Thanks to the huge selection of aftermarket parts that are just a phone call away, building a trick truck that is safe and fun to drive is easier than ever. A great example of aftermarket components that just about every truck can benefit from are better brakes. With the wide variety of stoppers available, making your hauler come to a halt on the proverbial dime should be easy. The hard part can be picking the right parts from the array of individual pieces and complete kits that are out there. It can be confusing and somewhat intimidating so it's important to be well informed before you lay your cash on the counter.

Brake Basics
Brakes work on a simple principle we all learned as kids. When you fell on your butt and slid over an asphalt playground you came to a stop quickly; if you did it on ice the stop wasn't as immediate. How quickly you came to a stop had to do with the coefficient of friction between the stationary surface (the ground) and one that is moving (your butt). The friction is between the stationary brake pads or shoes and the rotating discs or drums and with your truck the more friction there is the better the brakes will perform.

Drum Brakes
For all practical purposes drum brakes can be broken up into two general categories: self-energizing and non self-energizing. An example of the latter can be found on '48-and-earlier Fords. With this design each brake shoe had a pivot point at the bottom and they operate independently of each other.

A more modern design, and one that is still in use today, is the self-energizing drum brake developed by Bendix. With this style of brake the shoes are hooked together at the bottom by a spring and adjuster and are held to the backing plate by a pin, spring, and retainer. Mounted this way they are free to move slightly on the backing plate. When self-energizing brakes are applied the front brake shoe makes contact with the revolving drum and tries to rotate with it, that movement is transferred through the adjuster to the rear shoe, pushing it into the drum with increased force. Self-energizing drum brakes are still commonly used, most often on the rear of trucks with discs on the front.

Disc Brakes
Heat is also the enemy of brakes. As the friction surfaces become hotter the coefficient of friction between the two is reduced and the brakes lose their effectiveness. The term that is often used to describe this is brake fade. If you've ever driven a truck down a steep grade and found it took more and more brake pedal pressure to slow it you've experienced brake fade.

When it comes to dissipating heat, disc brakes have a huge advantage over drums. As the caliper only covers a small part of a disc brake's friction surface, a large portion of the rotor is exposed to air, which keeps it relatively cool. With a drum brake most of the friction surface is in contact with the brake shoes, which leaves little surface area for cooling. Consequently, compared to discs, drum brakes get hotter faster and stay hotter longer. During hard or continuous use, this reduces their efficiency noticeably.

Another factor that allows disc brakes to function more effectively than drums is the wiping action inherent in their design. In wet conditions the brake pads tend to wipe water off the rotor, with drums, moisture can become trapped between the shoes and drum, which lowers the coefficient of friction considerably until the water is dispersed.

There are three common types of calipers: fixed, sliding, and floating. Fixed calipers are mounted solidly to a mounting bracket with one, two, or more pistons per side to apply the pads. When multiple pistons are used on each side they are more or less in a row; consequently, the caliper can utilize a longer pad more effectively than a single-piston caliper. The combination of multiple pistons and large friction surfaces mean that fixed calipers can supply a tremendous amount of stopping power.