For the Volvo Enthusiast

Project C30: Brake Rotor, Pad, and Stainless Line Upgrades From Elevate Cars

Even before the ECU reflash, the high-flow intercooler, and the K&N Typhoon intake banded together to make our Project C30 scary fast, we felt the car’s stock brakes were a relative weak point of a very solid little car. They won’t send you riding up the rear bumper of a beige Camry unexpectedly or anything, but they’re more prone to fade than we’d like and the pedal feel is a bit too much like stepping on an underinflated soccer ball. As we near the end of our time with the C30, an overdue fix is finally in order.

Rather than simply upgrade the pads and rotors at all four corners, we decided to go one step further and also replace the stock rubber brake hoses with high-quality braided stainless steel parts. For all the parts, we went to an old company in the business with an all-new name. The company you’ve known as Evolve has changed its name to Elevate, and is starting anew with a different name and a new website, Elevatecars.com. The move came as a result of a deal with Volvo Cars, which we’re told thought the two names were a bit too similar.

Elevate’s (wow, it’s weird to type that in place of Evolve) performance rotors are the same size as stock, but they feature a few advantages. The first is the black electrostatically-applied black coating on the inner sections. This prevents the rusting that’s common on most rotors and also prevents the insides of the car’s wheels from seizing to the rotor faces. We just recently did rear brakes on a Mazda3 that hadn’t had its wheels off in some time and spend 15 minutes just trying to break them free, so we seriously appreciate Elevate’s attention to detail here.

Additionally, the rotors are slotted, giving them better cooling performance, better wet performance due to their water-channeling properties, and better bite as well. Elevate doesn’t offer drilled rotors, citing their tendency to crack when pushed hard. We’ve personally never had that problem on any of our vehicles, but can see how the risk is there.

To pinch down on those rotors, we ordered Elevate’s performance pads, which promise, according to their website, “Exceptional initial bite with consistent friction performance over a wide temperature range.” The only thing that concerned us when ordering them was that they use a low-dust compound to keep wheels clean, which to us can also indicate that they don’t do as much stopping. We care more about stopping power than going a longer period without cleaning our wheels.

Finally, we ordered Elevate’s braided stainless brake lines. Because of a rubber line’s tendency to expand under pressure, we’ve long suspected the stock units to be the main source of the C30’s mushy pedal feel, not the pads and rotors (though those likely didn’t help.) We’ve also driven the 2010 Ford Mustang with and without the optional track pack that includes braided lines, and the difference is there�since Volvo shares many parts with FoMoCo’s domestic products, we expected a similar change with the C30. Elevate’s are coated in Teflon for durability and flexibility, and the kit includes all four hoses cut to the proper length and with the proper fittings on each end.

In all, here’s how the cost of the job breaks down:

-Two Slotted Front Rotors: $298.00

-Two Slotted Rear Rotors: $238.00

-Front Brake Pad Set: $79.00

-Rear Brake Pad Set: $75.00

-Full Braided Line Set: $129.00

For a grand total of $883.57, factoring in shipping of $64.57.

The process of installing the performance pads and rotors is, since no rotor size change has happened, exactly like replacing the stock brakes. Remove the wheels, remove the calipers and mounting brackets, and side everything off the car. A brake piston compressor wasn’t necessary to slide the front pistons back to allow room for the new pads, but the rears were more of a hassle.

Like many newer cars, the C30 has rear pistons that ratchet out as the compress the pads. To push them back into place, there are two small indents intended for a tool that pushes the piston in while twisting. We had such a tool, but not one that fit the C30’s holes. Our technique to get around this wasn’t ideal, but it worked: use a normal piston compressor tool push the piston while twisting it with a pair of vice grips, being sure to use a rag or something in between to protect the piston’s edges. It worked for us in a pinch, but we’d obviously recommend investing ahead of time in the proper tool. Reverse the process of taking the old brakes off and that part of the job is done.

For the stainless lines, we recommend trying to work quickly to minimize the amount of brake fluid that leaks out. But of course, that’s easier said that done. The old lines twist of easily, but the painful part is trying to get the rubber bits that hold the line safely up against the strut towers (or suspension arms in back) and away from the spinning tires. Because they have to slide over the large metal fittings, this part of the job can be a long battle. You might want to just get a second set of these simple parts from a Volvo dealer and prep the new lines ahead of time. Also, plan on at least partially removing the rear wheel well liners to make it easier to detach and reattach the lines at the inner ends.

We used the old fashioned two-man method of bleeding the brakes, and it went surprisingly quick and easy. With just two quick laps around the bleeder valves (the second mostly just for insurance) the pedal was firm and no air bubbles were present. With the master cylinder topped off, we were ready for action. Actually, it’s also worth noting that with our EuroSport Tuning strut tower brace installed, we had to undo one end and swing it up to access the master cylinder cap�just something to keep in mind if you buy that bar or a similar one, topping off brake fluid isn’t easy.

After following Elevate’s suggested bed-in procedure, which is included on a form that comes with the rotors, our new brakes were ready for normal daily action. We’re happy to say that we have noticed quite an improvement. Without an increase in rotor size, piston count, or a master cylinder swap, they’re not going to jolt your passengers’ eyes out of place, but the subtle improvements were all we were really looking for.

The most noticeable improvements are in pedal response and initial bite. The stock brakes, even when hit hard, always felt like they were a step or two behind the driver’s reaction time, and the pedal would also dive close to the floor in some cases. Now, that travel has been shortened and the response seems more instant, like lightning versus thunder. The bite from the new pads is much improved, and the brakes feel more like those of a BMW 335i rather than what we’d previously experienced with the C30.

As for some of Elevate’s claims, we’re not disputing them. The slotted rotors really do seem to improve wet braking response, as there’s now no noticeable difference from dry braking and that wasn’t the case before. The pads have also kept our wheels looking clean and shiny without any noticeable performance sacrifice. All-in-all, we’re quite happy with our upgrade and would at the very least recommend the braided lines to any owner�they’re quick, easy, and not very expensive. Replacing perfectly good brakes probably isn’t worth the marginal improvements of the performance parts, but when your worn brakes are ready to go we’d recommend the upgrade. For a little more money than stock replacement parts, Elevate’s parts really are worth it. Just don’t go looking to buy these brakes from Evolve�that name’s no longer in the business of aftermarket Volvo performance.

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