Product Review: EBC Blue Stuff brake pads
By Jeff Lacina, Owner / Lead Instructor, Track Guys Performance Driving Events
If you are any sort of driver, you appreciate a vehicle that not only performs well under acceleration, but one that can also perform well braking. However, if you’re into performance driving and operating your car in a more “performance-oriented” environment, eg: on a road course during an open track or driving school event, you simply don’t appreciate good braking performance, you demand it.
Quite simply, driving your car on a track during one of these events will very likely exceed the performance envelope of your car’s stock brake pads. And trust me, pushing on the brake pedal and NOT getting the stopping power you expect – or need – is a very unsettling feeling, especially if you happen to have an in-car instructor riding shotgun.
The fact is that factory-supplied brake pads are a compromise between cold performance, noise, hot performance, durability and above all, cost. Not exactly what you need if you plan on driving your car on a road course for more than one or two sessions.
As a seasoned on-track driver (I’ve been attending on-track driving events since 1986), I’ve gone through my share of brake pads and rotors. My current track car is a daily-driven 2011 Mustang GT, complete with the six-speed manual transmission and 3.73:1 rear gears. Bottom line: right out of the box, this car has way more “go” than “whoa” with the factory brake pads. Thus, it was time to put some new pads on the Mustang and give them a go on the road course. Enter EBC’s new “Blue Stuff” brake pads.
After driving my car with the stock pads for two 20-minute sessions, it became clear that it was time to make the switch and see what the Blue Stuff pads held in store for me and my particular driving style. Keep in mind, this is my daily-driven street car that I also enjoy driving on the track any chance I get.
Once you get into this highly-addictive hobby of performance driving, you’ll quickly see that there are two different types of products: heavy-duty street and race only. It’s very rare to find race parts that can be used on the street, but that’s exactly how EBC positions their Blue Stuff pads. And today was my opportunity to put their their claims and their pads to the test at Heartland Park Raceway in Topeka, KS.
Heartland Park’s 2.1-mile “modified” NASCAR configuration is notoriously hard on brakes. The long front straight requires heavy, down-hill braking before entering a moderate speed left hand turn. The next turn is a flat right-hander that requires a short, but still significant brake application, followed by another downhill run for another significant brake application. Three successive turns with heavy brake use with very little time for the brakes to cool down and recover their bite between them. And that’s just the first three turns… out of the next seven turns, four of them will require tapping back into those well-warmed brake pads. And, as a veteran driver, I tend to be very aggressive with my braking efforts, meaning that I try to minimize braking distance with significant pedal pressure.
According to EBC, the Blue Stuff pads use a special NDX pad formulation that provides “amazing braking power when heated up”, but unlike other brake pads, EBC claims the Blue Stuff pads also work great when when they are cold as well. We’ll see about that, as my plans are to leave the pads on for every-day driving after the checkered flag falls on my on-track fun.
The NDX pad material is bonded to the Blue Stuff’s backing plate with a high strength granulated chemical inter-layer that helps improve the bonding strength. There are also a series of interlock holes that aid in the prevention of pad separation so you can have confidence that when your foot hits the brake pedal you will know it.
Let’s talk about some braking basics. Brake pads work by turning the removing energy from your vehicle via the friction they generate when forced against your car’s brake rotors. Friction causes heat, the more friction that is endured, the more heat is created. Most race pads require “warming up” so that they are at their optimal temperature for creating the most efficient friction with your rotor, slowing the car better than if the pads were still cold. The trick is, finding a brake pad what will work well when they are cold, but still hold up (and provided consistent and reliable braking effort) once they have been heated up during repeated braking events and laps.
After putting them into the stock calipers on my 2011 Mustang GT, it was time to give them a try out on the track. Because they the pads were new and I wasn’t able to properly bed the pads in, I drove my first session with moderate braking efforts, allowing the pads to heat up gradually and bedding them in to my existing rotors. About four laps into my initial session with the Blue Stuff pads, I could feel how much more braking efforts the pads provided, even when I was trying to bed-in the pads gradually. With the checkered flag out and my cool-down lap complete, it was back to the paddock to check all the lug nuts and allow the pads to cool. The next session should allows the Blue Stuff pads to show me their true at-speed colors.
With the pads “sessions bedded and heat-cycled, it was time for session two with the Blue Stuff pads. Going against my normal driving habit of taking it easy on the out-lap, I jumped right onto the throttle for the first test, cold pads for Heartland Park’s 1-2-3 complex of turns. Suffice it to say, these first three turns turned out to be a pleasant surprise for this late-braking Mustang jockey. Even cold, the pads provided sufficient braking effort, requiring just slightly higher brake pedal effort than when I came off the track with the pads thoroughly heated from the previous session. This is normal with street pads. If I would have been on full “race pads”, these same turns would have required significantly more braking distance (to generate the heat) and even more pedal effort than with the Blue Stuff pads. Objective 1, cold performance – check.
With an aggressive start to the session, it didn’t take long to get the heat into the Blue Stuff pads over the next couple of laps. By the third or fourth lap, I had a very good “feeling” for the pads and the new-found levels of braking performance I was getting. Installing and driving a new brake pad compound requires some time to recalibrate your braking points and pedal effort. I was able to quickly adjust my braking procedures with the Blue Stuff pads and quickly found myself going deeper and using the brake pedal very aggressively. Objective 2, hot performance – check!
With just one more at-speed session for the day, I followed my “regular” routine of running a “warm-up” lap before really getting into the brake pedal. Here again, the Blue Stuff pads performed just as advertised, providing adequate braking performance when cold and while warming up quickly and offering consistent pedal feel and outstanding performance for my otherwise stock 2011 Mustang.
In following with EBC’s claims of being able to drive these pads on the street, to date I’ve logged a little more than 800 miles of street driving. Because I am constantly aware of my driving, and the equipment on my car, I pay attention to my braking procedures with these pads on the street. From stone-cold, the first stop or two may require slightly longer braking distances, once they have just a little heat into them, regular street stopping is is not an issue. And, if you’re a “spirited” driver on the street, you’ll come to appreciate the extra performance these pads offer on the street. To date, I have not detected any extra noise or brake rotor wear from the Blue Stuff compound. I have noticed just light levels of brake dust from the pads, but keep in mind, I’ve purposely been trying to “get the most” out of these pads, hot or cold, street or track, so to me, the dust levels are acceptable. Objective 3: street driving – check.
Bottom line: having never driven with EBC brake pads before, I’ve been pleased with their performance and will recommend them to my students, especially those looking to get a little more out of their stock brake hardware (calipers and rotors), simply by installing different brake pads.
Now, how will these pads hold up once I’ve made some suspension modifications and upgraded my wheel and tire package for more grip? Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the EBC Blue Stuff pads take these modifications in stride lap after lap.
EBC Blue Stuff: Product Features
• Replaces Stock Brake Pads
• Race Pads that can also be used on the Street
• NDX Formula Provides a Great Initial Bite
• Not as Harsh on Rotors as other Racing Brake Pads
• Heat Scorching Process Pre-Beds the Pad for quicker Bed-In-Time
• Deep V Grooves Help Venting and Catch Dirt, Dust & Debris
• Long Lasting Performance Braking even in Wet Conditions
• 12 Month/10,000 Mile Factory EBC Warranty
Read our other articles on EBC Blue Stuff Mustang Brake Pads.
EBC Brakes BlueStuff NDX Pads Reviewed for Autocross Use
EBC Brakes BlueStuff Pads Run at Hallet Road Course
EBC Brakes BlueStuff Mustang Pads on the Street