The Best Brake Pads: Full Guide to Finding the Best Ones
A lot of vehicle owners – most of the time – pay a lot of attention to their automobiles. They make sure they change the oil at the appropriate time, tune up the engines while ensuring that the exterior of the vehicle continues to have that stunning glow that makes them proud owners of such a beaut. They even make sure that the interior of the car looks and smells new.
But do you know what? All your attention on such a vehicle will amount to nothing if you are in motion and need to apply the brakes, but then nothing happens. Why? You neglected your brake pads!
Brake pads are vital parts of your vehicle and should also call for your attention at all times. You need to ensure that a professional carry out a routine check to see if they are in good working condition or not so that they can be replaced with a new pair.
Depending on how often you make use of your vehicle, brake pads are one of the fewest components that need to be changed from time to time to prevent accidents which could claim your precious life. Additionally, replacing them on time can also save you a lot of money – and your vehicle as well – since you will not have to cope with fixing other damaged components that occurred as a result of failing to replace the old brake pads with new ones.
In this article, you will learn about the best brake pads in the market today as well as the A-Z guide of finding the best ones out there. So, sit tight, avoid distractions, and let’s dive in!
What are Brake Pads?
Brake pads are an essential part of any vehicle’s brake system. They are usually positioned between the brake shoe – i.e., that component that clamps down, thus slowing the rotation of the tires – and your brake drum. If your brake pads do not function well, other parts – such as the rotors, calipers, and discs – will start wearing away. This is one of the few reasons why you need to maintain effective and highly functioning brake pads as well as to avoid costly repairs and hazardous driving conditions. So, the ability to be able to readily identify when to replace the old brake pads of your vehicle is highly crucial to your overall safety.
How Long Do Brake Pads of the Average Vehicle Last?
Experts opine that brake pads that have covered between 30,000-35,000 miles need to be replaced with new ones. But then in reality, how long brake pads last varies from one vehicle to another as well as from driver to driver.
For instance, people that drive – most of the time – in urban areas or heavy commuter traffic are liable to a more frequent engagement of their brakes compared to those who drive on highways or rural locations. Some individuals have also learned the unhealthy habit of “riding the brake” which is a term that means pressing and depressing their brakes consistently than other drivers. This can ultimately lead to the speedy wearing away of the brake pads.
But all you need is a little more forethought as well as attention, and you will be able to tell when to replace your old brake pads with a new set.
What Happens When the Brake Pads of Your Vehicle Wear Down?
Each time you apply your vehicle’s brakes, your brake pads experience minute amounts of deterioration, irrespective of whether you are using organic, semi-metallic or ceramic brake pads (more on these types of brake pads later). As you engage the brakes, there is friction which causes some of the protective coating on the brake pads to start wearing away.
After a while, this steady deterioration begins to add up, and as the brake pads continue to get thinner by the day, they will get to a particular point where you will have no other choice than to replace them with a new set.
Here are some of the signs you should watch out for that will indicate it is time to replace your old brake pads with new ones:
Low Metallic Growling and Grinding
When you engage your brakes while you are driving and hear a low, growling noise that sounds as if two metals are grinding against each other, it is a strong indication that your brake pads are already worn away. The noise actually originates from the contact between your calipers and brake discs.
Now, this metal-on-metal grating contact can cause a lot of considerable damage to your braking system if you continue using your vehicle that way without taking care of it. To prevent this occurrence and to avoid unnecessary – as well as costly – repairs, you need to take your car to the nearest or neighborhood service shop as quickly as possible any time you hear such noises.
Screeching or whining noises when you engage your brakes are one of the first indications that something is wrong somewhere in your braking system. This sound is emitted as a result of a small, metallic shim indicator that is implanted in the brake pad for this particular purpose.
So, if you keep hearing this squealing sound each time you apply the brakes, it implies that you need to visit a brake specialist for a thorough inspection, service or advice.
You can also give your brake pads the once-over to see if they require replacement. Take a look at them via the spooks of your tire, and you should be able to see the outside padding of your brake pad compressed snugly against the brake rotor.
If the brake pad is about 3 millimeters – approximately ¼ inch – thick, you need to get a professional to help you inspect it further. That is if you cannot vividly recall the last time you took your vehicle for a thorough inspection.
Some of the new vehicles flooding the market today are equipped with low-paid warning systems which emit signals – via blinking indicator lights on your dashboard – that you need to replace your brake pads with new ones.
