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The Difference Between 4 Types of Brake Pads

Your vehicle’s braking system is composed of various parts, which include the brake pedal, brake lines, calipers, rotors, and brake pads. The brake pads are what apply the pressure to the rotors, which is what causes the wheels to slow down and stop moving.

This simply means that in order to achieve top-notch braking performance and minimise the risk of accidents, you should buy brake pads that match your needs. To help you choose, here are the four common types of brake pads you’ll find in the market and how they differ from each other:

Semi-Metallic

Most vehicles nowadays come with semi-metallic brake pads. They offer reliable performance and are perfect for both daily driving and carrying heavy loads. Semi-metallic brake pads are also great for racing and other heavy-duty driving needs because of their sturdy construction. They are made of up to 70% metal, including brass, composite alloys, copper, graphite, and steel. These components are then bonded with resin. Manufacturers also continue to come up with different formulations to further improve braking power, efficiency, and noise reduction.

Semi-metallic brake pads are more affordable than ceramic ones, although they tend to be heavier and don’t last as long comparatively. They also generate more dust and noise. What’s more, semi-metallic brake pads are better suited for warm conditions. Thus, while their composition allows them to withstand high temperatures, they may have a slight delay in braking response if you’re driving in cold weather. It’s best to wait for your vehicle and brakes to warm up first before driving.

Lastly, semi-metallic brake pads put more strain on the rotors. This results in more wear and tear, and you may end up replacing your vehicle’s brake rotors (which are more expensive) more frequently. Their weight may also affect your car’s speed and fuel efficiency, though not by very much. However, if you’re trying to maximise performance, this is something to keep in mind.

Ceramic

Ceramic brake pads, as you might expect, are made up of ceramic fibres. These are mixed with other filling materials, like copper fibres, and then bonded using resin. The result is a lightweight yet dense,  durable, high-performance brake pad with impressive grip and heat dissipation. The latter can help lower the risk of overheating and brake failure.

Other advantages of ceramic brake pads include their very low noise output, low particle and brake dust generation, as well as greater reliability in different weathers and driving conditions. The major downside of ceramic brake pads, on the other hand, is their cost. Due to their composition, they are considerably more expensive than semi-metallic brake pads.

Ceramic brake pads also tend to be harsher tothe other braking components, since they dissipate rather than absorb heat. However, they definitely last longer than other kinds of brake pads.

Organic

Organic brake pads are another great choice for daily driving. They used to be made from asbestos, but manufacturers quickly stopped using this material after the discovery that asbestos can cause diseases like cancer.

Nowadays, organic brake pads are made using glass, Kevlar, and rubber, and bonded in resin, as opposed to asbestos. Thus, they are often called NAO or non-asbestos organic brake pads. They are softer than semi-metallic brake pads, but still perform reliably even under high temperatures. Organic brake pads are also quieter and are much more eco-friendly. Even better is that they don’t put a lot of stress on the rotors, which helps prolong their lifespan.

The disadvantage of organic brake pads is that they don’t last as long and produce more brake dust. They also have a higher compressibility requirement. Thus, you have to step harder on the brake pedal to ensure that the pads are properly engaged.

You will get the most use out of organic brake pads if you own lightweight vehicles and drive in less demanding situations. If you live in high-traffic areas where you might step on the brakes quite often, you’ll be better off with semi-metallic brake pads.

Low Metallic

For something that’s still eco-friendly but performs better than organic brake pads, you can opt for low metallic brake pads. They combine organic components with about 10% to 30% copper or steel. This helps provide better braking performance and improve heat transfer. Low metallic brake pads are also ideal for high-speed braking.

The downside of this type of brake pads is that they generate more noise and brake dust. This can affect your overall driving experience, not to mention require you to clean your wheels more often.

 

As you can see, there’s no “right” kind of brake pads. Rather, there are certain products that will be more suitable for certain situations. Before you buy brake pads, evaluate your driving habits. You should also consider the type of vehicle you have, the climate where you’re driving, and the road conditions you often drive on. All of these factors can help you determine which type of brake pad you should use.

 

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