The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Used Performance Brake Parts

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Used Performance Brake Parts

When looking for replacement parts for a car's brake system, consumers have many options to consider. New brake components or new old stock (N.O.S.) parts offer some opportunities. On the other hand, used performance brake parts can be a good option, as well. These brake parts allow consumers to save a bit of money on their purchases while also offering shoppers the opportunity to recycle parts and lower their own carbon footprints.

Whatever one's motivation, buying used performance brake parts should be approached with the right information in hand and a correct understanding of how the used parts purchasing process works. By adhering to the right set of tips, consumers can ensure that they find quality, used performance brake parts. Those in the market for used brake parts can also benefit from knowing where to shop to find a better selection and a wider range of options. Traditional automotive parts stores do not typically offer used parts, but it may be possible to find used parts through repair shops, or the online retail site eBay always has a nice selection.

Tips for Buying Used Performance Brake Parts

There are some do's and don'ts that can help ensure the most pain-free and easy shopping experience when looking for used brake parts. These tips are related to knowing what part works for a repair to pursuing a proactive purchasing process.

Do Understand the Components of a Brake System

There are several components to a brake system. Understanding each one and how it works as part of the system is critical insight to take into the purchasing process.

Brake Callipers

Disc brake systems are often featured these days in the front and rear wheels of a vehicle. An essential part of any disc brake system is the brake calliper . The calliper is a clamp that leverages down on the rotating disc to slow the rotation of the wheel axle. The calliper creates sustained friction with the rotor of the brake to do this.

There are two main types of callipers: floating and fixed. Floating callipers are capable of moving in and out from the rotor. They can have one or sometimes two pistons on the inboard side of the rotor. This piston pushes the entire calliper in against the rotor when the brakes are pressed. Fixed callipers do not move, instead using pistons on opposite sides of the rotor. Some performance callipers of the fixed variety can have multiple pairs of pistons, with some having as many as six. Fixed callipers are typically considered to be better performers, but floating callipers can offer a more affordable alternative.

Brake Pads

Brake pads provide a buffer between the calliper and the rotor. Brake pads come in outboard and inboard types that are used on the outside and inside of the rotor, respectively. Brake pads are manufactured with friction surfaces so that they create adequate resistance against the rotor. They are one of the brake components that wear down the easiest. In general, they are a difficult part to find in good condition used; however, there are always exceptions to the rule. When shopping for used brake pads, consumers should pay extra attention to their condition.

Drum Brake Components

Many older model and vintage vehicles use drum brakes. Drum brakes have been largely replaced by disc brakes in newer model vehicles, but many consumers may still need drum brake parts for legacy vehicles. Drum brakes slow the rotation of a wheel by creating friction between a rotating drum and brake shoes. Brake shoes are mounted on the interior of a drum and activated when the brakes are applied. Over time, the enclosed brake shoe and continuous friction cause gas to build up within the drum, and this causes something known as brake fade. Used drums may have dissipated braking power and should be vetted very carefully.

Brake Rotors

There are two types of brake rotor set-ups: floating rotors and rotor/hub combos. Floating rotors usually go on front-wheel drive vehicles. A rotor and hub combo is more often found on rear-wheel drive cars. The floating type of rotor is a lower cost option than the hub and rotor type of brake rotor. With the design of the rotor itself, consumers have a choice between drilled and slotted rotors.

The friction created from clamping down on a rotor creates a good deal of heat, and the rotor needs some way to dissipate this heat and keep the metal from overheating. Overheating can lead to brake fade in the long term. Drilled rotors have a series of drilled holes along the surface. This not only helps with excess heat, but also with sloughing off any water that shoots up from the road onto the rotor, which could potentially affect braking power. Slotted brake rotors work on the same principle. Rather than using drilled holes, however, slotted rotors feature elongated slots carved into the metal.

Brake Master Cylinders

Brake systems in modern vehicles separate brake control into two different circuits with one on the back wheels and one on the front wheels. If anything occurs to compromise one circuit, the other ideally remains intact so that at least one set of wheels is still under the control of brakes. The master cylinder is the component that supplies pressure to both brake circuits by using two pistons. The cylinder contains two reservoirs of brake fluid. In this way, it provides redundancies, and this helps ensure that some components remain working.

Do Look for Rust on Brake Components

Rust on a brake component can be a cosmetic blemish of little consequence to performance, or it can be a real issue. When shopping for used components, consumers should keep an eye out for rust on any part of the components. Consumers who find a part with light rust marks can typically sand these areas off or leave them to resolve themselves through natural friction and wear. Rust that goes through the metal's surface and causes pitting is a much more serious problem, and this affects the integrity of a component. If rust seems to compromise a part structurally, buyers should pass on that part and look for a more viable component.

Do Consider Safety Needs

Brake parts are essential to the safe operation of a vehicle. When shopping for brake parts in used condition, consumers should make an extra effort to vet the parts and ensure their operation. There are many viable options in the marketplace, and it just takes a bit of due diligence on the part of the consumer to seek them out. Consumers should look for classic signs of brake fatigue and wear, including rust or other damage to a part. Again, communicating with a vendor can help confirm a part's quality, too, and this should be a central part of the purchasing process.

Don't Force a Fit

While some brake parts may function well within different models of vehicles, items such as brake rotors, for example, can be specific to an exact make and model. When searching for used performance brake parts, it is a good idea for consumers to shop using the makes and models of their cars, first and foremost. This ensures a good fit and that the part can perform adequately within the vehicle.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Another essential point to keep in mind when shopping for used brake parts is the importance of proactive communication with a seller. Consumers should not hesitate to ask any and all questions relating to a particular brake component. They should also ask after a part's usage history and ask for photographs and details on the condition and viability of a part. Not being afraid to ask questions and communicate with a vendor is one of the best ways to ensure that a used part satisfies a consumer's needs.

Buying Used Performance Brake Parts on eBay

The retail site eBay works as an aggregator of multiple used parts sellers. It also has an entire section dedicated to users' auto needs. Parts are often listed by make and model, so you can easily narrow down possibilities to find parts that are appropriate for your needs. You can also use the site's search interface to pull up listings that are related to specific terms, such as ' used brake parts''. When you come across any listings that look appealing, click on the titles and look into the listings in detail, keeping an eye out for information on the part's condition, payment requirements, and shipping specifics.

Evaluating the Sellers on eBay

As you look through listings, take a moment as well to review a seller's information. You can achieve this by clicking on a seller's name in a listing. Evaluating a seller is important because it can help you determine whether that seller is likely to get you the quality part you want. Review feedback from other customers and look at a seller's past listings, as well.


Used brake parts are a highly feasible alternative to new or N.O.S. parts. Brake parts that have been gently used or restored can provide consumers with a more affordable way to purchase replacement parts. It can also give buyers in the market for brake components an environmentally responsible way to execute a repair. Shopping for used parts can be a simple process when approached with the right information in hand. Consumers should understand the brake components they need and look for classic signs of damage or wear on the parts. Buyers should also make an effort to communicate with sellers and ask plenty of questions if anything about a particular part is unclear.

If consumers have difficulty finding quality used parts locally through repair shops, they can consider using eBay, which is one of the larger online sites for automotive parts. A quick review of some of the most important considerations can lead to a satisfying and money saving experience for any consumer replacing various brake components.

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