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Brembo Big Brake Kit Installation
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Brembo Big Brake Kit Installation

Time:

12 hours12 hrs

Tab:

$1,500 to $3,000

Talent:

***

Tools:

7mm Allen socket, T25 Torx socket, torque wrench, floor jack & jack stands

Applicable Models:

R50 MINI Cooper Hatchback (2002-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
R53 MINI Cooper S Hatchback (2002-06)

Parts Required:

Brembo big brake kit, brake fluid

Hot Tip:

Check the fit of your wheels after you mount the caliper

Performance Gain:

Shorter stopping distances and reduced brake fade

Complementary Modification:

Replace rear pads and discs
How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Pelican Parts' new book, How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 500+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any MINI owner's collection. The book is due to be released in late 2015. See The Official Book Website for more details.

I've never been completely happy with the braking power on the MINI. The braking systems have always been good, but I've often thought that the stock systems could be better. The single-piston, floating caliper design used on these cars always seemed inferior to the dual or quad opposed piston style used on Porsche 911s. Repeated 80-to-0-mph stop tests by European Car Magazine recently found that the stock E36 BMW M3 brake fluid boiled and became highly ineffective after about 4 runs. These brakes are quite similar to the ones used on the MINI. Needless to say, if you're going to be doing any significant performance driving, it's a very wise investment to upgrade your brakes.

The kits aren't cheap - they range in price from about $1500 to $3000, with the top end of the dollar range belonging to the premium brand kits from Brembo. Some may find this an expensive price to pay, but when you figure that it includes the cost of a caliper rebuild, new discs, and new brake lines, the cost becomes a bit more reasonable. In addition, you can expect the following from your upgrade:

⋅Shorter stopping distances. Depending upon the application and road conditions, you can experience up to 20-30% shorter distances. The faster you are traveling the greater the improvement.

⋅Repeatability. Even the simplest brake systems can stop a car very well once or twice. However, as the brake fluid and pads heat up, performance decreases, and each stop gets longer and longer. Installing a big brake kit will give you remarkably shorter stops consistently.

⋅Reduce or eliminate brake fade. The larger brake discs on the big brake systems are able to dissipate heat that causes brake fade and failure. Each component in the big brake system is designed for performance braking, which includes the proper cooling of the system. Whether you're coming down a steep mountain, or blasting from turn to turn on a racetrack, the bigger brake systems are better equipped to prevent overheating than the stock system.

⋅Better control and modulation. With a performance brake setup, you achieve a better pedal feel, brake harder, and still maintain control. The big brake systems work flawlessly with the BMW anti-lock braking system (ABS)

The big brake kits typically only come with equipment to replace your front brakes. This is because the front brakes typically perform 80% or more of the stopping - sometimes more during panic stops. I don't recommend putting a high performance, big brake system on the rear because this can cause the rear brakes to lock up prematurely. This can actually cause increased stopping distances and a loss of control: exactly what you're trying to avoid! For cars that have performance systems on the rear, they are often coupled with anti-lock controllers or proportioning valves to prevent rear brake lockup.

The big brake setup that we chose for this project is manufactured by Brembo, and was supplied by PelicanParts.com. Brembo is one of the leading brake system manufacturers, and an OEM supplier to world-class sports car manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari. The Brembo kit we used for this upgrade is widely considered to be one of the best you can buy for the MINI Cooper and Cooper S. The car that this was mounted on was a MINI Cooper S that had a few other performance mods to match.

The only real requirement for the kit is that you have 17" or larger wheels on your car. The stock MINI wheels will fit, however this car was fitted with aftermarket Enkei wheels. Not all 17" wheels will allow the huge calipers to fit, so make sure that you plan in advance, and verify that your wheel combination will work with the larger brake systems.

The first step is to loosen the lug nuts on your wheels and then raise the front of the car (See Pelican Technical Article: Jacking Up Your MINI for more info). You might want to raise the rear of the car as well, as I recommend that you inspect and refurbish your rear brakes at the same time so that you have fresh components on all four corners of the car. For example, on this particular car, I installed rear cross-drilled rotors and rear brake pads to match. Figure 1 shows all the components of the Brembo kit for one side of the car. As you can see, it includes the new caliper, rotor, brake line and adapter bracket.

