brake pads


Staff member
Brake pads: What to look for
What you should know when having brake servicing done. ... /index.htm

While the federal government sets performance standards for brake systems in new vehicles, there are no government regulations covering replacement brake pads. Given that a large percentage of consumer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) involves brakes—and the brake system is one of the most critical elements of vehicle safety—it's important to understand the choices consumers face when taking their vehicles to a brake shop. The cheapest brake job may compromise safety, and the most expensive parts may not make your vehicle any safer than the standard part.

Servicing brakes 25 years ago required few decisions other than choosing a mechanic. Disc and drum brakes used only two types of friction materials—semimetallic and asbestos. The mechanic simply replaced the old pad or shoe with the same type. Aftermarket suppliers rarely offered different performance grades or price points for either type of pad.

Today, however, asbestos has been all but eliminated, because it can't meet contemporary cars' higher performance standards as well as concern over health hazards from asbestos dust. Automaker suppliers have developed additional friction compounds, and the aftermarket now offers a dizzying array of replacement brake products under dozens of brand names.

The different friction materials in use today often have design compromises. While one may offer superior heat transfer—and therefore better braking performance—it may also be noisier and more prone to depositing unsightly brake dust on the wheel rims. Another friction compound may have a soft feel, and work quietly, but wear out much more quickly.
Do you need new brake pads?

Usually, the first sign of excessive brake-pad wear is a high-pitched squealing.This sound comes from a soft-metal wear indicator that rubs against the brake rotor to alert the driver that a change is needed. Other symptoms can include the vehicle pulling to one side under braking, the brakes grabbing or vibrating, and the brake pedal feeling softer to depress. A grinding sound means that replacement is overdue and the worn brake pads may be damaging the brake rotors. Always check the owner's manual for any brake-related recommendations, including pad replacement intervals.
Types of brake pads

There are four general types of brake pads for cars and trucks:

Semimetallic: This formula, containing about 30 to 65 percent metal, typically includes chopped steel wool or wire, iron powder, copper or graphite mixed with inorganic fillers, and friction modifiers that bond all the ingredients together. These pads are more durable and have excellent heat transfer, but also wear down rotors faster, can be noisy, and may not perform optimally at low temperatures.

Nonasbestos organic: Sometimes listed as organic or NAO, this type of pad is made from fibers, such as glass, rubber, carbon, and Kevlar, with filler materials and high-temperature resins. These pads are softer and create less noise, but they wear faster and create more dust.

Low-metallic NAO: These are made from an organic formula mixed with small amounts (10 to 30 percent) of copper or steel to help with heat transfer and provide better braking. With the added metal, there is more brake dust and they may be slightly noisier.

Ceramic: These are composed of ceramic fibers, nonferrous filler materials, bonding agents, and possibly small amounts of metal. Lighter in color and more expensive than other brake pads, ceramic pads are cleaner and quieter, and offer excellent braking characteristics without wearing down the rotors.
How to choose

While a large selection brings down prices, consumers can be confused by slick packaging, clever brand names, and pushy mechanics. Some consumers are even unaware that asbestos replacement pads are still available. Unlike foods that have ingredient labels, brake pads have no content labeling. In fact, the formulas are highly guarded secrets and can vary even within a manufacturer's own line, depending on what type of vehicle the pads are intended for. Full-size pickups, for instance, may need more metal—for additional stopping power and reduced brake fade—than compact cars, which can use organic materials just as effectively.

Most manufacturers offer a range of pads for each application, but consumers shouldn't be fooled into believing it's always a good-better-best choice. Nor will a family be safer with the most expensive replacement pad. The standard pad, if certified (see below), should meet the demands of normal driving. Upgraded pads for normal driving will likely be noisier, produce more dust, and possibly respond with a harder pedal feel. But if you tow, carry heavy loads or numerous passengers often, live in hilly or mountainous areas, or have a daily commute down a steep grade, you should consider an upgraded or severe-duty pad.

What's the price difference? We looked at the line of pads from one major company for a late-model Chevrolet Tahoe. The standard pad retailed for $68 per set (enough to cover two wheels) followed by an upgraded version at $87 and a severe-duty set at $98. Ceramic pads are more expensive ($120 for the Tahoe), but the advantages may be worth the extra money to many, especially those with custom wheels. Ceramic pads will help solve noise and dust problems as well as offer excellent stopping performance and comfortable pedal feel.
Look for a certified label

New vehicles must meet federal performance standards—a minimum stopping distance in a variety of situations under a specified pedal effort. Many consumers assume all aftermarket replacement pads will perform just as well or better than factory parts, but that's not necessarily the case.

In an effort to improve the customer's comfort level—and also to avoid future government regulations—brake manufacturers can test and verify their products under two voluntary certification standards. Both are designed to ensure that replacement brakes are as effective as original equipment, and consumers should make sure that any pads being installed on their vehicle are certified.

The first is an independent proprietary program developed by Greening Testing Laboratories in Detroit called D3EA—which stands for Dual Dynamometer Differential Effectiveness Analysis. This procedure tests front and rear friction materials together on dual dynamometers, then simulates vehicle weight and speed through a computer program to measure braking effectiveness and balance for different applications. D3EA was introduced in 1996, and among the first aftermarket companies to achieve D3EA certification were ACDelco, NAPA, Raybestos, and Satisfied.

The Brake Manufacturers Council (BMC) has a second certification standard called BEEP, or Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedure. BEEP testing is conducted on a single dynamometer, and the numbers are washed through a computer program to compare brake performance with federal standards for new vehicles. The BEEP approval seals appear on packaging as manufacturers submit products for certification.

The D3EA tests are proprietary and more expensive, but they're also completely independent and tougher to pass. Brake manufacturers have contended that most consumers change only the front or rear brakes at one time, so a concurrent dual test is unnecessary. But, according to officials from Greening, NHTSA tests in the 1980s concluded there was a significant reduction in braking performance when there was a differential between front and rear replacement pads as compared with original factory parts. That report provided some of the motivation for the brake industry to begin seeking a certification standard before the federal government issued regulations for replacement pads. The obvious concern over BEEP testing is that the manufacturers themselves oversaw the development of the certification standards. While the program received input from the Society of Automotive Engineers and actual certification is currently conducted at an independent laboratory, BMC members can conduct similar tests on their own single dynamometers and compute the numbers.

Consumers must remember that not all of an aftermarket manufacturer's lineup gets certified, only pads designed for a specific vehicle that passed the designated test. Also, since the D3EA tests are expensive, manufacturers may test just the standard line for a particular vehicle. One can assume then that any upgraded line from that same manufacturer will meet the test standards. That's why heavy duty or the new ceramic pads may not carry the seal. The best advice is to look for manufacturers that aggressively test their standard line, then move up in grade if you need more performance or seek other advantages such as minimal wheel dust.


Staff member
Ceramic Brake Pads

Don't let their name fool you ceramic pads aren't made from the same stuff as fine china teacups. Not a chance. They're actually created from a blend of super-strong ceramic and copper fiber, and they represent the latest generation of brake pad technology. Here's a quick breakdown of their pros and cons: ... .1533f.htm

They're quieter than metallic pads.
They dissipate heat better for less brake fade.
They create less dust, and the dust itself is lighter in color.
They're gentler on brake rotors.


They're not as aggressive as metallic pads.
They're not recommended for racing or heavy-duty towing.
They're generally more expensive than comparable metallic pads.

Metallic Brake Pads

As their name implies, metallic pads are made with metal fibers in the braking compound ¦and, they're fond of listening to Cinderella while you drive. So, dust off your copy of Night Songs, tease your hair in the air, and check out the pros and cons of metallic brake pads:


They're more aggressive than ceramic pads.
They pull heat away from the rotor for cooler braking.
They're available in track-ready and heavy-duty towing formulations.
They're relatively less expensive than comparable ceramic pads.


They're louder than ceramic pads.
They generate more dust that's black and grimy.
They're more abrasive and wear through disc brakes and faster.

The Bottom Line

The auto industry has cast their vote on the matter—more and more manufacturers are outfitting their new autos with ceramic pads as standard. That's the direction that the market is heading.

But, the aftermarket still holds metallic pads near and dear to their heart. Performance companies like Brembo Brakes and EBC Brake Pads continue to stick primarily with metallic pads because of the performance capabilities. Mated with deluxe brake calipers and stainless steel brake lines, metallic pads can bring the speediest speed racers to a commanding halt in no time flat.

On the other hand, if you're a regular commuter who doesn't run quarter-mile sprints or tugs full tons of cargo up and down The Grapevine, you don't really need the muscle of Posi Quiet brake pads. A stepped up Hawk HPS performance ceramic pad set is much stronger than your stock pads but won't cause whiplash every time you tap the brakes.

Really, there's only one answer to the "what're the best brake pads" question: the ones that stop you in time. Ceramic or metallic doesn't mean much if they don't work.

What brake pads you want to buy for your car depends on several different considerations: what kind of car you have, what your budget is. Do you prefer quiet brakes, more efficient ones, which wear less on your rotor? Because of this, there is no easy "this is the brake pad you want" answer; however, some pads do offer better quality than others. This article is not a breakdown of what brands and manufacturers are out there, but rather a general overview of the four different types of brake pads commonly available.

