Product Review

Brake Comparison

Jocko answers ALL your questions about 4WD brakes! Are bigger brakes better? Should you keep your stock brakes or go for a big brake upgrade? As 4WDers, we're constantly making our 4WDs heavier with accessories like bar work, canopies & bigger tyres which can make your brakes soft. Upgraded brakes are an often overlooked but CRUCIAL upgrade for your rig - so buckle up and get the scoop from Jocko and the team to see the data that shows what brake setup is the best for your rig.

bigger 4WD brake rotor compared to standard

WATCH JOCKO PUT A HEAVY 4WD TO THE TEST and see why the OE brakes failed!

IS UPGRADING YOUR BRAKES REALLY WORTH IT?

In this article we decide if upgrading your brakes for your four-wheel drive is worth it. We tested three brake upgrades to see the difference they make and how much they improve in comparison to standard OE brakes.

PUT TO THE TEST

For this test we filmed in controlled conditions down at Pheasant Circuit in Meruland with leading engineers from Bendix Brakes to record and log all the data from the test to make sure everything is accurate.

How the testing worked is we set up cones on the straight of the circuit and as soon as we get to these cones, Jocko will press the brakes doing 80km/h and the data tracking test will show us how fast the vehicle went, how long it takes to stop as well as the amount of force applied to the brakes to bring the vehicle to a stop.

We did this 5 times in a row per test to show the performance under stress of each brake set up and to see the effects of heat and brake fade.

The testing equipment used included a Pedal Effort Sensor, a tablet with GPS to measure speed and travel that will also get data from the pedal sensor.

Our testing vehicle is a 2017 FX4 Ford ranger 4x4. We chose this vehicle as it has a lot of the common 4WD gear that we all use – roof top tents, bar work, lights and much more – with a GVM upgrade but on standard brakes.

BRAKE TEST 1: STANDARD OE BRAKES

Fresh brake pads and rotors were installed to keep the data as fair and accurate as possible.

Run 1: Braking Distance 44.80m, Max Pedal Effort 303.48Nm

Run 2&3: Similar results to each other; approx. 41m and 300Nm

Run 4&5: Saw loss of brake performance in pedal effort at 596Nm, distance of 41m and the brakes began to smoke. This is due to overheating pads that now struggle to dissipate heat.

  OE standard brakes test 1

Standard brake conclusion

Standard brakes are fine for day-to-day driving in a stock vehicle, but OEM brakes are not designed to keep up with the demands we’re putting on our four-wheel drives when we load them with gear, larger tyres and accessories.

These brakes will still work but the problem is when you need them in an emergency braking situation they could fail, and the consequences could be huge.

More weight on your vehicle = more friction needed to stop.

How do brakes work?

Your brake pads contact with the brake rotor and creates friction that allows you to stop. The more friction, the better braking performance.

A by-product of friction is the creation of heat. As these brakes heat up, they lose their efficiency and don’t work as well. Therefore, different designed rotors have grooves in them to help dissipate heat more effectively.

Simply, the better your brakes can get rid of heat created from braking, the quicker you are going to stop.

All the common 4WD mods that we all use and love - bull bars, lights, draws, roof racks, 12v systems, extra tanks – all contribute to poorer braking capabilities.

4WD brakes graphic

BRAKE UPGRADE LEVEL 1 TEST

What we did for this level of upgraded brakes was the best band-for-buck option. This upgrade included better quality and tougher pads and rotors, changed the brake lines to braided brake lines and upgraded the rear drums and drum shoes.

Run 1: Saw similar stopping distance to OE brakes of 43m, but the pedal effort registered significantly lower at 184Nm

Run 5: The 4wd stopped at 39m with a pedal effort reading of 252Nm with no signs of smoke or fade.

Even on the fifth test the vehicle was still stopping a few meters earlier than standard brakes. The OE brakes started to wear by the last test and the Bendix Level 1 brake upgrade required 344Nm less pedal effort in the final run than standard.

Why we saw better results in this level 1 upgrade?

The upgraded rotors have slots and dimples and are made of a high carbon metal that improves their ability to dissipate heat. This means you can brake more before they get too hot. The edge of the rotor allows the pads to bite even better to the rotor, improving the braking performance.

