Ask a Mechanic: Trying to install less expensive brakes can cost you more

You may think you have better brakes than you need, but Brian Early points out the downsides of trying to downgrade.

By Brian Early Wheels.ca

Jul 30, 2022 2 min. read

Article was updated a year ago

Join the Conversation (1)
Dear Ask a Mechanic,

My husband bought a Dodge Challenger SRT that has Brembo performance brakes. He mainly just liked the look of the car and doesn’t drive it hard or take it on a track. It needs new brakes and they’re very expensive. Is it possible to retrofit it with normal brakes? – Needs a brake

Theoretically it is possible to convert the brakes on a vehicle like your husband’s. Versions of this car exist that have smaller, less expensive brakes, but there are numerous reasons why you shouldn’t change them.

One of the most critical reasons not to downgrade is that you are removing braking capacity from the vehicle, very likely impacting safety, but also compromising its performance in terms of emergency stopping distances and fade resistance.

Lesser versions of this car do safely function with smaller brakes, however they also have appreciably less engine power – more power means more energy the brakes need to dissipate. Additionally, those versions most likely weigh less than your husband’s SRT, due to his car’s larger wheels and tires, bigger engine, larger radiator and other parts. Compounding this, the SRT’s anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control systems are probably calibrated to work best with those larger brakes and tires.

If those arguments aren’t enough, consider the cost of changing the vehicle’s existing components so you can attach the smaller, less expensive rotors and pads.

In addition to the rotors and pads – which are admittedly less expensive than their Brembo-type counterparts – you would need to replace the brake calipers. Because you won’t have a used set of the smaller calipers to exchange, you would either need to buy brand new ones or pay a fee for not returning the old ones. (And no, you can’t just send back the SRT calipers in their place.)

It’s quite possible that the brake flex hose and master cylinder are also different. That adds up to more money. You get the idea.

It works the same way when upgrading as well, however the concept of spending money to (hopefully) improve performance makes sense. Although the risks of compromising other aspects of the vehicle by doing so remains the same. I speak from experience, having attempted brake upgrades on two of my vehicles. Let’s just say I learned a few lessons from the first one that I applied to the second.

Ask a Mechanic is written by Brian Early, a Red Seal-certified automotive technician. You can send your questions to wheels@thestar.ca. These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle.




More from Wheels & Partners