Non-Asbestos Organic

Generally the cheapest brake pad you'll find in any auto parts store, non-asbestos organic (NAO)--or just "organic"--pads are constructed from, surprise, organic materials such as kevlar and carbon. These pads are softer and create less noise when braking, but also wear out faster and kick up more braking dust due to their less resilient materials. They are generally considered of poorer quality among qualified mechanics, and are usually only recommended if cost is an issue, and long pad life is not.
Low Metallic NAO

Found most often in European cars, low-metallic brake pads are pretty much what their name suggests. Similar to organic pads in that more than half their composition is made up of organic materials, low-metallic pads also include small amounts of copper or steel to add to the resilience of the pad. Low-metallic pads provide decent braking action, but can also be noisy and wear out quickly, albeit not as quickly as organic due to the added materials. Users also often complain that the brake pads leave a black residue on alloy wheels, so factor that into your decision as well.

The semi-metallic pad is not as popular with motorists these days as it was in the past, and the reason for that is one simple word: noise. The semi-metallic is constructed from steel and other metals, and while it offers good performance and wears out more slowly than the organic brakes, it is also often noticeably louder than the organics. It also tends to wear harder on your rotor, which is another factor you ought to take into consideration. Still, if you don't mind the noise, the semi-metallic is a good all-around brake pad, and usually quite reasonably priced.

Ceramic pads are generally considered to be the best in quality of the four types of pads. Quieter than semi-metallic, cleaner than the organics, and the composition of the pad allows for a smoother, more consistent braking "feel." They also tend to wear out slower than the other three pads, although their performance is lowered at higher temperatures. They are also the most expensive brand of pad, usually costing up to twice as much as any of the other kinds. Still, if quality is what you're after, and you don't mind paying the extra money for it, the ceramics may be right up your alley.
In Conclusion

This is only a very general overview of the four types of brake pads most commonly stocked in auto parts stores; there are dozens of brands out there, and the composition and effectiveness of each brand will differ from one to another. To find out what pads are best for your specific car, consult a qualified mechanic, or your local auto dealer to find out what originally came with your vehicle. Chances are, those will be the most effective kind you can get.


Staff member
I have tended to select semi-metallic brake pads over the years for most of my performance cars, but I have tried ceramic disc brakes occasionally, because in theory they should be more durable and able to handle heat and wear better.
but on the recommendation of several friends I recently tried the newer ceramic brake pads once more.
The Benefits of Ceramic Brake Pads
Besides being quieter, ceramic brake pads handle extremely high temperatures with little fade, allowing them to recover quickly and cause less damage to the rotors. Also, when ceramic brake pads wear down, they create a finer, lighter dust than semi-metallic pads, and the dust doesn’t stick to wheels. Finally, studies have found that ceramic brake pads have a longer life span without ever sacrificing noise control, rotor life or braking performance.

One con of ceramic brake pads is the cost. Ceramic brake pads tend to be more expensive than semi-metallic pads. Also, ceramic pads aren’t suitable for all vehicles, so always be sure to check your owner’s manual before making a purchase.
it was an eye opening experience , the newer ceramic brake pads were much improved over the last sets I tried.
these brake pads I installed were
Wearever Gold Ceramic Brake Pads I picked up for my 1996 corvette, I bought and installed both front and rear disk brake pads, now Ive only had them on for a month or so now but I can tell, you that so far, my opinion is that they are much better than the previous ceramic brake pads I tried, and they work really well, no fade and they don,t have that tendency to fell slippery or squeak until they warm up like the last set I tried these work even better than the semi-metallic brakes they replaced, so obviously theres been appreciable gains in the quality of the ceramic brake pads in the last few years, because I mentioned this to several people and of those that have done recent brake jobs , several mentioned that they saw improvements in the performance of ceramic brake pads!

Since they were first used on a few original equipment applications in 1985, friction materials that contain ceramic formulations have become recognized for their desirable blend of traits. These pads use ceramic compounds and copper fibers in place of the semi-metallic pad's steel fibers. This allows the ceramic pads to handle high brake temperatures with less heat fade, provide faster recovery after the stop, and generate less dust and wear on both the pads and rotors. And from a comfort standpoint, ceramic compounds provide much quieter braking because the ceramic compound helps dampen noise by generating a frequency beyond the human hearing range.

"The ingredients in ceramic compounds produce a light-colored dust that is much less noticeable and less likely to stick to the wheels. Consequently, wheels and tires maintain a cleaner appearance longer."

Another characteristic that makes ceramic materials attractive is the absence of noticeable dust. All brake pads produce dust as they wear. The ingredients in ceramic compounds produce a light colored dust that is much less noticeable and less likely to stick to the wheels. Consequently, wheels and tires maintain a cleaner appearance longer.

Ceramic pads meet or exceed all original equipment standards for durability, stopping distance and noise. According to durability tests, ceramic compounds extend brake life compared to most other semi-metallic and organic materials and outlast other premium pad materials by a significant margin - with no sacrifice in noise control, pad life or braking performance.

This is quite an improvement over organic and semi-metallic brake materials that typically sacrifice pad life to reduce noise, or vice versa.

Ceramic brake pads are available at a cost that is only a little higher than conventional premium pads.
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