For the remainder of this project, I will discuss the installation procedure for the left side of the car - the opposite side is exactly the same. With the car up in the air, remove the two road wheels. When the road wheel has been removed, disconnect the brake pad sensor from the left side of the car. Then unbolt and disconnect the brake caliper from the car (See Projects 29 and 30 for detailed instructions on removing the caliper, and brake disc). Tie the caliper up out of the way and do not disconnect the brake line at this time. Make sure that there is no tension on the brake line - even though we will be replacing it you don't want to make a habit of hanging the caliper by the brake hose. Remove the bracket that normally holds the caliper to the strut.

Now, remove the small screw that holds the brake disc to the hub. The brake disc should simply lift off. If not, then you may need to tap it with a rubber mallet. Underneath the disc, you will see the dust shield (See Figure 2 and Figure 3). The new rotor will not fit on the hub assembly with the dust shield in place. The dust shields are mounted using four T25 Torx bolts. Once removed, maneuver the shield off the wheel hub. Underneath you will find the ABS sensor. It's a good idea to remove it at this point and clean off any dirt or grease inside. Sometimes, a dirty sensor can cause problems with the function of the Anti-lock braking systems. It's cheap insurance while you're in there (See Figure 4).

Now, take the new Brembo caliper mounting bracket and attach it to the strut assembly. You can re-use the bolts that held the stock caliper holding bracket to the wheel hub. Torque the bolts down to the value indicated in the kit instructions and use red Loctite 271 on the threads to make sure they don't come loose (See Figure 5 and Figure 6).

Now that the bracket is mounted, place the rotor on the wheel hub. There is a left and right rotor - they usually have a sticker on them, but you can also tell the difference by the way that the internal fins are cast into the disc (See Figure 7). Use the brake disc locating and mounting bolt to secure and correctly register the brake disc with respect to the hub. Put a small dab of anti-seize compound on the threads prior to installing. This will help to remove the bolt in the future. The holes for the wheel studs should be correctly lined up with both the brake disc and the spindle. Use a spare wheel lug nut to help secure the disc to the spindle if needed (See Figure 8 and Figure 9).

The pads should be pre-assembled in the caliper, but if they're not, now is the time to insert them into the caliper. Remove the two retaining pins by tapping them out with a small hammer and the end of a punch or small screwdriver. Insert the pads, and replace the pins. Now, mount the new caliper to the newly installed mounting bracket (See Figure 10 and Figure 11). Torque the bolts to spec. There will be an embossed arrow on the front of the caliper that indicates the direction of the disc rotation. When mounting the calipers on the spindle, the arrow should always point down, and the bleeder valves should always point up (See Figure 12).

At this point (before you disconnect the brake line to your old caliper) I suggest that you perform a test fit of your wheel to your spindle. You want to make sure that there are no interference problems when the wheel is fully mounted. Cover the caliper first with a piece of tape to protect the paint in case the wheel happens to scrape the caliper (See Figure 13). Put the wheel on the spindle and tighten it down with two lug nuts. Then give the wheel a spin and make sure that it turns freely without rubbing or scraping on the caliper or any other brake system component. If the wheel binds at all, you may need to install a set of spacers for the wheel to clear the caliper. In our case, we needed to use a 10mm spacer to allow the wheel to clear the caliper. When you have verified that the wheel turns freely, remove it, and set it aside.

Now, using a flare-nut wrench, quickly disconnect the old rubber hose from the steel hard-line that connects the hose to the main brake system (at the top of the inner wheel well). Don't use a regular wrench on the hard line - only use a flare-nut wrench, as is explained in Pelican Technical Article: Brake Disc Replacement. Reconnect the new line quickly, minimizing the amount of brake fluid that leaks out of the system (See Figure 14). Now take the old caliper and line and set it aside. Be careful not to spill any brake fluid. Take the new stainless steel braided line and attach to the fitting on the fender (See Figure 15).

There will be a small plastic plug threaded into the side of the caliper to prevent and dirt from entering it. Simply thread it out (See Figure 16). Now, attach your new braided brake hose to the brake caliper. There should be two small copper washers that will seal the banjo line fitting to the caliper. One for the inside and outside as shown in the photo (See Figures 17 and 18).

