always innovating. This SEMA Show they debuted their new 3-piece forged series which blew us away. The detail and options available are amazing!


We also love the Vossen X Work wheels. The collaboration of the two companies produced some beautiful 2-piece wheels that appeal to a wide variety of owners. We have seen them on a lot of Nissan & Infiniti builds that we have greatly admired.


Vossen also debuted their “Wheel Configurator” which allows users to preview every Vossen wheel available on their car. It includes options such as Lowering, Camber, Vehicle Color, Wheel Color, Tire Size, etc. You can try it out from yourself – http://www.vossen3d.com/


#5 – Garrett Turbo Systems


Honeywell Garrett has been a leader in the Turbo industry for decades. While STILLEN has shied away from Turbos in recent history, the introduction of factory turbo cars from so many manufactures has allowed us to get back in the turbo game without violating EPA or CARB policies. Now Garrett is the manufacturer of the turbos in the new VR30 DDTT motor found in the Infiniti Q50 and Q60.

Knowing what some of their systems are capable of, maybe we will get the opportunity to work on some CARB EXEMPT Turbo Upgrades in the future.


#6 – NITTO Tire’s Drifting Huracan


Nitto recently worked with stunt driver Stina Hübinette to bring us the drifting Huracan. It’s not everyday you get to see an exotic driven like this. Check out the video on youtube: The Hübinettes Star in #HuracánDrift

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#7 – Mazda Miata RF Kuro

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The Mazda Miata has been the best selling two-seater convertible in the world since it’s release in 1989. Mazda debuted their Miata RF Kuro concept as their foray into the sport compact coupe segment. While nothing is certain about production plans, the RF Kuro gives drivers a glimpse of what a coupe could be like and gives the Miata a new look that we are sure everyone is going to love.

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#8 – Ford Booth

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Ford is always known to have quite the display at SEMA. 2016 was an exciting year for them and their booth definitely showed it. Showcasing cars like the new Ford GT Racecar, the Focus RS (which is proving to be quite the little beast), and even a wide body Fiesta ST. Ford is definitely making their presence felt in the performance world and we look forward to seeing more amazing cars from them.

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#9 – Lexus LC500 F-Sport Concept

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We have all seen the Lexus LC500 in the media and at auto shows. However, we had the opportunity to see the F-Sport concept version in the Lexus booth. Aside from the bright yellow paint, this car really makes a bold statement. Lexus is definitely doing a lot to shape their image in a more “sporty” light. We didn’t get many details, but we liked what we saw.

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#10 – Ferrari-powered Scion FRS/Toyota 86

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When someone puts a Ferrari motor in anything it’s bound to grab some attention. This Ferrari-powered FR-S is absolutely nuts!

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That wraps up our Top Ten SEMA 2016: STILLEN. Stay tuned for our upcoming SEMA 2016 gallery…


The mecca of automotive enthusiasts (aka SEMA) took place on November 1st-4th in Las Vegas, NV. STILLEN & AP Racing by STILLEN had a solid presence this year. We debuted our new AP Racing Radi-CAL II brakes in Central Hall and even took home a Global Media Award for new product. What you will see below is our SEMA quick look- a summarized view of what went on.

The world debut of the AP Racing Radi-CAL II.

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It was a great honor to receive the SEMA Global Media Award!

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Tein Suspension’s Q50 featuring the STILLEN Aero Kit.

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The Seibon widebody Civic Type R FK8 was a huge show stopper. AP Radi-CAL Brakes gave this car some serious presence.

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SUBISPEED’s WRX running AP Racing Brakes.

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The Vossen GTI hiding AP Radi-CAL Brakes behind forged wheels.

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Nissan Maxima outside bagged with the STILLEN Body Kit.

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DINAN M3 sporting AP Radi-CAL BBK behind Vossen x Work Wheels.

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Radi-CAL II on display in the new product gallery

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K-Pax Racing with AP Racing brakes.

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Many automotive enthusiasts go to great lengths to remove all orange (amber) lights and reflectors from their vehicle. Now here is a customer who not only wanted to add some orange accents, but did it with some flair. There is a lot more to this Z than meets the eye though. Subtle clues hint at the potential of this 370Z…


Tom S. brought his 2010 Nismo 370Z to STILLEN with big plans. He wanted raise the performance level of his Z in every aspect possible. We sat down and went through all the upgrades and how they would benefit the car. In the end Tom made his decisions wisely.


