Best Mustang Brake UpgradesLast Updated November 20, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
Brakes are one of the best areas of your Mustang to invest in. The ability to brake on a dime is an asset on the track or on the street. For daily drivers, a great set of brakes guarantees safety and comfort. For those adding a lot of horsepower, improving stopping power will be a necessity.
This guide will walk you through the best brake upgrades for your Mustang, depending on what generation you own or the kind of driving you do most. Select your generation or driving style below to see how you can improve your braking system. Or start with the first section for brake upgrades any Mustang can benefit from.
Best Brake Upgrades for Every Mustang
No matter what generation of Mustang you have, there are a few brake upgrades we can recommend for every Mustang.
Get New Brake Pads
If you have disc brakes, you’ll need to replace your brake pads regularly for good brake performance. Depending on how you use your Mustang, you may be better off with ceramic or metallic brake pads. High-performance brake pads can increase your brake’s “bite,” or ability to clamp down. Check out our brake pad guide to learn how to select the right materials and features for your next set of brake pads.
Replace Your Brake Rotors
Brake rotors go hand in hand with pads, even though they only need to be replaced half as often. Regularly replacing your rotors helps to improve your long-term brake performance.
A lot of drivers choose to upgrade their rotors’ size. Larger rotors improve your brake’s grip, but they also add weight. Drilled and slotted performance rotors are also popular since they disperse heat better.
Knowing your Mustang’s stock rotor size can help you decide if you need a larger rotor, a performance rotor, or just a stock replacement.
Classic Mustang Brake Upgrades (1964.5-1973)
Some classic Mustangs came equipped with front disc brakes, but none came with rear disc brakes. Replacing your drum brakes (front, rear, or both) is a great way to improve your braking power. Converting drum brakes to disc brakes is relatively easy. Read more about the differences between drum and disc brakes to see if switching is right for you.
Install Power Brakes
Power brakes provide more stopping power with less effort on your part. If you’re making the switch to disc brakes, you’ll definitely want the assist you get from power brakes. Unless you really want to combine “leg day” with your driving time.
Power brakes make it much more comfortable to go on longer drives, and you’ll be a little safer as well.
Go From a Single to a Dual Bowl Master Cylinder
Even if you decide not to opt for power brakes, you should absolutely upgrade your brake master cylinder to a dual bowl unit. In a single bowl master cylinder, the front and rear brakes are all controlled by a single circuit. That sounds nice and simple for upkeep, but it means a leak could render all four brakes useless at once.
In a dual bowl system, your brakes operate on two circuits, one for the front and one for the rear. This means that your front brakes could go out and your rear brakes would still be operational.
A dual bowl system is an important safety upgrade that could save your life.
Fox Body Mustang Brake Upgrades (1979-1993)
Like the classic Mustangs, all Fox Body Mustangs came with rear drum brakes. And just like with first-gens, dumping the drums for discs can improve your stopping power. Typically, with Fox Body Mustangs, people do a disc brake conversion at the same time as a 5-lug conversion.
Do a 5-Lug Wheel Conversion
Many Fox Body Mustangs came standard with a four-lug wheel setup. This really limits your aftermarket wheel selection and is limiting for brake upgrades as well. By converting, you’ll be able to expand your brake options and also get a sweet appearance boost at the same time. Check out our guide on how to swap your Fox Body to a 5-lug wheel to knock out this upgrade.
Add SVO Brake Calipers
If your Fox Body Mustang has a 5.0L engine (LX or GT) then you can upgrade to the brake calipers used on the SVO Mustang. This is a popular modification that will improve your stopping power. In general, the equipment added to the SVO Mustang is a great place to look for ways to improve your Fox Body’s performance.
Pick Up New 4 or 5 Lug Rotors
Even if you decide not to change to a 5-lug setup, you’ll be able to upgrade your rotors. Drilled and slotted rotors help with heat dispersion to reduce brake fade and up your stopping power. Fortunately, performance rotors are available in 4- and 5-lug configurations. Perfect for any Fox Body Mustang.
SN95 Brake Upgrades (1994-2004)
Compared to Fox Body and Classic Mustangs, SN95s had much improved brakes. But there’s still room for improvement.
Add Cobra Brakes
Technically, the Cobra Mustang returned at the tail end of the Fox Body era, but it was around for a much longer part of the SN95 era. Upgrading to the Cobra’s brake components is an easy way to up the stopping power on your SN95.
While the GT SN95 Mustangs came stock with 11” rotors, the Mach 1 and Cobra rotors were a solid 13". That’s a lot of extra stopping power. The brake setup is an easy swap into the GT and a slightly more involved swap into the V6.
Get a Performance Disc Brake Set
The great thing about disc brake kits is that they’ll replace your rotors, calipers, and brake pads. Many even include upgrades like stainless steel brake lines. They’re a great way to upgrade your entire braking system in one convenient package.
Many aftermarket disc brake sets are made out of premium materials like stainless steel as well. This helps to reduce your weight and prevent corrosion.
Performance disc brake kits are a great upgrade for any generation of Mustang, but you’ll really notice them on the SN95s. There’s a significant difference between these and the stock brakes. Installation is pretty straightforward, too.
