The Ultimate Brake Pad Guide – What You Need and What You Don’t

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Stop-Tech Big Brake Kit

Your brakes are the second most important thing on your car, behind tires. All the power in the world won’t do you any good on a track if you can’t stop properly — and unfortunately, besides showing off those fancy looking drilled and slotted rotors and those rattle can red calipers, brakes don’t usually get the attention they deserve.

Good pads aren’t exactly the most “glamorous” upgrades you can do, but they are essential if you expect real performance out of your vehicle.

How Do I Know What Pads I Need?

There are a few different types of pad, so let’s go through each, as well as establishing what is best for your needs.

Driving Style

It is critical to buy pads that are appropriate for your driving style. Paying more doesn’t necessarily mean better in all cases. For instance; expensive, high performance pads need heat to work properly, and can have trouble stopping your car on a cold morning, even to the point of being dangerous. Plus they can be quite loud when cold, which can be annoying to some. It’s all a trade off.

Daily Driver

Posi Quiet Ceramic Brake PadsThere are two ways you can approach buying brake pads here. If you just want something cheap and effective, then you can’t go wrong with organic or semi-metallic pads.

If you want to ensure quiet operation and hate brake dust, then ceramic pads might be for you.

$: Centric C-TEK
$$: Posi Quiet Ceramic Pads
$$$: EBC Green Stuff

Track/Street Performance

EBC Brake pad guideHere’s where we get into the fun stuff.

Performance pads prioritize heat resistance to fight brake fade, but this comes at the expense of quiet operation, dust generation, and cold temperature performance.

If you’re looking for solid street performance, with maybe occasional track use, then a mid-range performance pad might be your best option, as these strike a balance for effective temperature range, noise, dust, and wear life.

If your car is a dedicated track monster, only then should you look into high end track pads.

$: Power Stop Z23 Evolution
$$: EBC Red or Yellow Stuff
$$$: Hawk Blue 9012

Power Stop Z36 Truck and Tow Brake KitTowing

A good towing pad meets similar requirements as performance pads, however there is less of a need to get into high end, expensive territory.

The primary factor will be the kind of towing you’ll be doing and where. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time up and down hills and mountains, brake fade is a very serious concern.

$: Power Stop Z36 Truck & Tow Pads
$$: EBC Yellow Stuff
$$$: EBC Extra Duty

Baer brakes before and after, Ford Mustang GTMaterials

ACDelco Advantage Organic PadsOrganic

Also known as NAO (non-asbestos organic), these are commonly used in light duty applications, and due to their organic makeup, they are easy to dispose of and non-polluting.

They are generally softer and quieter in operation, but wear down faster and generate more dust.

Semi-Metallic

The most common pad type, and most versatile. Strong performance in any weather condition, resist heat well, and provide a firm pedal feel.

These are available in a wide range of compounds for average street driving to performance and towing applications. TruXP Performance ceramic brake pad kit These can be noisier and tend to wear rotors faster than other options.

Ceramic

Chosen for smooth, quiet, long-lasting performance. Ceramic pads tend to generate less dust, and the dust they do generate tend to not stick to wheels as much as semi-metallic pads.

These are great for typical daily driving but are not recommended for heavy hauling or street/track performance applications. They also tend to be more expensive.

Brembo brakes

Remember, this is one area where most people do not need to overspend. If you do, however, have heavy requirements for your vehicle, it is important to know where your money is going and exactly why.

At worst, you spent 10 minutes reading, at best, this info could be a lifesaver!

8 COMMENTS

  1. All of this info is nice but you fail to say what is the minimum thickness of the pads before replacement is required. I have a 2013 Toyota Tacoma XSP Prerunner pickup.

    • Hey Mike,

      That’s a good point, that would be a good thing to include here. It was mostly for looking at replacement brake pads, but covering when to replace them is something I’ll add a section about.

      We recommend replacing your brake pads when there is around 3mm of material left, 2mm if you really want to push it. After that you’re running the risk of damaging your rotors.

      Hope this helps!
      Garrett

    • Hey James,

      There are a few reasons, actually. Did you go through the bed-in procedure that came with the new pads? Did you replace the rotors as well?

      What you’re most likely hearing is the rotor “singing” as you brake. It’s pretty common that the brake rotors actually vibrate at a high frequency when braking, and there are a few things that can fix the issue. One is going through the bed-in procedure that the manufacturer of the pads recommends, and two is to put some sort of lubricant behind the pads in the caliper. You don’t need to buy anything special, some anti-seize works just fine.

      We can figure this out, man! I’ll shoot you an email with this as well just in case.
      Cheers,
      Garrett

  2. Good information, I worked in auto parts roughly 15 years.
    I have seen and heard most things.
    For instance, there is always the guy that wants to get by on the cheapest brakes available and then wonder why they didn’t last very long.
    Or the guy that wants me to turn his brake drums and there are grooves in it way past the limit we could turn them.
    I know that is not so much an issue anymore with the reduction in rotors especially.
    Most people now just replace the rotors when they buy brakes because they were so thin new, there is no place to go.

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