What are brake pads and what do they do?
Most cars and light trucks are equipped with a disc brake system on all four wheels. Disc brake systems consist of three main components: a brake “disc” or rotor, a hydraulic piston assembly known as the brake caliper assembly and a pair of brake pads.
Disc brake pads are made of friction-creating materials. When the brake pedal is pressed, the hydraulic pistons push the brake pads against both sides of the flat surface of the brake rotor, creating enough friction to stop the vehicle.
The process of braking causes the pads and rotors to wear down slightly with each application of the brakes. This means that they will periodically wear down enough to affect the stopping power of your vehicle. When this happens, it is imperative that you replace them immediately.
What makes a good brake pad?
There is much more to a good brake pad than just its ability to stop a vehicle. The ability to absorb and disperse heat, how quickly it will wear, and the amount of noise and dust it creates are all things to consider when choosing a brake pad.
It may be tempting to choose the brake pads with the lowest cost. However, it is important to keep in mind that you really do get what you pay for. Low quality brake pads can be very noisy, wear down faster and also cause wear on other brake system parts like brake rotors – which means spending more in the long run.
What are the most common types of brake pads?
There are three main types of brake pads that you’ll find on passenger vehicles: non-asbestos organic, ceramic and semi-metallic.
Because of their organic makeup, non-asbestos organic (NAO) brake pads don’t pollute as they lose friction material and are easy to dispose of. NAO pads are softer than most other brake pads, which makes them quieter, but also means that they wear faster and may produce dust. They are best suited for lighter vehicle applications that don’t require a lot of hard braking.
Ceramic brake pads have excellent stopping power and disperse heat well. Ideal for most normal driving applications, they produce very little dust or noise and are long lasting. Many foreign and domestic vehicles are equipped with ceramic brake pad formulations from the factory.
Semi-metallic pads have good stopping power and are very efficient at dispersing heat. They can be noisy and do create more dust than ceramic brake pads. This type of pad is also made with friction materials that are harder than most others, so they may have more aggressive wear to your brake rotors.
So, what are the best brake pads to buy?
For the best overall performance, consult your trusted mechanic to decide if to stick with the same brake pads that came on your vehicle or if now is the time to upgrade to a new type of brake pad. By taking into account your driving habits and patterns, your mechanic will be able to help you determine which brake pad is the best fit for your vehicle.
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