The Corvette is an American icon. Everything about a ‘Vette is already about as good as it gets for a production car, including the brake system. But in the American tradition of “too much is just about enough,” there’s always room for improvement, and Baer Brakes offers a great-looking and big stopping “EXTREME PLUS” brake system for late model C6 that has the race car technology and performance you need when “good enough” just isn’t good enough.
Stopping Our Midlife Crisis
In the powerTV garage, we always want more: more power, more speed, and more braking. You may have noticed that we like to make sure our project cars stop as well as they go, and the 2008 C6 LS3 Corvette is no exception. Here, we will look at a high performance upgrade to the braking system and the company behind the anti-speed parts, then walk you through our brake system upgrade from pulling the stock pieces all the way through breaking in the pads and final testing. Buckle up your seatbelts, because you’ll be hanging from them before we’re done.
The Difference Between a Corvette and a Cactus
Our project car is a 2008 Corvette C6, fairly stock with a couple of immediate and necessary upgrades. We’ve added an aftermarket intake and a set of Kooks long tube headers with a Corsa Exhaust. We recognize that the ‘Vette already starts out as a serious performance car in every aspect, including the braking system. But we wanted to take it a step further and improve the stopping performance to something higher up the ‘Vette food chain, like the Z06 or the ZR1 versions.
We chose the Baer Brakes Extreme Plus brake system to replace the stock brake system. We ordered the entire setup (Part number 4302080) which includes the 14″ Extreme Rotors, a loaded set of Baer’s 6S calipers complete with intermediate bar mounting system, and the steel braided brake lines for that extra peace-of-mind in dependability and pedal feel.
The Corvette’s stock 12.8 inch diameter front rotors are larger than average for a car of this size, but they are “plain Jane” bland by anyone’s definition, and with a righteous set of rims like our Forgelines that show the caliper and rotors, they look boring. The back rotors are smaller and come off looking wimpy when paired up with rims that show the braking system off. At 12.1 inches, the rear rotors are capable of doing the job, but that is where it stops. Literally. With small two-piston calipers and the workmanlike rotors, the average stopping distance in our testing for the stock braking system in three consecutive runs from 60 mph to 0 was 110.6 feet. Compared to other published braking numbers for C6 Vettes, we may have been a little better than most, but not by much.
Baer’s C6 System: A Notch Above
Established in 1986, Baer Racing originally provided race preparation and fabrication services for a range of roadracing competitors. Demand for their brake systems grew, and at the end of the 1993 race season, Baer Racing became Baer Brake Systems with Hal Baer, Todd Gartshore and Robert Sommers. Baer Brake Systems offers a complete line of performance brakes from entry-level to full road-going race systems. Baer’s 6 piston monoblock calipers are machined in-house, with Gartshore proudly stating, “These are 100% made in America.”
We opted to upgrade to the C6 brake system that features forged aluminum calipers that are engineered, “better quality than it has to be,” according to Rick Pojman at Baer Brake Systems. It was clearly understood that the Extreme Plus Brake system was not a kit, but a complete Braking System. Baer is very adamant that the word “kit” is not in their vocabulary.
Once our System arrived it was easy to understand why. The Extreme Plus is in fact a whole new braking system complete with 14 inch rotors, 6 piston calipers, intermediate brackets to mount the new calipers, spacers, banjo fittings, copper washers and steel braided lines. Gartshore explained that Baer Brakes’ goal with this particular system was to take a stock C6 Vette brake system and give it, “stopping performance equal or better than that of a Z06 or ZR1, which are pretty lofty goals.”
The Extreme Plus System comes with EradiSpeed Plus rotors which are a two piece design. The rotor hat is CNC machined from billet aluminum with a black anodized finish. The rotor hat is secured to the rotor with aerospace hardware. The rotors themselves are cross-drilled and slotted for weight and performance improvements.
- 2-Piece (aluminum hat and iron disc) rotors that provide direct replacement for OE applications.
- Curved vane directional design which acts to take heat away from the center and route it to the outside of the rotor area centrifugally.
- National Aerospace Standard (NAS) stainless hardware.
- Employs an aluminum hat to lower total weight.
- Cross drilled, slotted, and zinc coated surfaces.
- Huge 14-inch rotors to provide more area for brake pad contact.
Todd Gartshore tells us that the Baer 6S calipers are, “made with the same technology of higher option vehicles,” and are “50% more cost effective.” Brake calipers in race series like Indy Car, NASCAR and Formula One use calipers with forged monoblock construction. Todd tells us that, “Baer offers the only forged monoblock caliper in the world that is specifically designed for road use” The 1-piece forged 6S calipers combine the maximum stability of material at high temperatures and minimum weight in an extremely stiff platform.
