How To Choose The Right Brake Pads

September 1, 2021

Since a car traveling at 55mph crosses the distance of a football field in five seconds, maintaining the brake system is incredibly important to staying safe in your vehicle. If you are not familiar with car mechanics, however, knowing what kind of brake pads you should choose, or what repairs you should authorize can be confusing. We will tell you the most important things to know about choosing the right brake pads for your vehicle and driving.

Bonding Or Riveted?


All brake pads are made by attaching a softer friction material to a bonding plate. Manufacturers can either bond the material, or fasten it with rivets. Both methods produce reliable brake pads, and neither method is clearly superior. Drivers should know which kind their mechanics use, however, because riveted pads will begin to squeal when there is still some time to replace them. Bonded brakes can ruin their drums or rotors if they aren’t changed as soon as they start to squeal.

Know Your Driving Requirements

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If a driver mostly commutes into and around a city, they can take basic recommendations about brake pads without worry. If they tend to drive in mountainous regions, very wet conditions, live in a very hot climate, or tend to tow trailers with their vehicle, braking requirements might be different. A mechanic should ask about these things when they’re choosing a brake pad for a customer. If the driver is doing the work themselves, carefully consider how much stress the brakes will take.

Organic Brake Pads

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Organic brake pads have become less common in recent years, but they are still used in some vehicles. They tend to give off less dust than other materials, and have more bite initially. They lose functionality very quickly in wet weather, however, and wear more quickly than other materials. If a driver knows that they need a significant amount of braking power, organic brakes may not be the best choice for their vehicle.

Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

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Semi-metallic brake pads are the next step up in efficiency. The pads are constructed with soft metal fibers embedded in the organic friction material. This helps the brakes grip better in wet or stressful conditions, and the pads last longer than purely organic ones. Due to the abrasion of metal on metal, however, they also cause more wear to the rotors or drums than organic pads do. They take longer to wear in, but give better grip for a longer period of time overall.

Fully Metallic Brake Pads

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Also called sintered brake pads, these are constructed from metals such as copper and brass alloys. These are very reliable and create great friction to stop a vehicle in almost any conditions. The trade-off is that they tend to be loud, and to cause more wear to the rotors and drums than other options. They also generate the most heat, which can cause damage to the rest of the vehicle’s system, if the driver is riding the brakes and causing that much heat regularly.

Ceramic Brake Pads


Ceramic brake pads are the most expensive pads currently on the market, but many experienced drivers prefer them to other options. They tend to be the least noisy and last the longest. They can handle extremely high temperatures without losing braking ability, since they were initially developed for racecars. They also cause less damage to the rotors and drums over time, so the cost of the brake pads may balance out over time. They are not suitable for all vehicles, however.

Which Brake Pads Are Most Common?


Semi-metallic brake pads are by far the most common in current use. For most commuter vehicles that aren’t towing or driving in very wet, hot, or mountainous conditions, they are the most economical choice. Most car manufacturers recommend semi-metallic brake pads be used with their vehicles, even those that use harder rotors. If a driver has a heavy use vehicle, they should speak to their mechanic or auto part expert about the best brake pads for their specific vehicle and usage.

Brake Pads And Shoes Are Different


There are two different types of brakes in common use in the United States. Disk brakes tend to be used on the front wheels of vehicles, which manage more stress as vehicles brake downhill. Drum brakes are used for rear wheels, which take less stress. Easier to construct, drum brakes are considered an economical choice for rear wheels, but more manufacturers are using disk brakes on all four wheels. Disk brakes use pads, while drum brakes use shoes.

Disk Brakes Versus Drum Breaks


Disk brakes were originally developed for race cars, which needed a more powerful braking method. With disk brakes, the calipers compress the brake pads around the rotor, slowing the vehicle more quickly and with more control. On drum brakes, however, the calipers simply push the brake shoe outward against the drum. If the driver is going very fast, or a great deal of stress was placed on the vehicle (for example, by going downhill), stopping was difficult or impossible.

Check Your Entire Brake System Whenever You Change Pads


When a vehicle’s pads start to squeal, this is a good reminder that it’s time to review the entire brake system. Often, when pads need to be replaced, rotors and drums do as well; after all, the pad is only as effective as the metal it’s stopping. This is also a good time to check brake fluid levels. Take a look at the manufacturer’s manual to see how often flushing the brake lines is recommended.