So, find and check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle comes with such a system. You should also bear in mind that if your vehicle has the low-paid warning system and it comes on, your mechanic will not only end up replacing the brake pads but will also have to replace the light sensors as well.
When Your Vehicle Pulls to One Side
Have you ever been in a vehicle and noticed that when the driver engaged the brakes – for one reason or the other – the vehicle pulled to one side of the road? Well, that is an indication that the brake pads are lopsided or uneven, though it could also portend other hidden issues with such a vehicle.
If you experience such a scenario when driving your car, have your automobile examined by a professional. If you need to replace your worn-out brake pads, do so in pairs.
Throbbing Brake Pedal
Worn- out brake pads will cause a throbbing sensation whenever you attempt to depress the brake pedal. The pedal may also start to vibrate as well.
How Brake Pads Evolved
Let’s take a quick look at the brief history of the brake pad. Disc brakes began to gain popularity in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The best and most inexpensive material to construct them at the time was asbestos owing to its durability as well as its resistance to heat.
But later on, the health, as well as the environmental repercussions of using asbestos, became widely known. Soon enough, brake pads made of asbestos were jettisoned quickly, and manufacturers started scrambling about in search of a safer and new way of curtailing momentum more effectively.
This led to the development of what is known as “organic brake pads.”
Organic Brake Pads
Organic brake pads were developed as an excellent alternative to asbestos brake pads. These new brake pads – otherwise known as “non-asbestos organic” or NAO – were constructed of several fibers which were chemically mixed with binding resins in a bid to hold the fibers together.
Some of the common materials used in constructing the organic brake pads include:
The tools – along with materials – used in the manufacture of non-asbestos organic brake pads remain the least inexpensive when compared to the other elements. At least, approximately 70 percent of the new cars that are sold in the United States today are still equipped with organic brake pads right from the factory.
- Low manufacturing cost
- Ideal for vehicles that run every day and the best choice of drivers
- Does not require too much heat to produce good friction
- Quiet, undemanding on brake rotors, and relatively soft
- Appropriate for commuting or driving across many settings or environment
- Generates less dust compared to metallic pads
- Relatively unsuitable for performance driving
- Wears out too quickly compared to other brake pads constructed of other types of materials
- High compressibility which can engender a “squishy” feel of the brake pedal
- They operate well within a limited temperature range which is highly inappropriate
- When overheated, they lose their coefficient of friction pretty quickly
Semi-Metallic Brake Pads
Semi-metallic brake pads are constructed using a mixture of metals and other materials. These brake pads are 30-65 percent metal – i.e., iron, steel, copper, etc. – used in combination with fillers and friction modifiers. It also has a graphite lubricant to enhance its function as well.
Semi-metallic brake pads are perhaps the most versatile style that is available. They last incredibly long and are also exceptionally durable. The metallic composition of this brake pad also helps to repel heat from the rotor, thus aiding in more effective brake-cooling.
- Provide excellent cold bite
- Low compressibility which allows for a firmer brake pedal feel
- Significantly increased braking performance much better than non-asbestos organic brake pads
- Metallic content provides a considerably higher thermal threshold
- Suitable for daily street-driving, excessive track use, etc. due to the various compounds used in manufacturing them
- Possess higher resistance to brake fade compared to their organic counterparts
- They have a radically more extensive – temperature – operating range
- Somewhat noisier than ceramic or organic brake pads
- Require accurate and careful bedding-in for optimal performance
- Drastically more abrasive compared to other types of brake pads which culminate in the quick wearing down of brake rotors
- Significantly produce much more brake dust compared to other types of brake pads
Ceramic Brake Pads
Ceramic brake pads are the latest in the market today, and they are mostly made up of dense ceramic material. These brake pads come with embedded copper fibers. Ceramic brake pads have been in operation since the ‘80s and were developed as another alternative for both organic as well as semi-metallic brake pads.
At the time, these – i.e., organic and semi-metallic – brake pads emitted too much noise when in operation. Ceramic pads were a breath of fresh air compared to the latter as they were very much easier on rotors compared to semi-metallic pads.
