How To: Install, Setup, Use, and Maintain a Hydraulic Handbrake
Drifting is one of the fastest-growing motorsports in the world. One of the most common modifications to any drift car is a hydraulic handbrake. This article will go over the two types of handbrakes and proper warm-up techniques before hitting the track.
Dual Caliper Handbrake
A dual caliper handbrake installation involves installing a secondary rear set of calipers on a vehicle. These are the type of handbrakes that most professional drivers use as they are extremely consistent and allow left foot braking while actuating the handbrake giving the driver maximum control over the vehicle. These handbrakes, however, require special attention before hitting the track. Because the calipers for this handbrake set up are not linked with the vehicle's main braking system the pads will not get warmed up when applying the foot brake. This means you MUST manually warm your handbrake pads up before hitting the track. Failure to do this can result in the handbrake not functioning and on a track, with a fast entry or walls, this could be bad for you and your vehicle. The best and easiest way to warm your pads up on a dual caliper set up is to simply accelerate in a straight line to a moderate speed and use only the handbrake to slow the vehicle back down. Repeating this step around 6 times will ensure your pads are warm and ready to function as they are designed.
From a cost perspective, an inline handbrake is much cheaper than a dual caliper handbrake. Since you are using the vehicle's existing brake system there is no need to purchase secondary calipers or caliper brackets. These are a great option for those looking to have the consistency of a hydraulic handbrake but at a price that won't break the bank. In most cases, inline hydraulic handbrakes take a bit more effort to actuate than a dual caliper handbrake. This being the case it is just as important to warm up your rear brake pads before attempting to use the handbrake. There are two ways to warm up an inline handbrake. The first being the same as stated above. Simply accelerate to a moderate speed and use only the handbrake to slow the vehicle back down. Repeat this process 3-6 times. Since the handbrake is tied into the existing brakes on the vehicle just using the brakes normally can also warm up the rear pads. Do the same acceleration and braking method as above but use the foot brake to slow the car down. If you are street driving your vehicle to the track this means that in most cases by the time you get to the track your brakes will already have a good amount of heat in them.
Cable Driven Handbrakes
A good cable-driven stock handbrake can be just as effective as a hydro and it's free (minus the cost of the car.) It is still good practice to use the same methods as stated above to warm your rear brake pads up. This will ensure you get the most consistent handbrake feel possible.
Cable Handbrake w/ Integrated Rear Drum
Some vehicles, most commonly BMWs are equipped with a handbrake that uses an integrated drum brake on the inside of the actual brake rotor. These operate independently of the vehicle's main braking system. These are just like dual caliper hydraulic handbrakes and will need to be warmed up in the same method. Accelerate to a moderate speed and use only the handbrake to slow the vehicle down. Repeat this procedure 3-6 times and you should be ready to hit the track with confidence.