Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Best brake pad brands

What are the best brake pad brands?

The brake pad business is messy

Back in the ’50’s there were less than a dozen formulas for brake shoe friction material. Anybody could make brake shoe lining in their kitchen with just a mixer and an oven. Today, there are thousands of friction material variations, but the process is still the same: mix the raw materials, bake and then bond the friction material to a brake shoe or brake pad backing plate. So just about every company that owns a mixer and oven has jumped into the game, especially companies in China.

What differentiates the brake pad manufacturers?

The largest brake parts manufacturers operate their own R&D labs and testing departments and they work closely with carmakers to develop brake friction material formulas for new cars and trucks. The parts they manufacture must meet Federal Braking standards. These companies are referred to as Tier 1 suppliers. In other words, they manufacturer the brake pads and components under contract to the carmakers, delivering the OEM brake products right to the carmaker’s assembly line. Then there are Tier 2 manufacturers that build brake products under contract to Tier 1 suppliers. Tier 1 and Tier 2 brake parts manufactures have access to the OEM’s exact formulas and are bound by trade secrecy agreements not to disclose the specifications on the OEM products they manufacture.

Then there are the aftermarket suppliers that have no association with the carmakers. They have no access to OEM specifications and even though they claim their products are OEM quality, they must either reverse engineer the OEM products or come up with their own best guess as to the ingredients. Some of the largest aftermarket manufacturers run their own R&D labs and testing facilities,. But the smaller companies are just  “winging it,” using a “best guess” approach to brake pad formulations. Then there are the companies that don’t actually make anything, they’re just importers, bringing in low quality products from China and packaging them in boxes labeled “premium brake pads.”

There are NO federal standards for aftermarket brake pads

You may think that aftermarket brake pads must meet some kind of federal standards. Think again. When it comes to aftermarket brake pads, it’s the Wild West. Manufacturers can make anything they want with no minimum standards.

So why would you go with a private label (store brand) brake pads or brake pads made by a minor player when you can buy name brand brake pads from a major Tier 1 or 2 manufacturer or a respected aftermarket supplier for about the same price?

What really counts when making a brake pad?

The friction material

Obviously, the friction material is the most important part of making a brake pad that duplicates the OEM pad’s performance. To do that it must include the same high quality raw materials.

The backing plate

The type of steel used in the backing plate, it’s thickness, the cleaning and rust treatments applied all affect its life. A poor quality backing plate can flex during heavy brake applications, causing the friction material to dislodge and break off. In addition to flexing, poor quality backing plates are poorly prepped and painted, so they rust quickly. In fact, poor quality backing plates will fail long before the friction material actually wears out.

In addition to the quality of the backing plate steel, there’s the issue of conformance to spec. Poorly made backing plates with wide stamping tolerances will either bind or rattle in the caliper.

The noise reduction and anti-rattle hardware

High quality brake pads come with high quality stainless steel anti-rattle clips and multi-layered noise reduction shims. Economy pads often leave out the anti-rattle clips and shims, forcing you to buy those separately. Or, they include single layer shims made from cheap aluminum stock and low quality stainless steel anti-rattle clips.

Who are the major players in brake pads?

Most of these major players offer an economy, OEM and premium version of their product. If you buy OEM or better brake pads from these companies you’ll be getting a very good product.

Akebono — Japanese company and Tier 1 supplier. See more below
ACDelco — owned by General Motors and a Tier 1 supplier to GM
Advics — See Aisin Seiki Co, Ltd below
Beck Arnley — see Dr1V division of Tenneco Automotive below
Bendix See — see MAT Holdings and TMD Friction
Brembo — A Tier 1 supplier of brake calipers for Porsche, Mercedes, Lancia, BMW, Nissan and Chrysler. See more below
Bosch — No longer owned by Robert Bosch. It is now owned by Chassis Brakes International
Centric — see First Brands Group
Monroe — see Dr1V division of Tenneco Automotive
Pagid — See TMD Friction
Raybestos — see First Brands Group
Wagner — see Dr1V division of Tenneco Automotive

Who are the minor players in the brake pad business?

