Brake mods… do I need ‘em?
Another modification many S2000 owners consider is to in some way enhance or improve the factory braking system. Besides some caliper paint for bling effect, this is usually unnecessary. The OEM brake system is an outstanding one, but we’ll discuss a few more common options such as upgraded pads/fluids, drilled/slotted rotors, stainless steel brake lines, and BBKs (big brake kits) and their usefulness.
For street applications in cars with less than 300HP (in other words, naturally aspirated) the OEM brakes are completely up to the task. The calipers are strong and well made, the rotors are big and thick enough, and the OEM pads work very well under a wide variety of temperatures and driving conditions. The only upgrades you might want to consider for the street are cosmetic ones such as painted calipers (make sure to use high temp caliper paint, or it’ll probably melt and bubble when the brakes heat up) and drilled and/or slotted rotors.
A few words about drilled/slotted rotors… These are supposed to make your brakes more effective because they presumably cool better than solid rotors. While this is probably somewhat true, these should almost never be used in performance applications. A drilled rotor is a weakened rotor and is much more likely to crack under high temperature conditions. The holes also reduce the surface space for the pads to make contact with and therefore reduce friction. (stopping power) While slotted rotors are definitely stronger than their drilled counterparts, they too offer the disadvantage of reduced surface area and therefore less stopping power. For high performance/racing applications, solid OEM rotors will stop you as well or better than just about anything out there.
Stainless steel lines: In theory, brake lines can expand under high pressure possibly causing a drop in braking force. A stainless steel line has a reinforced sleeve around the outside to support the hose within and keep it from expanding under hard braking conditions. Again, this is an excellent theory that is probably quite factual in basis. In application, however, I’ve never found it terribly useful. Having driven on the track with both OEM and stainless brake lines under hard braking conditions, I honestly didn’t notice a difference. I will admit that the stainless lines looked really cool, though.
Brake pads: For everything except track and competition, the OEM pads are an excellent choice. I’ve tried several aftermarket street pads and found them all inferior in stopping power and durability to the OEM Honda pads. A set of OEM pads under normal use will usually last over 50k miles without any significant loss in braking force.
For the track, OEM pads will prove inadequate for most situations. Under extremely hard sustained braking, the OEM pads will tend to glaze over and lose their grip after just a few really hot laps. A race compound pad is best for these situations. Generally, you have two options here. The preferred choice is to get a set or full race pads for the track and keep the OEMs for the street. Pad swapping is a quick and easy process before and after track days, and this will give you the best of both worlds. My personal preference for track pad is the Cobalt Spec VR, but recent word from Cobalt is that it’s been discontinued to make way for a new and improved pad. We anxiously await it. Other good choices are available from Porterfield, Hawk, and Carbotech. Full race pads are not suitable for street use due to their need for higher operating temperatures and extreme abrasive quality. (They’d tear up a set of rotors in short order)
Another option is to compromise with a combination street/track pad like the Cobalt GT Sport or Porterfield R4s. These pads can be used on the street, but give extra heat resistance and braking power on the track. Unfortunately, they dust quite a bit more than OEM, tend to squeak a bit on the street, and don’t function nearly as well on the track as a full race pad. If you absolutely don’t have the ability to swap pads back and forth, these can be an acceptable compromise. The ideal is to go with both race and street pads.
Fluids: Again, OEM Honda fluid is perfectly acceptable for street use. For the track, you’ll want something with a higher boiling point like Super ATE or Motul 600. It’s not a bad idea to change the fluid on an annual basis, but short of that, annual (or more frequent, if you notice any sponginess) bleeding is strongly suggested.
Big Brake Kits: (BBKs) For S2000 owners with huge amounts of forced induction horsepower, the OEM brakes can be taxed to their limit. In these situations, a BBK from Stoptech, Brembo, or Spoon might just be the answer. The larger rotors and pads of these systems offer superior stopping power for the big horsepower applications, but are usually overkill for a normally aspirated S2k. (again, they look very cool, so if you want bling and have $1500 to blow…)
This is just a very basic overview of brake options. To discuss this topic in more depth, follow this link: