Premiere performance for an automobile means that the vehicle needs premiere braking power. There are a few ways of going about this, but none of them are as affordable and guaranteed as replacing the rotors on the vehicle. An entire big brake package, like the ones that companies such as Brembo and Wilwood offer for the Corvette, is the absolute top-notch way to go, but those systems can run $5k and up for front and back. If you want to improve stopping power in an affordable way, replacing your stock brake components with higher performance aftermarket ones can do just that for you, and that’s exactly what I did on my C6 Z06.
I recently came to realize that my rotors were worn down pretty well. Changing them would become pertinent in the next 4-5k miles or so, so I decided not to flirt with any trouble and take care of it right away. I did my research and decided upon going with DBA rotors for my Corvette, but had some choices to make from there. I picked DBA because the reviews I’d read on their products were consistently fantastic. The company, in the last few years, has built a great reputation for itself based on the incredible performance of its rotors and their affordability as well. Many Police forces, whose braking needs can often times be more intense than even a track-racer, have begun using DBA rotors for their entire vehicle pools, and with good reason. DBA has been praised for performance, price, and durability, and all of those things are the sorts of features I want on my Z06 Vette.
So, with that decision out of the way it became time to decide upon which series rotors to purchase for my Vette. DBA offers, amongst their higher performance lines, 4000 and 5000 series rotors. These two series of rotors share a lot of fantastic features with one another, among them being: Thermo-Stability Profiling, Thermo-Graphic Paint Markings for heat monitoring, and DBA’s own fantastic Kangaroo Paw ventilation systems. Each of these features helps guarantee your DBA rotor’s performance, and provides numerous performance benefits.
The Thermo-Stability profiling is one of the most overlooked features of these rotors. This process, which is unique to DBA, allows for greater thermal stability than standard block street rotors. TSP is a process by which, ultimately, the metals used for the rotors are treated on a microstructural level to be more resistant to heat, and more willing to disperse it outwards. By profiling their rotors in this way, DBA rotors offer race-car like heat dispersion performance without the durability loss that is often times associated with high-end rotors. TSP means less fading under extreme conditions, more stability under heavy braking, and increased durability and rotor-life. This feature alone has made DBA rotors a favorite for police forces everywhere, and has proved time and time again to raise them above the competition.
Of course, TSP alone isn’t enough for DBA. They’ve also fitted all of their rotors with Thermo-graphic paint and Kangaroo paw ventilation. The Thermo-Graphic paint markings are both cool looking and incredibly useful. Thermo-Graphic paint is a form of pigmentation that will change color based on temperature. By utilizing this paint on rotors, DBA has created a system that’s visual and quick and easy to check on the performance of your rotors. By monitoring your Thermo-Graphic markings, a driver is able to easily tell under what temperature his brakes are running, and tell, as hotter means less performance, just how well they’re handling the driving stress said driver is putting them under. Three different markings provide a steady progression of performance monitoring on DBA rotors.
The Kangaroo Paw ventilation system that DBA utilizes is a brilliant means of heat dispersion. Normal rotors provide their heat dispersion through a vane system, which utilizes thin open slits moving outwards from the center of the rotor for hot air to disperse, in much the same way that cooling ducts work in a large building. The problem with a vane system though, while easily made and affordable for the companies, is it minimizes the amount of heat dispersion space available. For structural integrity, vane systems must run smaller open areas than closed to ensure that the rotor remains stable and durable. DBA was able to solve this problem by utilizing smaller portions of closed areas, whose shape is inspired by the shape of kangaroo paws, to allow for more open space for heat ventilation on their brake rotors. This Kangaroo Paw system provides vastly improved ventilation (performance stopping gains of over 20% over vane system rotors) by offering more open space, but doesn’t result in decreased stability. In fact, because of the nature of the kangaroo paw shape and the ability to spread it out across the rotor, the structural integrity of these rotors is improved over their standard vane counterparts.
All of these factors resulted in DBA rotors being an easy choice. It then came down to whether the 5000 series, which feature Alumalite materials and a two-piece construction, were worth the extra money over their 4000 counterparts. The “Alumalite” material difference doesn’t seem huge to me, quiet honestly. Cast Iron functions just fine for rotors because of its strength, but, it does make sense that by combining the various benefits of the Alumalite aircraft-grade aluminum with the strength and durability of cast-iron that the rotor itself would be more able to expand differently based on different operating heats, and ultimately, have less of a chance of warping. That’s where the two-piece construction came in, also. Two-piece construction allows for torque and pressure applied to the rotors in extreme stopping conditions to be spread out more evenly amongst both pieces of the rotors, and ultimately for the rotor to accept this torsion better for greater durability and control. With this in mind, and based on reviews I’d read elsewhere, I ultimately decided on 5000 Series rotors for the front (where high intensity stopping tends to be more demanding on the rotors) and 4000 Series rotors for the rear.
