Brake pads are the car parts responsible for applying pressure to rotors, creating friction, and consequently, slowing down the car. Brake pads should be frequently checked for general wear and replaced when needed. Worn down pads screech as the metal from the rotor meets the metal indicator on the brake pad. While the metal on metal is not causing any damage, brake pads should be replaced as soon as the noise is heard. Should a driver hear a grinding noise, then brake pads should have been replaced long ago.
While drivers should be proactive about replacing brake pads, customers should familiarise themselves with industry information and standards beforehand. Brake pads are typically a universal size, but it is important to check if they are compatible with the car prior to purchasing. Knowing what types of brakes the car has, the options for brake pad materials, and about certified parts allows shoppers to make the most informed decision.
Types of Brakes
Car companies have two types of braking systems to choose from. The first, and newer technology is disc brakes, and the other is drum brakes. There are advantages to each type of system, which is why both types are still used today. If the vehicle was manufactured in the last 30 years, it is likely the car has a combination of discs in the front and drums in the rear.
Disc brakes, occasionally spelled "disk" brakes, employ a disc-shaped metal rotor that spins with the wheel and a brake pad. When the brake pedal is pushed, it squeezes a caliper, and the brake pad applies pressure to the rotor. The friction created slows the wheel of the car. Disc brakes are more efficient than the alternative, and therefore, many front braking systems use disc technology. Brake pads need to tested and replaced regularly; most styles are designed to accommodate many makes and models. In addition to choosing the correct size, brake pads are available in several materials, and there is more information below.
Drum brakes are typically used as a rear-wheel braking system. It is a large, open-back cylinder that resembles a drum. As a driver presses the brake pedal, curved brake shoes inside the cylinder extend outwards and press against the interior walls. Like disc brakes, the friction slows the momentum of the car. The one advantage of drum brakes is they can also be used as a parking brake, whereas disc brakes require extra parts. Like brake pads, drum brakes need to be replaced when worn.
Brake Pad Materials
When brake pads first debuted in the 1950s, the first material used was asbestos. At the time, consumers were unaware of the adverse health effects. Car manufacturers chose asbestos since it has the ability to function with extremely high temperatures. Once asbestos was no longer deemed safe, organic brake pads became the replacement. Drivers today also have the low-metallic, semi-metallic, and ceramic brake pads options, and the following sections outline the characteristics of each.
Organic brake pads are comprised from carbon mixed with any combination of the following: glass, rubber, Kevlar, and resin. The auto industry implemented the use of organic brake pads as an alternative to asbestos. While the organic option is favoured for being less noisy than other materials, particularly metal options, they are softer on the rotors. One drawback to organic brake pads is they are prone to creating more dust; moreover, organic pads are not acceptable for racing since they do not work as well with high heat.
Semi-metallic brake pads are one of the more popular options for racing vehicles. They are comprised of 30 to 65 per cent metal; steel wire, copper, iron powder, or a combination of these metals are coupled with synthetic fillers like resin, and friction modifiers make these brake pads some of the most effective. Unfortunately, these pads have the reputation for wearing out the rotors than any other material.
Low-metallic brake pads are made from less metal materials; whereas semi-metallic can have up to 65 per cent metal, low-metallic pads only have 10 to 30 per cent steel or copper. The metal is used to create friction without wearing as much on the rotors. These brake pads are noisier than other styles and create more dust than ceramic or organic pads.
Ceramic brake pads are one the most common options for standard drivers. Many prefer ceramic as it brakes much more quietly than metal options. Moreover, this material reduces both the amount of dust produced and the wear and tear on rotors. Ceramic has a reputation for better stops and less brake fade. The chart below summarises the main differences between the four most common brake pad materials available today.
