When you take your car in for brake work, you may not know that you have a choice as to the kind of brake pads the auto shop uses. There are a variety of brake pads available, each with different characteristics. Here are your choices of brake pads and why you would choose one over another.
Brake Pad Basics
Brake pads are made by embedding different materials into a flexible resin. This surface creates friction on the rotors of the brakes to slow the car down. Your brakes will be safe with any type of pad, but will behave differently depending on the materials used in the construction.
These are the typical pads used by a brake shop when they work on your car and you don't specify the type of pad you want. These pads are made by embedding small pieces of metal in the resin. The typical metals used are iron, steel, copper and graphite. The pad can be made with a mixture of metals and with pieces of different sizes.
These pads need to warm up slightly before working at their best. They are good for normal driving conditions, but if towing heavy loads on steep grades, they need to be warmed up first. These are the noisiest of all of the brake pads and will produce a fine black dust on the wheels and nearby parts of the car. You may not like the look of the dust on a luxury vehicle.
The price of the pads depends on how small the metal pieces are used in the resin. The finer the metal pieces, the more expensive the pad is. You'll get less noise and dust with the more expensive semi-metallic pads.
Non-Asbestos Organic (NAO) Brake Pads
Instead of metal pieces, these pads use small pieces of rubber, glass and Kevlar fibers. This makes these brake pads quieter, but they still produce a fine dust on the car. They have a softer touch when you press down on the brake and they don't need to be warmed up as much as the semi-metallic. This makes them good for downhill braking. But they do retain heat and will need cooling off periods when going down long steep grades.
These pads are more expensive than the semi-metallic and they will need to be replaced more often.
Low-Metallic Non-Asbestos Organic (NAO) Brake Pads
These pads combine metal and NAO pads to create a brake pad with a firmer touch that dissipates heat better. These pads are a good choice in climates with temperature extremes. They do produce more dust and are noisier than the standard NAO pads. They are also more expensive than the previous two brake pads, but they need replacing less often.
Ceramic Brake Pads
Ceramic fibers are embedded in resin to create these brake pads. These are the most quiet and expensive of all the pads listed here. They produce almost no dust, which makes them the choice