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Improving the Mustang's Brake System
Ford Mustang with Over Heated Brake Rotors
These glowing front rotors are a
testament to how much heat is
generated during braking. Street
circuits like Trois Rivieres are
particularly hard on brakes, with
very little time between corners
and no air movement on the
course itself.
Along with all the upgrades to the rest of the Mustang for the 1994 model year, the brakes were
also improved. Four-wheel disc brakes were now standard on every model – rear drum brakes were
gone. ABS also became optional on all Mustangs beginning in ’94. PBR two-piston front calipers,
similar to the ones used by GM on the F-bodies and Covettes were introduced on the Cobra, along
with larger 13-inch front discs.

All of this made a great improvement to a car that already had plenty of acceleration, but lacked in
the braking department when compared with the Camaro/Firebird of the day. Things only improved
with the 2000 Cobra R, which came with four-piston Brembo front brakes, and even carbon- fiber
brake ducts, standard from the factory. That’s wonderful stuff, but for those of us without an R
model, where should we begin to improve our brakes?
Brake Fluid
The easiest brake improvement is also the least expensive. Changing your brake fluid every 24
months on an every- day street car enhances braking performance. Brake fluid is hygroscopic,
which means that it has an affinity for water. A typical DOT 3 brake fluid, found in most cars, begins
life with a boiling point around 400 degrees F. After only 24 months, water absorbed into the brake
fluid can lower the boiling point over 100 degrees! The brakes are susceptible to fade as the fluid
boils in the caliper, especially if the brakes are used two or three times in short succession.

The moisture absorbed into the brake fluid also causes premature corrosion in the brake system,
leading to early replacement of master cylinders and calipers. Some lube shops and garages are
now testing brake fluid with electronic testers to determine the amount of water absorbed and the
actual boiling point of the fluid in some cases. While this is all well and good, I prefer to just change
fluid based on time and usage. Consider brake fluid to be like some of the food in your refrigerator,
you know, the stuff with a “best before” date on it. The “best before” date on your brake fluid is 24
months from the date you drove your new car off the dealer’s lot. If your Mustang is second hand,
don’t even think about it – just change it. Since this usually requires two people, just consider it a
bonding opportunity with that special someone in your life. Obviously, if you use your Mustang for
open track events like SVTOA events, or weekend drag racing, changing your brake fluid should
become a more frequent event. Open-track driving demands that brake fluid be changed a week or
two before the event, and bled after the event as well.
Weekend drag racers should change fluid at the beginning of every season, and then bleed the
brakes once a week to once a month depending on speeds achieved and number of passes per
weekend. Road racers already know all about brake fluid; that’s why you see them bleeding the
brakes virtually every time the car comes off the track, between practice, qualifying, and race
sessions. Even the best fluid available can have localized boiling in some areas, and if you need a
consistent, hard brake pedal, constant bleeding is required.
DOT 4 Brake Fluid
DOT 4 Brake Fluid is a good
choice for a street-driven
Mustang. Castrol CMA and
Valvoline Synpower are two
commonly available brands.
Different types of driving require different types of brake fluid. DOT 3 brake fluid is what your
Mustang came with from Ford and the type most garages use to top up or change fluid. A typical
DOT 3 brake fluid has a dry boiling point of 400 degrees F. The minimum level of brake fluid I
recommend is DOT 4 fluid. A quality DOT 4 brake fluid has a dry boiling point of 500 degrees F,
and is readily available at auto parts stores and even Wal-Mart. Castrol LMA and Valvoline
Synpower are two commonly available brands. DOT 4 fluid is fine for every day cars, weekend drag
racers, and the once-a-year open-track driver. Pro drag racers and open-track warriors (you know
who you are), you guys and gals need something better. Motul 600F is my preferred fluid for this
middle level of performance. It has a 600-degree-F dry boiling point, and it’s reasonably priced at
around $18 a pint. You need to find a performance outlet or mail order supply house for
performance brake fluid, as you are not likely to find it at the average auto parts store. Other good
brands in this range are Wilwood Hi-Temp 570 F brake fluid and AP Racing 550 F brake fluid.
Motul Racing brake fluid
For open track and road
racing, you want a brake fluid
that can stand up to some
heat. This Motul Racing brake
fluid has a 600 degrees F dry
boiling point.
Professional road racers use Castrol SRF brake fluid. It costs $70 a quart, which is a lot of money
by anyone’s standards. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and it’s the best
racing brake fluid available, period. It has a higher boiling point, at 660 degrees F, and works the
best of any fluid in an extreme racing environment.

