If there’s one thing you rarely see these days, it’s a stock JK Wrangler rolling down the road. Owners don’t hesitate to lift them up and slam on larger wheels and tires. This is all well and good until that moment comes that you jump hard on the binders and your pucker factor jumps up to 12. It doesn’t matter if it’s slowly descending that daunting waterfall on your favorite trail, or in rush hour traffic on the interstate, if you lack the confidence in your Jeep’s braking ability it’s going to be a scary ride for all who are inside.
Fortunately, there are many different options available to upgrade the braking system on JKs. These range from simple pad and rotor upgrades to full-kill big-brake kits. Since our ’07 Rubicon Unlimited is fit with a tire and wheel package that tips the scale at over 130 pounds-per-corner, and is equipped with a Magnuson supercharger under the hood, we decided to favor the full replacement route over a more simple pad upgrade. However, we really didn’t want to go larger than the 17-inch wheels that were already on our Jeep, so this ruled out a couple of the usual suspects whose big brake kits require 18-inch or larger wheels. Fortunately there is a solution, Baer has recently introduced a big-brake kit for ’07-’15 Jeep Wrangler JKs that has all of the goodies and fits most aftermarket 17-inch wheels.
For the front Baer’s brake kit offers the company’s Pro Series 6P six-piston machined aluminum calipers matched with a 13.5-inch zinc plated, slotted, and drilled rotor. For the rear Baer offers their S4 four-piston aluminum calipers along with a 12.2-inch zinc plated, slotted, and drilled rotor. The rear brakes also retain the factory drum-style parking brake. Both the front and rear assemblies are designed to use the factory brake hoses, and both are provided with new OE-style banjo bolts and copper washers, not pipe fittings like some others. While the front and rear brake systems are designed to be used with the factory axles (Dana 30, 35, or 44) we can verify that the front works fine on our Reid Racing knuckle equipped Dynatrac ProRock 44, and the rears worked with our semi-float Dynatrac Dana 60. And our stainless steel extended brake line were no issue either. Your mileage may vary.
Upon pulling the components out of the box we noticed right away that we were dealing with an extremely high quality product. All of Baers calipers are manufactured right here in the United States, at their facility in Arizona, not just machined. They utilize stainless steel pistons, and in applications like our six-piston front calipers, stagger piston sizes to prevent pad tape issues. All of the fasteners are Grade 8 or better, hardware is stainless steel, and brackets are powder coated for a long life.
With the factory binders our Wrangler was unable to lock up brakes on dry pavement at all. We couldn’t even get the anti-lock braking system to kick in with both feet practically through the floorboards. With the Baer brakes installed, seasoned, and bedded, we noticed an immediate increase in pedal feel and feedback. On the trail, this new confidence made descending steep grades a breeze and kept the Jeep stuck to the side of rocks like a scared gecko, where in the past we’d be lucky if the binders held at all. In instrumented testing on pavement we saw a nearly 20 percent decrease in the amount of distance it took to slow from 60 mph to 0. While still not a sports car, this is an incredible improvement for such a heavy vehicle.
Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the performance of our Baer big brake kit, and love that we were able to retain our 17-inch wheels. While there are many options out there for brake upgrades, none check all of the boxes quite the way Baer’s kit does. Having the confidence to stop quickly has brought the fun back to driving our Wrangler, and in the end, that’s what really matters.
Whether it’s going slow through the rocks in low-range, blasting down the trail, or cruising the city one thing is for certain; the Jeep Wrangler JK’s factory brakes are woefully in adequate once oversize wheels and tires are added. And let’s face it: every Wrangler gets bigger tires at some point.
Installing the Baer Pro six-piston front brake kit is simple and straightforward, following the procedures of a normal brake job. After confirming that the rotors will in fact clear your Jeep’s wheels, we started by removing the factory caliper, caliper bracket, and rotor.
With the factory components removed, we then prepared the new hardware provided in the Baer kit for installation by coating all of the bolt threads with anti-seize lubricant. This is always a good practice for all steel bolts that thread into aluminum components, and on any bolt that does not require thread-locking compound.
Next, the new aluminum caliper mounted bracket is installed onto the knuckle. The brake system is designed to work with the factory JK Wrangler knuckle, however we also found them to be compatible with our aftermarket Reid Racing knuckles. With anti-seize applied, the mounting bolts are torqued to 120 ft-lbs. The factory dust shield can also be left in place, as the new calipers and brackets do not interfere with its function.
