An ancient racing adage states very accurately that you can only go as fast as you can safely stop. That holds true today as ever and while you may feel that the factory braking system on your S550 Mustang (2015-2018) are excellent, there is always room for improvement. That fact is especially true if you intend to drive your car in any competition ranging from autocross to a full-on road course.
The Baer Brake folks have a super simple kit that takes your Mustang braking system from impressive to outstanding in the matter of a couple of hours. Their Extreme+ kit (front, PN 4261421; rear, PN 2262023) includes upgraded front and rear rotors and six-piston front calipers (the rear factory calipers are retained). While rear brake upgrade is simple due to the fact that there is no need to bleed the rear brakes, the front brake circuit will have to be bled since you are swapping out the calipers.
Each of the rotors is zinc coated and features directional, curved (a signature Baer rotor design) slots that provide added cooling. The rotor face slots not only help with heat dissipation, but also clean out of the brake pad material during the braking executions for increased efficiency. The EradiSpeed brake rotor is two-piece design that uses an anodized black 6061-T6 aluminum center hat bolted to the rotor ring.
Our test vehicles is a 2018 Ford Mustang GT with the 5.0-liter engine and an assortment of upgrades, including a complete suspension setup from Steeda and new wheels and tires, from Shelby and Continental, respectively.
Our brake kit was installed by Saul Gutierrez at Gear Driven Automotive in Northridge, California, who made the full upgrade, including the bleeding of the front brake lines, in about two hours. It is very clear from this experience, that if you can bleed brakes you can make this upgrade, as only simple hand tools are required. While we used a lift for this story to make it easy to demonstrate, you can certainly accomplish the same thing working in your driveway.
It should be noted that when we tested the system, we followed the Baer Brake guidelines for “bedding the brakes” to ensure safe operation and long life. While the result of the change won’t really be evident in ‘normal” street driving, it is remarkable in high-speed environments where repetitive stops are mandatory. For anyone contemplating any form of competition, we highly recommend this upgrade; you won’t believe the confidence these brake will inspire in your overall high performance driving style.
Our Baer Extreme+ package includes a set of Baer EradiSpeed rotors and new six-piston calipers. The kit includes everything needed to complete the install in about two hours.
Saul Gutierrez, of Gear Driven Automotive did the full installation in his shop in Northridge, California using basic hand tools.
To get the footprint right, we added a set of Shelby CS-3 Gunmetal wheels, measuring 20x9.5-inches in the front and 20x11-inches in the rear, and Continental Extreme Contact Sport tires, P275/35ZR20 in the front and P305/30ZR20 in the rear.
The factory rear Mustang brakes feature this original caliper that sits within a carrier that mounts to the spindle. We will be retaining the rear caliper system in full.
The factory Ford Mustang front brakes use this four-piston caliper system and the solid rotor with internal venting. Again, these brakes are very able in light performance and all street conditions, but for racing, a move to a more capable brake system is key to safety and achieving the best track times.
We began with the front brakes and removed the calipers from the front spindles by removing these bolts that are located on the back side.
Once the bolts are removed, the caliper slips off the rotor by wiggling it back and forth until it releases. Note that the brake pedal must not be depressed at this time or the pistons within the caliper can pop out and release brake fluid. We will not be reusing these calipers.
The difference in the overall rotor sizing (factory unit at left and Baer EradiSpeed rotor on the right) is only one inch overall in size but you can see the specially designed Baer Brake slots that are in the face. These rotors are also lighter which is good for reducing unsprung weight, another important performance driving benefit.
To mount the new Baer six-piston calipers, Baer supplies this bracket that bolts to the back of the spindle.
Since it is of the utmost importance that the bolts holding the bracket to the spindle not back off, a little Loctite red is applied to the threads.
The gold spacers that are slipped on the studs shown here allows you to adjust the depth of the caliper position in reference to the rotor for the most effective braking efficiency. The key here is to create the largest amount of brake pad to rotor surface area possible without contacting the rotor.
Slip the rotor over the wheel studs (the rotors are directional, so make sure that it is the correct rotor for that side of the vehicle) and hold it tight to the spindle with a couple of wheel nuts. This will help with the installation of the brake caliper.
The new Baer brake calipers slip over the rotor with the brake pads already snapped in place.
