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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just got a 2015 LE and was excited until I read about the smaller brakes in this forum. Now I'm wondering if I made a big mistake. How much of an issue is this? I live in Los Angeles so it's mostly flat here, but it can get very hot during the summer. And I was planning on using this car for some long road trips (such as Yosemite) which would require going up and down some mountains. Also, on that trip, the car would probably be almost fully loaded with luggage and passengers.

Is this a big safety issue? Is it possible to upgrade the brakes to the same size as the XLE/Limited?
 

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2008 RAV4 Limited V6
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You could probably upgrade the brakes to the XLE level, but it would cost you a good bit. Not only new calipers and rotors, but if it's the same as the 4.3, new master cylinder and vacuum booster as well. Even the linkage from the booster to the brake pedal is different. And that's assuming the ABS system is compatible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I should clarify my question. I'll just use the existing brakes for now, but eventually I'll need new rotors and pads. I'm wondering if at that point, I can just get the XLE size (11.7") rotors and pads installed. Or if that won't work because of other fundamental differences in brake system between LE and XLE. I don't know much about brake systems. But the other thread about LE brakes in this forum ("2015 RAV4 LE Braking") mentioned that the LE master cylinder is also smaller. So maybe it's not possible to install the XLE 11.7" rotors and pads?
 

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I should clarify my question. I'll just use the existing brakes for now, but eventually I'll need new rotors and pads. I'm wondering if at that point, I can just get the XLE size (11.7") rotors and pads installed. Or if that won't work because of other fundamental differences in brake system between LE and XLE. I don't know much about brake systems. But the other thread about LE brakes in this forum ("2015 RAV4 LE Braking") mentioned that the LE master cylinder is also smaller. So maybe it's not possible to install the XLE 11.7" rotors and pads?
No, you cannot install larger rotors and pads unless you install larger calipers as well. They all work in unison.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You could probably upgrade the brakes to the XLE level, but it would cost you a good bit. Not only new calipers, but new master cylinder and vacuum booster. And that's assuming the ABS system is compatible.
Saw this right after I sent my second question. So it seems I'm probably stuck with my 10.8" brakes.

I did some more research and found that the old 4.3 model used 10.8" for the V4 and 11.7" for the V6. Since the 4.4 is V4 and the weight is not much different, that makes me feel a little bit better about the safety of the brakes.

But I don't understand why Toyota would use 10.8" for LE and 11.7" for XLE. It could be to reduce costs, but if that's true, why not use 10.8" for XLE too? The only major difference are the wheels (steel vs alloy), but I don't think that would affect brake performance.
 

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I should clarify my question. I'll just use the existing brakes for now, but eventually I'll need new rotors and pads. I'm wondering if at that point, I can just get the XLE size (11.7") rotors and pads installed. Or if that won't work because of other fundamental differences in brake system between LE and XLE. I don't know much about brake systems. But the other thread about LE brakes in this forum ("2015 RAV4 LE Braking") mentioned that the LE master cylinder is also smaller. So maybe it's not possible to install the XLE 11.7" rotors and pads?
You would need to replace four things:
- rotors
- calipers
- master cylinder
- pads

You may also need to re-calibrate the brake ECU to make sure that both ABS and the front-rear brake force distribution works properly.
 

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But I don't understand why Toyota would use 10.8" for LE and 11.7" for XLE. It could be to reduce costs, but if that's true, why not use 10.8" for XLE too? The only major difference are the wheels (steel vs alloy), but I don't think that would affect brake performance.
Saving $$$$. Toyota wants to get away with the cheapest possible brakes that meet federal safety standards on their base model. Savings even few dollars on thousands of cars makes a nice addition to the CEO's year-end bonus.

On "premium" model like the XLE or Limited you don't want to fall too far behind competition. Many people and professional reviewers would notice that RAV's braking performance with the smaller brakes is below competition so Toyota has no choice but to upgrade the brakes to a more competitive level.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Saving $$$$. Toyota wants to get away with the cheapest possible brakes that meet federal safety standards on their base model. Savings even few dollars on thousands of cars makes a nice addition to the CEO's year-end bonus.

