I hate brakes! I hate the fact that I have to lift my foot off the gas pedal and slow the car down as I reach the corner. I would rather keep the gas pedal mashed on the floor and not have to worry whether or not my brakes are still going to be functioning at the end of the race. But I don't live in this fantasy world. Like many of you, I race on short tracks, where brakes are so crucial to not only how well you stop but also how well your car is handling.

If you ignore your brakes all season, no matter where you are racing, you will encounter huge problems. Your brakes will give you an indication when something is wrong, whether it's a warped rotor or a soft pedal. We will analyze the brake system and show you some ways to avoid the most common pitfalls.

Front-To-Rear Ratio
When you hit the brake pedal, you push one pedal that works two different master cylinders-one for the front brakes and one for the rear. Most of the time this action is controlled by a brake bias controller that will allow you to adjust how much brake pressure is being applied to the front and rear brakes.

If you have too much front brake pressure, the car will have a tight condition when the brake pedal is being pushed because of the front tires slowing down at a greater rate than the rear. Or just the opposite if you have too much rear brake: The rear of the car will try to kick out and act as a loose condition entering the corner.

This will differ if you're running on asphalt or dirt, but I would recommend starting where your brake manufacturer recommends. For instance, I start at 70 percent of front brake bias and 30 percent rear. When I get to a particular track, as soon as I can during practice, I start cranking rear brake into the car. I will do one turn on my dial adjustment until the rear of the car tries to step out on me. Once it gets a little loose, I put one turn back in the front. This will ensure that my rear brakes are being used as much as possible and the brakes should not hinder the way my car drives.

Change The Fluid
Brakes will heat up to optimum temperature and sometimes beyond, then cool back down, only to have the process start all over again the following week. The fluid in the brake lines will get extremely hot and overheat. If there's any water in your brake fluid, or if you're not using a quality fluid, it will actually start to boil and put air in the lines. This causes a soft pedal. It is excellent practice to bleed your brakes before every weekend of racing. This will not only ensure that your brake lines have no air in the lines but will also put fresh fluid in the calipers.

Remember, the fluid you see in your master cylinder will never make it to your brake calipers unless you bleed your brakes every weekend. If you don't, the same fluid will be going through the heat cycles we discussed earlier and will cause a soft pedal.

The Dreaded Hard Pedal
We just spoke of a soft pedal, but even worse is when the pedal doesn't change but, if anything, acts a little stiffer, yet the car isn't stopping as well. This is easily summed up-your brake pads are worn out! To make things worse, your natural reaction is to push down harder. But all that is going to do is make the pad try to work harder. This will make it overheat and make it even harder to stop the vehicle. The best thing you can do is make sure you pump up your brake pedal, then if it gets too bad, call it a day and save your car from ending up against the wall.