The upgraded pads are made with better materials to increase friction compared to standard, meaning they clamp better and last longer.

Braided brake line upgrade handles the pressure better than standard rubber lines. These rubber lines expand with pressure and wear quicker, whereas braided lines are internally lined with stainless steel for strength and protection of the brake line.

The rear drums that are common in modern dual cab 4WDs were upgraded with higher quality drums and shoes that handle heat much better than standard OE brakes.

UPGRADE LEVEL 2 TEST

This level of testing we removed the drum brakes in the rear and swapped them for a disc brake conversion. This makes the rear brake system the same as the front with upgraded pads and rotors rather than a brake drum.

Run 1: Incredible results of 30.5m stopping distance – reduced by 14m – and a lower pedal effort of 195Nm.

Runs 2-4: These runs saw similar results with braking distance slowly increasing from 32m-37m, but the pedal effort remained consistently low at approx. 275Nm.

Run 5: The final stopping distance was 40m with a max pedal effort of a consistent 272Nm

All results with the Bendix level 2 upgrade remained consistent throughout all 5 runs, but we can clearly see the rear drum conversion provided a massive initial increase to stopping power in comparison to previous tests.

4WD disc converted brakes compared standard brakes

DRUM BRAKES

Issues

Drum brakes do work well but the biggest issue and problems regarding them is when you take your 4WD off road. To ensure your drum brakes are working correctly you will need to inspect, adjust and clean them, particularly if you have driven through mud and water.

You may wonder why manufacturers install them if they need so much attention and adjustments after 4WDing. The main reasons are due to cost and their ability to adjust to varying weights and loads.

Essentially drums are a semi-sealed unit and the heat created when braking gets trapped and cannot dissipate efficiently.

DISC BRAKES

Pros

Disc brakes use clamping pressure which is more efficient and effective at braking than drum-style outward pressure.

As disc brakes are out in the open air, as you drive, they are cooling off in the air moving around them

BIG BRAKE UPGRADE LEVEL 3 TEST

Now we put to the test a seriously upgraded brake setup with larger rotors and bigger brake calipers that add extra pistons for braking. This would be perfect for any 4WD that tows large loads such as big caravans. Standard calipers have 2-4 pistons to push the pad to the rotor.

This upgraded Bendix caliper has 6 pistons, three for each pad, allowing better and more even clamping power with a larger surface area for clamping and stopping a larger rotor. The larger rotor also has a bigger surface area to absorb and spread out the heat.

This is like stepping up from a regular wrench to a breaker bar.

bendix upgraded brake calliper blue bigger 4WD brake rotor compared to standard

Run 1: The 4WD stopped at 27m (17m shorter than OE) and a pedal effort of only 189Nm. The vehicle braked so hard that the nose of the 4wd dipped so much it triggered the engine low oil pressure light.

Run 2-4: The brakes performed consistently, stopping at around 32m with pedal effort varying from 277nm-315Nm.

Run 5: We saw barely any brake fade at the final run, stopping at 31m with pedal effort of 339Nm.

final upgraded 4WD brakes vs OE standard brake

In this picture above, the vehicle in the background is where the fully upgraded brakes stopped the 4WD in the final run, and where Jocko is standing with the pram is the stopping point of the standard OE brakes.

CONCLUSION

Each upgrade saw significant changes from the standard system. All throughout the testing from runs 1-5 did see signs of brake fade, but the higher level upgrading resulted in less brake fading, shorter stopping distance and less maximum pedal effort.

  data break down of 4WDbraking and brake upgrades

WHICH UPGRADE KIT IS FOR YOU?

Work Ute with weekend camping and light towing

We recommend upgrading rotors, pads and brake lines. Much better braking performance without breaking the bank.

4WDers and regular towing

We think the drum to disc conversion is a no brainer. This results in much less maintenance and better performance. Anyone who has driven with drum brakes through mud then on a steep track will know how scary it can fell and will get their money worth with this set up.

GVM upgraded vehicles, constantly loaded and big load towing

This is where the full complete upgrade of larger rotors and calipers will give you confidence and peace of mind in your braking capabilities in any situation.