What do a spaceship and a Porsche GT2 have in common?
In this article, we’ll answer that question while talking about carbon ceramic brakes, their four benefits, and their two downsides.
We’ll also go through a few FAQs — including whether a carbon ceramic disc brake kit is the right choice for you, or what to do when your carbon ceramic brakes aren’t working properly.
This Article Contains:
- What are Carbon Ceramic Brakes?
- 4 Benefits of Carbon Ceramic Brakes
- 2 Downsides of Carbon Ceramic Brakes
- 3 FAQs about Carbon Ceramic Brakes
Let’s get rolling.
What are Carbon Ceramic Brakes?
Carbon ceramic brakes (a.k.a. ceramic composite brake discs or CC brakes) are one of the most common types of disc brakes in high-performance cars like Ferraris.
How are they different from the standard disc brakes?
Generally, in disc brakes, the brake disc or rotor is made from cast iron or steel.
On the flip side, in the carbon ceramic brake kit, the brake disc or rotor is made from a combination of specially treated carbon and ceramics — more specifically, carbon fiber, epoxy resin, silicon carbide, and more.
The idea for combining the properties of carbon fiber and ceramic materials like silicon carbide for high-performance applications came from space shuttles.
Curious as to why?
A space shuttle is made of a carbon fiber reinforced carbon composite (known as carbon-carbon) which is then coated with ceramic material like silicon carbide. These reinforced tiles allow the space shuttle to endure the high-temperature conditions caused by atmospheric friction.
But what do silicon carbide and carbon-carbon tiles have to do with car brakes?
To understand that, you first need to know how disc brakes work.
How does a disc brake work?
When you engage the brakes by pressing down on the brake pedal:
- A piston inside your vehicle’s master cylinder exerts pressure on the brake fluid
- The pressurized brake fluid moves through the brake line and brake hose network to reach the brake caliper
- Pistons inside the brake caliper push a brake pad set against the rotating brake disc or brake rotor that moves with your wheel
- Friction is generated as the brake caliper squeezes the brake pad set against the brake disc or rotor
- This friction then converts the kinetic energy of your moving vehicle into heat and lets you slow down
The critical point to remember here is the heat generated by friction.
When continuously braking, a conventional metallic brake system may be unable to dissipate all friction-generated heat. And this heat can build up to increase the temperature of the steel or cast iron discs in your braking system.
When your brake system temperature becomes excessive, it can degrade your cast iron or steel rotor, brake caliper, brake fluid reservoir, and so on. Degraded components in the braking system can lower your stopping power and compromise road safety.
Fortunately, carbon ceramic brakes were designed to manage the friction heat generated in your braking system effectively.
Spaceships and sports cars aside, why should CC brakes matter to you?
4 Benefits of Carbon Ceramic Brakes
Here are four advantages of carbon ceramic brakes over conventional brakes:
A. Brake Fade Resistance
Brake fade is the loss of braking power under high braking temperatures.
Unlike conventional brakes (such as cast iron or steel brakes), carbon ceramic brakes are less susceptible to brake fade since they don’t usually distort under high temperature conditions.
Additionally, a carbon ceramic disc is excellent at dissipating friction heat, so it’s less likely to reach an excessively high temperature. This allows the carbon brakes to provide steady braking performance whether you’re:
- Racing on the track
- Taking on hairpin curves
- Driving downhill
Ceramic composite brake discs are tough and highly resistant to wear, making them very durable compared to your average iron rotor or traditional brakes.
While conventional cast iron discs or an iron rotor may last up to 60,000 miles, carbon ceramic rotors can go without replacement for over 100,000 miles or even outlive your vehicle.
However, there’s no hard-and-fast rule determining how long a carbon ceramic disc will last. For example, the lifetime of your carbon ceramic brake disc can go down if you’re prone to aggressive driving habits.
C. Cleaner Brakes
A conventional cast-iron brake rotor or steel rotor undergoes a lot of wear and generates lots of brake dust, which clings to and accumulates on your vehicle’s wheels.
On the flip side, carbon ceramic brakes are highly resistant to abrasion. And even if your carbon ceramic brake rotor starts to wear, the brake dust generated is so fine that it’ll get blown away as your vehicle drives on.
Carbon ceramic brakes are very lightweight.
Chances are that your carbon ceramic brake disc will weigh half as much as your standard cast iron or steel rotor for a given diameter.
This reduces your vehicle’s unsprung weight and significantly improves handling, leading to a smoother driving experience.