Torque the nuts that hold the calipers in place according to the Baer supplied instructions. Recheck the torque spec several times to make sure that the proper torque is achieved.
These banjo bolts are supplied with the Baer calipers to allow the brake fluid to flow from the supplied brake line to the caliper. Make sure not to forget the washers that are supplied with this kit.
The brake lines are attached to the calipers in this manner. We first snugged up the banjo bolts and then torqued them according to the listed Baer specs.
Moving to the rear brakes, we first removed the bolts on the backside of the caliper from the carrier.
Next remove the bolts that hold the carrier to the back of the spindle after placing the caliper out of the way while making sure not to over stretch the brake line.
Unclip the factory brake pads from the carrier; they will be reused with the new Baer EradiSpeed rotors. If the pads are worn, replace them. Remove the rotor, when you are done, by slipping it off of the wheel studs.
The new Baer EradiSpeed rotors are the same diameter as the factory unit but include the patented curved slots and are much lighter than the factory pieces. Again, these are directional and feature a sticker from Baer that relate to which side of the car they are to be placed on.
Before reinstallation of the caliper carrier, we put a drop of Loctite Blue on the mounting bolts so that they could be removed when servicing the brakes. The Loctite keeps them from rattling free before we are ready to unbolt them.
We replaced the caliper carrier, the caliper, and the brake pads as they were originally positioned over the new Baer EradiSpeed rotor.
With the caliper back in place, the final brake package looks like this.
The 2018 Ford Mustang uses DOT 4 brake fluid so for the bleeding process make certain that you only use this type of fluid.
Be sure to fill the brake fluid reservoir slightly higher, but not overfilled, than recommended so you don’t run out during the bleeding process or else you will have to bleed the complete system.
When bleeding the brakes, start from the top fitting of the caliper and work down. This semi-clear hose is necessary to make sure that you can see the bubbles exiting the system.
This photo shows an example of the small bubbles exiting the system. With one person pumping up the brakes inside the car, the other opens the fitting to release the fluid back into a catch can. You should work on one side of the car, go to the other to remove the bubble and back again. At least two sessions at each wheel is the bare minimum for basic brake bleeding.
Baer supplies this syringe to remove the fluid that builds up inside the top fitting that can make a mess of your calipers once the car is in operation. Make certain to follow all of the instructions included with the system to create a strong hard brake pedal when finished.
To neutralize the brake fluid, which can work as an excellent paint remover if you are not careful, spraying down the caliper and brake with a soap and water spray is a good idea. If the brake pedal feels spongy after you have completed the bleeding process, stop and take the car to a shop to ensure proper brake operation. If you are not certain, that is concern enough and a professional should be enlisted to make it right!
Sticking it to the Pavement
With the change to the larger diameter Baer Brake rotors and massive, front six-piston calipers, we now had a happy predicament – our factory wheels were not large enough to clear the Baer brakes. In addition, we knew that all of the braking efficiency in the world wouldn’t make a difference if the tire contact patch were not also upgraded to its highest level. To resolve both of these issues, we enlisted some names that are synonymous with high performance.
Carroll Shelby had been making Mustang’s go fast for over 50 years and his line of performance wheels not only enhance the looks of late model Mustangs but provide a lightweight, high strength wheel option that also helps the handling of the vehicle by reducing unsprung weight. This lighter weight makes for faster reacting steering inputs and, as anyone familiar with racing will tell you, lighter cars just go faster.
For our application we selected the CS-3 wheels, 20x9.5 up front and 20x11 in the rear; this sizing providing a solid base for the Continental tires we had on the way. Happily, we found that the larger wheels easily cleared the Baer Brakes with room to spare, and in the Gunmetal trim, it is a nice compliment to the Kona Blue hue.
Today there are a huge number of performance tires available on the market. Knowing that our Mustang would be facing lots of street driving with some autocrossing encounters from time to time, we selected the Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires, P275/35ZR20 in the front and P305/30ZR20 in the rear. We were not disappointed.
As stated by Continental, the ExtremeContact Sport tires are designed to perform extremely well in both wet and dry environments and feature their SportPlus Technology that provides excellent tread life. In our initial testing, we noted that when put to the limit, they stuck like glue and, in tandem with the other upgrades, made for a simply amazing handling vehicle. Like everything in car building, getting the combination of parts just right is truly the aim and in this case we hit the target, perfectly.