S197 Brake Upgrades (2005-2014)
The S197 Mustang generation has been popular on the track, but unfortunately, its stock brakes don’t hold up well to heavy driving.
The first half of the generation had smaller rotors than the second half. They also only had a two-piston caliper. If you got the Brembo brake package, then you got a larger rotor and a four-piston caliper. But even with the Brembo package, overheating is a concern.
Switch to Performance Rotors
While rotors are a valuable upgrade for any generation of Mustang, S197 owners should especially consider the different rotor options available. Vented rotors can help deal with the overheating, especially when paired with brake pads that are designed to handle heat.
Upgrading your S197’s brakes to ones that came on the GT500 is an easy upgrade. While the GT had 13” rotors and the Brembo Package GTs had 14” rotors, the GT500 had massive 15” rotors. They also had 6-piston calipers.
Swap Your Stock Brakes for S550 Brakes
Some S197 owners have successfully swapped the S550s significantly larger brakes onto their S197s. This does increase stopping power, but is a little more involved than the GT500 swap. If you choose to go this route you’ll also need new brake lines.
S550 Brake Upgrades (2015-2023)
The S550’s stock brakes are actually very good. This is especially true if you got either the EcoBoost or GT performance package, both of which included upgraded brakes. But there’s always room for improvement, and new brake pads never hurt.
Performance Package Brakes
All available S550 Performance Packages came with a brake upgrade, including a 15” brake for the GT Performance Pack. But you don’t have to have bought an S550 with a Performance Package to get the upgraded brakes. You can buy aftermarket Performance Pack brakes and add them to your base GT or EcoBoost.
Buy Brakes from the Special Edition S550s
Further upgrading to the GT350 or GT500’s brakes can improve things, as well. The GT350R featured 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers. You’ll also get massive cross-drilled rotors. The GT500’s brakes feature 16.5” two-piece rotors that’ll really help with heat dissipation.
While the Bullitt’s brakes aren’t quite as massive, they’re still a nice upgrade for EcoBoost or GT Mustangs that already have the Performance Pack.
Drag Racing Brake Upgrades
Drag racing has some specific demands that affect every part of the build. Including the brakes. Naturally, all the standard recommendations for drag racing builds apply (make sure it’s rule compliant and lightweight).
Line Lock Kits
If you’re participating in drag racing, then you need a way to hold your car in place in the burnout box without damaging your brakes. Line lock kits do exactly that. If you own an S550 Mustang, you already have line lock built in. You can read more about how to use built-in line lock here.
Drag Racing Brake Kits
Some manufacturers, like Wilwood and Baer, make brake kits that are specifically designed for drag racing. These brakes feature lightweight materials and tend to be smaller than most aftermarket brake kits.
Some estimates show that moving to lighter weight braking components could save you as much as 30 pounds.
Autocross Brake Upgrades
For autocross, you’ll want an aggressive brake setup to lessen the amount of pedal effort you exert. You’ll also want to make sure your brake setup can resist brake fade.
Pads and Rotors Built for Heat
For most drivers, a rotor and pad upgrade will make a big difference. Brake fade is a serious problem in any type of driving where you need to stop quickly and repeatedly. Upgrading your pads and rotors to ones designed to handle heat will help.
For pads, that means selecting the right compound. Check out our brake pad guide for more information about the pros and cons of ceramic, NAO, and semi-metallic pads. For rotors, cross-drilled and slotted rotors can help with heat dispersion.
A big brake kit is an all-inclusive upgrade that includes new calipers, pads, and rotors. Increasing the size of your brakes helps with heat and stopping power, a win-win for autocross! These generally include premium rotors and brake pads as well.
Other drivers have noticed that upgrading their brake fluid was what really made their brake setup work for them.
For more autocross mods and upgrade ideas, check out our guide for Autocross Mustangs.
Street Brake Upgrades
Just because you don’t participate in organized motorsports doesn’t mean you don’t need added stopping power. If you enjoy hitting curvy roads, you may need better brakes. There’s also nothing wrong with having more stopping power than you need.
Big Brake Kits
One of the easiest and best brake upgrades is simply upgrading to a big brake kit. This will give you more stopping power as well as a great look. You’ll need to be aware of wheel clearance though. Not all Mustang wheels offer enough clearance for larger calipers and rotors. Of course, large wheels and big brakes look amazing together, so this isn’t really a downside.
When upgrading your brake pads and rotors, ceramic pads may be the best choice. They offer better stopping power than non-metallic pads, and they make much less noise than metallic pads. This makes them a great choice for daily drivers.
Upgrading Your Mustang’s Brakes
Any of the brake upgrades mentioned above are a great investment in your Mustang’s safety and performance. Once you’re done installing them, don’t forget to bleed your brakes to get any air out of the lines and improve your brakes’ responsiveness.
Bleeding your brakes is also a great way to improve brake feel for very little money. You can follow the steps in our brake bleeding guide for the correct procedure.
And if you need help with any upgrades, be sure to check out our YouTube channel for brake reviews and install videos.