He chose the STILLEN 370Z Supercharger Kit (407770NP) paired with the STILLEN 370Z SS Cat-Back Exhaust (504355) for added power. Taking the Nismo from 350hp to over 500hp is absolutely mind bending. With the added power from the STILLEN 370Z supercharger, the Z’s slight handicap in the straights is gone. Throw in the STILLEN Short Throw Shifter (452352) for quicker shifts and you’ve got yourself a competitor off the line.



We all know the VQ37 has heat issues. We always suggest the STILLEN Setrab 25 Row Oil Cooler (400638) to keep those oil temperatures down and your Z out of limp mode.


Any 370Z owner can tell you the car handles pretty well out of the box. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve upon that as well. The best handling upgrade for the Z is definitely the STILLEN Sway Bars (304375). With the car setup from the factory with safe understeer in mind, balancing out the body roll and oversteer/understeer dynamics is a huge improvement (read more about 370Z sway bars here: STILLEN Buying Guide – Aftermarket Swaybars).

We round out the rest of the suspension with the top of the line RS-R Sports-i Coilovers (RSRXSPIN134M). RS-R makes one of the best street performance coilovers we have ever tested. They are incredibly comfortable on the street but can still perform on the track and twisty roads. We left the ride height at the RS-R factory preset which gives us ideal suspension geometry for handling as well as plenty of clearance for speed bumps and steep driveways. SPC Front Upper Control Arm Kit (SPC72130) & SPC Rear Camber Arm Kit (SPC72262) were both installed to make sure we are able to set up our alignment perfectly to take advantage of all our new suspension mods and not burn through tires too quickly.



What good is power with no control, and what good is going fast if you can’t stop right? Well believe us…this car can stop. Tom S. wanted the best, and he got it (with his own personal touch too). The AP Racing by STILLEN Radi-CAL Big Brake Kit (APR57100APR37702) in Solar Orange (custom option) are the finishing touch on this Z. With more stopping power than a GTR, controlling all the power we added is easy.




This Supercharged Z is an absolute blast to drive. The car made 430 whp and 318 ft-lbs of torque on our Dyno (on California 91 Octane gas). We know the owner will absolutely love the results and we are looking forward to our next unique build. Who knows, it might be your car on our blog next.

If you have any questions about the car, its STILLEN 370Z supercharger, or any of the other parts shown please leave a comment, shoot us an email (sales@stillen.com), or call (800-576-2131).






Tony Jackson's BMW M3

The BMW E46 M3 is probably one of the most iconic vehicles to come out of Bavaria. Not too long ago, Tony Jackson (Eibach Springs account manager) was in the process of selecting a new track vehicle to replace his Honda Civic which he had been racing, and winning championships with for almost 10 years. Tony wanted something rear wheel drive and figured he’d start with one of the best platforms available.


On the Track

In stock form, Tony was very impressed with the M3’s performance. Tony didn’t feel the car needed a lot to make it more competitive so he set out to add only the necessary modifications. Working for one of the largest suspension companies in the world, you can imagine what was worked on first. Tony worked with the Engineers at Eibach to develop custom rear shocks that he paired with Eibach Springs and Sway Bars. The improvements to the suspension helped push the M3 further along on the track, but there was still a major weakness in the car.



Slow down to go faster

Tony noticed after only a couple of track days that the stock brakes weren’t up to par saying, “I noticed that the pistons were seizing up from too much heat.” He elected to go with the AP Racing by STILLEN Radi-CAL Big Brake Kit. The forged Calipers, Bigger Pads, and J-Hook Rotors really allowed him to manage the heat in the brakes a lot better. This translated to being able to dive into corners much harder and not worry about brake fade well anymore.


The advantages of the AP Radi-CAL Brakes are quite extensive. The pressure forged calipers design is derived from the highly successful race Radi-CAL caliper. Utilizing an asymmetrical design the piston are positioned in a way to reduce torsional stress on the rotor as the pistons apply pressure under braking. This forging technique also allows for less material to be used than in traditional casting making the caliper lighter and stronger at the same time. The unique gives us the ability to have a larger brake pad annulus (radial contact patch) than normally found on similar big brake kits. This allows us to utilize more of the rotor surface increasing heat transfer and management (read more about it here).