- Machined from 2618 forgings, which result in the stiffest design possible, providing consistency even at extreme operating temperatures.
- Monobloc design which is only found the highest-grade performance brake systems.
- Stainless steel pistons are employed to minimize heat transfer from the pads to the brake fluid, which helps prevent brake fade.
- Pressure and wiper seals which offer superior protection against contamination and dust while offering controlled pad pull-back for consistent pedal position.
- Powder coated finish in either standard or hard-coat anodized.
- Radial mounting for maximum braking performance and flexibility in mounting. All Baer calipers are configured for radial mounting, which allows adaptation to custom projects with greater ease.
- Lightweight design, weighing just 8 pounds, 1 ounce.
- Designed for rotor diameters of 13.4 to 16 inches.
- Long pad shape, which maximizes brake torque.
- 6 pistons – 3 pistons on each side of the caliper to distribute the clamping power over the entire length of the brake pad.
Removing the Stock System
While the brake system can be removed by working with the car on jack stands, we found it easier to use a two-post lift and raise the car to a comfortable height. With all four wheels up off the ground about two feet, it was a snap to pull all four tires and get right to the disassembly. We started by disconnecting the brake fluid lines from the frame and capped off the lines with the vinyl caps supplied by Baer.
The stock calipers are held on by two bolts, which in the case of our 2008 C6 were not frozen by years of grime and heat from the brakes, making their removal easy. Frozen bolts may take a shot or two of PB Blaster to free them up. Once the bolts are out, the calipers pull off of the mount effortlessly. With the caliper out of the way, the rotors pull right off. If the rotors are stuck on the hubs, a quick tap with a rubber mallet will free up the rotors for removal.
In order for the Baer EradiSpeed Plus rotors to mount properly on the hub, the hub surface should be cleaned, ensuring that all surface corrosion and grime is removed. We found that using a liberal application of acetone on the hub worked wonders in this task. Once we had the hub cleaned, we proceeded in removing the calipers and rotors on the other three corners of the car.
Installing the Baer Extreme Plus Brake System
The next step in upgrading our brake system was installing the “intermediate bracket” onto the spindles by threading two 14mm bolts through the bracket and into the receptacles that previously held the calipers in place. The intermediate bracket extends the radial mounting of the new calipers so that they will accept the larger rotors. Tighten the bolts and torque to 110 ft-lbs.
With the intermediate bracket in place, the Baer Brake Eradispeed Plus rotor can be installed. The rotors are directional with centrifugal vanes built into the rotors. Baer labels the rotors with stickers that have an “L” or an “R” on the rotor. The vanes are made so that they face opposite the direction of rotation to pull the hotter air away from the center of the hub and pass it to the outside of the rotor.
The stock rotors are all manufactured with the vanes curved in one direction, which creates a hotter hub area on one side of the car. The Baer rotors also have a directional pattern on the slots and drilled holes. This is called a “reverse” slot and drill pattern that is current race car practice and lowers the potential for “carbon smearing.” Carbon smearing is pad material that is transferred to the trailing side of the slots on the rotor. This buildup can cause a rotational imbalance of the rotor and cause a shake when braking.
We recommend holding the rotor in place with a single lug nut to aid in caliper installation. To install the rotor at the correct distance from the hub center, Baer includes two spacers that need to be placed on the radial mount studs coming out of the intermediate bracket. If you are installing a 13.5-inch rotor, no spacer is required, but if you are installing the 14- or 15-inch rotors, you will need to put the quarter-inch or half-inch spacers on to get the proper standoff.
Check the calipers to make sure the pads are installed. Baer loads the calipers before shipping, but it is wise to check that the pads have remained in place. The Baer 6S calipers can then be installed on the intermediate bracket. Mount the caliper with the correct side facing out, and the bleed nipples pointing up. With a washer and twelve-point nut, secure the caliper by tightening each nut, then torque them to 75 ft-lbs.
The steel braided hose can now be installed with one copper washer on each side of the banjo fitting. Being careful not to cross thread the bolt, finger-tighten the banjo bolt, then connect the hard line and install the hose lock. Perform a visual check to ensure that the brake hose is clear of any suspension components and the wheel. Once you’re satisfied that the hose is clear of any moving components that can pinch, cut or wear through the line, the fitting and banjo bolt can be tightened to 20 ft-lbs. This step needs to be repeated for the other three wheels and finished by checking the attaching points and fittings on each brake.
