The Mule: Chevrolet Performance Brembo Brake Upgrade

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photos by: the author

The Mule Gets a Massive Brembo Brake Upgrade — Courtesy of Chevrolet Performance

Over the last few months and several thousand miles, our 2016 Silverado project that we lovingly refer to as, “The Mule,” has been making slow and steady progress from mundane to menacing. Starting out in life as a 2016 Rally Edition with the Z71 package and a 5.3L V8, our original intention was to keep it completely stock and simply use it as a daily-driven shop truck.

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Those plans quickly evaporated, however, as the aftermarket has released quite a few tasteful modifications for the restyled 2016 Silverados, including a gaggle of parts from our friends over at Chevrolet Performance. Among which is a very impressive 6-piston braking system, co-developed by Brembo brakes!

Offered as a direct replacement for the OEM front binders, this direct-fit kit is intended for 2014-2017 Silverado 1500s, with 20- and 22-inch factory wheels. Being as how The Mule is equipped with the Z71 Rally Package (Rally 2), our truck came delivered with the 22-inch rollers. With the Brembo calipers powdercoated the same shade of red as our Rally Silverado, we’re almost left wondering why these trucks didn’t ship from GM with the Brembo calipers in the first place?

We digress, and with some performance upgrades planned, it only made sense to improve other aspects of the vehicle to compensate for the upcoming horsepower increase. We’ve already upgraded the sway bars, but the OEM binders were only deemed adequate for our 5,000-plus pound pickup — with the stock output levels. Increasing horsepower by much more than that, will require some improved stopping power to make for a more-balanced machine.

The Chevy Performance/Brembo front brake kit currently available for purchase over the parts counter at your local dealership, or through Chevrolet Performance-licensed outlets like Summit Racing Equipment. Wanting to dive a bit deeper into the specs of the Chevrolet Performance/Brembo brakes we had our eyes on, one would only have to refer to Chevrolet’s own website, for the basic tech info that they really need to know:

The Chevrolet Performance front brake system features red Brembo six-piston, fixed aluminum calipers loaded with brake pads clamping on larger-than-stock 410 x 32mm (16.1-inch x 1.3-inch) Duralife rotors coupled with a 84% increase in brake pad area and a 42% increase in rotor area to increase system thermal capacity. Duralife rotors feature a hardened surface to reduce corrosion and provide quieter braking with less vibration. The brake package includes all necessary hardware and installation instructions. It is compatible with 20-inch – 22-inch original equipment or GM Accessory wheels (except SEU wheels). — Chevrolet Performance

When they first arrived at our office, we were blown away by how large they were; 6-piston calipers with 16.1-inch rotors simply looked massive. To put it into context, these are larger than what the C7 Z06 Corvettes (15.6-inch) and the 6th-gen Camaro ZL1s (15.35-inch) are equipped with. It may seem strange to install such massive brakes onto a 355 hp vehicle, but you have to keep in mind the weight and size difference of the truck over that of a Camaro or Corvette. Plus again, our intended horsepower upgrades that are coming down the pike.

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Chevrolet’s own Roger McCormack and Russ O’Blenes weighed in further, adding additional insight to this awesome product:

“These big 6-piston Brembo brakes just look amazing.  They fill 20-inch or 22-inch wheel with a high-tech braking statement that only Chevrolet Performance can make.”  — Roger McCormack, Director, Accessories and Performance Parts Planning & Marketing

Testing for this product has included brake dyno testing, full GM noise/vibration/harness testing, and on-vehicle testing with over thousands of test miles.  These tests are the same stringent validation requirements that a production brake would go through. — Russ O’Blenes, Director, Performance Parts, Variants and Motorsports Engineering

Now that we know the thoughts behind this kit, the specs and their recommended applications, let’s get to work!

Before we even got started, we reviewed the included instruction sheets. They’re easy to read and easy to follow, but we do recommend having this upgrade performed at a reputable shop if you’re a total newbie or lack the proper tools — namely, your local Chevrolet dealership. This also helps alleviate potential warranty concerns later if any problems arise.

 

Even upon first glance, the OEM brakes not only look small and out of place with their unpainted calipers and small rotors, but they’re not going to be effective enough when it’s time to up the power output of out 5.3L Silverado.

 

Swapping out the brakes largely entails everything you need to do in order to do your standard brake job; breaking loose the lug nuts, pull the wheels, and remove the calipers and rotors. Our Silverado has locking wheel lugs, so be sure that yours is with your truck when you do the job.

 

Again, the 13-inch, 2-piston factory front calipers and rotors are sufficient for the daily grind, but can’t quite cut out for our projected output numbers down the road. We’re excited to ditch these, though the rears will stay in place and look just as out-of-place as the rear. We’ll look into upgrading those at some point as well, but considering the fact that 90% of your stopping power comes form the front, it’s not going to be detrimental to stopping our truck for the time being.

 

Removing the calipers also meant removing the fluid-filled brake lines off of the back of them. Be sure to have a drain pan ready!

 

With the caliper removed, we next had to remove the brake rotor retainer screw — which is intended to make installing the rotors easier on the assembly line. We also understand that they dampen potential warp/shudder by holding the rotor steady against the hub. Some choose to remove them entirely, though we’ll be keeping trim in place for our CP/Brembo rotors.

 

With the caliper and rotor mounted and secured, we lead the calipers to remove any air from the system, bleeding the caliper with a hose attached to the upper bleeder valve.

 

…and they’re on! This picture does it no justice, but it was pretty mouth-watering to say the least. As with any brakes, you have to “bed” the rotors and pads. We breakdown the steps below!

Breaking-In the Brake Rotors and Pads

  • Perform 3-4 medium stops from 45mph. Slightly more aggressive than normal braking. You don’t need to come to a complete stop for each pass. This brings the brake rotors up to temperature so they are not exposed to sudden thermal shock.
  •  Make 8-10 aggressive stops from 60mph down to 15mph. For this set of semi-stops, you want to be firm and aggressive, but not to the point where ABS activates and the wheels lock up. It’s important to note that you don’t come to a complete stop but rather a semi-stop (~15mph). Accelerate back up to 60mph as soon as you slowed down to your semi-stop.
  • The brake pads and brake rotors are extremely hot at this point and sitting on one point will imprint the pad material onto the surface unevenly. This can cause vibration and uneven braking.
  •  You may notice that your brakes will start fading, and sometimes smoke, after the 6th or 7th pass. This fade will stabilize and will gradually recess once your brakes have cooled down to normal operating temperatures. Drive carefully as your brakes may feel softer for the next few minutes.
  • Try not to come to a complete stop and find a stretch of road where you can coast for 5-10 minutes, preferably without using your brakes.

 

Ahh, that’s SO much better! The 16.1-inch rotors actually fill in the 22-inch wheels quite nicely, and the red powdercoated, Chevrolet-emblazoned calipers do their job to not only bring the truck to a halt much quicker, but compliment the red bodywork perfectly. We feel that these would look right at home on other paint schemes as well.

 

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s next for The Mule! As you can see, the aesthetics have changed, dramatically. Until next time…

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Being infatuated with cars since he was a toddler, GM EFI Founder and Editor, Rick Seitz, has a true love and passion for late-model GM vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.

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