Let's Talk About Brakes!

I've had a few gin n' tonics so skip to the next section if you don't want the sappy stuff. Also, this blog post has been brought to you by a few gin n' tonics. Enjoy.

I officially started Redpants a year and a half ago, and one thing that has been consistent is how supportive you guys have been. I started off my last blog post saying how busy I've been with everything, and a bunch of the emails I've gotten since then have said something along the lines of, "I know how busy you are."

On one hand, I feel bad about it. I don't want to come across as being too busy for anyone. I was asked a couple of times for advice on a door adjustment, and I kept saying I'd get back to him and never did (sorry, Ron!!) and I feel horrible when that happens. I pride myself on providing being an asset to the community and when I fail at it, it's a real punch to the gut.

On the other hand, you guys are incredibly supportive in so many ways, including being understanding when things don't go perfectly smoothly. That means so much to me! When you guys say something about me being busy, it does register that you're both reading these blog posts and taking the chaos that has become my life into consideration.

Honestly, I'm floored by it.

I started Redpants because there was a demand for it for other Aston owners like myself that were looking for a source of parts and information. Things changed, at least in my mind, when I founded Redpants as a business. What I once did as a hobby I now do as a company, and I'm beholden to you guys. As I've said, I'm doing my best to keep up with things. Sometimes, I fail at it. I'm hoping that I'll be able to maintain my reputation - and Redpants' reputation - as a reliable resource.

My bottom line isn't financial. Well, as long as I'm not losing money it isn't financial. I've undercut myself a few times, but that's part of the learning experience in an industry like this. And so long as I'm gainfully employed, I don't rely on Redpants to pay my mortgage so I can afford to learn a hard lesson or two. At the end of the day, I stress over this far more than the sales compensate, but I do so willingly because I honestly enjoy being a part of this community.

Okay, sappy stuff over, let's change gears.

A few people have asked me about the license plate I put on my red project car. Yes - I served in the United States Marine Corps. My first day of boot camp was the day before 9/11. I served for five years, then went off to do other things. Most people tell me they don't see me as a Marine, and that's okay. I had a really half-decent mountain bike and some video games when I joined the Marine Corps, then built a career from it. Now I'm doing pretty well for myself. It wouldn't have been possible without that enlistment so, although I didn't stay in long, I can't thank the Marines enough for giving me the time and training to set myself on a path that would actually lead somewhere. So yeah, I've earned that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on my license plate

Brake pads!

This is a really important topic. Literally one of life and death. But when people ask me questions like, "What's the best brake pad?" my answer is just about always, "It depends."

As with many things, brakes are all about compromise. You can think about pad selection as a sliding scale. On one end you have very streetable pads with practically no dust. On the other end you have pads that squeal like a stuck pig (there's a yee-haw around here somewhere) and produce a metric ton of dust every time you press the pedal, but can stop a freight train.

What brake pads are best for you depend on your needs. I use as many of the parts I sell as I can, so I can give you part-review, part-feedback information about each. I've currently got three types of brake pads listed*, so let's go over each.

*I can get OEM pads (and any OEM parts), but don't list them because nobody I've talked to actually likes them. If you want to stay with OEM parts, even brake pads, just let me know and I can get them for you. But if you're open to straying away from factory-equipped items, there are much better options!

There is a list of caveats at the end of my babbling about brake pads, so please make sure you read them!

Porterfield R4-S

The Porterfield R4-S is my go-to pad for anyone that wants to get rid of dust and noise. These pads are absolutely quiet and have a ridiculously low level of dust. For the vast majority of Aston owners, these pads are perfect. I ran these pads on my grey V8 Vantage to test them out. I loved them for normal driving, but that car gets used far beyond the norm. I'll be installing them on my red project car soon.

Pros

Dust is all but eliminated and they're perfectly silent. You don't have to worry about cleaning your wheels every time you drive your car. And they don't have that obnoxious squeal at low speeds - you know, the one that happens in parking lots when people are watching you drive by in your Aston, or when you approach a stop light and the driver in the lane next to you looks up to see what that awful noise is and then gasps, realizing such a horrid sound could come from such a beautiful car. Yeah, that one. The R4-S doesn't have that. No noise, barely any dust - this pad is amazing.

An added bonus is that these pads accommodate the front and rear brake sensors, so that functionality stays fully intact.

Cons

The R4-S was designed for street driving. If you plan to hit speeds above what's legal in any State in the US (you autobahn guys are lucky!), this pad might not be for you. A bunch of people asked how well the R4-S would hold up to track use, so I tested them myself and found that they failed under hard braking. If you're looking for a brake pad that can handle braking from triple-digit speeds, I suggest you move past these.

One other thing to note is the pads aren't manufactured as mirror-images from inside to outside. That means the sensor slot is in the factory position on one side of the car, but not on the other side. The functionality remains, but you'll have to adjust the senor wires to fit. Here's what that looks like:

Hawk HPS 5.0

I call these my compromise pads, but that isn't meant in a bad way. Perfectly tame for street driving, yet able to handle the extra abuse of a track day, The HPS 5.0 pads straddle both ends of the spectrum. But they come with a sacrifice. They're truly an in-between pad. If you're looking for one pad to do it all, this is the one. These are the pads I use on my grey V8 Vantage, although I do swap them out when I plan to get really aggressive for track days.