- Much quieter than semi-metallic brake pads as they only produce noises that slightly above the range of human hearing
- They possess a much longer life span than their counterparts
- They are exceptionally stable under a broad range of temperatures for regular performance
- Generate light-colored and finer dust which doesn’t stick to wheels
- They are relatively the most expensive of all types of brake pads in use today
- They may not be the perfect choice to use in a frigid climate as they don’t produce as much cold bite as semi-metallic brake pads
- They do not readily absorb heat – due to their pottery-fired-in-a-kiln nature – as excellently well as semi-metallic brake pads, and this could significantly increase the temperature of the brake system
- Although they possess excellent versatile braking characteristics, they were not designed as racing or heavy-duty brake pads
Is Braking Truly A Compromise?
As clearly indicated thus far, you can see that no specific brake pad reigns supreme in every situation or circumstance. Do you want quiet and clean stops? Then you should be ready to pay for it in clear-cut performance.
If your aim is to enjoy a substantial amount of brake bite in extreme temperatures, you will be left with no choice than to be cleaning your wheels now and then.
Ceramic brake pads are durable, provide quieter stops, and exceptionally longer pad-life as a result of their composition. They also have a low coefficient of friction compared to their semi-metallic counterparts. The coefficient of friction is a valuable property when it comes to brake pads. This is because the higher the coefficient of friction of a brake pad, the better it will be at stopping your vehicle.
However, ceramic brake pads have never been designed to be racing brake pads or able to endure extreme performance. Ceramic materials are naturally poor when it comes to sinking heat, thus making them act as insulators. But their semi-metallic counterparts are highly efficient at absorbing heat. The less a brake pad can soak up heat, the more the heat is retained in the surrounding components including the brake rotor. This could ultimately lead to increased temperatures in the entire braking system.
But then again, although semi-metallic brake pads are renowned for their noise-producing along with dust-generating attributes, they are possibly the more adaptable of the two. They are infinitely more efficient or effective over a broad range of temperatures and also exhibit high thermal threshold. Furthermore, they provide improved cold bite and can also maintain consistent friction characteristics in their operating range much more than their ceramic counterparts.
For highway driving – or casual driving within the city – including commuting, chauffeuring, etc. organic or ceramic brake pads provide sufficient stopping power with the additional benefits of cleaner wheels, long life span, and quietness.
How to Install Brake Pads
For DIYers who want to install brake pads by themselves, you will require protective equipment along with brake grease. Take note that brake grease is toxic and could harm your skin, make sure you are wearing protective gear before you touch it.
When applying the grease on the brake pads, you need to make sure that you smear the back area of this replaceable block of material. Do not smear the front part of the brake pads with grease.
Next, find out how the old brake pads look like to see if the clips are pre-installed or not. If they are, then the replacement process will be a breeze, and you will not encounter any difficulty when replacing the old brake pads with the new well-greased set.
But if the clips are not there, you may have to add this attachment yourself. Moreover, if the new brake pads are relatively thicker than the old set, you will have to enlarge the caliper assembly. This is because the old measurement will not be adequate to accommodate new brake pads.
You will have to slot in the old brake pads inside the caliper assembly, and then make use of a brake tool to secure until it fits appropriately and correctly in the caliper’s clamp. The new brake pads should fit in without any glitches whatsoever in the entire assembly.
Tighten up the nuts using a wrench and then fix the tire back in place. Tighten the nuts of the tire and then lift the jack to remove the jack stands. Then, lower the jack and take it away. You are now ready to enjoy your brand-new brake pads!
If you are not too sure how to do this, you can watch a few YouTube videos to see how it is done so that you don’t mess up the job. Better still, leave this work in the hands of professionals who will get it done for you within a short period.
The Best Brake Pads in The Market Today
By now, it is believed that you know the importance of having good brake pads, not only to avoid squealing noises but to safeguard your life when driving. This is the primary reason why people go online to find the best brake pads out there.
But there are so many of these brake pads, each one claiming to be the “best” in the market. So, to help you make a quick buying decision, here are some of the best brake pads in the market today. These brake pads have undergone in-depth scrutiny before being adjudged the best out there.
So, here are some of the options that are available and arranged in no particular order:
Bosch is a brand that is renowned for making some of the best brake pads in the industry. Every customer or user of brake pads that are manufactured by Bosch always return to give credit to the authenticity, durability, efficiency, and satisfaction that their products deliver.
Bosch brake pads are made of premium materials to ensure that every user gets exceptional stopping power as well as a quiet action, thanks to their low-dust capabilities.