The AP Racing Big Brake Kit comes with rotor options. For Tony’s racing focused uses STILLEN recommended the J-Hook Slotted Rotors. The patented design increases durability and performance. The J-Hook design gives you all the benefits of a drilled and slotted rotor without any of the downsides. Drilled rotors can potentially crack from rapid expansion and contraction while racing, and traditional slots create a less even heat distribution throughout the rotor. Because the J-Hook machining does not penetrate through the rotors and does not completely transverse them radially, they are phenomenal at withstanding harder driving and higher temperatures (read more about J-Hook Rotors here).


Tony gave us some lap time improvements of tracks that he frequents.

  • Buttonwillow Raceway – 0.7 second improvement
  • Chuckwalla Valley Raceway – 1.1 second improvement
  • Willow Springs – 1.5 second improvement
  • Laguna Seca – 2.4 second improvement
  • Streets of Willow – 2.7 second improvement

Everyone puts an emphasis on power, but a lot of people forget the slowing down (efficiently) can make you faster than some extra horsepower. Also consider the added confidence the driver has in their car knowing they can continually push to the limit and the brakes will be there to support them.

More power is still nice…

We don’t want anyone to think we are against adding power, and neither is Tony. That is why he went to our friends over at Magnaflow and commissioned them to build a high flow and light weight single exit exhaust to help the powerful 3.2 straight six breathe a little better. The whole system saved about 50 lbs and really helped open up the top end of the power band.


Wrapping it all up

All these modifications are great, but let’s not forget what makes all these upgrades useable. Connecting the all this horsepower, suspension, and braking performance to the ground are Nitto NT01’s wrapped around a set of Volk Racing forged ZE40’s.


STILLEN Partners with the best companies in the industry for all of our projects, so it is no surprise to see that Tony did the same with his M3. Tony is currently leading both Super Lap Battle and Global Time Attack series in points (for his class). This is one of our favorite examples of someone who understands that racing is about balance and synergy.

If you have questions about our BMW E46 M3 Big Brake Kit or any of our Big Brake Kits for other makes and models please visit our website (www.stillen.com) or give one of our performance specialists a call at 800-576-2131.

STILLEN is proud to announce that new applications are now available for the AP Racing brake kits, which include applications for select Chevrolet and GMC trucks and SUVs! We now have brake kits for the Chevy Silverado, Chevy Suburban, Chevy Tahoe and GMC Sierra through the 2014 model year. For a full list, see below or visit the AP Racing AP7500 brake kit page.

Why Upgrade to the AP Racing Brake Kits for Chevy & GMC Trucks & SUVs

Like the other AP Racing big brake kits, these kits feature 2-piece rotors with 6-piston calipers that are made of the highest quality materials. Additionally, these slotted & cross drilled AP Racing brake kits include DOT compliant and TUV approved stainless steel brake lines, which provide a noticeable improvement in stiffness and pedal feel. Here are a few more reasons why we feel the AP Racing brakes are the best brakes available:

  • Features curved vane rotors for maximum cooling and reduced unsprung weight
  • Specially designed to work with OE master cylinder, ABS, traction control systems
  • Brackets and hardware are constructed of aerospace grade materials
  • Available with red or black calipers
AP Racing AP7500 Big Brake Kit in Black

AP Racing AP7500 Big Brake Kit in Black

AP Racing AP7500 Big Brake Kit in Red

AP Racing AP7500 Big Brake Kit in Red

Note: To see if this brake kit will fit your wheels, use the STILLEN brake profile template to check your brake kit/wheel compatibility.

AP Racing AP7500 Brake Profile

AP Racing AP7500 Brake Profile

Complete Big Brake Kit Applications:

The AP Racing AP7500 brake kit fits the following vehicle applications:

  • 2007-2014 Cadillac Escalade
  • 2007-2013 Chevrolet Avalanche
  • 2007-2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  • 2007-2014 Chevrolet Suburban 1500
  • 2007-2014 Chevrolet Tahoe
  • 2007-2014 GMC Sierra 1500
  • 2007-2014 GMC Yukon
  • 2007-2014 GMC Yukon XL 1500

Note: The AP Racing and STILLEN team is hard at work updating applications for the AP Racing AP7550 rear brake kit for Chevy and GMC trucks and SUVs. The brake kit will be available soon. However, if you would like additional details, please call (866) 250-5542 and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Next Steps

If you’re ready to upgrade your Silverado, Sierra or other GMC/Chevy truck or SUV with a new set of AP Racing brakes, please visit www.stillen.com or give us a call at (866) 250-5542.