Bleeding the Brakes
For street and occasional track use, Baer recommends Performance Friction’s new Z-rated fluid (#90016). The goal of bleeding the brakes is to displace the air in the brake system. Air trapped in the fluid or lines will compress and cause a spongy pedal.
Proper brake bleeding technique will help the brake system function properly. This starts by pouring the brake fluid in the master cylinder slowly and with the brake fluid container close to the reservoir so that the fluid is not aerated. Although there are many ways to bleed the brakes by yourself, it is strongly recommended that you enlist the help of a second person. Brake bleeding by pressure is a reliable means of moving the fluid through the brake system to displace air. The second person will be operating the brake pedal to provide the system pressure.
Starting from the furthest caliper away from the master cylinder, open the outermost bleeder and instruct your helper to slowly pump the brakes until fluid comes out. Slowly is the key here. Rapidly pumping the pedal will agitate the fluid to the point where it aerates. At this point should have your assistant push the pedal down slowly, and hold it with steady pressure.
With the brake pedal held in the bottom position and a clear plastic tube on the nipple, open the bleeder and let the fluid purge from the system. Once the aerated fluid has been purged from the caliper, closed the bleeder. Have your assistant release the pedal. You must repeat this process several times until all the air is purged from the system. You will be able to see the air and fluid through the clear plastic tubing. When the outer bleeder is completely free of air in the fluid, you can move the bleeding process to the inner bleeder. Each caliper has a bleeder on the inside side of the caliper and the outside side of the caliper.
You must repeat this process for each caliper, working from the furthest away from the master cylinder to the closest. Once the brake system has been completely bled, the wheels can be re-installed. Baer advises repeating the bleeding procedure after a day of driving as the car may dislodge some additional air bubbles. Routine inspection of the calipers, hoses and fittings is a wise idea. Fluid seepage should be corrected as soon as it is discovered.
Seasoning the Brakes
Seasoning burns the machine oils from the surface of the iron and establishes a wear pattern between the pad and rotor. By heating up the rotors and cooling them down in stages, this tempering relieves any internal stresses within the rotor. The seasoning process involves gradually elevating the iron rotor to operating temperature and allowing the rotors to cool down again. This best way to achieve the seasoning of the pads and rotors is to drive the car in normal commuting style for 8 to 10 heat cycles or roughly 400-500 miles. If the rotors are zinc plated, an additional 4-6 heat cycles or 100-200 miles should be completed before moving to the next stage of the process.
The second stage of the seasoning process is to perform several stops slowing from 55-60 mph down to 15-20 mph. Baer recommends starting with 10 of these type stops using approximately 40% brake pedal effort. Then, perform 10 more partial stops using 60% brake effort, followed by ten minutes of freeway driving with little or no braking so that the rotors can cool properly. After the rotors have cooled down, perform 10 more partial stops using 90% brake pedal effort. These should be performed with braking that is just shy of activating the ABS or locking the brakes on non-ABS braking systems. Follow this by freeway driving for 20 minutes to help cool down the brakes. Once you have completed these partial stops and freeway driving sessions, the rotors need to set overnight to cool completely, and then the seasoning process is finished.
Testing the Brake Upgrade
Once we had seasoned our brake pads and rotors, it was time to hit the street again and see how much of an improvement the Baer Extreme Plus Brake system made. Remember that our stock system averaged 110.6 feet in three consecutive runs from 60 mph to 0. For the Baer Brakes upgrade, we were determined to push the test a little to see if there was any hint of brake fade.
Starting with 3 consecutive runs from 60 to 0 mph, our stopping distance averaged 97 feet. Comparing apples to apples, we gained more than 13 feet of improvement in stopping distance with the change. Pushing it a little further, we made several more “aggressive” stops, then tested another three runs to check for brake fade and loss of stopping power. We still averaged 97 feet after the back-to-back tests with no detectable change in brake pedal feel!
Our driving impressions after a couple of days with the new braking system were A+. We are no stranger to hitting the accelerator or brake pedal with a heavy foot, so our staff was only too happy to assist with hard braking tests. Our official report: Baer’s C6 Extreme-Plus brake system had a confident feel even after repeated braking. There was no evidence of brake fade, and no funky burning brake pad smells, just enough grip to stop that mid-life crisis when it finally arrives.
It’s rare when we give a product a A+ rating. In this case, we can confidently say, Baer has hit a home run. Our C6 stops with ZR1 fury, for less than half the money.