This brake pad set comes together with rubber cores with a multifaceted shim which helps tremendously when it comes to having increased insulation against strength and nose.
In addition to this, Bosch also makes use of cutting-edge aerospace alloy which is the combination of semi-metallic and copper-free ceramic friction formula. This is a guarantee that the pads will work exceptionally well, thus giving you that incredible performance that you crave for all the time.
The protective transfer layer that comes with the Bosch brake pad set also serves to remarkably extend both the rotor and pad life. There is no doubt that this is one of the best brake pads set in the market today. But like every product out there, these brake pads are not without flaws.
- They are constructed of premium materials
- They significantly improve the rotor’s life
- It operates quietly
- Some fitting complaints from users
Hawk Auto Parts is a brand that makes tried-and-tested exceptional brake pads which are an excellent replacement on high-performance street vehicles. These semi-metallic brake pads provide increased stopping power, but in such a way that they do not add too much unnecessary heat to the rotors.
Brake pads from this brand also include the use of some compounds when manufacturing the product because they do not perform like regular semi-metallic brake pads.
- Noiseless, increased stopping power
- They are composed of Ferro-Carbon formula, premium space-age technology which enhances performance
- They will not wear rotors down
- They are too costly
- Although they may not wear down rotors, they can weaken them extensively with the heat that is generated from friction when stopping
This ceramic brake pad set is also one of the best brake pads, and coming from this particular brand, you can be assured that you will get value for your money.
This is because this brake pad set offers a superb performance compared to other brake pads out there. It features unique semi-metallic and ceramic formulas that provide reliability as well as safety all at once. This means that this particular brake pad will be fantastic for a wide variety of vehicle applications.
This product also has friction material that is carefully molded to the backing plate and features premium slots, shims as well as chamfers to help in minimizing the vibration, noise and braking harshness.
- Premium shims
- Product emits no noise and vibrations
- Good for reliability and safety
- None found
This nicely designed set of brake pads are one of the best from the EBC brand. They are made of ceramic, which means that they will last extensively while clearly outperforming several other varieties of brake pads out there. The brake pads are also carefully engineered to emit negligible brake dust.
The Redstuff ceramic brake pads work extraordinarily well on luxury European imports, streetcar versions (fast stock), etc. They are renowned for their nice grabbing when you stop and produce negligible noise when doing so.
- Emits only small quantities of brake dust as the pads wear down
- Lasts longer, especially on cars whose owners love to keep as clean as possible all the time
- Best suited for installation on European imports
- May cause rotors to build up a lot of heat which may wear down the rotors faster
This ceramic brake pad set works as claimed by the manufacturer, and that is saying a lot coming from one of the most renowned brands in this business. You have nothing to worry about as regards overall performance.
These brake pad set from Akebono are constructed using a combination of organic, semi-metallic, and low metallic materials. They are ultra-quiet, and owners are 100 percent in charge when it comes to controlling the vibration, noise as well as harshness level. The rotor performance is super friendly, which means these brake pad set can also help to prolong rotor life generally.
- They are ultra-quiet
- They are user-friendly
- Performance is superb
- A few complaints of the brake pads not fitting appropriately
This is another innovative and high-quality product from Hawk Auto Parts. These fabulous pair of brake pads provide incredible stopping performance with negligible noise. They are designed for high-performance vehicles, and the entire kit comes with high-grade rubber shims that will ensure your installation is perfect.
- They are practically noiseless
- No noise
- They are efficient enough to stop an automobile without grabbing and thrusting users forward
- They are very affordable
- They dissipate heat quickly which ultimately affects the rotor and shortens its life
This ceramic brake pad set is also making waves in the industry and is one of the best in the market as well. They are at least 35 percent quieter than several other brake pad options out there. They also have more efficient stopping power – up to 15 percent – which is one of the reasons why users praise their performance over others.
The Wagner ThermoQuiet ceramic brake pads also last incredibly long, meaning that you will not be required to change them as often as you would have if you were to use other types of brake pads.
- They exhibit incredible stopping power
- They are very quiet
- They are user-friendly
- A few complaints from users about dust
This first-class quality and thick ceramic brake pads from Brembo easily outperform many semi-metallic brake pads out there. They hold up exceptionally well and provide enhanced braking performance when you stop your car.
They are also ultra-quiet when you engage the brakes of your automobile and leave behind a very tiny amount of brake dust when used.