With the brake line attached, route the brake line through the rubber grommet that secures it to the strut and press the grommet into the notch on the strut housing (See Figure 19). Now clean up any spilled brake fluid (beware - it is very harmful to paint). Now, repeat the process for the opposite side. When you have completed the install, you will need to bleed the brake system - see Project 50 for more information. Brembo supplies a section of clear tubing to use when bleeding the brakes. Remove the dust cover caps on the bleeder screws, fit the tubing over the screw and open the bleeder valves. Keep in mind that the bleeder valves on the Brembo calipers are larger than the valves on the stock calipers, so the diameter of the tubing needed for this task is different (See Figure 20 and Figure 21).

The last step is to modify the circuit for the brake wear indicators. Normally, with the stock calipers, when the brake pads wear down to a certain point, they break through the sensor mounted inside the pad and the light on the dash illuminates. Unfortunately, Brembo kits do not have provisions for mounting sensors.

You can do one of two things here. One is to simply leave the sensor plugged in and find somewhere to mount the excess length of cable going to the caliper, or you can cut the sensor just after the connection and twist the wires together. We chose to cut the wire and twist the wires together. Cut the sensor right after the connector, making sure to leave enough of the wire to where you can strip away the insulation on either wire, and then twist them together (See Figure 22). Make sure that you insulate the twisted wires with either heat shrink tubing or electrical tape. Re-connect the sensor to the plug and push it into the holder on the front panel (See Figure 23).

Now, reattach the road wheels, lower the car, and tighten the lug nuts to 74 ft-lb (100 Nm).

The brake system needs to be broken in before you can really test its performance. First, you should make sure that your emergency brake system is working properly. This is just in case anything went wrong, and you need to pull that lever to stop the car. Before you drive the car, pump the pedal and make sure that you have firm pressure. Have an assistant push the car while you have your foot on the brake - just to test that the system is working.

Drive the car slowly to a nearby parking lot or deserted area. Now, perform about 15-20 stops from 55 mph to 10 mph using light pressure on the pedal. This will increase the temperature on pads, the caliper and the rotors, and will help mate the pad and the disc's friction surface together. After these repeated stops, drive the car around town for a few miles, and try to avoid using the brakes. This will allow the components to cool back down. Now park the car and look at the brake discs. They should be a grayish-blue color consistently across the surface of the disc. If this color is not consistent, then repeat the 15-20 stop heating and cooling procedure.

Shown here is one half of the Brembo big brake upgrade kit as purchased from PelicanParts.
Figure 1

Shown here is one half of the Brembo big brake upgrade kit as purchased from PelicanParts.com. The kit includes everything that you need for the installation: two calipers, two rotors, two brake lines, two brackets, and two sets of pads and retaining clips. Truly a sight to be seen, it's unfortunate that all of this braking beauty has to be hidden behind the wheels.

In order to install the kit, you will need to remove the dust shield behind the brake disc.
Figure 2

In order to install the kit, you will need to remove the dust shield behind the brake disc. Remove the two upper

Next, remove the two lower Torx bolts and maneuver the dust shield out of the way (green arrows).
Figure 3

Next, remove the two lower Torx bolts and maneuver the dust shield out of the way (green arrows).

It's a good idea to remove the Anti-lock brake sensor (green arrow) and give it a good cleaning while you're in there.
Figure 4

It's a good idea to remove the Anti-lock brake sensor (green arrow) and give it a good cleaning while you're in there. In general, the removal of the dust shield will not affect the operation of the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS). However, if you drive through a lot of mud and dirt, I would periodically clean off the sensor. Simply remove the 5mm Allen bolt, pull the sensor out and wipe it down with a rag.

To install the new calipers, Brembo supplies an adapter bracket that attaches to the wheel housing using the original bolts.
Figure 5

To install the new calipers, Brembo supplies an adapter bracket that attaches to the wheel housing using the original bolts. The green arrows show the location of the bolt holes. The bolts thread in from the back, holding the bracket to the front of the wheel housing

ThisPicture shows the correct orientation of the bolts through the rear of the wheel housing then into the mounting bracket.
Figure 6

This picture shows the correct orientation of the bolts through the rear of the wheel housing then into the mounting bracket. Torque the bolts down to the value indicated in the kit instructions and use red Loctite 271 on the threads to make sure they don't come loose.

