When we need to have our brakes serviced and replaced, there are a vast array of manufacturers and materials to choose from. Knowing which brake pads to choose depends on differing factors, including your vehicle type and your driving style.
Some of the most popular materials for brake pad composition are semi metallic, ceramic and NAO:
Semi metallic can consist of up to 60% metal containing materials such as copper or graphite, iron powder, pieces of steel wool or wire. Semi metallic pads are also made of inorganic materials and friction modifiers, which is the bonding material that holds everything together. The pros of using the semi metallic pads is that they will last long, and have excellent heat transfer. The cons are that they will wear your rotors quicker and they may not perform the best at low temperatures. These can be used for all types of driving, including racing.
Ceramic which are made of ceramic fibers, filler made from materials that do not contain iron, materials to help bond everything together, and could contain a small amount of metal. Ceramic brake pads cost more than semi metallic but they are cleaner and quieter plus they don’t wear the rotor down as quickly as the semi metallic will. They will last longer than the semi metallic. However, they may not grab as well in colder temperatures and heat absorption is not the most optimal, so your brake system temperatures could be increased. The ceramic pads were not made for racing and would not be recommended for a vehicle that is going to do any racing, but do well for daily driving.
There are also brands that tout less conventional materials such as Kevlar or organic materials that do not contain asbestos. These are also referred to as NAO.
NAO brake pads can be made out of different fibers with a resin that binds the materials and helps them stick together. Some of these materials are rubber, glass, Kevlar, and carbon. The NAO pads do not produce a lot of dust and are easy on rotors. They don’t require a lot of heat to generate friction and are suitable for everyday driving. However, they are not recommended for performance driving. They wear out quickly compared to other types and only perform well in limited temperature ranges. The NAO pads are typically relatively inexpensive but do not last very long.
The bottom line is that not every brake pad is made equal. You need to take into consideration your driving habits and whether you want brake pads that will last and be easier on your rotors or if you are looking for a performance brake pad. Ceramic pads will last longer and be quieter while producing very little dust; they are easier on your rotors but are a little more costly. Semi metallic pads will produce more dust, will wear out the rotor quicker, but on the up side can produce a bit more “bite” or grasp while braking, and they are typically less expensive than ceramics. NAO or non-asbestos organic pads are probably going to be the least expensive but will wear out quickly and are not recommended for performance driving. They are suitable for everyday driving. Also something to remember, your fronts are usually changed twice as much as the rear because the front brakes account for approximately 70% of the braking of your vehicle.
There is always an exception to the rule but to make an informed decision when it is time to purchase new brake pads you need to know and understand your choices to make sure you purchase the brake pad that will work best for you.