How to buy the best brake pads for your vehicle
Whether you’re doing your own brake job or having the shop do your brakes, you want the best brake pads. Why? Because cheap brake pads make noise, wear out quickly and rust easily; meaning you’ll have to replace them again soon.
What to consider when choosing brake pads?
Type of friction material
Obviously you want the best brake pad friction material for your vehicle. About 70% of all new cars and light SUVs are equipped with ceramic brake pads because they make less noise, create less dust, and are easier on rotors.
But larger SUVs and light trucks still use semi-metallic pads because they provide better braking, especially on a heavy vehicle.
Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard for ceramic or semi-metallic brake pads. Every manufacturer can come up with their own formulas and call their economy pads “premium” and nobody can prove otherwise. So you really have to rely on the brand’s reputation
The brake pad backing plate design is the single best indicator of pad life
In recent studies of used brake pads the study found that the single most common cause of early brake pad failure is a rusted backing plate! When the backing plate rusts, the friction material de-laminates and breaks off, causing total pad failure.
Cheap brake pads use cheap steel
Backing plates that are too thin will flex and break off the friction material. Poor quality steel that isn’t properly treated before painting will rust and cause the friction material to break off. The instant the paint fails, rust builds to the point where it forces the friction material breaks away from the backing plate. This is called rust jacking, and once it starts, it’s goodbye brake pads.
There’s really no way to stop rust formation if the brake pad manufacturer uses regular steel backing plates.
The best pads are built on a galvanized steel backing plate
This one’s really simple. Galvanized steel backing plates resist rust much longer than painted steel backing plates. In fact, they’re generally still rust free even after the friction material is completely worn off.
Why a mechanical attachment system for the friction material?
Because adhesive bonding fails when the backing plate rusts or when the pad overheats. Once de-lamination occurs, the brake pad is history. You’ll get brake noise, uneven pad and rotor wear and friction material will break off the backing plate.
Brake pads with mechanical attachment last longer than glued pads
NRS brake pads and brake pads from other high end brake manufacturers like Wagner brake use mechanical attachment technology, along with galvanized steel backing plates.
Wagner OEx brake pads use mechanical attachment technology, along with galvanized steel backing plates.
So there’s more to buying a brake pad than brand alone
• Look for a pad that’s built on a galvanized backing plate with mechanical attachments.
• Look for a brake pad that has multi-layer noise reduction shims. See this article on the differences between cheap and premium noise reduction shims.
• Look for a brake pad that comes with top-quality anti-rattle clips.
Match the coefficient of friction to the factory pads
The coefficient of friction is listed on the brake pad’s edge codes.
Which brand to choose?
Most major brake pad brands are also Tier 1 suppliers to the carmakers. So they know what it takes to make top quality friction material and maintain quality throughout the process.
Rick thinks store brand brake parts are low quality
Most auto parts stores sell private labeled “store brand” brake pads. They don’t save you any money over name brand brake parts. So why do they sell them? Simple. They make more profit on their private labeled parts. They source them from the lowest bidder, package them in boxes that say “PREMIUM BRAKE PADS” and give you a lifetime warranty to make you feel good. But who wants to do the job over and over again because the parts quality is so low? Who cares that the replacements are free? Don’t you have better things to do with your time that redo your brakes every year?
My advice is to skip the store brands and buy OE or premium quality brake parts from name brand reputable brake parts manufacturers.
And about those quality levels
Most of these major brake pad manufacturers 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.
If you buy a company’s economy version, you’d better plan on selling the car soon. Because they don’t perform as well or last nearly as long as OE or premium quality brake pads. If you’re looking to save money, buying economy brake pads is the wrong way to do it.
Who are the major players in the brake pad business?
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
EBC Brakes— A privately owned company with 400 employees and manufacturing in the U.K. and U.S. EBC products includes brake pads for cars, trucks and SUV, brake rotors (brake discs) for every rolling vehicle on the planet and even brake pads for wind farms, brake pads for military applications such as the Humvee, various armored cars and even tanks, railway brake products and all kinds of industrial vehicle brakes.
Hawk— A small specialty brake manufacture catering to amateur racers
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 these minor players in the brake parts business make poor products. I’m not aware of bad products from any 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 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.
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 — a Tier 1 supplier to major carmakers and the 2nd largest filter manufacturer in the world.
• 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
• 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
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
My favorite brand is Wagner, because they were one of the first brake pad manufacturers to offer galvanized steel backing plates with a mechanical attachment system. That’s pretty innovative because most brake pad manufacturers are still using common painted black steel backing plates and glue to attach the friction material.
Posted on by Rick Muscoplat