Does a Load Cell Brake Make You Faster & Are They Worth Buying?
A load cell brake pedal is often the closest many of us will get to a real-world racing car pedal. But do they make you faster and are they worth upgrading to?
How much of a difference do load cell pedals make?
The difference between a load cell brake pedal and a standard potentiometer brake pedal is huge. Load cells make the brake behave much closer to real-world brake pedals. They use the force you are applying rather than the distance of pedal travel to determine your overall braking force. This may not impact lap times directly, but it certainly will help towards achieving consistency across laps, helping you work towards being a better sim racer overall!
Does a load cell brake pedal make you faster?
Let’s kick things off with the important question first! Load cell brake pedals can make you faster, see the word can rather than do! However, you likely won’t jump in and be faster right away. In fact, you may never find extra lap time solely due to the addition of a load cell brake pedal.
What a load cell brake pedal will do is improve your consistency. Because load cells work based on pressure and force rather than pedal distance, you can achieve much higher levels of consistency under braking over time.
This added consistency will allow you to drive closer to your maximum for longer periods. And with added consistency comes the potential for increased pace.
Are load cell pedals better?
A load cell brake pedal is almost certainly better than a traditional potentiometer brake pedal in almost every way. Entry-level sim racing pedals almost always include a potentiometer brake pedal with some added resistance.
What is a potentiometer brake pedal?
A potentiometer brake pedal works exactly the same as your throttle and clutch pedal by measuring the distance of pedal travel. Depending on how far you depress the brake pedal, the more braking force is applied.
While this may feel normal to you when you first jump into your racing sim, this isn’t very accurate.
What is a load cell brake pedal?
Real-world brake pedals normally use hydraulics to detect the amount of pressure you apply to the brake and with what force.
It is the amount of force that you apply to a real-world brake that determines the initial braking pressure. A load cell brake pedal aims to replicate this by introducing the load cell. This removes the distance of travel from the equation and instead records the force you apply under braking.
This is much closer to how a real-world brake pedal works and it allows you to achieve much higher levels of consistency.
What does a load cell brake feel like?
If you have been sim racing with a potentiometer brake pedal for a while (or many years in my case before I upgraded to a load cell). Then switching to a load cell brake pedal will feel strange.
The resistance that you find when braking with a non-load cell brake pedal is determined by the stiffness of the spring or rubber that is underneath the pedal. Quite often it isn’t very hard to fully depress a non-load cell brake pedal, without using too much force.
Braking with a load cell pedal is extremely different.
For example, the Fanatec CSL Load Cell Pedal features a 60kg load cell, and the Heusinkveld Sprint Pedals feature a mighty 120kg load cell. 120kg is getting close to the force found in lower formula open-wheeled cars!
Even with the weaker Fanatec CSL Load Cell Pedal, you will need to apply a lot of force to achieve 100% brake pressure. And with the Heusinkveld pedals, you will certainly need to spend a while in the gym working on your leg strength!
So how does it feel?
And this is the first thing you will notice when using a load cell brake pedal. The strength required to achieve full pressure is large, much larger than with a potentiometer pedal.
You will also notice that you don’t fully depress a load cell brake pedal like you would with a non-load cell pedal. This is the part that may seem a little alien to some. After years of racing with a potentiometer pedal where you have to fully depress it to achieve 100% brake pressure, the change to not doing this is odd at first.
Is a sim racing load cell brake worth it?
A load cell brake pedal is a huge step up from a standard non-load cell pedal. So this is an upgrade that is almost certainly worth it if you are enjoying sim racing. Load cells help you deliver consistent lap times allowing you to focus on finding extra lap time.
Bear in mind that as you start upgrading certain parts of your sim racing setup, other parts will also require upgrading in tandem.
A load cell brake pedal adds a large amount of force required to activate it, meaning your sim rig will need to be up to scratch. You will need to mount your pedals to some form of sim rig otherwise they will slide away from you.
And you will also need to ensure your chair is mounted to your pedals to stop you from sliding backwards. And finally, your sim racing chair will need to be able to take the high levels of force you are going to be applying every corner.
Looking at bucket-style sim racing seats that don’t recline may be the best option.
View our best sim racing seat guide for recommendations on chairs that would work perfectly with a load cell brake.
Best load cell brake pedals you can buy
A load cell brake pedal will cost you more than a budget-orientated non-load cell, but it certainly won’t break the bank. (Like what I did there?)
There are cheaper sim racing pedals available that incorporate a load cell brake. Or if you want something more professional, you can look towards higher-end sim racing pedals which will cost considerably more but deliver higher levels of performance.
Fanatec CSL Pedals w/ load cell
The Fanatec CSL Pedals are fantastic value, with the two-pedal variation being one of the most cost-effective sim racing pedals available. The load-cell is available as an additional add on at a later date, or you can save some money and purchase the load cell as part of the pedal bundle.
The load cell is rated at 60kg which is more than enough force to give you a leg workout over a long period of time. And the braking force required is fully adjustable via Fanatec’s control panel or through the wheel base.
Brand – Fanatec
Load cell strength – 60kg
Buy Fanatec CSL Pedals
Thrustmaster T-LCM Pedals
Brand – Thrustmaster
Load cell strength – 100kg
Buy T-LCM pedals
The Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals are fantastic if you have a Thrustmaster sim racing setup. They feature a large 100kg load cell brake pedal, which is actually stronger than the one found in the Fanatec CSL Pedals.
And you can fully adjust the pressure of the pedal by swapping out a number of springs that sit behind the pedal itself. By removing and adjusting these you can find a pedal stiffness that really suits your driving style.
Fanatec ClubSport V3 Pedals
The ClubSport V3 pedals are a more premium option when it comes to sim racing brake pedals. They sit above the CSL Pedals in the Fanatec ecosystem and bring some extra party tricks to the table. Plus the load cell is rated at 90kg, which is higher than the CSL Pedals.
The ClubSport V3 pedals feature vibration motors in the pedals to give an extra level of immersion and real-time feedback. They’re also available in a couple of configurations. You can get them in the traditional three-pedal layout, or in an inverted three-pedal layout that closely resembles a real-world car.
Brand – Fanatec
Load cell strength – 90kg
Buy Fanatec ClubSport V3 Pedals
Heusinkveld Sprint Pedals
The Heusinkveld Sprint pedals bring another level of immersion to your sim racing setup. They look like they were ripped straight out of a real-world race car, and are extremely adjustable. In fact, they don’t feature a baseplate as standard, so can be mounted in any configuration you can imagine.
The Sprint pedals feature a load cell that is rated at 120kg, making them stronger than any of the pedals above.
Both the Sprint and Ultimate+ pedals below feature Heusinkveld’s SmartControl software. This allows you to customise your pedals in a multitude of different ways. From deadzones to braking force through to linearity curves, SmartControl allows you to set up your pedals however you want.
Brand – Heusinkveld
Load cell strength – 120kg
Buy Heusinkveld Sprint Pedals
Heusinkveld Ultimate+ Pedals
If you are looking for maximum performance from your load cell brake pedals, then the Ultimate+ pedals from Heusinkveld are perfect. They feature a mighty 200kg load cell!
The Ultimate+ pedals are considerably the most expensive on this list, but they up the ante by featuring full hydraulic damping on every pedal. These are the pedals to get if you are an esports professional or training to move into a real-world race car!
Brand – Heusinkveld
Load cell strength – 200kg
Buy Heusinkveld Ultimate+ Pedals
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