Best hydraulic handbrake for the track (ultimate buyers guide)

When it comes to taking your car to the track for some thrilling drift action, one modification that immediately comes to mind is a hydraulic handbrake. And for good reason! Hydraulic handbrakes offer unmatched performance benefits, including enhanced control, exceptional responsiveness, and improved maneuverability.

In this article, we will address all your questions about this popular aftermarket modification while showcasing four of the best hydraulic handbrakes available on the market. From understanding how they work to exploring their unique characteristics, we’ll provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about upgrading your car with a hydraulic handbrake.

Join us as we delve into the world of hydraulic handbrakes and unlock the full potential of your drift adventures or motorsport pursuits.

Hydraulic Handbrake

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What is a hydraulic handbrake and how does it work?

A hydraulic handbrake is a specialized braking system that operates independently from the vehicle’s primary braking system. It consists of a hydraulic mechanism that allows the driver to apply braking force directly to the rear wheels.

Unlike the conventional mechanical handbrake, which operates through a cable mechanism, a hydraulic handbrake utilizes hydraulic pressure to engage the rear brakes.

The hydraulic handbrake works by incorporating a master cylinder, which is connected to the vehicle’s hydraulic brake system.

How Does It Work: When the driver pulls the hydraulic handbrake lever, it activates the master cylinder, creating hydraulic pressure (1) that is transmitted to the rear brake calipers or drums. This pressure causes the rear brakes to engage, allowing the driver to lock or control the rear wheels independently.

This independent control over the rear wheels can be advantageous in various racing disciplines, enhancing the vehicle’s maneuverability and cornering capabilities.

Overall, a hydraulic handbrake offers enhanced control, responsiveness, and maneuverability, making it a valuable tool for performance driving enthusiasts and motorsport professionals alike.

Hydraulic Handbrakes Vs Mechanical Handbrakes

While both hydraulic handbrakes and mechanical handbrakes serve the purpose of applying braking force to the rear wheels independently from the main pedal braking system, they differ in their operating mechanisms and performance characteristics.

Hydraulic Handbrake: A hydraulic handbrake utilizes a hydraulic system, which relies on hydraulic pressure to engage the rear brakes. This system offers precise control and modulation of braking force, allowing for quick adjustments and smooth transitions during performance driving. The hydraulic handbrake’s responsive nature makes it particularly well-suited for motorsport applications, where precise vehicle control is crucial.

Mechanical Handbrake: On the other hand, a mechanical handbrake operates through a cable mechanism. When the handbrake lever is engaged, the cable pulls on the rear brake calipers or drums, causing them to engage. While mechanical handbrakes are simpler in design and installation, they generally offer less fine-tuned control compared to hydraulic handbrakes. The cable mechanism can introduce some play or slack, resulting in a less immediate and precise response.

Another notable distinction between the two types lies in their adjustability. The hydraulic type typically offer greater adjustability options, allowing drivers to fine-tune lever position, handle length, and hydraulic pressure.

This adjustability enables drivers to tailor the handbrake’s feel and response to their specific preferences and driving style.

Benefits of a Hydraulic Handbrake

Incorporating a hydraulic handbrake in a vehicle offers several notable benefits that enhance performance, control, and responsiveness. Here is a few benefits:

Enhanced Vehicle Control

A hydraulic handbrake provides independent control over the rear wheels, allowing drivers to initiate controlled slides, drifts, or other precise maneuvers.

This capability is particularly valuable in motorsport disciplines, where precise vehicle control is essential.

Quick Response

The hydraulic system of a handbrake ensures immediate response to driver input, facilitating rapid adjustments and precise modulation of braking force.

This responsiveness is especially advantageous in competitive driving scenarios, enabling drivers to execute quick transitions and maneuvers.

Customizability

Hydraulic handbrakes often offer adjustable features such as lever position, handle length, and hydraulic pressure. These customization options allow drivers to optimize the handbrake’s ergonomics and response to suit their driving style and preferences.

