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Ceramic brake pads versus semi-metallic

Ceramic brake pads versus semi-metallic — which is better?

What is a ceramic brake pad?

Ceramic brake pads are made with ceramic particles and fibers along with slightly abrasive materials, lubricants, filler and binding resin. Ceramic brake pads use an adherent friction method to stop your vehicle, while semi-metallic brake pads use abrasive friction (more on that later).

Wagner OEx brake pads

Ceramic brake pad advantages:

• Quieter than semi-metallic brake pads
• Able to handle extremely high braking temperatures and still provide a quick recover.
• Cause less wear to rotors than semi-metallic brake pads without sacrificing braking performance.
• Create a finer dust than semi-metallic brake pads and leave less dust on the wheels. less damage to the rotors.
• Last longer than semi-metallic brake pads (typically)

Ceramic brake pad disadvantages:

• Less braking power than semi-metallic brake pads
• Cost more than semi-metallic pads
• Encounter more brake fade at high temperatures.

Ceramic brake pads used adherent friction

When ceramic brake pads are installed, a break-in procedure (also called a bedding procedure) is used to transfer a thin layer of friction material from the brake pad to the face o the rotor. This is called a “transfer layer.” Once the transfer layer is in place, all future braking is performed by rubbing the pad’s friction material against the transfer layer. The stickiness that forms between the brake pad and transfer layer is what stops the vehicle.

As the transfer layer heats up, it breaks down and disintegrates, allowing the brake pad to deposit a new transfer layer. This process continues until the brake pad is worn down to replacement levels.

What is a semi-metallic brake pad?

Semi-metallic brake pads contain between 30-70% metal particles and fibers like copper, iron, and steel. They also include abrasive particles, a graphite lubricant, filler material and a binding resin.

Semi-metallic brake pads stop your vehicle using abrasive friction, as opposed to adherent friction. Think of an abrasive brake pad like sandpaper and the rotor as wood.

Advantages of semi-metallic brake pads

• Greater overall stopping power when compared to ceramic or organic brake pads. Semi-metallic brake pads “bite” more than the other two types
• Less prone to brake fade than ceramic or organic brake pads
• Cost less than ceramic pads

Disadvantages of semi-metallic pads

• More noise than either ceramic or organic pads
• More rotor wear than the other types
• More brake dust and more rust formation on your wheels
• Less stopping power when cold.
• Shorter life

How to make the choice between ceramic brake pads versus semi-metallic brake pads

1) Stick with the brake pad type that came with your vehicle. Many light trucks and SUVs come with semi-metallic pads because they provide more stopping power than ceramic. If you switch to ceramic, you may notice a loss in stopping power.

2) However, if you can’t stand the noise, dust or rotor wear from semi-metallic pads and want to switch to ceramic, make sure you buy a premium quality ceramic pads. All ceramic pads are not equal and the cheap ceramic pads produce noticeably less stopping power and dramatically shorter life.

3) If you live in mountainous areas, choose a semi-metallic pad for it’s better fade resistance.

4) If you do mostly city driving in a sedan, coupe, or CUV choose a ceramic pad for quiet operation and less brake dust.

©, 2022 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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