Skip to main content

The Yankee Express

Upgrading aftermarket brakes warranted?

John Paul

Q. I have a 2007 Mercury Mountaineer with a V8 engine and 137K trouble free miles. I’d like to keep the truck another 5 years.  The SUV has, since new, gone through brake rotors like tissues, with warping and atrocious stopping distances throughout my ownership.  I would love to upgrade the brakes but cannot get a clear answer what is feasible. Are there cost effective aftermarket larger brake rotors and/or master cylinders that could decrease stopping distance and prolong the brake rotor life? I once compared my brake rotors to an F150’s rotors, both vehicles up on the lift at my garage, and noticed how much more robust the F150 rotors were. Is it a simple job to swap brake systems?
A. Great question and I’m a little jealous that you have a lift in your garage. The Ford Sport Trac (built on a similar platform as the Explorer) and might be a better alternative to the F-150 pickup. The Sport Trac has larger rotors, but you would need to change the spindles, most likely master cylinder, combination valve and maybe even ABS pump. The issue could also be a problem with the rear brakes, if the rear brakes are getting lazy, the front brakes could be getting too hot. Other than that, I know lots of people have gone to slotted rotors, but I usually don’t see enough improvement to justify the cost. If it were my next brake job, I would change the flex hoses (they clogged) clean and lube the slides, replace or rebuild the calipers and most important, remove corrosion from the wheel mounting surface, both disc mounting surfaces and hub mounting surface. Just a little rust can cause rotors to go out of round. Then torque wheels with a torque wrench. 

Q. What should I keep in my car in case of emergencies? What I really what to know is what do you keep in your car. I’m guessing a portable jump-pack for starters; is there a brand that you like? 
A. We have three cars in our household, and they all have small duffle bag with a few emergency items. For a jump-pack, I have had the best luck with the NOCO brand, it seems to be the most resistant to moisture and temperature variations. I have a portable air compressor, two connect to the car’s battery one is from WORX and it uses the same batteries as other WORX tools that I have. As a temporary tire repair, I also keep a tire plug kit. I also have some basic hand tools, flares/reflectors, gloves and duct tape.  

Q. My wife loves the Volvo XC40. She asked me to ask you for three other small SUVs that you would recommend.
A. The Volvo XC40 is a well-rounded vehicle and a tough competitor in its class. I would look at the Genesis GV60 and the Lexus NX. Two cars I like but I am a little afraid of long-term maintenance costs are the Jaguar I-Pace (a really nice car) and the Audi Q3. If your wife “loves” the Volvo XC40 that might be the best choice. Happy wife, happy life. 
Q.  I own a 2018 plug-in hybrid Honda Clarity. I really like the car and I especially like driving it in electric mode. The range for all electric mode ranges from about 30 to 50 miles depending on Temperature and type of driving. My question is, Is it ok to drive almost exclusively in electric mode and use very little gas? Does the car need to run in hybrid mode on occasion to circulate the oil throughout the engine? Also how often should the oil be changed considering the car is mostly drive in electric mode?
A. The car is designed to drive in EV mode as much as possible. I would add fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel fresh. Regarding oil changes, if the maintenance reminder doesn’t come on to signal an oil change, change the oil once per year. Other than that, change the brake fluid every three years and follow the maintenance reminder for other normal service and enjoy your hybrid. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over forty years’ experience and is an ASE-certified master technician. He will answer readers’ questions each week. Email your questions to [email protected]. Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook at mrjohnfpaul.