Q & A with Todd Cook, Owner of TCE Performance Products LLC
Q: Looking at different offerings for my car I'd like to know what makes your kits different from the others- or why I should buy yours?
A: There may be other offerings for your vehicle, some more expensive, some less, but the objective of all TCE produced kits is to provide the most performance at a reasonable price. TCE has chosen Wilwood calipers for all its kits as they produce a well regarded, quality product and like the our kits; offer options for the buyer. To supply you the most value for your dollar we use off the shelf parts when possible and adapt them to the needs of the finished kit. TCE believes that its kits will meet or exceed the needs of all of its customers. From daily driving to track events these kits are 'tunable' to meet the demands placed on them. Finally, we strive to price these kits within reach of most buyers and not be so highly priced that it breaks your wallet.
Q: What do you mean by 'tunable'?
A: All kits are going to provide much improved feel, response, and brake torque than factory brakes, but for those who are true race track participants we can offer upgrades for your kits to enhance them even more. These options include; gas slotting, drilling (not recommended however), special Wilwood Therm-lock pistons for high temp applications, directional vaned rotors for improved air flow, plating for appearance, light weight rotors for drag racers, and 6 piston calipers all for additional charges of course.
Q: So you build each kit to order?
A: Pretty much. Many of these items are included in our 'base' kits. We feel that the basic kits with or without some of the upgrades will meet the needs of most buyers, but if you need something special we can handle it. With the kits and all the potential options available it's difficult and costly to stock every variation also.
Q: I was concerned about rotors, I see many of you kits use only 12.2" and 13" rotors, are you going to produce larger rotor kits also?
A: The rotor used is determined by a number of things; the weight of the vehicle, ball joint clearance, wheel size and caliper fit. The rotor is not the only factor in determining the performance of a brake kit. Many of our most popular calipers; FSLi, BSL6, DP6 and others don't fit rotors larger than 13" in diameter. Today we offer a number of larger rotor kits using the new and larger caliper models such as the W4 and W6A models and BSL6r parts found on a number of Wilwood factory kits. This has helped expand the TCE product line and address the needs of a much wider market where today's 18" and larger wheels can benefit from such sizes.
Q: A lot of your kits use .81" and 1.10" rotors, why do some people use thicker rotors?
A: Thicker rotors are used on some of our kits too including the Impala SS, Lightning and others. With the heat generated by the heavier vehicles or extensive track use it can benefit from the improved air flow and thermal capacity of this thicker rotor. Other manufactures use thicker rotors in order to share the same rotor across the product line and only make minor changes to each based on the fit needs. The .810" and 1.10" rotors should not be under rated. It’s also bolted to an aluminum hat (unlike some kits) which helps to serve as a heat sink thus drawing out the heat from the iron rotor. One real concern of the wider rotor is clearance to the wheel, when you fit a wider rotor you immediately compromise this. TCE does its best to fit the stock wheel first and then make changes for folks using after market wheels where this may not be an issue.
Q: I see that some manufactures use aircraft quality billet aluminum brackets on their kits, why don’t you?
A: For couple of reasons; while Billet aluminum brackets certainly look nice, (when you can see them) they don't offer any real advantage over our water-jet produced steel brackets. At the very least NO aluminum bracket should be used without having captive steel nuts or quality studs in them. For the most part our aluminum radial mount brackets are all supplied with ARP brand studs. Very seldom do we fit bolts to a radial bracket due to durability concerns. Using steel brackets on many of our kits allow for easy shimming and proper caliper spacing, something not easy to do with some machined aluminum brackets. Some machined aluminum brackets also have inherent stress risers in them that can allow for flex and potential deflection so great care is taken in the design evaluation of all our brackets regardless of material or manufacturing process. Most importantly; it costs less to produce our steel brackets and keeps our prices down. (And there’s no such thing as ‘aircraft quality aluminum’ so some of that is just marketing hype)
Q: I noticed you said drilled rotors are an option, why do you not recommend them? Even Porsche use them, but I’m told they’re better because they are cast into them.
A: Drilled rotors, aside from the minimal weight savings offered, don't do as much to enhance the kits performance as some people like to believe. In fact they can cause more harm than good. The drilling of the rotor is to mainly remove the gaseous/particle build up developed by the friction materials against the rotor surface as well as reduce weight. Problem is that when the air rushing through these holes is cooler than the rotor temperature we begin to develop thermal cracks in the iron. These start as small stress cracks, but over time become larger and can lead to major cracking problems. While the outer surface of the hole is chamfered to help this, the inner area of the center vanes not. * Don't be fooled by some of the advertising in this regard. TCE recommends gas slots and supplies nearly all kits this with them. This is to help 'vent' the pad and create a self cleaning effect of the pad as the rotor passes over it. Keep in mind that either of these (drilled or slotted) will lead to faster pad wear and more dusting. As for the Porsche rotors being cast; that’s a myth. They are drilled like all others, and given the completely different weight bias of a rear or mid engine car the requirements of the brake system differ then that of most FWD applications also.
TCE has a standing bounty of $500 to anyone who can provide PROOF the the existence of rotors with holes CAST during the manufacturing process. Raw castings, molds, or any unfinished surface casting showing such holes.
Q: What about that mil spec plating or zinc wash offered by others? Doesn’t that make the brakes run cooler too?
