The world of brake pads is complicated and deserving of much attention. Depending on what kind of car you have, or what kind of driving you do coupled with how much money you want to spend, your optimal brake pad choices can vary on a tremendous scale. When shopping for brake pads there are a few brands to keep an eye on, for better or worse.
As one of the leading brands in performance brake pad manufacturing, Centric Parts has its own performance brake product called StopTech. The fact that it’s a performance-oriented brand might explain why StopTech doesn’t seem to make organic brake pads.
StopTech produces pads optimized for street and light track use, however depending on whether you get the street or sport variants, they can be slightly biased one way or the other. For instance, the StopTech Sport brake pads offer little dust and noise, while providing the bite necessary for track usage. Bear in mind these don’t appear to be useful for heavy competition or speed contest environments, but if you wanted you could drive your car to the race track, run a couple sessions and then drive home at the end of the day.
Before you get your hands on a brand new set of StopTech Sport Pads, consider that these are primarily performance-oriented. They are built to have maximum stopping power, initial bite and are designed to do this for an extended period of time (little brake fade). To achieve this they sacrifice rotor life and silence, and with general usage won’t last as long as normal street pads, like StopTech’s less aggressive Street Brake Pads.
If you can’t find a pad for your application from StopTech you’ll most likely find it at Hawk Performance. With a much more comprehensive analysis of each compound, including the optimal operating temperature and ideal weight limits for some, Hawk Performance has a performance pad for nearly every application from motorcycles to full-size fleet trucks.
Hawk Performance denotes each brake pad by a certain compound. Choosing the correct compound is as important as changing the brakes. Just because it’s a commuting car doesn’t mean you don’t need good stopping power, so something like the HPS street performance pad might be a good option. It’s gentle on the rotors, works on a wide range of temperature, and doesn’t make a lot of noise.
Hawk Performance offers high quality, highly-effective products for braking systems at affordable prices. For the occasional track-goer and sports car daily-driver Hawk Performance comes recommended by many and is a good value.
A less popular option that doesn’t bang on a brake pad-shaped gong like StopTech might is Dura International. Dura International makes ceramic and metallic brake pads, boasting long life and quiet operation along with lower operating temperatures. Dura International brake pad patrons will, however, take issue with short life spans and loud noises, but it’s possible that the wrong kind of brake pad was bought and therefore didn’t mesh well with the rotors or driving style.
Dura International offers what it calls Premium Brake Pads, which are of the metallic variety. Though it’s not strictly speaking a legal compliance, these particular pads are advertised as being asbestos-free and producing a minimal amount of dust and mitigates brake fade.
The price of Dura International brakes is certainly an attractive quality, however that really shouldn’t be the deciding factor that leads you to put your life in their hands. Spending a little extra money should guarantee you at the very least some impressive stopping power, as opposed to spending a small amount for the chance of mediocre stopping power.
As the premier OE supplier for GM ACDelco doesn’t specialize in brakes, but rather produces OE grade parts for almost every application. From air conditioning to wiper blades, ACDelco is certainly a leader in manufacturing original parts for not just GM but many other vehicle makes.
ACDelco offers ceramic and metallic brake pads, and specialty versions for each, which are basically the performance variants. The specialty metallic brake pads offered by ACDelco have integrated steel strands for dissipating heat from the rotor, and are built to last longer while withstanding corrosion.
The specialty ceramic pads by ACDelco offer similar features in the way of noise reduction and elongated life, and are cleared for fleet vehicle usage including police cars. That essentially means these pads are ideal for high-speed and dynamic braking for moderately heavy cars. At $44 for a set of front pads, that’s a good value.
Puttering around since the late 19th century, Wagner specializes in brakes and lighting. It’s fair to call Wagner an innovative company, considering its unique brake pad design and its impressive brake system tenure. Some buyers have experienced some issues with noise level and build quality, and it is surmised this is due in part to new formulaic responsibilities put on brake manufacturers by California, namely the omission of copper (at least less copper than before).
Wagner also produces nearly every other part of the braking system including rotors and hardware. The Wagner OEx is a brake pad tested on a newer generation Ford F-150, Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet Tahoe for the express purposes of towing and stopping heavier vehicles in multiple conditions. Wagner claims that due to different air flow within the pads improves heat dissipation while keeping the noise at a minimum.
Wagner produces OEM-replacement pads as well, called the QS. Be advised this is using a low-copper formula, much like the ThermoQuiet ceramic brake pads illustrated in the video review. There are also semi-metallic pads that Wagner makes which were tested on police interceptors, and provide less stopping distance at low temperatures and high speeds compared to what’s required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). OEx pads go for around $40, while the ThermoQuiet pads go for nearly $25.
Typically the name Bosch is printed on the sides of spark plug wire boxes or spark plugs, or electrical parts in general. The German part manufacturer also makes brake pads, from copper-free QuietCast ceramic brake pads all the way across the spectrum to the most basic everyday use and affordable brake disc pads.
If you have a European car, however, especially if it happens to be a BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW etc, Bosch makes a specific brake pad designed to work with those vehicles. These are unusual pads because they have no groove in the center of the primarily material. They are engineered to have low compressibility, and to respond appropriately to specific vehicles.
Bosch brake pads are known for producing little brake dust while being responsive. They are also quite affordable, as the QuietCast Premium set only costs around $30.
Possibly one of the biggest names in the brake part industry is Brembo. It has a long history of peppering most brake-related conversations especially when talking about aftermarket performance brakes.
However Brembo is primarily acknowledged for its presence in motor racing, providing brakes that bite down hard and don’t let go. So if that’s not your fancy, then Brembo might not be the pad for you. Brembo brake pads can be expensive, but they are well-known as being the best.
Brembo Sport brake pads are designed to work best under extreme temperatures, and are geared towards consistency while mitigating pad wear and brake fade. At the same time Sport brake pads are designed with some controllability in mind, as well as aggressive biting ability. The pads weak points would be how well they conduct heat as well as how much they compress under load.
Brembo supplies brakes many Formula 1 teams, including Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes. Like we said the brakes can be expensive, at least $400 for a set of front and rear pads and rotors. The thing about Brembo is, if you’re going to track your car often and compete then there really is no other choice.
Brake pads are going to be the most replaced part of your braking system, so it’s important to find some that match the demands of your car and driving style, while preserving the rotors for as long as possible.
Rotors shouldn’t need replacing for a very, very long time so if there’s scoring on the discs then there’s something wrong with your braking system that needs to be addressed immediately.
That problem could be using the wrong brake pad, as an incorrect material or build (due to poor engineering) could wear unevenly and dig grooves into your rotor. So pick the correct type of pad before you turn your brake rotors into something you can rotate, throw a needle on and hear Mozart out of.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.