Popular option favoured for quiet braking; reduced wear on rotors; less dust
10 to 30 per cent metal; softer wear on rotors but creates brake dust
Acceptable for ordinary drivers; less wear on rotors, but prone to creating dust
30 to 65 per cent metal; effective configuration but wears out rotors
Every day, standard drivers can purchase any of the brake pads made of the materials in the chart above, but ceramic is typically the all-around best choice. However, racers and drivers carrying heavy loads should consider semi-metallic or low-metallic brake pads to fit their needs.
Breaking in Brake Pads
When it comes to testing brake pads after installation, there are a few rules to apply. Brake pads do not work perfect immediately after they are put on. Breaking in brake pads is often referred to as "bedding", and before taking the car on the open road, drivers are strongly advised to bed their new brake pads.
Bedding brakes is essentially heat curing the new pads. The overall goal is to raise the temperature of the new brakes pads by applying mild to moderate pressure at slow speeds and reduce the momentum, allowing the brakes to cool between intervals. Failure to wear in brakes gradually can result in reduced performance or even damaging the brakes. Drivers with new brake pads should discuss bedding techniques with the mechanic who installs the parts.
Choosing the Right Brake Pads
Although many brake pads can fit on a variety of vehicles, drivers should have an idea of how the brakes are used and their expectations in performance. In addition between differentiating between materials, customers are encouraged to research before hitting the stores, whether local or virtual. When choosing brake pads, buyers should shop with quality and purpose in mind and be less concerned with price.
Brake Pad Use
First, consider how the brakes are to be used. For the standard, everyday commuter, a regular, pair of certified brake pads should do the trick. The section below has more information on brake pad certifications. Race car drivers and truck drivers may need a more specialised pad. Racing brake pads should only be put on racing vehicles; these pads on a regular car results in harder and noisier braking. Drivers towing heavy loads, especially through uneven terrain, should opt for some heavy duty brake pads. Larger loads require more power.
Whereas price often holds a correlational relationship with quality, the price of a brake pad has little to do with how good it is for a car. A more expensive pad does not mean it is any better than the cheaper option. Drivers are encouraged to have the front and rear brakes check at the same time; replacing brake pads and shoes improves the vehicle's overall braking system.
Certified Brake Pads
An ECE-R90 certification is the European quality standard that all replacement brake pad manufacturers must adhere to. In order to receive this certification, companies must comply with government requirements. They must prove the pads work properly safety tests at official facilities. The brake pads are tested, and results regarding performance, fade, and recovery features are recorded. In order to pass inspection, brake pads must rate with a 15 per cent range of the auto manufacturer's original part. When replacing brake pads, drivers must always look for the ECE-R90 certification before buying.
Buying Brake Pads on eBay
Whether for a standard sedan or a race car, finding a good set of brake pads on eBay is a breeze. Simply type "brake pads" in the search bar to see all options available. If you find you have too many options to choose from, adding in keywords, such as "racing brake pads", limit your results. On the other hand, if you have too few brake pads to choose from, consider eliminating a few keywords to broaden your options.
Once you have a sizable return on your brake pad search, you have the option to custom sort results by your top priority. To find eBay's best deals, sort by lowest to highest price; eBay can factor in shipping to ensure the absolute lowest option. If you want to eliminate shipping fees altogether, arrange brake pads by distance from seller, and see if you can arrange an in-person pick up. Buyers can also sort by highest to lowest price, time left in auctions, and new or used condition.
Finding the right set of brake pads involves knowing the type of car, the general use, and familiarity with the four materials available. High performance cars, like those used for racing or transporting a lot of weight, can benefit from low metallic and semi-metallic brake pads. Standard drivers can purchase any option, but ceramic and organic brake pads are sufficient, if not preferred. Even though brake pads can typically fit on any car, it is important to verify they are compatible with the car before buying them.
Moreover, drivers must remember to break in their new brake pads before engaging in regular driving activities. Ignoring the bedding process can cause more harm than good; the result can be as severe as damaging both the new pads and the rotors. To ensure the entire braking system is optimally functioning, drivers should regularly replace the brake pads on the front brakes and shoes on the rear set.