Brake smarter

Disc Brake upgrade: 2011 F-250 Crew Cab 4Ă—4


By Bruce W. Smith  

EBC disc-brake upgrade gives Project Super Crew improved stopping power and longer pad life

Brakes are the most important part of any vehicle.

You can do all the suspension, tire, wheel and engine upgrades to make your company pickup more efficient at whatever tasks you call upon it to perform.

But without good brakes those improvement are all for naught.

Add a trailer into the mix and your pickup’s braking performance advances to an even higher degree on necessity, especially when corporate insurance and liability are at stake.

Maintenance costs are also affected. ProPickup’s reader’s 30,000-miles-a-year average is almost twice what the typical vehicle owner logs.

This means the front brake pads on the typical contractor’s pickup are replaced at least once a year (60 percent of braking is done by the front brakes) if not more often.

Multiply those annual costs by 6- to 8 times during the life of the vehicle, and the brake repairs/maintenance adds up.

Improved vehicle safety and a reduction in brake maintenance costs can be reduced over the long-term by upgrading to more efficient, higher-performance disc brake pads and rotors.

Such upgrades are all about controlling heat build-up, which, in turn, reduces brake fade and brake component wear.

About Brake Fade

If you have ever done any trailer towing in steep mountains or in other situations where engine braking isn’t enough to keep the tow vehicle/trailer at a comfortable speed, you know what brake fade feels like.

That soft brake pedal slowly heading to the floor, the smell of hot brakes, and the slowly increasing vehicle speed brings chills to the body.

Stock Ford F-250 front brake assembly has vented rotor.

It’s the same feel as you get trying to bring a heavily laden pickup with oversized tires to a stop in an emergency situation.

The brakes and ABS system are trying their best to comply with what your mind and foot are demanding, but the stop is slow in coming.

The reason for brake “fade” is so much friction is being generated between the rotor and pad that the heat causes the resin in the pad’s friction material to vaporize.

As vaporizing occurs, gas builds up between the face of the brake pad and the rotor.

This layer of gas acts as a cushion, and braking resistance is compromised (think tires hydroplaning on water as they lose contact with the pavement).

Brake fade on newer pickups isn’t so much about the vaporizing of the pads against the rotor, it’s boiling the brake fluid, which results in much the same result.

“With newer brake pad compounds, the pads transfer heat into the calipers once the rotors are too hot, and the brake fluid starts to boil forming bubbles in it,” explains Chris Longhurst, author of the Brake Bible.

“Because air is compressible (brake fluid isn’t) when you step on the brakes, the air bubbles compress instead of the fluid transferring the motion to the brake calipers,” says Longhurst. “ Voila! Modern brake fade.”

The solution to controlling such massive amounts of heat during braking are pads made from higher quality materials, and rotors that feature some combination of holes, grooves, and dimples to help dissipate heat faster and give the vaporized gas someplace to exit.

“While grooving the surface may reduce the specific heat capacity of the rotor, its effect is negligible in the grand scheme of things,” says Longhurst.

EBC Sport disc brakes and Yellowstuff pads address contrctor's stopping needs in full-size pickups.EBC Sport disc brakes and Yellowstuff pads address contrctor's stopping needs in full-size pickups.

“However, under heavy braking, once everything is hot and the resin is vaporizing, the grooves give the gas somewhere to go, so the pad can continue to contact the rotor, allowing you to stop.”

EBC Disc Brake Upgrade

Our 2011 F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab 4Ă—4 has a very good factory disc-brake setup at all four corners.

But as we added more weight to the truck in the form of accessories and equipment, and a much higher rolling mass with the taller, heavier tires and wider wheels, we thought it time to step up to a higher performance rotor/pad combination.

So we turned to EBC, a British company renown for their performance brakes world-wide.

EBC has added heavy-duty pickup applications to their popular Sport Rotors called the GD-Series.

The GD-Series rotors are dimple-drilled so they provide pad degassing without “Through Drilling,” which has been shown to promote rotor cracks.

The Sport Rotors’ special slots between the faces draw cool air under the brake pad and rotor interface and help cool the temperatures of the pad contact which can shoot up to well over 1000 degrees at the very heart of the brake pad during heavy braking.

Slots and dimples in EBC rotor face and special vents between faces all contribute to heat dispersion for better braking under heavy use.

These “full sweep” slots on the EBC Sport Brake rotor also help remove dirt dust debris and water from the braking area.

The biggest benefit is because of their design the rotors don’t warp, maintaining a flat and parallel pad surface throughout the lifetime of the brake pad set.

Adding Yellowstuff

The other upgrade we made is replacing the factory pads with EBC Yellowstuff.

EBC Yellowstuff pads are made from an aramid fiber compound with a very high heat range, and they work well when the brakes are cold and very well when hot.

“The EBC Yellowstuff gives you as much bite as you can get from a stock system and in most cases will give a noticeable brake improvement while towing or hauling heavy loads,” says James Hallett, Vice Presidentof EBC Brakes USA Inc.

“The GD7319 #GD-Series rotors with Yellowstuff pads are the best combination for pickup owners who do a lot of towing and off-pavement driving,” Hallett says.

If you are a construction worker or contractor who drives a heavy-duty pickup, those conditions should sound quite familiar.

Our Test Results

When we did the first track tests with our F-250 Crew Cab diesel, the 60mph-0 distance on Holiday Raceway’s 1/8th mile asphalt strip was 151 feet, with the subsequent back-to-back braking distance stretching to 168 feet.

With the truck sitting atop 35-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ mud tires, four-inch suspension lift, toolboxes, refuel tank and a number of other upgrades, the base stopping distance extended out to 196 feet.

Ford F-250 front disc brake assmebly fitted with EBC Sport rotors and Yellowstuff pads.

The second pass, made without letting the brakes cool down except for the drive back to the starting line, ended at 210 and a lot of soft pedal underfoot.

With the EBC pads and rotors, the first pass came in at 171 feet and the hot pass 177.

Brake pedal feel on the second pass was very similar to the first braking run.

Our inital stock-verses-aftermarket comparison shows the EBC Sport rotors and Yellowstuff pads definitely improved our big Ford’s stopping power both  cold and  hot.

We have also seen slightly firmer brake pedal and noticeably improved around-town braking performance during both wet and dry conditions.

The truck also tends to stop with a more level attitude than it did with the stock brakes

Here’s how Truck Supply & Outfitter’s Daniel Parker went about upgrading the front and rear brakes on our 2011 Ford F-250 Crew Cab 4×4 diesel, Project Super Crew….