Brake pads aren't something that a lot of people think about on a daily basis. The brake pads that auto manufacturer's select for their vehicles are chosen based on select number of qualities, primarily noise, dust, stopping ability and wear. The ideal combination of these aspects is obviously low noise and dust, good stopping power and long pad life. That's a lot to ask from a brake pad! Think about it, brake pads get a lot of abuse; they have to deal with high temperatures and be able to make friction occur on wet/dry/cold/hot rotors, and they have to do it repeatedly for fifty thousand miles or more! That's pretty demanding, but somehow manufacturers have been able to engineer pads that meet these levels of performance.
How Aftermarket Brake Pads Work
So why do aftermarket pads even exist? If manufacturers have already figured out how to make an ideal brake compound that consistently stops cars and requires little to no maintenance, then why are there all these companies out there boasting they have better pads? Well, it's a tough question to answer, but the main reason is for performance. You see, everyone measure performance on a different scale; do you want lots of pad-bite and maximum friction, or do you want a pad that will deal with repeatedly stopping heavy loads without wearing out in six thousand miles, or do you want something that is like what the original pads were like?
That is the first step to choosing your next set of brake pads. If you want something that offers higher friction levels and shorter stopping distances, then you'll want a semi-metallic brake pad that was designed for light to heavy track use.If you want a pad that can deal with towing loads and four-wheeling, an extended wear pad would be your best choice. For the longest lasting, low-dust pad a ceramic compound would be optimal.
There are a few manufacturers who make a semi-metallic ceramic compound that will supposedly offer high friction, low-dust and wear, but my personal experience has been that these pads are trying to be everything for everybody, but end up not being that great at anything.
How OEM Brake Pads Work
Another thing to consider when choosing your brake pads is how they are constructed. All OEM brake pads are made using a positive molding process where the compound is put into a mold, the brake shim is applied to the back of the mold and then the entire compound is heated up to melt the brake compound, pressure it into a perfect mold and bond the shim to the back of the pad. This process helps eliminate noise by minimizing pad movement. Many aftermarket pads are not made in this fashion, rather the compound is heated and pressed in a machine and then a shim is glued to pad after the molding process. While the glue does hold the pretty pad tight, it is not as secure as using the positive molding process.
Why don't most aftermarket brake pad manufacturers use positive molding processes? Well for one, the positive molding is more expensive. The second reason is that some people don't want to use the shim that is provided by the brake pad manufacturer. For example, some track racers want to use titanium shims to help transfer heat from the pad to the air.
Choosing OEM or Performance Brake Pads
There is one manufacturer who does make their pads using OEM processes; this is the Posi Quiet brand, which is owned by Centric. Posi Quiet makes brake pads for the people who were happy with their OEM brake pads, but don't want to pay OEM prices. For this reason, they adopted OEM manufacturing techniques and formulated their own compound to appease the masses. Posi Quiet also scorches their brake pads, which removes any impurities and burnishes the surface of the pad so that no break in period is required, just like your OEM pads. No other aftermarket pad manufacturer does this, which makes Posi Quiet stand out above the rest. If you'd like to get more information on auto parts from Posi Quiet, have a look at these pages dedicated to Posi Quiet brakes & Posi Quiet brake pads.
No matter if you're looking for OEM or aftermarket pads, you can read our brake pads reviews to see what type is best for you.