Pros

Dust is a little less than the OEM pads, so that's an improvement. They also don't squeal like the OEM pads, so that's also an improvement. Already, we're better off. The front pads do have slots for the factory wear sensors, so that fuctionality stays in front. They can handle moderate track use just as well as normal street driving, so they're fantastic for an all-around pad.

Cons

The HPS 5.0 creates far more dust than the Porterfield R4-S, so if dust is your primary concern then you're better off with the R4-S. They also don't accommodate the wear sensors on the rear pads - they only have slots on the front - so if you want to maintain the full functionality of the wear sensors, these won't work for you.

Porterfield R4

Strap your eyeballs into their sockets and hold on, these pads STOP. Your tires are going to be a more limiting factor for your braking than these pads. They're brutal. They're relentless. They're amazing. But the R4 is a race pad, so don't use them on the street - for everyone else's sake.

Pros

Pros? This is easy. They stop, and they stop hard. When you're on track, these pads are going to be just fine and you'll be left with other things to worry about, like whiplash... to the front. If you want some absurd braking on the track, the R4 is the pad for you. They're also street-able, in that they work well enough when cold (which is a big issue for track-oriented brake pads), though I don't recommend it.

EDIT: Clare absolutely loves the stopping power of the R4, but hated the squealing. Brake dust we could deal with - just takes extra cleaning - but the squeal during street driving was horrible. The stopping power, though... that was addictive.

Cons

Cons? This is easy. They squeal, and they squeal hard. And the dust. So much of the dust. All of the dust. A veritable cornucopia of noise and dust. While people get the R4-S to eliminate noise and dust, sadists get the R4. I don't recommend the R4 for normal usage because they ruin the street driving experience. For the track? Awesome. For the street? Nah. Also, these don't accommodate the wear sensors in front or rear. You'll have to go old-school and check the pads yourself.

How to decide

A general buying guide that I present is this:
If you want to keep the car completely OEM, stick with OEM pads.
If you don't drive the car hard and just want to reduce noise and dust, get the R4-S.
If you want a pad that creates dust but can handle both street and track, get the HPS 5.0.
If you want an absurd amount of braking performance accompanies by an absurd amount of noise and dust, get the R4.
If you don't mind swapping between pads for track days, get the R4-S for the street and the R4 for the track.

As always, I'm here if you want to talk about options so please feel free to reach out to me if you're not sure which way to go. 

The Caveats

As a DIY-focused website, this is a tough one... Brake pads are subject to their manufacturers' installation and usage requirements. That usually entails having them installed by a certified mechanic, plus having them bedded-in according to their specific guidelines. Since I'm a big advocate of doing things yourself, I suggest you look at the manufacturer's guidelines for the pads you want. I'm happy to help with that if you'd like. Bottom line is that Redpants, nor myself, is responsible for you, your car, or what happens with a product you buy. I'll do everything I can to help ensure things go as intended. But this is a safety matter, so please consult a professional, certified mechanic.

Also, noise levels are often a direct result of how well (or, uh, un-well) brake pads are bedded in. Again, consult the manufacturer's guidelines for the bedding-in process to help make sure your brake pads have optimal performance.

Brake pad wear sensors are part of the factory setup, and some pads don't support them. There won't be any issues if you pull the sensors off the pads - you'll just lose that functionality, but won't get a warning light. The sensors are there to tell you when your brake pads need to be replaced. You'll get an extremely annoying message that looks like this:

Last, and definitely not least, brake pads are one part of the braking system. Generally speaking, the harder you brake, the more heat your brakes generate. Braking systems are only as strong as their weakest link. So make sure your brake fluid is up to the task!

If you have any questions or concerns about any of this, please let me know! I'm happy to help you figure out what's best for you!

Updates!

It isn't quite done yet, but my grey car is getting close to being rebuilt! And it's looking so, so good!! Here's how it sat earlier today...

Oh yes... oh yes... oh... yes!

The project itself has been one issue after another (seriously, that simple-looking front bumper beam has been a constant nuisance!) but it's almost done. I'm going on a rally on Friday, so the project really is coming down to the wire. I'm probably going to be using the new BC Forged RZ05 wheels I had made for my red car this weekend, so that'll give me a chance to test both the wider tires and a different tire - the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S.

Meanwhile, I installed a set of clear tail lights on the red car.

I think it's a fantastic way to update a car. To me, the clear tail lights are more crisp and "pop" more on certain cars. The red-on-red look isn't something I've ever been a fan of, so this was an obvious candidate for modification. I did start a DIY for installing the tail lights, but I messed up half the videos so I have to re-shoot the process... that was a 3-hour lesson on how a "record" button works... Anyway, the red car is staying completely factory until after I use it as a benchmark against my grey car, but the clear tail lights are a completely cosmetic change, so they won't count against that comparison.

So that's it for now, I think. Thank you, as always, for reading my blog posts and the ongoing support of Redpants!