How to Properly Install and Maintain Aftermarket Hydraulic Handbrakes for Drifting?

The art of drifting is nothing short of a symphony on wheels, a fascinating dance between cars and drivers. Among the several essential components that make this spectacle possible, an aftermarket hydraulic handbrake is an underrated hero. This article will guide you through an easy-to-understand process of properly installing and maintaining such a handbrake. We will cover everything from the mechanical aspects to the safety considerations, touching upon the importance of integrating the hydraulic system seamlessly with the existing brake system, in this case, the rear brakes of the car.

Understanding the Functionality of Hydraulic Handbrakes

Before diving into the installation process, it’s crucial to understand how these nifty pieces of equipment work. A hydraulic handbrake, unlike its cable-actuated counterpart, uses brake fluid to apply pressure to the rear calipers. This is achieved through a master cylinder that is connected to the handbrake lever, which, when pulled, pushes the fluid through the brake lines and engages the rear brakes.

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In a conventional car, the handbrake is mainly used for parking. However, in the exciting world of drift racing, the hydraulic handbrake is a vital tool for initiating a drift. By locking the rear wheels, it allows the car to slide sideways, enabling the driver to control the direction and angle of the drift.

Installation of Hydraulic Handbrake

When it comes to installation, you’ll need to be mindful of where the hydraulic handbrake will sit within the car’s cockpit. It needs to be within easy reach of the driver, but not so intrusive that it hinders other operations.

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Once you’ve decided on a location, the process begins with the installation of the master cylinder onto the handbrake lever assembly. This assembly is then mounted in the chosen location, following which the brake lines are routed from the master cylinder to the rear calipers.

It’s critical to ensure the brake lines are correctly flared at the ends before connecting them to the master cylinder and rear calipers. This step is crucial as it prevents brake fluid leaks, maintaining optimal hydraulic pressure in the system.

Integrating with the Existing Brake System

Successful integration with the existing brake system is a core part of the installation process. In most drift cars, the hydraulic handbrake operates independently from the car’s main brake system, using its own master cylinder and brake lines.

However, in some cases, it might be required to integrate the hydraulic handbrake with the car’s main brake system. This procedure involves a careful rerouting of the brake lines from the car’s main master cylinder to the hydraulic handbrake’s master cylinder, and then to the rear brakes.

While integrating, one must ensure that the ABS system of the car doesn’t interfere with the operation of the hydraulic handbrake. The ABS system is designed to prevent the wheels from locking up, which is contrary to what we want when initiating a drift. Therefore, it might be necessary to disable the ABS system for the rear brakes, or at least ensure it doesn’t affect the handbrake operation.

Maintaining the Hydraulic Handbrake

Maintenance is a key aspect of ensuring the hydraulic handbrake continues to function optimally. The handbrake system hinges on the smooth flow of brake fluid through the lines, making it crucial to periodically check the fluid levels and its condition.

Examine the brake fluid reservoir regularly to ensure it’s filled to the recommended level. Also, look out for any signs of contamination such as discoloration or the presence of debris. Contaminated fluid can compromise the handbrake’s performance and lead to costly repairs.

Periodic inspection of the brake lines for leaks or damage is also important, especially after extensive use or drifting sessions. Replace any damaged parts immediately to keep the system in top condition.

Safety Considerations

Lastly, but most importantly, safety should never be compromised during installation or usage. Ensure the handbrake is securely mounted and the brake lines properly fitted to prevent any failure during a drift. Always test the system thoroughly in a safe and controlled environment before hitting the drift track. Once installed, your hydraulic handbrake should be a formidable ally in the adrenaline-pumping world of drift racing, helping you execute those precision drifts with increased control and flair.

Remember, the thrill of drifting should never come at the expense of safety. Stay safe and let the rubber burn!

The Dual Caliper Setup for Hydraulic Handbrakes

A popular and preferred method for installing a hydraulic handbrake in a drift car is the dual caliper setup. In this setup, a second set of brake calipers – hence the term dual caliper – is added to the rear brakes. These additional calipers are entirely dedicated to the hydraulic handbrake, while the car’s main brake system continues to function independently, controlling the foot brake.

Installing a dual caliper setup involves mounting an extra pair of brake calipers onto the rear brake rotors. These new calipers are then connected to the hydraulic handbrake through a dedicated set of brake lines. As with any brake line installation, it is essential to create an inverted flare or a bubble flare at the ends of these lines to ensure a leak-free connection to the calipers and the handbrake’s master cylinder.

This setup effectively isolates the hydraulic handbrake from the car’s main brake system, allowing for unimpeded operation of both systems. Consequently, the driver can independently control the rear wheels via the handbrake without affecting the foot brake, providing enhanced control and flexibility during a drift.

The Importance of Quality Brake Fluid and Components

No matter how well you install your hydraulic handbrake, its performance and reliability will heavily depend on the quality of the brake fluid and the components used. High-quality, heat-resistant brake fluid is a must for any hydraulic brake system, especially in the high-stress environment of drift racing.

The brake fluid serves as the medium through which pressure is transferred from the master cylinder to the rear calipers. Inferior or old brake fluid can degrade, resulting in decreased brake pressure and ineffective braking. Regularly replacing the brake fluid ensures consistent handbrake performance and prevents internal corrosion of the brake lines and the master cylinder.

Similarly, using high-quality components like a robust handbrake lever, a reliable master cylinder, and durable brake lines can significantly enhance the system’s longevity and performance. Investing in good-quality components will save you from frequent repairs and replacements, allowing you to focus more on honing your drifting skills.


Installing and maintaining an aftermarket hydraulic handbrake for drifting involves a good understanding of the system’s functionality, careful planning, and meticulous execution of the installation process. Whether you opt for integrating the handbrake with the existing brake system or go for a dual caliper setup, the focus should be on ensuring safety and seamless operation.

Maintenance, too, is critically important. Regular checks of brake fluid levels and condition, along with periodic inspections of the brake lines and calipers, will ensure your hydraulic handbrake continues to perform optimally.

Ultimately, the hydraulic handbrake is a powerful tool in the drift car driver’s arsenal. Installed and maintained correctly, it can significantly enhance the drift car experience, allowing for spectacular drifts and ensuring the driver’s safety. Remember, the art of drifting is not just about speed and thrill; it’s also about control and precision, both of which are considerably improved with a well-installed and maintained hydraulic handbrake. Let the handbrake be your trusted ally on the drift track, and let the rubber burn responsibly.

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