- They come in clean packaging
- They are incredibly easy to install
- Everything that you need to make the installation process a breeze comes with the package
- They are relatively expensive, especially for non-high-performance ceramic brake pads.
- They may be slightly smaller than your usual brake pads and may not fit well if you do not get the proper sizes or measurement
These professional-grade semi-metallic brake pad set provide extraordinary performance for a wide range of driving conditions. Users attest to braking in confidence when using this remarkable set of brake pads.
Raybestos brake pads are constructed with ceramic, organic, and semi-metallic friction materials which help to keep the overall noise to the barest minimum. The shim material it comes with also contributes to the reduction of the harshness – and vibration – that comes with working the brake pads.
This semi-metallic brake set also comes with consistent form, fit, and function.
- They are ultra-quiet
- They are composed of high-quality friction materials
- They come with premium shims
- A few complaints from users about dust
The Posi-quiet ceramic brake pads perform excellently well, and users that invest their money in purchasing this product rarely have cause for complaints.
The brake pad is impressively constructed and comes with shims which enables to deliver significant stopping power. It features precision-cut backing plates which further enhances its stable friction performance at all times.
The brake pad can also handle a wide range of temperatures while braking with minimal noise levels.
- It provides extraordinary performances
- Product is easy to set up
- It offers remarkable and highly stable friction performance
- It is costly
Buying Guide for the Best Brake Pads
Vibration, Noise, and Harshness Levels
You need to take a look at the vibration, noise, and harshness of using the brake pads. This is to ensure that you end up paying for noise-free and smooth braking experience. Squealing brakes can be one of the worst experiences that any driver can pass through, and you don’t want to experience anything like that. So you need to take your time to check out the reviews of users about their braking experiences so that you don’t get irritated with harsh brakes in the long run.
You need to consider how your brake pad will hold up under different weather conditions. This could be wet, dry cold or hot environments; therefore, go for brake pads that can perform equally well in these weather conditions.
Dust levels of brake pads are of paramount concern to car owners. This has to do with how much brake dust you generate every time you engage the car brakes. When your brake pads discharge too much brake dust, it darkens the wheels of your automobile. You can avoid this by getting brake pads that generate minimal dust during operations.
Brake Pad Lifetime
The overall pad lifetime is also crucial, but this is easy to determine as most manufacturers usually include this vital information in their packages. This will inform you how long you have to use the brake pads before replacing them with a new set.
The Operating Temperature
The operating temperature of brake pads is also highly significant. This is because you need to go for high-temperature brake pads which allows you to operate them efficiently in high temperatures for extended periods. So, make sure you go for brake pads that provide maximum operating temperatures.
The friction profile is another essential characteristic you need to watch out for when it comes to buying brake pads as the exertion on brake pad friction also changes with temperature.
This invariably affects the amount of force required to apply on the pedal in order to maintain the same level of friction during different braking conditions.
Best Brake Pads for Trucks
It’s clear that every vehicle will need a change of brake pads, which is why we are always reviewing some great and long-lasting options so you can change or improve your opinion next time you are at your mechanic or even when you are on the look for best brake pads yourself. Here follow some of the best brake pads for trucks which we know you’ll love.
FAQ’s About Brake Pads
In order to know when you should change the brake pads of your vehicle, you have to check the way your brake pads ‘act’ and if they are showing “the symptoms”. This means you should be aware of how worn down they are, whether there is low brake fluid, or if there is excessive brake pedal travel.
Even though many people replace their old brakes with new and bigger ones, that doesn’t mean they will stop their car faster nor will it decrease its stopping which is basic physics. The only difference between regular brakes and bigger ones is that the big ones will only spread out the clamping force on the brake caliper in a larger area.
Every car owner comes into this debate when it comes to purchasing brake pads, and honestly, the semi-metallic ones and ceramic ones are the best options to go for and they are the more durable ones as well, since they are made of ceramic compounds with copper fibers which allow better performance, higher temperature resistance and don’t wear as quickly as the organic ones.
As you can see, getting the best brake pads for your automobile is not rocket science. But you need to follow this guideline to ensure that you are getting the best value for your money. The brake pads listed in this guide have been tried and tested, and they have proven their worth when it comes to performance.
So, go for anyone that you can afford and enjoy a smooth driving experience for a long time to come!