3 Factors To Consider When Choosing Brake Pads

Posted on: 27 July 2022

Selecting new brake pads for your car is more of a balancing act than you might realize. While nearly any modern brake pad will provide adequate performance and good stopping power, most people are looking for something a little bit better than "decent." Unfortunately, there's no such thing as the single perfect brake pad.

Like many components on your car, brake pads are the product of numerous design trade-offs. Improving one quality might mean losing a little bit on another or simply paying more to buy a pad with fewer downsides. If you're mulling over the different options for your car, here are the three factors that should influence your choice.

1. Noise

Brake pads use friction to convert one form of energy (motion) into another (heat). If you've ever used a piece of sandpaper before, you know that creating friction between rough surfaces is rarely silent. While grinding or squealing means that something may be wrong with your brakes, a little bit of noise from the pads during application is perfectly normal.

However, the type of brake pad you select will play a major role in determining how much noise they generate. Generally, you can expect organic brake pads to provide the most silent ride, although a good pair of ceramic pads may come so close that you don't notice the difference. On the other hand, semi-metallic pads will almost always produce more routine noise than other material options.

2. Brake Dust

The lining on your brake pads is a sacrificial material that produces friction while minimizing wear on your brake discs. Since this material "burns up" during usage, the leftover dust must go somewhere. Where does that vaporized friction material end up? If you've ever gone a few months without cleaning your wheels, you probably already know the answer.

All pads produce dust, but the type of friction material will once again play a major role in how noticeable that dust may be. You will generally notice the most dust with organic pads. These pads are softer, so they tend to produce larger, more noticeable dust particles. Ceramic pads often produce the least visible dust, while semi-metallic pads often fall between the two.

3. Longevity

Brake dust isn't the only part of your braking system affected by the hardness of the friction material. Harder materials take longer to wear down, allowing your brakes to last longer. Ceramic is the hardest common brake pad material, followed by semi-metallic, and finally, organic. As you move down the hardness scale, you can expect your pads to wear out more quickly.

However, it's also important to remember that a harder pad will generally wear your rotors more quickly. Going with a semi-metallic or ceramic pad might allow you to increase your intervals between brake changes, but you may also find that your rotors require more frequent replacement. If you're willing to pay, you can offset this disadvantage with stronger, higher-quality rotors.   

For more information about brake service, contact a local company.