A centering ring is provided and needs to be slipped onto the hub in order to help the rotor run true. After many years of use and abuse our hubs required a good cleaning with a stiff wire brush and a coating of anti-seize lubricant for the centering ring to seat fully. The ring needs to be fully seated against the hub before installing the rotor.
The factory JK Wrangler front brake rotor measures out at 11.9 inches in diameter, while the Baer replacement is an impressive 13.5 inches. Baer’s rotors are zinc plated to provide a long corrosion free life and are slotted and drilled for added performance. When laid side-by-side the size difference becomes more than apparent.
The rotors are designed to rotate in a specific direction and installing them reversed will cause rapid wear and reduced performance. You’ll notice the rotors are also drilled for two lug patterns: 5x5 and 5x4.5. This only indicates that the rotor is a common part, used in more than one kit, and not necessarily that they will fit older Wranglers.
With the pads installed, the new Baer six-piston aluminum calipers can be fitted onto the brackets. They are secured with the provided allen-head bolts and torqued to 75 ft-lbs. Once tightened, the brake lines can be moved from the factory caliper to the new Baer caliper using the provided new banjo bolts and copper washers.
Once the first corner was completed we moved on to the opposite side of the front axle, following the same procedure. Aside from increased braking competency, the Baer Pro six-piston brakes also give the Wrangler a custom and sporty look, much like their SRT Grand Cherokee siblings.
Typical big-brake kits require a 20-inch wheel. However, Baer’s brake system is designed to fit the majority of 17-inch aftermarket wheels. Here you can see the ample clearance between our 17x8.5-inch Trail Ready beadlock wheels and the Baer Pro six-piston caliper. Backspacing and wheel design will both affect fitment, so it’s wise to download Baer’s fitment template and check your wheels before purchasing.
After completing the front brakes we turned our attention to the rears where we would be installing Baer’s matching S4 four-piston system. As with the front, the first step is removing the factory brake components.
Unlike the front, however, the rear brakes are a bit different given that the axle shafts are retained by C-clips. This is important because the rear caliper needs to float to be able to compensate for axle shaft movement, making it impossible to use a fixed caliper like the front. Baer has developed unique Verislide brackets that allow the caliper to do just this.
Due to the size of the Verislide caliper brackets some minor trimming is required of the rear dust shields. A 4.5-inch grinder with a cutoff wheel made short work of the necessary clearance. Photos are provided in the instructions as a guide, but a bit of measuring is still required to get it right.
While the front brake rotors are upsized from factory, the rears are actually a touch smaller. The stock rotors are 12.4-inches in diameter while the upgraded Baer rotors check in at 12.2-inches. Like the front the rears are zinc plated, slotted, and drilled. Also retained is the Jeep’s factory drum-style parking brake.
With the trimming complete and rotor installed the caliper bracket and caliper can be installed but not torqued. At this junction the caliper bracket needs to be shimmed with the provided washers to attain an equal gap between the pads and rotor at any point in the calipers float range. A set of feeler gauges is the best tool to ensure the proper shims are used.
Once the spacing is set the caliper bracket and caliper bolts can be torqued to 75 lb-ft. As with the front, the bolts should be coated with anti-seize lubricant along with the caliper slid pins.
After the installation is complete, the final step is to bleed the brake system. Before beginning, ensure that the bottom bleed screw on the rear calipers is fully tightened. Due to their universal nature, these calipers have two bleed ports and they tend to come loose in shipping and can leak during bleeding. Start with the furthest point of the system, which is the right rear, and work forward, ensuring all of the air has been removed from the system.
Front Rotor: 11.90-inch, vented
Front Caliper: Single-piston, cast aluminum
Rear Rotor: 12.44-inch, solid
Rear Caliper: Single piston, cast aluminum
Tested Stopping Distance: 191.21 feet
Tested Stopping G-Force: -.899G
Front Rotor: 13.50-inch, zinc plated, drilled, slotted, vented
Front Caliper: Six-piston, machined aluminum
Front Pads: Corvette C5/C6
Rear Rotor: 12.20-inch, zinc plated, drilled, slotted, solid
Rear Caliper: Four-piston, machined aluminum
Rear Pads: Common four-piston DR1
Tested Stopping Distance: 156.92 feet
Tested Stopping G-Force: -1.266G