Of course, with purchases like that, there are always more things to decide upon. The last decision that I had to make for my upgraded rotors was whether to go with Slotted or Slotted and Drilled rotors. The slotted and drilled combination set are more expensive, and this is because of their increased stopping power. The combination of a cross-drilling and slotted set-up means much greater heat dispersion, and as result, improved stopping power. When doing research online, however, it became apparent that cross-drilling can result in decreased structural integrity on brake rotors, and many people had complained that their rotors, when used under very extreme conditions, had developed splits and cracks at the drilling points. These complaints were few and far between with DBA brakes, thanks in large part to the two-piece construction of the 5000 Series as well as the increased integrity and ventilation provided by the DBA Kangaroo Paw ventilation system. However, they did exist in some places, and resulted in my decision, ultimately to install slotted rotors on front and back and avoid the potential problems of the cross-drilled rotors resulting in a rotor break down the road. That being said, slotted rotors are nothing to sneeze at.
Standard rotors are block, or solid, rotors in design. What this means is that the rotor face that the pads meet is made of a solid, flat, construction. These brakes, while durable and affordable (and, for these reasons the factory standard on almost all cars that are sold) have a number of downsides. The solid construction equates to increased pad wear, as there’s more point of contact for the pads to rub against during stopping. In some ways, you would think that this solid construction would result in greater stopping force, but it’s actually the opposite of that, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. The slots in slotted rotors allow for heat to more easily disperse from the rotors during braking, and, ultimately, heat is the name of the game when it comes to brake performance. Thus, the slotted rotors, while slightly less abrasive on pads, are still able to stop much better because of their heat dispersion, and their ability still, because of their well-crafted materials, to grab more efficiently. Ultimately, too, increased heat dispersion means cooler rotors means cooler pads under braking, and thus, even greater pad life. Thus, the benefits of moving from a standard rotor to a slotted one is two-fold, as it increases durability for other major components of the braking system as well as increasing your vehicle’s ability to stop quickly and forcefully in intense driving conditions.
Thus, with all of this in mind, I picked up 5000 and 4000 series slotted rotors for my Z06. Knowing too that for optimized performance new pads should be put on with new rotors so that the two may break in with one another, I ordered a set of Hawk HPP+ pads. I considered the ceramics, because of their decreased brake dust, but ultimately the compound materials used in the Hawk HPP+ pads lead me towards purchasing those. I can deal with brake dust (and as often as I clean my Z06, I know it can’t be too big of a problem), and the increased performance offered by the stronger grab and greater efficiency of the HPP+ pads were too much for me to pass up. Also, admittedly, the price difference between the HPP+ and the Ceramic pads played a factor in my decision. The Ceramics are over $100 more and don’t offer enough of an appreciable performance gain over their Ferro-Carbon compound counterparts.
It only took a couple weeks to receive everything, and my friends over at SouthernCarParts.com (who I’m always happy to give a shout-out to) took care of me to make sure I received exactly what I needed in the most timely manner possible. After the wait, once my products arrived, I took them to a shop to have them installed. Normally I do install my stuff myself, but when it comes to properly bedding-in pads against new rotors, I wanted to leave that up to a professional. The most surprising thing about this trip to the mechanic though wasn’t the cost of the install (it wasn’t really that high, it just felt high compared to my usual $0 cost of install) was the response that I received from the guys at the shop. The comments concerning the quality and coolness of my DBA rotors was definitely a bit of an ego boost when I arrived. I’m fairly certain they expected me, when pulling up to have brake work done, to be going with stock replacement parts and that they were surprised when presented with quality aftermarket performance parts. The response on the two-piece 5000 Series front rotors was especially positive.
So, after having them installed, I was excited to see what these new brakes of mine could do on the road. It’s hard to measure braking performance changes without actually taking it to a track and measuring it, and I didn’t have an opportunity to do this, but it seemed pretty obvious on the road that these new brakes offered me a lot more stopping power. I can’t wait to get my Z06 out on to a track and see just what I can do with the extra confidence that improved brakes give me, allowing me to go faster with the knowledge that I can slow down more quickly. I’m extremely happy with my DBA rotors and the Hawk pads that I coupled them with and know that if you’re looking to do an upgrade yourself, these are exactly what I would recommend, 100%. Great brakes at a great value.
Here’s a cool video from DBA (Australian accent and all) explaining their 4000 and 5000 series rotors. Check it out: