What Do You Wear To A Formula One Race The Myth of Warped Brake Discs

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The Myth of Warped Brake Discs

Have you ever heard someone say they have warped brake discs? Usually the person had the disc resurfaced to cure the problem and after a short time the roughness or vibration returned.

In almost all cases, this problem is not caused by a faulty disc, but by the fact that the brake pad is unevenly transferred to the surface of the disc. This uneven placement causes size fluctuations or wear due to hot spots that occur at high temperatures.

Friction is the mechanism that converts dynamic energy into heat.

Just as there are two types of friction between the tire and the road surface (mechanical grip on road surface irregularities by the rubber tire compound and temporary molecular adhesion between the rubber and the road where the rubber is removed from the road surface), so there is temporary molecular adhesion. There are two different types of friction in brakes – shear friction and sticking friction. Abrasive friction involves the breaking of the crystalline bonds of both the material of the pad and the steel of the disc. The breaking of these bonds causes frictional heat. In abrasive friction, the bond between the crystals of the pad material (and, to a lesser extent, the disc material) is permanently broken.

The hard stuff wears the soft stuff away (hopefully the disc wears the pad). Pads that work primarily by abrasion have a high wear rate and tend to wear out at high temperatures. When these pads reach their effective temperature limit, they will transfer material to the disc surface in an irregular and uneven manner. It is this “pick” on the face of the disc that both causes weight fluctuations measured by technicians and the roughness or vibration under braking reported by drivers.

With the adhesive coating, some of the pad material spreads to the interface between the pad and the disc and forms a very thin, uniform line of pad material on the surface of the disc. As the friction surfaces of both disc and pad therefore consist of essentially the same material, the material can now cross the interface on both sides and the bonds are broken and renewed. In fact, with the relative friction between the pad and the disc, the bonds between the pad material and the deposits on the disc pass through nature – they are often broken and some of them are always changing.

There is no such thing as pure abrasive or pure friction in braking. With most current pad formulas, the pad material must be abrasive enough to keep the disc surface smooth and clean. As the material can cross the interface, the layer on the disc is constantly renewed and kept uniform – again until the temperature limit of the pad is exceeded or if the pad and the disc were not installed completely or properly. In the latter case, if the uniform layer of the pad material transferred to the disc face was not established during sleep or breakage, the location or uncontrolled distribution of the material may occur when working at high temperatures.

The organic and semi-metallic pads of the past were more brittle than sticky and were very limited in temperature. All current generation “metallic carbon”, racing pads use the same grippy technology as most high quality street car pads and are very stable at high range. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch and high temperature racing pads do not work in the lower temperatures commonly seen in street use.

Therefore – there is no such thing as a perfect “around” brake pad. A friction material that is quiet and works well in relatively low temperatures around town will not stop a car being driven hard. If you try to drive many cars hard with OEM pads, you will experience pad fade, friction transfer and fluid boiling – end of discussion. A real racetrack, used under normal conditions will be noisy and won’t work well in low temperatures in the city.

Accordingly, in order to avoid having to endure squealing brakes that will not stop the car well in the city or pad fade on the track or going down the hill at speed, we need to change the pads before we exert ourselves in the exercise with the power of the car. No one does. The question remains, which pads should be used on high performance street cars – low temperature street pads or high temperature racing pads? Surprisingly, in my opinion, the answer is a high street pad with good low temperature properties. The reason is simple: If we drive too hard and start to run into a problem, whether it’s a pad fade or boiling liquid (or both), the condition(s) comes gradually enough to allow us to easily change our driving style to compensate. .

Regardless of how the pad is shaped, if both the disc and the pad are not properly broken, the transfer of material between the two may occur in an irregular way – caused by uneven deposits and vibration under braking. Similarly, even if the brakes are properly broken, if, when they are very hot or following a long stop from high speed, the brakes are kept active after the vehicle comes to a complete stop it is possible to leave a deposit afterwards. it looks like a pad outline. This type of deposit is called pad imprinting and it looks like the pad was imprinted with ink like a stamp and then placed on the face of the disc. It is possible to see the perfect outline of the pad on the disc.

It gets worse. Cast iron is an alloy of iron and silicon in a solution mixed with carbon particles. At high temperature, the inclusion of carbides begins to form in the matrix. In the case of a solid disk, any uneven deposits – which lie flat on the disk surface – become hotter than the surrounding metal. Every time the leading edge of one of the deposits rotates to connect with the pad, the surface temperature increases. When this local temperature reaches 1200 or 1300 degrees F. the wrought iron under the deposit begins to transform into cementite (an iron carbide in which three atoms of iron combine with one atom of carbon). Cementite is very hard, very brittle and a poor heat sink. If heavy use continues the system will enter a self-sacrificial spiral – the size and depth of the cementite increases with increasing temperatures and so does the brake roughness.


There is only one way to prevent this type of thing – follow the proper breakdown procedures for both pads and discs and use the correct pad for your driving style and conditions. All advanced after market discs and pads should come with installation and disassembly instructions.

Don’t worry, the clamping process is also good for discs and will eliminate any residual thermal stress left in the casting process (all discs must be free of thermal stress as one of the final manufacturing processes) and will transfer smoothly. the layer of the pad device on the disk. If possible, new discs should be coated with used pads of the same compound that will be used going forward.

Heat should be introduced into the system gradually – it will be difficult to stop with a cool period in between. Part of the idea is to avoid prolonged contact between the pad and the disc. With abrasive pads (not to be used on high performance cars) the disc can be considered a bed when the rubbing surfaces have acquired a blue color. With carbon metallic pads, the pad is finished when the disc friction surfaces are gray or black. In any case, the discoloration of a completely ruptured disc will be complete and uniform.

Depending on the friction compound, the simple use of the brakes for a long time can lead to the removal of the transmission line from the discs by the action of the destruction of the pads. When we’re going to practice with a car that has experienced light brake application for a while, the partial re-sleeping system will prevent uneven braking.


The obvious question now is “is there a “cure” for disks with uneven collisional material deposits?” The answer is a conditional yes. Simply putting on good “semi-metallic” pads and using them hard (after sleeping) can remove the deposits and return the system to normal operation but with improved pads. If only a small amount of material has been removed i.e. if the vibration is still starting, vigorous scrubbing with garnet paper can remove the deposit. As most deposits are invisible, scrub all surfaces thoroughly. Do not use regular sandpaper or emery cloth as the aluminum oxide abrasive material will penetrate the metal surface and make the condition worse. Do not bead blast or sand blast discs for the same reason.

Getting enough sleep for your immune system pays big dividends but, like most sins, repeating the behavior that caused the problem will set it back.

To learn more about brake discs and maintenance, please visit our brake-tech section: http://www.alconkits.com/index.php/Learn/Brake-Tech/

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