Motorsport Performance

For enthusiasts and professionals involved in motorsport activities like drifting or rally racing, a hydraulic handbrake is an indispensable tool. Its ability to induce controlled slides and initiate drifts contributes to an exhilarating driving experience and improved performance.

Versatility

While commonly associated with motorsport, hydraulic handbrakes can also be beneficial in other applications. They provide convenience when executing precise maneuvers during drifting or when navigating challenging terrains, such as steep inclines or off-road environments.

best hydraulic handbrake

The following products are not listed in any order whatsoever.

Wilwood Hydraulic Handbrake Lever

Hydraulic Handbrake Description

The Wilwood Hydraulic Handbrake Lever – Vertical Grip is specifically designed for applications where hand-actuation of one or more brake calipers is required, such as drift cars, drag race cars, and rally cars.

It features a lightweight aluminum forged 11:1 ratio “H” beam lever with an ergonomic vertical grip for comfortable and precise control. The lever assembly allows for the mounting of any vertical flange master cylinder with 2.25″ mount centers.

The handbrake lever is finished with a durable and long-lasting e-coat finish, providing excellent corrosion resistance. Furthermore, it comes in a vertical or horizontal setup for preference.

Pros:

  • Lightweight: The aluminum construction of the handbrake lever makes it lightweight, reducing unnecessary weight in the vehicle.
  • High Leverage: The 11:1 ratio “H” beam lever design provides high leverage, allowing for enhanced braking force and control.
  • Ergonomic Grip: The vertical grip design offers a comfortable and ergonomic grip, ensuring precise control and reducing driver fatigue.
  • Versatile Mounting: The lever assembly is compatible with any vertical flange master cylinder with 2.25″ mount centers, providing flexibility in choosing the appropriate master cylinder for your specific needs.
  • Durable Finish: The e-coat finish provides excellent corrosion resistance, ensuring the longevity of the handbrake lever.

Cons:

  • Limited Street Use: This product is intended for competition vehicles and other exempted vehicles, and is not for use on public roads or highways. It may only be used in designated competition or exempted vehicles.

Final Thoughts

Compared to other hydraulic handbrake levers, the Wilwood Hydraulic Handbrake Lever – Vertical Grip stands out with its lightweight construction, high leverage ratio, and ergonomic grip design.

It offers the flexibility of mounting various vertical flange master cylinders and is finished with a durable coating for corrosion resistance. However, it’s important to note that its use is limited to competition vehicles and exempted vehicles, and it is not intended for street use.

DND Performance Hydraulic Handbrake II

Hydraulic Handbrake Description

The DND Performance Hydro Handbrake II is a high-quality hydraulic handbrake designed with uncompromising attention to detail. Machined from top-notch materials, this handbrake offers exceptional performance and durability. It features a 16″ handle and titanium hardware, ensuring a lightweight yet strong construction.

The latest version, Handbrake II, introduces several improvements, including a thicker and more comfortable handle, an adjusted pivot point for a shorter throw, a stronger baseplate design, and a Delrin bushing for smooth operation.

Available in silver, black, red, or purple, the DND Performance Hydro Handbrake II can be purchased with or without a master cylinder. The master cylinder options include 0.70″ or 0.62″ sizes.

Pros:

  • High-Quality Construction: The DND Performance Hydro Handbrake II is machined from top-quality materials, ensuring excellent durability and reliability.
  • Improved Design Features: The Handbrake II version introduces enhancements such as a thicker and more comfortable handle, adjusted pivot point for shorter throw, stronger baseplate design, and Delrin bushing.
  • Lightweight: The titanium hardware and careful design choices contribute to a lightweight handbrake, reducing unnecessary weight in the vehicle.
  • Color Options: The handbrake is available in multiple color options, allowing users to customize and match it with their vehicle’s aesthetics.
  • Master Cylinder Flexibility: Customers have the option to purchase the handbrake with or without a master cylinder. The availability of different master cylinder sizes (0.70″ or 0.62″).

