Summary and Evaluations: The Savvy/Vanco 16" Big Brake Kit
Disclaimer: I don't have video footage, yet...but I'm seriously tired of putting off this update any longer. Once I have some video, I'll post it...but that's going to require about $300 of camera and a bit of time to do some editing and post production. So for anyone that's upset or pissed off over the lack of photographs or footage in this post, The Republic of Dave hereby offers the following heartfelt apology: "My bad, yo."
What Prompted It All -
Well, there's not much to say aside from "The brakes f****** sucked" or "It was bad, man...real bad." How bad was it? Well, come to think of it, I haven't told you that yet...
When traveling at 45 miles per hour, Greta's brand-new-but-still-stock brakes required how much stopping distance to bring her to a halt when traveling at 45 miles per hour?
Correct Answer: D.
Seriously...it was right at 150 feet.
I wish I had thought to get some video evidence of how badly her brakes were performing, because this is an almost-unbelievable number...and considering that I had pads, rotors and calipers with less than 1,500 miles on them at the time it's a completely
unbelievable number. Even so, it's still the truth: I'd hit the pedal and it felt like nothing was happening. It was as if she was only thinking
about slowing down, or was perhaps planning on getting around to it at some vague point in the future. Because this was the case, I had to do something. My dad was appalled at the decrease in the Jeep's braking ability and Annabelle flat-out refused to get behind the wheel after she drove it with the new 35's installed. A brake upgrade was absolutely required.
I should state, here, that I am well aware of countless incidents where people make the jump to 35's and claim to have no issues with their stock brakes. To be honest, I'm now willing to accept those statements as truth simply because my own experience is on the opposite end of the spectrum. In any set of data you always have an outlying number or three, and my numbers happened to be in the "Totally F***** Dismal" section of the graph. A 150-foot stopping distance from 45 MPH was not just unacceptable performance...it was downright dangerous. I don't even want to think about what could have happened at a higher speed or in any situation with less available stopping distance. To that end, it wouldn't matter if one was on a well-traveled highway or out in the desolate middle of the Wasteland...disaster would be far too likely in the event of an emergency stop.
The Selection -
Well, the short answer to "why I chose this one" is "because I wanted to do it right the first time." A summarization of my considerations is as follows:
- I knew that the Black Magic/Centric combination was long-regarded as the answer to braking problems, but - considering the lack of stopping performance with new stock-sized components - I just didn't believe that a stock-sized pad-and-rotor upgrade was going to do much good.
- I was planning on pulling a trailer behind the Jeep in the future...which would tax a marginal braking system even further.
- The Vanco kit would address the deficiencies in the stock calipers, and would capitalize on the performance of the stock master cylinder...thus, I could leave major portions of my stock system intact. Economy and efficiency is good!
- The differences in fitting the 12" rotors as opposed to the stock 11" rotors was nonexistent: the same amount of work would apply.
- The cost increase was minimal, and the performance was supposed to be significantly improved.
- I wanted to be able to predictably and reliably lock up my 35's EVERY SINGLE F****** TIME. Anything less than absolute certainty is unacceptable in this regard.
Two other factors that I couldn't anticipate ahead of time were the quality of the parts and the ease of installation. After purchasing and installing, I can categorically state that the kit itself is top-notch stuff. You can go back and look at the pictures again if you want to appreciate it a bit further, but know this: in my opinion you really can't do better than this for any amount of money. My only
complaint is that the calipers and saddles weren't finished with any sort of protective coating...if they'd come painted this would be a 10-out-of-10 situation. As far as the reputation for ease of installation is concerned: also well-deserved. Again, I was way more apprehensive than I needed to be: if you've got half a brain - or even 35% of one - you'll walk through this with no sweat. Yes, there are plenty of pitfalls, but they're well-recorded and easily avoided. Just make sure you have the proper tools.
The Results -
Well, this is the part you've all been waiting to hear...so...
You've just finished installing the Vanco brake kit that you bought from Savvy, and since the weather is so beautiful you've decided to celebrate by taking the lovely Sasha Grey out on a test drive. You're doing about 45 MPH when you notice - no more than 50 feet in front of you - a cute little baby kitten in the middle of the road. Can you stop quickly enough to avoid hitting the cute little baby kitten?
I have no idea.
Sasha Grey is in my Jeep? F*** the kitten.
Correct Answer: D.
However, it's worth noting that A
is also a correct answer. Go back and read the question again, and when you're done reading you can have the following realization: You can peform a 45-to-zero stop in 50 feet...or less.
I'm not kidding or exaggerating about this in any way, shape or form: my "lock it up" stopping distance ended up around 50 feet, and although I admittedly haven't remeasured the distance required for the 45-to-zero stop in the last couple of days, I expect that it's actually a bit shorter
than what I recorded. Three reasons:
- I'm still learning the particulars of the braking system. Due to the extensive changes that were made, the brakes - naturally - act completely different. Thus, a bit of re-learning is required.
- The pads are still breaking in. Savvy's instructions state that this will happen, and they're spot-on...even in everyday driving you notice gradual increases in stopping power. This increase actually causes one's adjustment period to be somewhat longer because the brakes keep getting better and requiring progressively less pedal input. You have to keep adapting.
- The radical decrease in the amount of time that it takes to lock up the front tires requires some getting-used-to. I went from literally being unable
to lock the tires with ANY amount of pedal pressure to preventing myself from locking them too
quickly, which does nothing but slam you forwards into the seat belts and throw waffle fries all over the damn place.
Once both I and the brakes finish settling in, I anticipate even better stopping power. I need to spend more time with the system in order to get the best performance, although it is already far
beyond my expectations. I also want to show some video footage, so look for a future update and a link back to this post. If we get it done correctly - i.e. "without destroying a brand new camera" - the perspective will be somewhat unique.
I started this entire project out with the assertion that you sometimes cannot simply drive over or around danger: sometimes, you have to just stop before you get there. Did I achieve my goal of being able to stop in time? Absolutely. I can stop Greta in less distance than I ever thought possible, and I can do it efficiently and with absolute certainty. It's the best money I've spent so far.
Savvy/Vanco 16" Big Brake Kit: Wasteland Survival Guide - Approved