Time to order new brake pads for our LS-powered 350Z

Update by Tom Suddard to the Nissan 350Z project car
Aug 15, 2023 | Nissan, LS swap, 350z, brake pads, Hawk Performance

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Our LS-powered 350Z has great brakes. And it should, given we’re running a spendy StopTech big brake kit at all four corners.

[Big Brakes and Adjustable Suspension Parts for Our LS-Powered Nissan 350Z]

But with track time comes wear and tear, and it’s almost time for a fresh set of pads for our 350Z. Before we blindly ordered a set of fresh pads–we’re currently running StopTech’s SR34 race pad up front and their SR33 pad in the rear–we figured this would be a good opportunity for some testing.

Why test if our 350Z already has great brakes? Because we’ve never driven it on anything else, aside from the OEM brakes it had for our first few days of ownership.

Without sampling the other flavors, how could we really know we had the best brakes possible for our high-horsepower TT car? So our goal was simple: Throw a few different approaches at the wall and see what stuck. Even if we didn’t settle on the ideal brake pads, hopefully we’d learn what we liked and disliked so we could make an informed decision next time.

So what should we throw against the wall? While we’re not total novices when it comes to brake setup, we’re also not instantly familiar with every single pad on the market.

So we reached out to Hawk Performance, and found a sales rep named Mitch running a C5 Corvette on the same slicks we run. Isn’t it awesome when you can get racing advice from actual racers, especially those with similar cars?

Mitch recommended a few different options: Hawk’s DTC70 pad ($491, part No. HB122U.710) on the front with their DTC60 ($212, part No. HB180G.560) on the rear, or their DTC60 ($459, part No. HB122G.710) up front with DTC30 ($184, part No. HB180W.560) rears if the first option was “spiking the ABS or suspension frequently.”

 What’s the difference? All of the options shouldn’t have any trouble with the brake temperatures we’re seeing, so instead this is a question of how much grip we’d like. This is a slight oversimplification, but generally speaking, the higher the number in Hawk’s catalog, the more friction a pad generates at a given temperature. Each pad has different wear characteristics, too, but those are pretty far down our priorities list for a time trials car.

So what’s the fastest choice? Here’s the fun part of designing a braking system: It depends! Different drivers prefer different characteristics, as do different car setups.

[How to talk brakes | Ways to turn desires into hardware]

So that made choosing from Hawk’s recommendations easy: We ordered all of them, ending up with a giant box of pads. There is a silver lining here, at least: Hawk’s pads are noticeably less expensive than the StopTech parts ($560 for a front pad, $215 for a rear pad) saving us somewhere around $100 per set.

What’s a set of 350Z brake pads cost in total? Well, here’s the downside of racing a big, heavy, fast car: A set of race pads is somewhere between $500 and $800 depending on the brand and compound. (Yes, it’s cheaper to race a Miata).

Pads in hand, there was only one thing left to do: Take them to the track and test. We’ll do that in our next update.

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