Cons:

  • Limited Information: The provided product description lacks detailed specifications and additional information about compatibility, and installation requirements. 

Final thoughts

Compared to other hydraulic handbrakes, the DND Performance Hydro Handbrake II stands out with its high-quality construction, improved design features, and lightweight build. The availability of various color options and the flexibility to choose a master cylinder further enhance its appeal.

However, due to the limited information provided, it’s recommended to gather additional details to compare the product against specific requirements and consider factors such as compatibility, installation ease, and customer reviews.

Chase Bays Hydraulic Handbrake

Hydraulic handbrake

Hydraulic handbrake Description

The Chase Bays Hydraulic Handbrake is a compact, stable, and comfortable solution for adding a hydraulic handbrake to your car. It features a side mount or sideways mounted master cylinder, allowing installation under factory center consoles and reducing space efficiency.

The handbrake has zero shimmy on the handle and a steel plate that matches the base shape, providing a sturdy mount. It offers designs for standalone and inline style master cylinders, and a cylinder-shaped comfort grip, minimizing hand fatigue.

The handbrake comes complete with all necessary outlet fittings and mounting plate options, and comes with a wide range of -3AN Brake and Clutch Line kits, chassis-specific Brake Line Kits, and Universal kits.

Pros:

  • Compact Design: The side mount or sideways mounted master cylinder allows for a compact and space-efficient installation, including the ability to fit under factory center consoles.
  • Stability: The handbrake offers zero handle shimmy and a sturdy base with the included steel plate, minimizing flex and ensuring reliable performance.
  • Modular and Reversible Design: The handbrake provides options for standalone and inline style master cylinders, and the reversible handle allows for Pull-Up or Pull-Towards operation.
  • Comfortable Grip: The cylinder-shaped comfort grip on the handle enhances user comfort and reduces hand fatigue during operation.

Cons:

  • Cost: The Chase Bays Hydraulic Handbrake is higher in quality level therefore as a higher price tag.
  • Customizability: There is only one color and style option.

Final Thoughts

The Chase Bays Hydraulic Handbrake stands out with its compactness, stability, modular design, and focus on comfort and ease of use. The inclusion of a steel plate for mounting and the availability of additional line kits and dual-caliper brackets contribute to its completeness as a package.

However, because of the higher quality of this handbrake the price for it is also higher which might not be suitable for every budget.

Voodoo13 Hydraulic Handbrake

Hydraulic handbrake

Hydraulic handbrake description

The Voodoo13 Hydraulic Handbrake is a high-quality, performance, and adjustable hydraulic handbrake made in the USA. It offers multiple configurations to suit any driving style, allowing users to adjust brake pressure, handle length, throw distance, and handle orientation.

The handbrake is constructed from 6061 aluminum and features a precision CNC-machined base, side plates, and handle. The ergonomic round handle design and 3″ height adjustment make it easy to customize. Wilwood master cylinders are used, ensuring reliable and high-performance braking.

The reservoir option is recommended for vehicles with dual rear calipers, and users can select the appropriate bore size based on their setup.

Pros:

  • Extensive Adjustability: The Voodoo13 Hydraulic Handbrake offers a wide range of adjustable configurations, allowing users to fine-tune brake pressure, handle length, throw distance, and handle orientation to their preference.
  • High-Quality Construction: Made from high-quality 6061 aluminum, this handbrake combines strength and lightweight design for optimal performance.
  • Customizable Handle Height: The handbrake features a round handle design with 3″ height adjustment.
  • Wilwood Master Cylinders: The handbrake comes with Wilwood master cylinders.
  • USA Manufacturing: The Voodoo13 Hydraulic Handbrake is proudly designed and manufactured in the USA.

Cons:

  • Price: Given its high-quality construction and extensive adjustability, the Voodoo13 Hydraulic Handbrake may have a higher price point compared to more basic handbrake options on the market. This higher cost may be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers.

