It's been a while since you took your Miata out for some spirited driving. You are doing the corners and tap on the brakes when that moment it freaks you out. Those god knows what brand of pads can barely stop your 20+ year old smile ride. Your smile turns into a frown.
Now your next move is to over research on every known forum or group about brake pads, big brake kits, rotors. By the end of your research you are looking at 4 digit brake "fix". That doesn't sound right?
In this general braking guide for 90-05 Miata, we help you make the right decision and to understand what combinations will give braking results that suit your needs.
First things first
Your NA or NB Miata, whether you owned it from day one, or it's new-to-you, is pretty old. The one thing that most Miata owners fail to realize is that fluids, pads, and rotors don't last forever, especially the fluid. We've seen 10+ year old original brake fluids that have never been touched. If you haven't done a complete brake fluid flush and bleed in the past 3 years, this should be one of your priorities. While you are at it, check the condition of the rubber brake lines. If they look worn out, they probably are. Rubber, even when new, will expand to a small degree. Thus, can give a more "spongy" or "mushy" pedal feel when you really push hard on the pedal. It also degrades over time which can lead to cracking of the brake lines!
The brake calipers on the early first gens are super tiny. It is only a 1.6L engine after all. So, if you are maintaining stock power, technically speaking you don't need to upgrade to bigger brake calipers and rotors to keep the un-sprung and rotational mass down. For a mostly stock ride and spirited driving you should look for pads that have:
Moderate friction coefficient
Slightly better heat tolerance
Preferably low brake dust
For those who take their vehicle to track days at stock power levels, you should upgrade to stainless steel brake lines and brake fluid with higher (wet) boiling point such as DOT 5.1 or the gold standard Castrol React SRF.
For 1.6L vehicles that have any kind of power upgrade (headers, intake, ECU upgrade), the tiny calipers and small rotor size just won't do the job properly. Seriously consider an upgrade to 1.8L calipers with larger 1.8L rotors or a big brake kit.
The first 1.8L that rolled out already had slightly larger rotors and calipers to compensate for the power increase. The general guideline for upgrading brake pads would be the same as above.
With the introduction of VVT for the NB2 and turbocharger for the Mazdaspeed version, the brakes are even bigger in most of them. Base model NB2 still has the older 1.8L brakes. However, the higher trim levels received the sport package brakes treatment with larger calipers, pads, and rotors. Mazdaspeed comes standard with these bigger sport brakes. That being said, if you track these vehicles often and push harder than a casual lapper, we recommend upgrading to a big brake kit. A 4-piston fixed-caliper improves modulation, increase heat dissipation, and yields a more even pad wear - just to name a few benefits.
Do I need a big brake kit for my Miata?
Here's a list of key points to help you decide if a BBK is right for you.
Do I have the right wheel to clear the bigger caliper? Most big brake kits for NA NB Miata require 15" or larger wheel size. In some cases, you also need to use a spacer to push the wheel out for the spokes to clear. This is especially true for those deep dish JDM wheels such as Work Equip series.
You do not need a big brake kit for your first track day. Instead you need to make sure your entire braking system is in optimal condition starting with the brake fluid, brake master cylinder, brake lines, pads, the rotors, and all floating/sliding pins are well lubricated. An upgraded pad with stainless steel lines and proper brake fluid is all you need to have a fun day at the track. As your engine power and speed increase, a BBK should be on the list.
Consumables! What type of rotors and pads will the BBK use? As your BBK rotors wear out, how much and how easily can they be sourced? This should be a consideration for you especially if you plan to track your Miata regularly.
I've just done an engine swap (larger displacement) or turbocharger upgraded. Should I upgrade my brakes? Absolutely! If you have increased that much power, it is only logical that your previous brake setup (refer to your model year above) is no longer sufficient. Depending on how much power you have gained, you can either upgrade to a big brake kit, or in the case of a 1.6L to 1.8L swap, you can consider upgrading to 1.8L sized brakes. Do check the clearance of upgraded calipers as you might not be able to fit 14" or 13" wheels anymore.
Chikara Motorsports top picks
Here are several scenarios and recommended setups for your smile-mobile.
Chikara V3 SS brake lines front and rear
Maruha SS27 brake pads - improved heat dissipation, super low dust, OEM feel
Motul DOT 5.1 fluid
Use Maruha CC27 brake pads for the track/street meister or Project Mu Club Racer for the serious track junkie
Solid upgrade for the average Miata owner. Instant stopping power improvement and predictability.
Chikara x Wilwood Dynalite 4 pot BBK utilizing 2016-2022 ND hub-centric rotors.
Chikara V3 SS brake lines for rear
Motul DOT 5.1 fluid
Maruha SS27 brake pads for the rear
Interchangeable pads for the Dynalites (easily swap to track pads)
Don't forget to use Castrol SRF racing brake fluid for the serious track junkie.
Perfect brake modulation. Easy to change front pads. Cheap consumable brake rotors.
Full-on Beast mode
Chikara x Wilwood Dynalite 4 pot BBK with Project Mu Club Racer pads
Chikara V3 SS brake lines for rear
01-05 rear OEM sport brake calipers
Project Mu Club Racer pads for the rear
Castrol SRF brake fluid
Chikara Adjustable Brake Proportioning valve
Shave seconds off your lap times with confident late braking. Project Mu Club Racers deliver serious stopping power without the harsh initial bite that may throw your balance off. Use the proportioning valve to dial in the right amount of rear braking bias so your car feels planted during each hard braking moment, regardless of the type of track, weather, and driver preference one may want to adjust for.