When brake pads slam against high-speed disc rotors, it’s a marvel to think they don’t wear or tear much at all.
Really, it’s not the brake pad itself doing the work, but the brake lining, invented by auto genius Bertha Benz, that converts the kinetic energy to thermal.
This leads to the question: what are brake pads made of? What material can sustain this kind of heat?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.
In this article, we break down all the different materials that go into halting your vehicle (no pun intended).
The Early Days
In 1897, Herbert Frood was said to have created a sustainable kind of brake lining. This, of course, came after Bertha’s initial invention.
His innovation, however, was the asbestos brake pad.
The fibrous nature of the material gave it a heat-resistant property.
All following renovations of the brake pad followed suit: heat-resistant, water-resistant, and durable.
What Are Brake Pads Made Of? Purpose Matters
Apparently, for different kinds of jobs, you’re going to need different resources.
Some materials can sustain moisture better and live longer, whereas others don’t live as long, but provide gentle, smooth contact with a rotor.
Most racing brake pads are made out of full metal, being strong frictional material. Pretty much all of it is steel, fresh out the sintering process.
On the other hand, you’ll occasionally see some fully synthetic brake pads. Such linings are made out of high-boiling-point compounds, like:
- sintered glass
These aren’t typically the kind you want to buy, but they don’t fade quickly.
The commercial question, then, is between ceramic and semi-metallic brake pads.
Ceramic brake pads are usually made out of clay and porcelain which are attached to metal alloys with a binding agent.
The more aggressive brother, semi-metallic brake pads are usually compiled of flaky metals, interspersed with different alloys here and there.
Metallic and ceramic are the two kinds of brake pads you’ll most often see on the market.
Metallic brake pads are mostly used because they’re more aggressive, less expensive, and heavier duty.
The drawback to using mostly metal in your brake pads is that they’re often really loud and produce a lot of dust.
Not only that, they tend to wear a lot faster. That’s why it’s essential for racing vehicles to get new brake linings continually.
On the other hand, ceramic brake pads are usually better at taking the heat. They don’t wear down as quickly, and they won’t pack a punch on your rotors.
While ceramic pads do produce quite a bit of dust, it’s not as visible since the material itself is lighter.
Not to mention, they’re quiet as a mouse compared to entirely metallic brake pads.
Coming to a Complete Stop
Being informed about the what and why behind brake pads is extremely important to ensure you get the right tools for your job.
A simple, curious question like, “What are brake pads made of?” can increase your productivity tenfold. A little research can bring you exactly where you need to be.
And in this case, it has.
We have over 30 years of experience repairing and relining brake shoes and pads.
Have questions about what you’ve read here, or what you should be getting? Give us a call or drop us a message today. We’ll be happy to help you!