Final Thoughts

Compared to other hydraulic handbrakes, the Voodoo13 Hydraulic Handbrake stands out with its superior adjustability, high-quality construction, and use of Wilwood master cylinders. Its customizable features and ergonomic design cater to various driving styles, offering a tailored experience. However, potential buyers should consider its higher price point in comparison to other handbrake options.

What to Look for in a Hydraulic Handbrake

  • Build Quality: Look for a hydraulic handbrake constructed with durable materials, such as high-quality metal components. A well-built handbrake ensures longevity and reliability in demanding driving conditions. Additionally, a strong and well constructed mount will ensure responsiveness by not twisting or offering play when using the handbrake.
  • Ergonomics: Consider the design and ergonomics of the handbrake lever and handle. Look for features like comfortable grip, adjustable lever position, and appropriate handle length to accommodate your preferences and ensure optimal control during operation.
  • Hydraulic System: Evaluate the hydraulic system’s design and functionality. A well-engineered system with reliable seals, appropriate piston size, and sufficient fluid capacity ensures consistent performance and efficient transfer of hydraulic pressure.
  • Adjustability: Opt for a hydraulic handbrake that offers adjustable settings, such as hydraulic pressure and lever positioning. These adjustable features allow you to fine-tune the handbrake’s performance to match your driving style and specific vehicle requirements.
  • Compatibility: Installing a hydraulic handbrake system will often require extra parts such as brakes lines and an extra brake caliper. Furthermore, adding a caliper might require you to buy an aftermarket bracket to hold it. Therefore, to avoid complications It is important you assure you buy the proper and compatible parts.

Maintenance Associated with Hydraulic Handbrakes

  • Regular Inspections: Perform routine inspections to check for any signs of wear, leakage, or damage to the hydraulic handbrake components. This helps identify any potential issues early on and ensures continued reliable performance.
  • Fluid Replacement: Periodically replace the hydraulic fluid to maintain optimal brake performance. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding fluid type and interval for proper maintenance.
  • Bleeding the System: Properly bleed the hydraulic handbrake system after installation or any maintenance procedures involving disconnection of hydraulic lines. This removes air bubbles and ensures consistent hydraulic pressure transmission.
  • Brake Pad Wear: During your routine inspection it can be a good idea to also look at your handbrake brake pad wear or caliper and ensure they are still good.

Additional Components Needed for a hydraulic handbrake

When installing a hydraulic handbrake, several additional accessories or components may be required to ensure a successful installation and optimal functionality. Here are some of the components:

Master Cylinder and Reservoir

If it didn’t come with the hydraulic handbrake system you will require a separate master cylinder and reservoir. The master cylinder is responsible for generating hydraulic pressure, while the reservoir stores the hydraulic fluid required for the system’s operation. Therefore, if you decide to buy just the handle separately to these two components it is important you ensure compatibility between the master cylinder, reservoir, and the hydraulic handbrake.

Wilwood GS Compact Integral Master Cylinder

  • Rebuildable Design
  • High-Pressure Die Cast Aluminum Body
  • Positive Seal Internal Bellows Cap
Hydraulic handbrake Master cylinder

Brake Hose and Fittings

To connect the brake calipers to the hydraulic handbrake handle, you’ll need suitable brake hoses and fittings. These components carry hydraulic fluid and facilitate the transfer of pressure from the handbrake to the brake calipers. It’s essential to choose high-quality brake hoses and fittings that are compatible with the rest of your hydraulic handbrake assembly.

GXARTS – Premium Stainless Steel Brake Line – 24″, 36″, 48″, 60″

  • Stainless steel braided cover
  • Strict quality inspection
  • Multiple sizes
Hydraulic handbrake Brake hose

Brake Calipers and Brake Pads

Depending on your car’s braking system, you may need an extra set of brake caliper and brake pads for your new handbrake. Additionally, you may need to buy a bracket specific to your car to hold this new caliper.

