Whether it’s about basic safety or pure performance, the braking system is by far the most essential system of your car. Stopping power is what saves lives in everyday driving, but also sheds seconds on the track, and engineers have come a long way over the decades in improving automotive brakes. The fact that you’re here reading this article means that you truly care about your safety and getting to know how your car work, so today, we’re here to further expand your automotive knowledge.
The topic of the day are brake pads. First of all, what is a brake pad? It’s a component of disc brakes that ensures stopping power via friction, and is situated in brake calipers, facing the braking disc. By applying pressure on the pedal, the caliper grips the disc rotor, where the braking pads do the rest of the work, converting kinetic into thermal energy and eventually stopping the car. Depending on your needs and budget, there are more than a few types of braking pads to choose from, all with their own upsides and flaws. So, let’s see what they are all about, and let’s get straight to it!
1. Semi Metallic Brake Pads
First of all, there are semi metallic brake pads. These type of pads are considered to be the most durable, at least when it comes to budget-friendly brake pads, and they also have great heat transfer capability. Semi metallic pads are made out of 30% to 65% metal. Usually, they consist of copper, steel wool or wire, graphite and other metallic components, and they are the most common type of brake pads. However, they wear disc rotors down faster than other types of pads when used harshly, and use of metallic materials makes them noisy. Also, the other downside of semi metallic brake pads is that they tend to under-perform in colder weather. No matter the flaws, semi metallic brake pads will probably be your No. 1 choice if you actively drive a performance car, a heavy truck, or if you live in an area where you need to brake often and hard, like in the mountains. Due to their capabilities, they really have a wide range of potential use, and they present a common choice for track racing. The reason for that is that metallic components are a great heat conductor, so they help cool down the rest of the braking system more easily.
2. Non-Asbestos Organic
If you choose to go for less noisy brake pads, chances are you’ll choose non-asbestos organic brakes, the most common type of brake pads around, with two thirds of new cars having them as standard. In the earlier years of the automotive industry, asbestos was commonly used when manufacturing brake pads, but as the technology progressed and asbestos proved to be hazardous, this compound now consists of high temperature resins, fibers and filler materials. This type of brake pads is considerably softer compared to semi metallic brake pads, but it comes at a price of more brake powder emission and faster deterioration. As an upside, they are cheaper than semi metallic brake pads. When you’re shopping for this type of brakes, they’ll usually be listed as NAO or organic brake pads. If you own a compact car, or you don’t cover many miles during the year, nor drive your car in spirited manner, organic brakes are the best choice for you since they are the least costly, and you won’t be braking often or hard enough to wear them quickly.
3. Low-Metallic NAO
The next type of brake pads are made with 10% to 30% metal mixed with the same organic compounds of non-asbestos organic brakes. They provide a fine balance between semi metallic brake pads and non-asbestos organic brake pads, as they offer outstanding heat transfer and braking capabilities. However, they emit more noise than organic pads, and more brake dust than semi metallic brake pads. So, when it comes to actual performance, low-metallic organic brakes gravitate toward organic brakes, so they proved to be the best for a slightly spirited driving style and higher annual mileage.
4. Ceramic Brake Pads
Finally, the cleanest, yet the most expensive brake pads are ceramic brake pads. They are made out of ceramic fibers mixed with bonding agents, nonferrous filler materials and a small amount of copper fibers. Ceramic brake pads offer you little-to-none noise, they wear down very slowly and create small amounts of dust, and they are efficient in a wide arrange of temperatures. But, they also have a set of their own downsides. First of all, as ceramic brake pads are the newest technology in the industry, their manufacturing process is still quite expensive, which reflects on their high retail cost compared to other brake pads. Besides that, ceramic brake pads tend to wear brake disc rotors more than other types of brakes, primarily due to the heat they transfer rather than absorbing it. In conclusion, ceramic brake pads are the best for urban driving and higher annual mileage, where you’ll brake often, but under lower speeds and not as hard, which means that your brake pads will last long, as well as the rest of the braking system.
Now that we’ve got everything covered, there’s something more to talk about. No matter what brake pads you choose for your car, it’s of vital importance that you regularly maintain your car. Also, we’d always recommend that you don’t go for the cheapest option around, because making that compromise can mean that you’ll get an under-performing part, or the one you’ll have to replace sooner. If you can’t decide on the best option yourself, it’s best that you talk to your mechanic and find a set of brake pads that suits your actual needs and driving style the best. That way, you will certainly know that you can drive your car safely for many carefree miles, until the next brake pad maintenance cycle comes.