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Silverado Brake System Overview: How to Improve Your Stopping Power

Written By: Zach Wright

The brake system on your truck has the big responsibility of bringing 4,500+ lbs to a stop in a safe and reasonable distance. Aside from the tires, there is nothing else more important from a safety standpoint on your vehicle than your brakes. Comprised of several different components, your Silverado’s brake system can be easily upgraded and maintained and should be on a regular basis. This guide will go over everything you need to know about your Chevrolet Silverado brake system and components.

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What are Silverado Brake Parts & How Do They Work?

Silverado brake systems are made up of the following parts:

  • Brake pads
  • Brake rotors
  • Calipers
  • Brake lines
  • Brake fluid

When you press the brake pedal on your Silverado, you trigger a hydraulic reaction where brake fluid gets sent through the brake lines to the calipers. The rush of brake fluid puts pressure on the calipers and forces them to squeeze closed. The calipers squeeze shut, pressing the brake pads up against the brake rotors, creating friction and causing your vehicle to decelerate and come to a stop in a controlled manner.

How Often Should I Check My Silverado’s Brakes? Maintenance Explained

You should check your Silverado’s brakes either every few thousand miles, or if your brake performance feels diminished, inconsistent, or questionable. For factory spec maintenance you should refer to your owner’s manual, as this will have the ideal timeframes for replacement and service. Generally speaking, you can plan on the following:

  • Brake pads every 50,000 to 70,000 miles
  • Brake rotors every 40,000 to 70,000 miles
  • Brake calipers 75,000 miles or 7 to 10 years of daily driving
  • Brake lines vary greatly on use and conditions
  • Brake fluid every 20,000 miles or 2 years

If you are rotating the tires or even doing an oil change, it never hurts to take a peak at your brakes and give them a once over, checking for wear, any damage, and/or for any loose parts. Hit them with a quick shot of brake cleaner to get any dirt or grime off them, and check them again in a few thousand miles.

Aftermarket Silverado Brake Pads Explained

Silverado brake pads are one of the easiest parts that wear out on your vehicle because of the friction created by them grabbing onto the rotor to slow and stop your truck, diminishing the pad each time you hit the brakes. Granted, this is how they are designed, but aftermarket Silverado brake pads can provide you with increased braking power and greater pad life. 

When shopping for aftermarket brake pads, search for ceramic pads as they tend to provide a solid bite and have good longevity. Ceramic brake pads can shed some more brake dust than a low metallic or semi-metallic pad.

Aftermarket Silverado Brake Rotors Explained

Brake rotors are the circular disks the calipers and pads grab onto to slow and stop your Silverado. There are three reasons you would need to replace your brake rotors. One, you wear them out from normal use over time. Two, you warp them from heating them up too much by stopping with extreme force. Three, your brake pads wear down so much that all of the pad material gets eroded away and they cut into the rotors, damaging them beyond repair or resurfacing. 

Brake rotors can be replaced with the standard, flat surfaced rotor, or you can upgrade to a more aggressive rotor. Aftermarket Silverado brake rotor options include:

  • Slotted rotors
  • Cross drilled rotors
  • Slotted and drilled rotors

Slot rotors have grooves manufactured in the rotor surface. These grooves, or slots, help to dissipate heat and allow your truck to stop faster. Cross drilled rotors allow cool air to pass through small holes in the rotors to improve cooling. Slotted and drilled rotors combine the benefits of both designs into one rotor that drastically improves Silverado braking performance.

Aftermarket Silverado Brake Calipers Explained

Silverado brake calipers are the device that clamps the pads down onto the rotors. Calipers are powered by small pistons that open and close the calipers; typically, Silverados have two piston calipers, but aftermarket options to go up to six pistons. The more pistons in the caliper the harder and more evenly the brakes bite. 

There are a limited amount of caliper options on the market for the Silverado. A lot of enthusiasts will grab the brake calipers off of another GM vehicle like a Camaro or Corvette and replace them on their Silverado if they are looking for a stronger brake bite. 

There are caliper covers available, which provide a cosmetic improvement to the looks of your brakes. These usually come in a finishing material and have the option of being colored. Performance wise, they do not provide any improvement, but cosmetically they help to give your Silverado a more themed appearance.

Aftermarket Silverado Brake Lines Explained

The stock Silverado brake lines are made of a plastic/rubber/composite material that can expand with brake fluid when you apply pressure to the brakes. This expansion decreases braking performance and capabilities, increasing the amount of distance you need to come to a stop.

Replacing the stock lines with a stainless steel line will eliminate the expanding issue and provide a quicker, firmer brake feeling. Stainless steel brake lines can make a huge difference even with stock pads and rotors, making it an upgrade well worth the money.

Aftermarket Silverado Fluid Explained

Brake fluid is the “grease” that keeps your brake system going and performing. When you hit the brakes, the fluid shoots through the lines to the calipers, activating the brake pistons, closing the pads in on the rotors. Brake fluid needs to be replaced every so often, but you can upgrade it to a different brake fluid and see improved braking results. 

A heavier fluid may take a little longer to warm up, but once at operating temperature, it will provide a much stronger braking feel and shorter braking distance. Check with your owner’s manual to see what brake fluid weight is recommended for your Silverado, and try not to deviate too much from that. 

Silverado Big Brake Kits Explained

Another option you have for an upgrade is going with a Silverado big brake kit. Big brake kits replace everything from the rotors, pads, calipers, lines, and sometimes more, with much more stout aftermarket options. It is called a big brake kit because everything tends to be bigger than the stock counterpart. Big brake kits can run anywhere from $800 to $3,000, but all of them offer something different. 

Silverado Brake Pad & Rotor Kits Explained

A great option for enthusiasts looking to get more out of there Silverado’s brake system is a pad and rotor kit. A pad and rotor kit provides you with a perfectly paired set of pads and rotors that will perform optimally together. These kits tend to start at around $300 and work their way up, however, they can save you money in the long run by not buying them separately. 

How Difficult is it to Replace the Brakes on My Silverado?

Replacing the brakes really depends on what you are doing. Replacing the pads and rotors is easy as all you need is a wrench and a screwdriver. Replacing the calipers is a little bit trickier, as you need to clamp off the brake lines to prevent fluid from leaking out. Replacing the brake fluid is fairly easy as all you need to do is unscrew a cap and pour it. Replacing the brake lines can be difficult as you will need to bleed the lines, cut, clamp, and re-pressurize them; this can also require a specialized tool. 

As with most other modifications, you can watch a few YouTube videos, search some forums, and do a few Google searches and be good to perform the install yourself. However, after install is complete, you will want to carefully check everything and make sure the brakes are performing correctly by performing some low-speed stops and decelerations in a controlled environment, slowly increasing speed with each additional brake test.

Be sure to read any of the information that comes with pads or rotors as these will have a glazing or breaking-in period that will need to be completed. This usually involves making a few complete stops from 35 MPH and then 45 or 50 MPH. 

If you want to take your Silverado to a shop to have the brake work completed, this can run the gambit price wise. Depending upon the shop, you are looking at anywhere from $50 to $150 bucks to replace pads or rotors, $100 to $200 to replace lines or calipers, and fluids should be included in a normal fluid flush.

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