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Brake Upgrades For Your 4x4

Stop! Take a minute and think about your 4x4's brakes. You've added larger tires, heavy bumpers, armor and loaded up with camping gear for a weekend on the trail. Are your brakes still up to the task of that steep, winding mountain road or the stop-and-go traffic getting out of the concrete jungle? Here are a few tips and brake upgrades you can perform to your brake system to improve your stopping power.

  • Inspect your system for any potential problems. Flush your brake fluid if it's old and dark colored. Brake fluid is hydroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture, and this moisture can lower the boiling point of the fluid and make it less effective.
  • Use a quality brake pad with a higher friction compound to provide more bite such as EBC Greenstuff, EBC Yellowstuff or Black Magic Pads. The EBC pads are a race developed friction material designed for heavy heat and brake abuse.


  • Upgrade your stock rotors to slotted or slotted and dimpled rotors for better cooling and cleaning of your brake pads. Avoid cross-drilled rotors because they can form cracks and become packed with mud and dirt.
  • Upgrade the size of your caliper and rotor. This can be done with either aftermarket parts or donor parts from a similar vehicle. Larger rotors, even with the same caliper, have a greater mechanical advantage and can improve braking. Similarly, calipers with more or larger pistons can increase clamping force independent of rotor size.
  • Ditch the drums! Disc brake swaps are easy to perform in most cases and many aftermarket companies offer kits for popular axles.


  • Swap out soft rubber lines for stainless steel braided lines. Stainless lines can be ordered longer to accommodate for suspension lifts and expand less under pressure resulting in a firmer pedal feel. Just make certain to keep the longer brake lines away from any moving components.
  • Master cylinders and boosters can be swapped out to compliment other changes to your brake system, such as larger calipers or a drum to disc swap.


  • Replace the vacuum-operated brake booster with a hydro-boost system. Hydro-boost brake boosters use hydraulic pressure from the power steering system to actuate the brakes with less force being applied at the pedal. These boosters can be found in some vans and 1-ton trucks or supplied for custom applications from aftermarket companies such as Vanco Power Brake Supply.
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