Dynamic Friction — A small supplier of brake parts. Located in California, the company has 18 employees with annual sales of around $3 million

Power Stop — a smaller brake parts manufacturer and importer. Estimated sales of just $29.4 Million/year (source Grojo.com) and 89 employees.

I’m not saying the minor players make poor products. I’m not aware of bad product from either of these companies. It’s just my preference to stick with well known nationally recognized brands.

More background on the major players in the brake pad business

Aisin Seiki Co, Ltd

Aisin Seiki Co, Ltd is a Japanese manufacturer of powertrain, chassis and vehicle safety systems and automotive body parts. The Advics division manufactures brake friction and hydraulic components in 31 plants around the globe

Akebono

Akebono is a 90-year old Japanese brake manufacturer headquartered in Hanyu, Saitama and Nihonbashi. Akebono is a Tier 1 supplier of brake parts to Audi, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

Akebono has two R&D facilities in the U.S., Japan and France. They manufacture brake parts in 30 company-owned and affiliate facilities worldwide, including two production facilities in Kentucky, one in Tennessee and one in South Carolina.

Brembo

Started in 1961 in Italy by by Emilio Bombassei and Italo Breda, the company began making brake discs. In 1972 Brembo began supplying Moto Guzzi. In 1975, Enzo Ferrari asked the Brembo to equip the most prestigious racing cars in Formula 1. It was not long before Brembo was the leading name in the motorsports braking systems segment.

In the 1980s, Brembo developed an aluminum brake caliper, which was adapted for high performance vehicles made by Porsche, Mercedes, Lancia, BMW, Nissan and Chrysler. Brembo later became a Tier 1 supplier to Iveco and Renault Industrial Vehicles.

In the 2000s, Brembo acquired Alfa Real Minas, a Brazilian manufacturer of brake discs and engine flywheels. Brembo also acquired the British company AP Racing Limited, manufacturer of brake and clutch systems for race cars, motorcycles and high performance sports cars. Brembo also acquired Marchesini, a manufacturer of magnesium wheels for racing motorcycles.

First Brands Group is a global automotive parts company that owns the following automotive brands:

• Raybestos complete brake solutions,
• Centric Parts replacement brake components,
FRAM filtration products,
Champion Laboratories Inc. (Champ Labs) Air and oil filters
LuberFiner filtration products,
TRICO wiper blades
ANCO wiper blades
Carter fuel and water pumps
Autolite spark plugs
StrongArm lift supports

Dr1V division of Tenneco Automotive

• Abex friction products
• Beck/Arnley
• Ferodo brake parts for European vehicles
• Jurid brake prducts for German vehicles
• Monroe brakes
• Wagner brake products
Walker Exhaust products
Beck/Arnley — a direct importer of parts for foreign vehicles. Beck/Arnley purchases replacement parts directly from the Tier 1 suppliers to foreign vehicle manufactures.
Champion Spark Plugs
Fel-Pro Gaskets
FP Diesel— replacement parts for diesel engines
Monroe shocks and struts
Moog steering and suspension parts
National Bearings and Oil Seals
Sealed Power — piston rings and replacement engine parts
Speed Pro — engine parts including pistons an valves

Mat Holdings Inc

Licensed the Bendix brand from Honeywell for distribution in the U.S.
MAT Holdings Inc. is a Tier 1 brake parts supplier to auto makers: General Motors, Ford, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Nissan, TRW, Continental Teves, Bosch, WABCO, and Knorr-Bremse. MAT Holdings manufactures over 24 million sets of passenger brake pads per year under various name brands and private label brands. They manufacture their own friction material, shoes, shims, backing plates, rotors, calipers and carriers. MAT Auto Group supplies high performance OEM products to auto racing companies AP Racing, Brembo, Hi Spec Motorsport, and Maxx Autosport.

TMD Friction, a Nisshinbo Group Company

Manufacturers brake parts under the Bendix (outside U.S.) Textar, Mintex, Don, Pagid CorbreQ and Nisshinbo brands

© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

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