People ask, “What about DOT 5 silicone brake fluid, isn’t it better?” The answer is yes, and no.
DOT 5 fluid does not absorb water like a conventional fluid. Unfortunately, it also has a relatively
low boiling point, which renders it useless for performance enthusiasts. It’s also incompatible with
other types of brake fluid, requiring a complete system flush. The best application for DOT 5 is for
museum cars, which are seldom driven, and then only at moderate speeds.
So, now we know which type of fluid is appropriate for our needs, and next we need some
equipment to help us bleed the brakes properly. A brake-bleeding bottle is nothing more than a
clear container with a piece of transparent hose that slips over the brake-bleeding nipple on the
caliper. Tilton makes a dandy brake bleeding kit with two bottles and hoses, or you can make your
own for next to nothing. Just take an old Gatorade bottle, cut a hole in the top, and get some clear
nylon tubing from the hardware store. Just check that the plastic used to make the bottle won’t
dissolve when exposed to brake fluid by pouring a tiny bit of brake fluid in the container. Place the
end of the tube over the bleeder nipple and the old brake fluid collects in the bottle. The clear
tubing allows us to see when the old dark fluid is gone, and the new fluid has reached the bleeder.
In a road-race car, watch the tubing for bubbles in the fluid, which is a sign of boiling fluid. Once all
the bubbles have disappeared in the fluid traveling through the line, the boiled fluid has passed.
Tilton brake bleeding kit Bleeding Brakes on a Ford Mustang
This Tilton brake bleeding kit contains
two bleeder bottles with hoses to attach
to the brake bleeder nipples.
Brake bleeding is usually a two-person job: one in the
car, and one outside to loosen and tighten the
bleeder screw.
Brake bleeding is best accomplished with the assistance of another person. One person sits in the
car and operates the brake pedal, while the second person operates the bleeder screw. Make sure
the master cylinder reservoir is full, and then pump the brake pedal three or four times and hold.
The person at the caliper then opens the bleeder screw, allowing the old fluid to travel out through
the clear line into the bottle. Once the pedal has reached the floor, the bleeder screw is tightened.
This process is repeated several times at each corner, filling the reservoir as required, until new
fluid has reached each corner of the car.

Do not allow the master cylinder reservoir to get completely empty (keep filling it with new fluid). Air
gets sucked into the lines, requiring you to start the process all over again. The brakes should be
bled in the following sequence: right rear, left rear, right front, and left front (from the furthest away
from the master cylinder to nearest). If you don’t have anyone to help you do this, another option is
to install solo bleeders. These are replacement caliper bleed screws with a built-in check valve.
This allows one person to bleed the brakes by themselves, the only disadvantage being that you
cannot see the quality of the expelled fluid when doing this by yourself.
Solo Brake bleed screws
Solo-bleed screws allow one person to
bleed the brakes by themselves. A
spring-loaded check valve releases
the fluid from the brake system and
then reseals, preventing air from
entering the brake system.
Previous | Next


This has been a sample page from

High Performance Mustang Builders Guide High-Performance Mustang Builder's Guide
1994-2004
by Sean Hyland
High-performance ‘94-‘04 Mustangs represent the high-water
mark for late- model Mustang enthusiasts. From the ’94-’95s with
the 5.0L, through the ‘96-‘04 models with the 2- and 4-valve 4.6
Ls, to the Bullitt, Mach 1, and factory supercharged ’03-‘04
Cobras – never before has such a range of highly modifiable
performance cars been available. These Mustangs were amazing
performers straight from the factory, but they can be even better
with the right combination of performance parts.
Regardless of which ’94-’04 Mustang you start with, the availability
of high- performance parts is unparalleled. You can build your
Mustang for drag racing, road racing, or improved street
performance – and High- Performance Mustang Builder’s Guide
1994-2004 will show you how! Author Sean Hyland uses over 300
photos to explain how to upgrade your Mustang’s engine,
suspension, chassis, transmission, rear end, brakes, and body.
There’s even a special chapter on getting active in various forms
of organized racing.

Sean Hyland is the proprietor of Sean Hyland Motorsport, which
builds and supports internationally competitive Mustangs for road
racing, drag racing, and everything in between. Sean recently did
a complete Mustang build-up for Speed Channel’s Sports Car
Revolution and is also the author of the bestselling title How to
Build Max-Performance 4.6-Liter Ford Engines.
Click below to view sample
pages from each chapter.
Chap. 1 - Chassis
Chap. 2 -
Wheels and Tires
Chap. 3 -
Suspension
Chap. 4 -
Brakes
Chap. 5 -
3.8 Engines
Chap. 6 -
4.6 Modular Engines
Chap. 7 -
Transmissions
Chap. 8 -
Rear Axles
Chap. 9 -
Aerodynamics
Chap. 10 -
Safety Equipment
Chap. 11 -
Get Involved!
Chap. 12 -
Project Cars
8-1/2 x 11"
Sftbd.
144 pgs.
300+ B/W photos
Item: SA106P
Price: $22.95
Click here to buy now!
This is a great book
that any Mustang
enthusiast will enjoy!


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