Mount the disc to the hub and temporarily fasten it with the brake disc locating screw (green arrow).
Figure 8

Mount the disc to the hub and temporarily fasten it with the brake disc locating screw (green arrow). Verify that the disc turns freely and doesn't hang up on any part of the strut or hub assembly. The discs are specific to each side of the car - verify from the diagram included in the kit that the proper one is mounted according to how the wheel turns when the car is moving forwards.

Put a small dab of anti-seize compound on the thread of the new rotor retaining screw prior to installing it.
Figure 9

Put a small dab of anti-seize compound on the thread of the new rotor retaining screw prior to installing it. Once installed, torque it to spec.

Note the direction of the small arrow cast into the outside face of the caliper and mount the caliper to the new bracket using the supplied hex bolts.
Figure 10

Note the direction of the small arrow cast into the outside face of the caliper and mount the caliper to the new bracket using the supplied hex bolts.

ThisPicture shows an overhead view of how the bolt secures the caliper to the bracket.
Figure 11

This picture shows an overhead view of how the bolt secures the caliper to the bracket.

ThisPicture shows the small arrow cast into the caliper (green arrow).
Figure 12

This picture shows the small arrow cast into the caliper (green arrow). This arrow should be pointed down if you installed the calipers correctly. Another good reference point is that the bleeder screws should always face upwards.

Perform a test fit of the road wheel to the hub to make sure that there are no interference problems.
Figure 13

Perform a test fit of the road wheel to the hub to make sure that there are no interference problems. Place some tape on the painted surface of the caliper, just to make sure that the inside of the wheel doesn't accidentally scratch the surface of the caliper. In our case, we had to use a 10mm spacer for the wheel to clear the caliper face.

Quickly disconnect the old brake line from it's fitting on the inner fender using a set of flare-nut wrenches.
Figure 14

Quickly disconnect the old brake line from it's fitting on the inner fender using a set of flare-nut wrenches. It's a good idea to have a drip pan underneath to catch any brake fluid still in the lines.

Set the old caliper aside and quickly attach the new stainless-steel braided brake line to the old fitting and tighten it snugly.
Figure 15

Set the old caliper aside and quickly attach the new stainless-steel braided brake line to the old fitting and tighten it snugly. As you tighten it, it draws the clamp closer, securing the line in place.

Remove the protective plug from the new caliper and throw it away, as you wont need it again.
Figure 16

Remove the protective plug from the new caliper and throw it away, as you wont need it again.

Fit the new banjo bolt into the new line, making sure to place a copper washer to each side of the banjo bolt.
Figure 17

Fit the new banjo bolt into the new line, making sure to place a copper washer to each side of the banjo bolt. These copper washers seal the banjo bolt to the fitting.

Tighten the banjo bolt against the new caliper.
Figure 18

Tighten the banjo bolt against the new caliper. Make sure that you don't over-tighten it.

Press the rubber grommet on the new brake line into the bracket on the side of the strut.
Figure 19

Press the rubber grommet on the new brake line into the bracket on the side of the strut.

Brembo supplies a section of clear tubing to use when bleeding the brakes.
Figure 20

Brembo supplies a section of clear tubing to use when bleeding the brakes. Remove the dust cover caps on the bleeder screws, fit the tubing over the screw and open the bleeder valves.

When you use the pressure bleeder, you will want to watch the fluid coming out of the lines.
Figure 21

When you use the pressure bleeder, you will want to watch the fluid coming out of the lines. There will be air bubbles in the fluid. When all the air has been bled from the line, it will look similar to the picture shown. Just a stream of solid fluid.

The only downside to installing the Brembo kit is that you cannot use the pad wear indicator sensors.
Figure 22

The only downside to installing the Brembo kit is that you cannot use the pad wear indicator sensors. You will also have to jumper the connection to turn the light off. Simply cut the connector off the end of the sensor, trim back the insulation and twist the ends of the wire together. This completes the circuit that would normally be broken when the pad wears down to the sensor.

Shown here is the pad wear sensor re-installed in it's bracket.
Figure 23

Shown here is the pad wear sensor re-installed in it's bracket. Make sure that you tape up the exposed wire with some electrical tape or heat shrink tubing.

And here's the final product, installed and ready to go.
Figure 24

And here's the final product, installed and ready to go. Be sure to follow the break-in procedures exactly.

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