You Do Have a Choice in Brake Pads


Most people who take their cars in for brake repairs just accept the brake pads the technician chooses for them. You do have a choice of brake pad materials, though. Here are those choices and why you may want something other than the default replacement pad you would get from the auto shop.

Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

This is probably the brake pad you'll get if you don't ask for a specific type. The pad is made of a resin in which is embedded tiny metal fibers. The metal could be iron, steel, copper, or graphite. The size of the fibers dictates how expensive the pads are. Brake pads with coarse metal fibers are less expensive than the pads with fine fibers. The trade-off is that coarse fibers wear down your rotors faster.

These pads work well in all temperatures and with all types of driving. These are also the best choice of pads for pulling heavy loads or driving in steep terrain. They are effective without being warmed up and are slow to fail at high temperatures, such as during prolonged braking on downward slopes like mountainous roads.

The composition of semi-metallic brake pads does make them noisier than other pads. The metal fibers also create a dust that can coat the brake and wheel surfaces, but the dust washes off easily and does not affect the brake's performance.

Ceramic Brake Pads

This brake pad is made of a combination of non-metallic and ceramic fibers encased in a flexible resin. These pads are more expensive than the semi-metallic variety, but the materials create less dust and are quieter than other pads. This is a good type of pad if you have a luxury car that you drive around town under normal road conditions.

The ceramic pads wear down slowly, but they cause more wear on the rotors. You'll need to have the brakes inspected more often with these pads. They also need to be warmed up before performing at their best. When driving in cold weather, you should apply your brakes a few times to create heat from the friction before trying to stop hard.

These pads are also not good for towing heavy loads. They tend to weaken at high temperatures, such as when pulling heavy trailers or going down long hills. While ceramic pads are generally more expensive, a high-performance semi-metallic pad made for heavy towing can cost nearly as much.

Choose the Pad Based on Your Driving Style

Semi-metallic pads are best for

  • any work vehicles
  • carrying heavy loads
  • pulling trailers
  • extreme temperature ranges
  • driving in unpredictable conditions
  • low cost is a factor

Ceramic pads are best for

  • high performance and luxury cars
  • driving in moderate temperatures
  • times when appearance is important
  • times when noise levels are important

Now that you have a better idea of how brake pads work and which type is good for which situation, you can have more confidence in making decisions the next time you go in for brake repairs.


14 October 2015

what is keeping your car from starting?

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