Remember asbestos? The now-maligned heat resisting, sound absorbing, load withstanding miracle mineral used to be the standard brake pad material. Blow out the brakes, inhale the dust, repeat.
And now 3,000 mostly senior men are diagnosed with mesothelioma yearly.
Asbestos use peaked in 1973, and the industries that relied on it have since adapted. This includes the manufacture of brake pads. Let’s see what the options are now so you can decide what’s best for you.
Necessary Qualities of Brake Pad Material
When brakes are employed, kinetic energy is converted into thermal energy. The brake pads create friction which creates heat.
Regular use can drive the temperature up to 392 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to bake chicken wings. It’s also hot enough to lead to brake pad decomposition eventually. Heavy use can send the temperature over 1000 degrees!
As such, brake pads need to be able to withstand friction and dissipate heat.
Non-asbestos organic brake pads were the immediate replacement for asbestos brake pads, hence the name. They are made by combining resin with a variety of materials, including coconut shell fibers, glass, carbon, rubber, and Kevlar.
- The good: Non-asbestos organic brake pads are quiet, can generate friction without too much heat or dust and are affordable.
- The bad: Their use is limited to lower temperatures, and they compact and wear out quickly.
- Best use: Every day driving
Semi-Metallic brake pads are made of roughly half metal frictional material and half filler and lubricant. They provide consistent friction and are hardwearing. Their adeptness at conducting heat gives them better-stopping power, but it can also diminish the life of the disc brake rotor.
- The good: Semi-metallic brake pads are highly responsive and provide good cold bite. They don’t compress and are effective over a wide range of temperatures.
- The bad: They’re noisy, dusty, and more abrasive.
- Best use: Everyday driving, heavy duty, track racing
Sintered brake material is made when metallic particles are fused together under high heat and pressure.
- The good: Sintered brake pads are long-lasting and perform well under high heat. They excel in inclement weather.
- The bad: They’re very noisy and require breaking-in. They can be very expensive.
- Best use: Motorcycles, heavy duty, track racing
The use of ceramic in brake linings material is relatively new. They’re the brake babies. They combine the softness of copper with the density of ceramic to reduce noise, dust, and rotor wear.
- The good: Ceramic brake pads are consistent and long-lasting. They produce a fine dust that won’t stick to wheels.
- The bad: They do not perform well in cold temperatures, and they aren’t as good at absorbing heat. They’re expensive.
- Best use: Every day driving
What Suits Your Use?
Braking is a balancing act, and it’s not one size fits all. You can go for high performance, but you’ll pay for it with dust and wear. You can go for tidiness and longevity, but you’ll pay for it with performance.
Whatever brake pad material you need, we’ve got it all. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know, and we’ll get it sorted out.