A: 'Mil Spec plating? Good catchy name. Zinc Wash?...Most plating today is good old Clear Zinc Chromate. This is the same silver finish you see on hardware store bolts. It does nothing for the performance of the kit and will only stay on the rotor where the pads don’t rub it off in the first 20 miles. It is standard on nearly all our kits as well for corrosion protection. Often Yellow Zinc Chromate is used on our brackets as it has an even greater resistance to corrosion. Many of our Wilwood brand rotors are now supplied with their own black E-coat finish as both a visual and corrosion alternative. For show car buyers TCE also offers Electroless Nickel plating which is more durable than zinc. For track buyers: none of this has much value other than "box appeal" when you unpack your kit!
Q: Can I run these brakes on both the street and the race track?
A: The use of these products on the street may not be legal in all states as they are racing products and not intended for highway use. Your use of them is entirely at your discretion. TCE has designed these kits to be track use products. They can be put into service immediately after proper pad bedding has been conducted. However we do suggest that you consider optional pads for severe track use. The pads supplied are performance STREET pads and have a low temperature operational range. They WILL come apart with continued hard use where temperatures of 700 degrees or more are sustained. They should be fine for light track use, auto crossing, or drag racing where temperatures are more controlled.
Q: Do I need special brake fluid for these calipers?
A: Not at all. The brand of fluid used is up to you. TCE suggests a quality DOT 3 or 4 fluids (such as Wilwood 570) for most applications. Do not use high temp racing fluids unless you plan to flush the system daily and keep this fluid in your car fresh all the time. High temp fluids can be great for a short while, but over time they degrade faster than more conventional fluids. They are also more susceptible to moisture and need continued flushing and bleeding to maintain their operational level. Simply adding ‘racing brake fluid’ won’t do a thing to make your brakes work better unless you have a fluid boiling problem already.
Q: Won't the fluid boil faster in my calipers though as a result of the increase in brake temp?
A: The Wilwood line of calipers has a much greater ability to deal with heat than your older, iron caliper. The use of aluminum helps to dissipate the heat much faster and gives it a higher ceiling of temperature operation than you could achieve with the old parts. For extreme use there are a few options such as Therm-lock pistons and Titanium pad shims which can help to extend the operational level of the fluid. Even using fresh pads, which are thicker, will help to keep caliper temps down.
Q: I see that the pads in some of your kits are smaller than others, why is that?A: Pad size is dictated by the caliper shape. The Superlite line of caliper for example shares pads with many other companies. The size alone doesn't serve as a critical factor in brake performance. This is also true of the stock parts. Pad material has a much greater effect on the stopping power. There are many options for you in this area. Bigger pads won’t stop a car better; they last longer and insulate the caliper better. Many TCE Racing kits use a full .800" thick pad- about 20% thicker than many other suppliers!
Q: How hard is the installation of your kits?
A: All of these products can be installed by a competent mechanic. A few special tools may needed for the work to be completed. Some cars require specific sockets for their stock caliper bolts, or axle nuts. Check your requirements BEFORE you begin the work. We strongly recommend that you have the proper tools for installing the brake lines and adapters. This tool, a "line wrench" is critical to getting your lines or adapters installed properly without damaging the factory fittings or lines. Don't attempt to do this part of the installation without one, you'll strip out the hex with a regular open end wrench or really mess it up with vise grips!
Q: How do you go about bleeding these brakes?
A: All kits come with instructions or are available on line and walk you through this process. You'll need a small 1/4" box wrench and a suitable 'bleeder bottle' to do the job. No special tools or equipment is needed and we do not suggest the use of those fancy 'helping' vacuum or pressure devices as they can aireiate the fluid and actually induce air into the fluid. Simple gravity bleeding for filing and a light pressure bleed is all that is required.
Q: What about "Speed Bleeders" can I use them?
A: TCE makes no claims to the use of such items. We do it the old fashion way; flush, pump, and squirt. Bleeding is not all that hard and while these helper items may be a plus in some applications we feel that traditional bleeding is the way to do it.
Q: Can I use a 'Line-Lock' on my kit?
A: TCE does not endorse the use of any pressure holding device on our kits. With the potential for damaged calipers resulting in bend bridges, uneven pad wear and possibly damaged hoses, there is no way to verify the input pressure being held does not exceed the maximum recommended input pressure of 1200psi. This includes both drag racing and rear brake applications in place of a factory parking brake. Use these items at your own risk.
Q: Do I need a 'Proportioning Valve' with your kit?
A: No you do do not. Prop valves do not directly improve the braking performance of your vehicle. They are used to reduce line pressure to the rear of the car. *They should never be install in the front brake system. These valves are intended to allow the driver to vary the amount of output pressure the rear brakes receive to better suite the road conditions and offer the most rear brake available at the time. They can be used to alter the dynamic bias of your brakes in the wet or poorly balanced designs and when a single master cylinder is in use preventing any bias adjustment. By design the prop valve reduces output pressure more as the input pressure goes up. Meaning the more pressure you put in, the less you get out. They are adjustable allowing one to alter the pressure point where this occurs. Often called the knee point.
If you have any additional questions, concerns or comments on the above please don't hesitate to contact me directly so we can discuss them.