Should I Upgrade My Lotus Brakes?
More expensive discs are generally more stable and stay straighter at higher temperatures.
A more expensive disc may also have better air ventilation which helps the brake cool down more quickly, allowing for longer periods of heavy driving.
That said, the decision of whether you should upgrade your brakes boils down to your driving style and whether you race or track the car regularly.
Standard Lotus Elise Brake Setup
The standard brakes on the Elise/Exige are a cross drilled and ventilated iron discs.
The disc thickness is 26.0 mm (new). Minimum thickness before servicing is 24.0 mm (replace).
Why do rotor prices range from $60 to $300+? First of all, understand that dealers have a financial interest to replace rotors. But there are good reasons to upgrade.
Too thin of a rotor is hazardous if the caliper piston moves out. In this case, you can get wheel lockup and the results can be disastrous. So, if the spec calls for a 24 mm minimum thickness, then this is probably the safe minimum to avoid this trouble.
The thickness of the disc rotor also determines the rotor mass, which determines how much heat can accumulate before failure during braking. The greater the mass, the less the rotor temperature will rise under the same application.
That said, keep in mind that the Lotus Elise has big discs for the car’s weight. The car was designed to run on a track with standard components. During street use, it will be difficult to overheat the pads.
Bottom line, if you don’t see your pads fading during your style of driving, then the discs are heavy enough for your application. If you plan to track the car regularly or race it competitively, then a disc upgrade is recommended.
1-Piece or 2-Piece?
A one piece rotor is good for low temperature / street applications, and two pieces are better for high temperature/track use.
Two-piece discs save weight (a few pounds makes a difference on such a small car). Since the hub is aluminum and not part of the disc itself, the disc has less of a tendency to curve at high temperature.
Watch The Front Bias
Don’t add more braking power to the front than the rear on a stock car: the Elise/Exige already has braking bias towards the front. A bigger brake in the front just increases this (incorrect) bias.
If you choose aggressive brake pads, then harder discs make sense. If you use standard pads on the street and don’t run into high temperature issues, then stay with cheaper discs.
Doing Your Own Brake Maintenance
It’s not that hard, but you will need to have a safe way of lifting and holding your car.