The modern automotive brake system has come a long way. From the older, mechanically-operated brake shoes and drum system to today’s computer-controlled ABS system, all brake parts eventually wear out and need replacement. The parts that take the most abuse or wear and tear are the brake pads. While it is usually best to stick with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) braking system parts, choosing the right brake pads is becoming increasingly hard due to the multiple options, brands, and styles.
Brake pads should always be changed before they wear out completely and as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer to maintain optimal stopping power. Doing so will reduce damage to other critical braking components like brake calipers and rotors. If your brake pads are wearing thin and you need to choose the right brake pads, ask yourself these 3 detailed questions:
1. When Should Brake Pads Be Changed?
Most automotive manufacturers recommend changing your brake pads every 30,000 to 40,000 miles — essentially each time you change the tires on your car. Tires and brakes work in conjunction to assist stop your vehicle, so it makes sense to change brake pads and your vehicle’s “shoes” at the same time. By changing the brake pads before they wear out completely, you’ll avoid having to change your brake rotor — the part brake pads touch to stop the wheel from spinning. Brake rotors should be changed every two or three tire replacements or every 100,000 to 120,000 miles. There are a few common signs motorists can listen and feel for to alert them of brake pads requiring replacement sooner than later.
- Brake squealing:If you press the brake pedal and you observe a loud squealing sound, it is produced by brake pads that have worn too thin. Specifically, a wear bar sign will touch the brake rotor when the pads wear past the 80% mark. If the brake pads are not replaced soon after hearing this noise, the wear indicator will actually dig into the rotor, which will need replacement itself in most cases.
- Brake pedal pulses:If you press the brake pedal and you feel it pulse, it’s another normal sign of worn out brake pads. However, this could equally be a sign of a warped brake rotor or issues with the ABS system, so an inspection from a professional mechanic is recommended.
2. What Features Should You Look for in Brake Pads?
When shopping for the new brake pads, you’ll want to consider 7 points to find the best brake pads for your vehicle. The type of brake pad you’ll require depends on your driving style and conditions. For example, brake pads designed for commuting should rarely have to deal with high temperatures, while those for high-performance vehicles, on the other hand, will need to handle some hot bite.
- Weather Performance:Good brake pads should be able to function in all climates, regardless of whether it’s dry, wet, muddy, warm, or cold.
- Cold Bite and Hot Bite:Your brake pad should perform as demanded and provide ideal friction whether it is hot or cold.
- Maximum Operating Temperature (MOT):This is the highest temperature the brake pad can read before getting unsafe through disintegration.
- Friction Response to Temperature:This is measured in a friction profile, noting how much force you require to apply to the pedal to receive the same response in emergency braking compared to regular braking.
- Pad and Rotor Lifetime:Both the brake pad and rotor are prone to wear. You need to consider how long the pads are made to last as well as the rotor when engaging the brake pads.
- Noise and Vibration:You’ll want to consider how much noise, vibration, and even pedal feel pressing down on the brake pad will produce.
- Dust Levels:Brake pads may get dust that then clings to your wheel.
3. What Are the Different Types of Brake Pads?
As stated above, the best advice for changing brake pads is to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for replacement components. In most instances, this means you’ll ask for OEM replacement brake pads. Depending on the type of car you have, it’s likely your OEM brake pad is made from one of three unique materials. Listed below are the 3 most common types of brake pad materials:
- Organic Brake Pads
Initially, brake pads were produced out of asbestos, a hard yet toxic material that has been linked to causing multiple respiratory diseases. When asbestos was banned, many brake pads became manufactured by a composite of multiple materials including carbon, glass, rubber, fibers, and more. Organic brake pads are typically quieter and softer-applying brake pads. The main drawback is they don’t last very long. You’ll typically find organic OEM brake pads for lighter-weight luxury vehicles.
- Semi-Metallic Brake Pads
The majority of cars on roads today utilize semi-metallic pads. The semi-metallic brake pad is made up of copper, iron, steel, and other metals combined with graphite lubricants and other materials to help to lower the build-up of heat. These types of brake pads are often found as OEM solutions for heavy-duty cars due to their ability to last longer and to lower friction — which helps heavier cars, trucks, and SUV’s stop more efficiently.
- Ceramic Brake Pads
The newest brake pad on the market is the ceramic pad. Ceramic brake pads were introduced in the 1980s as a replacement for older asbestos pads. This type of brake pad is produced from a hardened ceramic material combined with copper fibers. Due to their unique construction, they tend to last the longest among the big-three and apply quite softly. The drawback is two-fold. First, though they can withstand high temperatures, they don’t work very well in colder-weather climates, as the material is prone to cracking when introduced to extreme cold conditions. Also, they are the most expensive type of brake pad.
4. Are OEM Brake Pads the Only Ones I Can Use?
The best answer to this question is no. There are some automotive manufacturers who demand the use of OEM components in order to comply with warranties, so you should always check with your car manufacturer first. However, several many companies have OEM-equivalent brake pad options made by aftermarket manufacturers. If you’re going to purchase aftermarket brake pads, follow 3 these basic rules:
- Always purchase a trusted name brand.Brake pads can save your life. You don’t want to compromise on replacement brake pads made by a cheap aftermarket manufacturer.
- Check the Warranty.Many brake pad manufacturers (or retailers selling them) offer warranties on brake pads. While they are made to wear out eventually, if they are backed by a mileage warranty, it’s a good sign of the quality of the aftermarket part.
- Look for Certifications.There are two general brake pad certifications included on aftermarket parts. The first is Differential Effectiveness Analysis (D3EA) and the second, Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedures (BEEP).
Irrespective of what type of brake pad you choose, the vital thing to remember is that proper installation is the most vital attribute to follow. When you’re looking to purchase the right brake pads, ensure you have a professional mechanic complete the job for you.