Extra Mounting Material

Depending on your specific vehicle and mounting requirements, you may need extra mounting material (metal) or the assistance of a welder to secure the hydraulic handbrake assembly in place. This ensures proper attachment and stability, providing a solid foundation for the handbrake system. You might also want to find scrap pieces of cardboard to make a mounting template during your installation.

How to install a hydraulic handbrake

Installing a hydraulic handbrake requires careful planning and precise execution. Before you begin, gather the necessary tools for the job. You’ll likely need the following (The tools required can greatly vary depending on your project):

  • Ratchets and Sockets or Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers and Cutters
  • Drill
  • Metal Working Tools (Ex: Saw)
  • Plastic Trimming Tools
  • Welder (Optional)
  • Paint (For Details)
  • Materials: Metal Sheet, Cardboard Pieces, and Bolts or Screws

Step 1: Rough Positioning 

This step involves finding the ideal positioning for the handbrake inside your project car. You will need to consider factors such as comfort, accessibility, and interference with other components like your shifter if you drive a manual.

This step will ensure a convenient, comfortable and functional placement.

Pro Tip: If you are unsure of where you want to place it or just need inspiration for the project go to a car show. You can look at a car with a hydraulic handbrake setup and even ask questions about it.

Step 2: Make a plan

Create a detailed plan for the installation. This step will help you have a good idea of what you have to do and will help you stay organized during the whole process. Having a clear plan will also help reduce errors. To make your plan you will need to consider the following key points: 

  • Mounting: You need to find a way to mount and attach the handbrake handle to your car. If your car is stripped down to metal, finding a solid place to attach the mounting point may be easy. It gets more tricky (but not impossible) when all the plastic is still in the car. Consider the routing of fuel lines, determine the required length of the fuel line, and map out the entire installation process. Furthermore you need to determine if you will install the mount by welding or bolting it on.
  • Brake Lines: you will need to know where you want to pass them through to reach your brakes and the length of brake line needed.
  • Installation Process: Map out the installation process and the details you may need to keep in mind.

Step 3: The Templates 

Now that you have planned out what you need to do, the following step involves clearing up the space for the mounting point and creating cardboard templates of the mounting point itself.

By using cardboard, you can make adjustments and modifications without the risk of damaging expensive metal pieces. Place the templates in the desired positions and mark any necessary cutouts or holes.

Step 4: Cut Your Metal

Step four is about cutting the metal pieces to length and shape. Use the templates as guides and ensure the pieces fit properly before proceeding. Make any necessary adjustments to achieve a precise fit.

Step 5: Assemble and Install

It’s time to assemble and install the components. This includes Bolting or welding the mounting point to the car, attaching the handbrake itself, mounting the master cylinder, connecting the brake line, and installing the brake caliper and caliper bracket. 

Step 6: The Details

This step is mainly for esthetics. Pay attention to the finer details. Make any necessary adjustments, tighten all fasteners securely, and ensure everything is aesthetically pleasing. This includes tidying up the installation area and ensuring a clean finish.

By following these steps and paying attention to detail, you can successfully install a hydraulic handbrake in your vehicle. Remember to prioritize safety and consult professional assistance if needed.

conclusion

A hydraulic handbrake is a specialized braking system that operates independently from the vehicle’s primary braking system, allowing the driver to apply braking force directly to the rear wheels using hydraulic pressure.

This independent control enhances vehicle maneuverability and cornering capabilities, making it valuable in various racing disciplines. Hydraulic handbrakes offer superior control, responsiveness, and customization options compared to mechanical handbrakes, which operate through a cable mechanism.

Benefits of hydraulic handbrakes include enhanced vehicle control, quick response, customization, improved motorsport performance, and versatility.

However, factors like build quality, ergonomics, compatibility, and maintenance requirements must be considered when choosing a hydraulic handbrake.