In addition to the above four benefits, carbon ceramic brakes are also popular for their:
- Quiet operation
- Corrosion resistance
- Unique appearance
Next, let’s look at the most significant disadvantages of using carbon ceramic brakes in your vehicle:
2 Downsides of Carbon Ceramic Brakes
While carbon ceramic brakes may be a cut above your conventional steel brakes, they have two major disadvantages:
A. They’re Expensive
A carbon ceramic brake kit is costly, to say the least.
While conventional steel brakes or cast iron brakes may cost you around $500, carbon brakes can set you back by at least $3000 to $15,000.
For example, getting the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) for a 911 Turbo can cost you over $21,000.
Additionally, for optimal compatibility, you’ll need to skip the more affordable metallic brake pads, semi-metallic pads, organic brake pads, and more to get a carbon ceramic brake pad set for your braking system.
B. Spongy Feel
Many car owners who use carbon ceramic brakes complain that they feel spongy, especially compared to traditional brakes.
This usually happens when your carbon ceramic disc or rotor is cold, like in the winter or when you’re driving a car that has been resting for some hours. In general, carbon ceramic brakes are said to be unsuitable for cold conditions. That’s because CC brakes take longer to warm up than standard metallic or organic pads.
As your vehicle moves, and once your brake disc gets heated up from braking, this feeling of sponginess should go away when pressing on the brake pedal.
However, for people using carbon ceramic brakes for the first time, this sensation of sponginess can be quite hard to manage.
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits and setbacks of using carbon ceramic rotors let’s go through a few important questions about carbon ceramic brakes.
3 FAQs about Carbon Ceramic Brakes
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about carbon ceramic brakes:
1. Should I Get Carbon Ceramic Brakes for My Vehicle?
Simply put, ceramic composite brake discs aren’t necessary for your car!
Conventional metallic brake discs would work just fine for the average vehicle.
However, you can consider getting carbon ceramic brakes for your vehicle if:
- You’re a high-performance driver
- You take your vehicle to the track quite often
- You can afford a high-end or luxury vehicle and can bear the costs of getting an expensive carbon ceramic brake kit
- You don’t want to service your vehicle’s brakes very often
- It’s compatible with your vehicle’s wheel fitment
- You hate cleaning the brake dust on your vehicle’s wheels
So which cars use carbon ceramic brakes?
Carbon ceramic brakes are mostly used on sports and supercars like the:
- Porsche GT2
- Ferrari 488 GTB
- Tesla Model S Plaid
- Lamborghini Aventador
In most other cases, deciding not to get a carbon ceramic brake disc is probably a good idea.
Regardless of the type of brake disc you choose to purchase, keeping it in top condition is crucial to your road safety. Because if your brake disc or any other brake components are defective, you’d be unable to slow down your vehicle effectively.
2. Why Are Carbon Ceramic Brakes so Expensive?
This high cost is because carbon ceramic brake discs are challenging to manufacture. It takes far more time and effort to build high-quality ceramic brake discs than steel or cast iron discs.
The production process involves placing a carbon fiber and silicon resin mold under an intense amount of pressure at 390oF before being cooled.
This mold is then heated again over two days. Finally, silicon powder is added and heated up a third time to 1700 degrees for another 24 hours.
Additionally, in many cases, suppliers will sell a big brake kit for carbon ceramic brakes. A big brake kit offers better-stopping power than a stock brake kit. Their larger disc area, coupled with grippier brake pads, will shorten the stopping distance.
Before buying a big brake kit speak to your mechanic regarding wheel fitment for your car.
3. What Should I Do if My Brake Disc Isn’t Working as Expected?
When you notice something wrong with your brakes, it’s best to have your brake system inspected by a professional mechanic. Even if yours is a new car with new brakes that shouldn’t have issues, your brakes are too important to ignore.
For this, you can either take your car to an auto repair shop/dealership or request the services of a mobile mechanic — a mechanic who comes to your driveway to repair or service your vehicle.
We recommend availing of a mobile mechanic’s services since driving to a repair shop with faulty brakes can be risky.
But where can you find such mechanics?
Just reach out to RepairSmith, an accessible and convenient mobile auto repair service.
- You can book all your vehicle repair & maintenance services online
- Our expert vehicle technicians come to your driveway for repair & service jobs
- You get a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty on all old and new car repairs
- You’re guaranteed upfront and competitive prices
- Our repair services are available seven days a week
Although carbon ceramic brakes’ extreme durability and resilience may seem appealing, they may not be worth the cost for most drivers. You’d likely be better off with a traditional metallic brake disc system.
Anyhow, if your carbon ceramic brakes, steel brakes, or iron brakes are acting up, reach out to a mechanic immediately.
And if you’re looking for hassle-free vehicle repair and maintenance, just get in touch with RepairSmith. Our expert technicians will come to your driveway, ready to repair and service your vehicle!