On "premium" model like the XLE or Limited you don't want to fall too far behind competition. Many people and professional reviewers would notice that RAV's braking performance with the smaller brakes is below competition so Toyota has no choice but to upgrade the brakes to a more competitive level.
If that's the reason, its disappointing that Toyota would behave that way. They have a reputation for quality and this kind of behavior doesn't fit that. I didn't care about the sunroof, bucket seats, fog lights, dual AC, and other options in the XLE trim. But if I knew about this, I would've paid the extra $1500 just to get the better brakes. Now I'm stuck with inferior brakes :frown
 

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If that's the reason, its disappointing that Toyota would behave that way. They have a reputation for quality and this kind of behavior doesn't fit that. I didn't care about the sunroof, bucket seats, fog lights, dual AC, and other options in the XLE trim. But if I knew about this, I would've paid the extra $1500 just to get the better brakes. Now I'm stuck with inferior brakes :frown
It's fairly common for manufacturers to use different size / spec brakes in different trims. For example, Mercedes AMG or BMW M models have superior brakes than basic models. There is nothing wrong with using better brakes in premium trim than in base ones, as long as the base trim brakes are adequate.

My grip with Toyota is not for using different brakes between LE and XLE/Limited models, but for using brakes that are barely adequate for the size and weight of the vehicle. RAV LE has smaller brakes than any competing small CUV, including models with GVWR several hundred pounds less then the RAV. Personally, when I owned the RAV, I experienced two episodes of brakes overheating under conditions that should have NOT lead to overheating. I am not a "lead foot" driver, and both times that the brakes overheated it was due to long, very moderate descends on I-71 in the Cincinnati metro area.

The last time I had seen similar experience was during the descent into Death Valley in my wife's Highlander - a 10 miles, 11% continuous descent in 112 F heat. Brakes overheating in such conditions is perfectly understandable, but brakes overheating on a 2-3 miles 4-6% grade in 80 F weather is not.

Toyota know that LE brakes are marginal and that's why LE models sold in Mexico and Puerto Rico are equipped with bigger rotors / calipers.

I filed a complaint with NHTSA as I think that although LE's brakes may meet the minimum federal regulations, they are barely acceptable.
 

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Saw this right after I sent my second question. So it seems I'm probably stuck with my 10.8" brakes.

I did some more research and found that the old 4.3 model used 10.8" for the V4 and 11.7" for the V6. Since the 4.4 is V4 and the weight is not much different, that makes me feel a little bit better about the safety of the brakes.

But I don't understand why Toyota would use 10.8" for LE and 11.7" for XLE. It could be to reduce costs, but if that's true, why not use 10.8" for XLE too? The only major difference are the wheels (steel vs alloy), but I don't think that would affect brake performance.
I have a newly purchased LE and I was considering buying aftermarket alloy wheels in the Spring, leaving my snow tires on the OEMs steelies (w/wheel cover). I didn't consider that there might be an issue with the 10.8 rotors running on (possibly) heavier alloy wheels. I don't think there would be much of a weight diff btw the alloy and steel. Does anyone have a ballpark idea? I guess the alternative is just to buy another set of steels for the snows and just bite the bullet and continue to use the OEM steels/wheel cover on the summer tires, especially if there's a possible safety issue. I can't really complain about the smaller brakes, longer pedal play and lack of warm fuzzy feeling braking-I knew it going in--but geez Toyota, this is truly the Achilles heel of this trim level.
 

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Toyota "cheaped-out" in many areas on the redesign of the 4.4 cleverly making sure that seemingly logical upgrades are very difficult, if not impossible. This approach hasn't hurt them-yet...
 

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Alloy wheels will help with brake cooling, due their more open design, so letting more air circulate and their better heat conduction.

Using wheel covers on steels also prevents good air circulation.
 

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Alloy wheels will help with brake cooling, due their more open design, so letting more air circulate and their better heat conduction.

Using wheel covers on steels also prevents good air circulation.
Thanks. So, you don't think the minor weight difference between the steel and the alloy wheels, if any, would be a factor, given the smaller LE rotors?
 

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Nope, if anything your brakes should be better with alloys. As you say, the difference in weight should be small.
 
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