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  What Do The Engineers Say? < back

Paul Van Valkenburgh, Race car designer and engineer  

"..... there is a limited amount of metal in the brake discs in which to store heat, and a typical racing application can raise their temperature 200 to 300 degrees in a matter of seconds. If that energy can't be dissipated before the next application, there will be a net temperature rise. The average operating temperature will rise until it stabilizes where braking input equals cooling out and can be anywhere from 1000 to 1500 degrees at the disc face. At those temperatures the friction material decomposes rapidly, not to mention the changes in the metal at the disc face. If the mass of the discs or the cooling air are not adequate, temperatures will rise to the point of lost friction capability (fade), where the brake material burns, the brake fluid boils, or the discs themselves crack and fly apart......" "...The fluid comes very close to the red-hot disc, and is in direct contact with the caliper and pistons, which can be over 500 degrees themselves...."

"The best solution for this, aside from better cooling, is to have a number of insulators between the disc and fluid. .... The thinnest layer of chemical or composition insulation, or even a firmly bolted interface, can make a difference of 100 degrees. This can mean life or death for wheel bearings where the disc is bolted to a front wheel hub..."  

© 1992 Paul Van Valkenburgh, "Race Car Engineering and Mechanics", HP Books  

Carroll Smith's Notes on Brake Fluid

Smith is a noted automotive engineer and has authored several books on race car technology. His remarks regarding brake fluid:

"There are five possible solutions to the boiling fluid problem:


Don't use the brakes so hard


Provide (copious) cooling air to the brakes


Install Titanium or Ceramic caliper pistons. Alternately install 2-piece pistons made from aluminum with a noise piece of Titanium or Ceramic. (Note that aluminum pistons are used as opposed to stainless steel to match the expansion rate of the piston to that of the caliper body to ensure the piston seal condition and preload is optimal through out the temperature range.)


Install Titanium pad backing plates if they are available for your caliper.


Change to a brake fluid with a higher boiling point."

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