Dealer Alternative High Performance Brake Kit

[5/23/2000] Reviewed by Bruce Herring -

Applicable to '90 - '97 1.6 liter

BRKKTB - Kit includes four Powerslot cad-plated and slotted rotors, front and rear Porterfield sport pads, DOT approved stainless steel brake lines. Also reqd. Front and rear calipers and mounting brackets from 94+ (Available for $275 from MazMart)

Excellent Upgrade for 90-93 brake system. If your on a budget, MazMart will sell you a complete stock conversion (backing plates, hubs, rotors, brackets, and calipers for around $500)

The total cost for this conversion (parts only, I did the labor) was almost $1000.00. Thats $639 for the rotors, pads, amd lines. And $280 for the calipers and brackets from Mazmart. Installation was fairly simple and straight forward if you have done brake work before. The end result is excellent. The brakes fell great and added a lot of stopping power. This upgrade was well worth the investment!

Over 30 minutes to remove completely

[5/10/2000] Reviewed by Brad Franks -

I purchased the Dealer Alternative High Performance Brake Kit from The Dealer Alternative last month as a "maintenance" item for my '90 B Miata. The kit is intended as a direct replacement of the factory parts and is NOT the Flyin' Miata Big Brake Kit. It includes Powerslot slotted and cad plated rotors for front and rear, Porterfield Sport pads front and rear, and stainless steel brake lines for all four corners, including the proportioning valve attached to the left rear line. The order was placed via their online ordering section and was received 8 days later due to a slight delay with the supplier of the stainless steel brake lines.

A few points of interest:

1. "Word on the street" has it that the rotors are originally Brembo rotors and Powerslot then slots and cad plates them. I don't know if in fact they are Brembos and have not contacted Bill Cardell about this, but there were no external markings/ stampings to indicate this was the fact.

2. The brake pads did not come with "anti-rattle" clips (OEM pads are the only ones that do). Be prepared to use your old clips. Don't throw them away and pay close attention to how they come off and go back on the new pads.

3. The brake lines came "un sheathed". In other words, the stainless steel braids are exposed and are not covered by a clear or colored plastic unless you specifically ask for them (at a higher cost). This isn't a problem, just be careful not to route them where they will contact any metal or plastic parts and cause abrasion.

4. The brake line kit also comes with "banjo bolts" which are the hollow bolts that hold the lines to the bake caliper and transfer the fluid to the caliper from the line. The set I received had SAE heads (9/16 if I remember correctly) and two of the four were visibly different in size. It turns out that only two of them were the proper metric thread and the other two were an SAE thread. I installed the lines using the old banjo bolts, sent an e-mail to Bill Cardell a few days later about this and within 2 days I had an apology, an explanation that the fault lay with the supplier of the SS line kit, and a new proper set of bolts in the mail. Thanks for the quick response Bill!

Installation was easy and took 4 tedious hours. There was no real difficulty in the installation but if you feel an apprehension about working on your brakes, have a professional install them. A mistake installing brakes is a true life or death situation. However, if you are mechanically inclined and armed with a Miata handbook of some sort (Mazda Shop Manual/ Haynes/ etc.) and conceptually know how to bleed a brake caliper, you should have no problems at all.

Performance was better than advertised and expected. My initial break in was not exactly on par with the instructions, instead I went out and performed several (8 or more) very hard stops without locking the tires from 80 mph. After the smoke cleared on the last one at a significantly longer stopping distance than the first I decided it was time to let them cool down and parked with the e-brake disengaged for the evening.

The general feel of the brakes is a different than stock. The Porterfield Sport pads are a combination of their street compound and race compound and it is noticeable. The initial braking feel is like stock, but as the pads warm up from the friction (quite quickly) the really grab. It almost feels as though the pads are turning from clay to mush and grabbing the heck out of the rotors. The first stop on cold pads/ rotors can be a little hairy (as the race portion of the compound has not yet warmed up) and needs to be planned well in advance, like the day before. Dusting from the pads is relatively light, only slightly heavier than the OEM pads. Pedal feel is not as firm as I was expecting from the stainless steel lines (and I bled the lines three times just to be sure) but they really shine in extreme braking with their excellent feedback and pedal modulation, even as the pads begin to fade. I have not really had a chance to tell whether the slotted rotors are really doing much for water dispersion. I live in Portland Oregon where there is allot of rain, but I rarely had the dreaded "water film" issue on my stock rotors with the OEM 14" alloys.

The real test was my trip to Laguna Sea the following weekend (please note that my car is NA). My braking points were significantly deeper than the stock Miatae, where they would brake just before the last ("1") braking marker before a turn, I was chanting my mantra "Wait for it...Wait for it...NOW" (ala Luke Skywalker destroying the Deathstar in Star Wars) and braking as the rear tires were crossing the last marker (except for the Corkscrew where I kept chickening out and braking at "3"), and in some cases I was still overbraking for the turns. Again, it feels a little strange braking so deep into a corner where initially it feels as though this time you *did* wait too long but you soon find out quite the opposite. Half way through the 3rd session is when I first felt the brakes start to fade but I was still able to use my same braking points successfully. Into the 4th session fade started a little earlier and the last lap I had to back off a little to keep them going. The next session I had to back off even earlier but was still able to finish the session without a problem. The final session the fade set in on the third lap and I had to start using the regular braking points (just before the 1 marker) but was able to use them to their limit and post my fastest times of the day. Being a novice driver may have had a little to do with onset of fade but, to note, I was trying my best to use them more On/ Off as opposed to Ease In/Ease Out. I was happy to learn that even when they are fading out I still had excellent pedal feel and modulation from the lines. For those interested, I was using Valvoline Synthetic DOT 4 fluid

At 3000 miles on the set I am happy to say that the rotors are wearing nicely, no "gouging" at all, just a nice smooth shiny surface. The pads haven't lost a significant amount of material, no more than can be expected for what has been asked of them (70 miles at Laguna Seca and about 500 miles local back roads). There have been claims from certain people that the Porterfield pads (in isolated but numerous incidents) tend to "crumble" after exposure to extreme heat cycling from track usage, but I don't see that happening at all. I have noticed that the braking effectiveness feels less than when brand new and I don't know to attribute that to the pads glazing (I haven't checked), the rotors "polishing" (they initially had a good amount depth in the circumferential ribs from the original casting), or me just getting used to them.

Overall recommendation is a definite YES if you are primarily a street driver who really enjoys good brakes while carving your favorite twisty mountain road. I don't have enough track time under my belt to offer a good tracked evaluation of these stoppers so I wont even bother trying to say yea or nay for track use. Take my track description above at face value from a novice track driver and make your own judgements.

Back to Product Reviews 15 December, 2001