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      02-07-2013, 11:12 PM   #61
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Drives: E36 M3, E34 540i/6 M-Technik
Join Date: May 2011
Location: SoCal

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This thread is pretty funny! Must have missed it when it got started, but I'm laughing now at least.

I've been in racing and performance aftermarket brake system engineering and manufacturing for well over 20 years now. Saying a brake component (or anything else, for that matter) is good or bad just based on the company of origin is, in today's world, a tragic over-simplification.

People should understand that iron casting was invented in China about 7,000 years ago, right? That said, there are good quality castings coming out of China (especially in the northern districts) and also unbelievably poor castings also coming from China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, etc. Knowing how to buy the raw goods is key.

There are companies that spend sometimes over $100k and 12 months getting their systems, quality manual and auditing procedures sorted out before they earn their ISO TS16949 qualification. There are also plenty of factories around the world with certificates hanging on the wall that were purchased from one of the companies in Hong Kong that sells them for $800 -- and never even visits the factory! Unless you know what the situation is with each factory you are concerned about, you really have no earthly idea what type of quality to expect.

Are the best brake rotor castings coming out of China right now? No, not particularly. Yet, you can get very good castings made over there if you are willing to jump through the necessary hoops. Huge brake companies such as Brembo, Akebono and more have set up factories there. None of the brakes you see on Evo's, STI's, 350Z's, etc., are made in Italy or the USA. But they have that cool looking logo!

I have purchased brake rotors from almost every supplier out there at one time or another for projects, production runs, lab testing, track testing and so on. One thing I've learned is that you cannot even look at one brand and say all their stuff is good. Many times you can figure out which suppliers have pretty bad stuff most of the time -- and know to stay away from them!!

I'm not privy to what ECS uses or even how they process them. Their descriptions here are a little generic, yet mostly on point. I may differ on a couple of minor points, but I'm not going to tell them how to go about their business (unless they pay me, of course ). I can say that since I've been directly responsible for probably over 50k high-performance rotors sets sold into the market worldwide that putting out consistently high-quality braking products is no trivial task. It requires a continuously vigorous effort, especially when suppliers tend to change things without much notice, even when supply contracts spell out how they should handle communication. Any aftermarket company suckered into offering a line of any ol' rotors just to fill up the "brakes" page on their web site will usually get what they deserve before too long. I cannot tell you if ECS is managing their product line using best practices or not, but if I wanted to find out, I would start by tracking down customers who have already purchased them and had run them for a while.

As far as disclosure is concerned (the OP's main gripe), U.S. law dictates a clear definition on what can be labeled a domestic product. If the American content is high enough, they can legally be called "American made". I assure everyone here that if raw castings are brought in from overseas, then finish machined (sometimes multiple operations), balanced, plated or coated, etc., then the raw casting represents a smaller percentage of the landed cost. Cast in China and finished in the USA can often result in an American-made part, at least by legal definition. This is a very important point when seeking US Customs duty reimbursement after exporting these types of parts out of the country. If you pay import duties on raw goods coming in then export finished goods back out, you are lawfully entitled to the return of said duties.

Add to these facts that there is (practically speaking) only one really good iron casting house left in the USA that is set up to make and sell brake rotor castings (using the ideal Disamatic process) to small aftermarket companies -- and they are justifiably expensive. Even those guys don't have tooling available for the thousands of part numbers needed to fill out a competitive line. To be in the brake business, you need to source castings from a variety of places just to get the applications. Unless, of course, you want to spend $10k-15k to tool up each new part number (at least 2 pattern sets per car for non-directional rotors), plus do a minimum first run of usually 2500 or more pieces. Get your checkbook ready!

Sorry to run on, but it is really unfortunate that in 2013 these discussions are still going on. If you are worried about parts being made in the far East, you will rather disappointed to know that nearly every new car sold anywhere in the world has at least some parts made over there. Yes, even our beloved BMW's!! Heck, the "most American made" pickup truck (according to part content and place of assembly) is the Toyota Tundra! Think about that next time you see a good ol' boy driving around in an F150.

If you like the ECS rotors, run them. If not, sell them. If you think they are a bomb ready to explode and other ECS customers have just been really, really lucky so far -- well, none of us here can really help you with that.

Brake Maven