This is not a typical post, but a long, technical ordeal that was too ridiculous not to document. I didn't publicize this too much as it was happening too much because it's colossally embarrassing and I was pretty caught up in it. Here's what happened: I bought a set of second-hand Brembo calipers and rotors, installed them and everything was okay except for some issues with the front left caliper. When I went back to re-bleed the brake system a few weeks later, things got worse.
I bought my Nissan 350Z with standard brakes, and for street use they're fine. But on the track, they suck. They just aren't up to stopping a 3,200+ lb. car repeatedly. By my second track event I realized this, and felt the full shock of boiled fluid and overheated calipers, and the uneasy, "Will I be able to stop?" feeling was not one I enjoyed on the racetrack. I'm sure that with race-compound pads, the brakes would be adequate in that situation, but to me it seemed like a stopgap measure and it would be much more hassle and wear on the rotors and pads.
The options were Brembo or StopTech, and I really didn't want to drop the cash for StopTech. Brembo brakes were optional on the 350Z, and finding some used was easy enough. I've been enamored with Brembo for a while, but especially since talking with a rep from the company at a Cadillac CTS-V driving event. I managed to find some locally in November, and my friend Cody, who is way smarter at this stuff, agreed to help with the installation.
Putting the brakes on
The set I bought came with calipers, brake lines and rotors. The front rotors were pretty worn, so I ordered new slotted ones before I put them on the car. I also got some stainless steel brake lines and some new Ferodo pads. Installation went pretty easily, but time consuming, and it was getting pretty late by the time we started bleeding the system. The left front caliper bleeder screw was stripped. Cody was able to make it work and we partially bled the system but it didn't feel great. We called it a night after bleeding the calipers twice each.
Two weeks later
I came back to Cody two weeks later, with new bleeder screws and new rear calipers. We'd finish the jobs, bleeding the system and installing rotors, and go have beers. Except it didn't quite go that way.
I worked on the rear rotors while he tried to extract the stuck front left bleeder screw. I put on the new rotor and realized that I was sent rotors that were the wrong size. Which was frustrating, not to mention reckless and unsafe. Then came the bad news from the front of the car: the caliper was stripped where the bleeder screw went in. The soft aluminum was just shot. I was not going to be driving home tonight.
Cody tried a bunch of ways to repair the doomed caliper, including re-tapping the bleeder with a new fitting. But none of them worked, nothing would hold pressure. Unfortunately, it was inevitable: I had to replace the front left caliper.
New calipers, yes plural
Finding a single Brembo caliper is tricky. They aren't too common and they're sold in sets of four. No one wants to break up a set, rightly, and no one except Nissan carries them in stock. Oh, and to buy a single caliper from Nissan is $1,046, so that was out of the question.
Since I was pretty desperate, after all this is my only car and it was completely out of commission while the brakes were broken, I reasoned that the following was a good deal: a guy on eBay was selling 2 front calipers, 2 new front rotors, front brakes pads and front brake lines, all for less than the price of a new caliper from Nissan. I would be re-buying a lot of stuff I had but I figured I could easily re-sell everything I didn't need. I jumped on it, and also ordered more rear rotors since the last ones were the wrong size.
My long national nightmare was over
Just a couple days before Christmas, we reinstalled the new caliper. This time everything went well, although the old rear rotors had to stay on the car because the new ones hadn't arrived. We bled the system and all the calipers held pressure. Just like that, everything was normal.
The brakes have been excellent, I haven't had heat issues despite a lot of track time and more speed and abuse then I ever threw at the standard brakes. I had to order different rear rotors again because the other vendor never got them in stock after three weeks of waiting. I was able to sell the extra caliper and extra brake lines and make back most of the money but I still spent more than I planned to, and it's crossed my mind that I could have maybe gotten StopTechs, new, from the start. I try not to think about that.