When people talk about cars, they seem to focus on what makes them go. That means they often lose focus on what may be the most important aspect of them. Once a car gets going it has to be able to stop. That makes the brakes on any vehicle pretty much the most important aspect of them. They are vital to safety and control while operating a vehicle. A big part of any car braking system is the all-important brake pads. Having the best brake pad on each wheel enables any car to stop better and stop under more control.
In this article, we will talk all about brake pads and how to find good ones for your vehicle. That will include informational brake pad reviews and a helpful brake pad buying guide. By the time you are done reading you will be able to focus in better on the exact type of brake pads that you prefer to put on your car.
Best Brake Pad Reviews
These are some of the best brake pads that you will find in the auto marketplace:
1. Power Stop K137 Front Brake Kit
These elite brake pads come as part of a highly rated brake upgrade kit. That kit also includes a complete set of rotors for disc brakes too. These are not your usual set of rotors either. They are made using G3000 metallurgy with Silver Zinc Dichromate plating and have precision holes drilled in them to enhance cooling. All the necessary hardware to reassemble the rotors and brake pads is included too.
Once a car’s brakes have been upgraded with this kit, that vehicle will enjoy enhanced braking that produces very little dust and is virtually noise-free. All the components of this kit have been engineered to precisely fit together for smoother brake operation.
The brake pads themselves are a composite ceramic type pad that is infused with carbon fiber. That helps dramatically extend these pads’ useful life. The brake pads are designed to also stay cooler even under heavy braking conditions.
2. StopTech 309.10780 Street Performance Front Brake Pad
If you have a high-performance car and want highly responsive braking action, then these brake pads from StopTech will nicely do the trick. These are composite brake pads that are made using Para-Aramid composites that are known for having excellent linear response. This makes them ideal for autocross and other types of rally or light track use.
These brake pads are factory matched to give an equal response to any set of front wheels they are attached to. Their special composite formula helps to keep brake temperatures down even under heavy braking conditions. They are also thicker brake pads so it will be a long time before you have to worry about replacing them again.
Included in the set is all the hardware you will need to mount them including factory supplied clips. Also included along with the pads are wear sensors and rattle clips. The manufacturer also gives detailed brake pad dimensions for those that want to make sure these pads are a perfect fit for their vehicle.
3. Akebono ACT905 Brake Pad Kit
Now there is no reason that any vehicle owner can’t have ultra-premium ceramic brake pads installed on their vehicle at a reasonable price. These semi-metallic brake pads for disc brakes are made by Akebono, the world’s largest brake manufacturer. That means that much experience goes into the manufacturing of all their brake parts.
One characteristic that these brakes are known for is how quiet they are. That’s because they are designed to greatly minimize vibration and harshness levels when braking. They also do not require a break-in period. Because of how smoothly they operate, they are also extremely rotor friendly. That should help greatly extend their useful life.
Smooth activating brakes also help keep brake dusting to a minimum. These highly rated brake pads are even considered to be better than most OEM brake products. Everything that’s needed to change a set of front or rear disc brakes pads is included in the package.
4. ACDelco 17D1367CH Professional Ceramic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
If you are looking for a set of front disc brake pads that are rigidly tested for effectiveness, then these may be just right for you. The testing that’s done on them specifies they meet SAE J2784 standards and they fit, form, and function as expected. These brake pads are engineered to reduce noise, operate smoothly, and to produce minimum vibration when engaged. AC-Delco is also a very reputable company and the trusted manufacturer of genuine GM OEM replacement parts.
These brake pads will also work on a wide variety of vehicles. When properly installed they are expected to hold up well under normal braking conditions too. This is because they are made using both ceramic and metallic materials for durability.
Another feature of these brake pads is the friction producing material is molded directly to the backing plate. These brake pads are ready to install right out of the box and no curing time is required before driving.
5. Bosch BC905 QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pad
Reputable car parts manufacturer Bosch has made a well-designed set of front disc brake pads here. They are made using a combination of space-age alloy and ceramic materials. That makes them very long-lasting and reliable. These brake pads also meet current guidelines federal legal guidelines by being certified 100% copper-free.
As their name indicates, they are also a composite brake pad that produces very little noise under normal braking conditions. The fact that they come with a rubber core multilayer shim enhances their quiet braking ability even further. They are also premium engineered to help increase stopping power and emit very little dust while doing it.
These brake pads also feature a protective layer of powder coating on them. This will help prevent them from building up corrosion and that will help prolong their useful life. Bosch has included all the hardware necessary to install these pads. That includes slots and chamfers for excellent fit, complete hardware kit, and synthetic lubricant.
6. EBC Brakes FA409HH Disc Brake Pad Set
Are you an avid rider of motorcycles or ATV’s and in need of a brake job? Then these highly rated brake pads may be just right for you. They come from EBC Brakes which is one of the largest and most experienced motorcycle and ATV brake pad manufacturers. These brake pads are designed to handle the rigors of braking that go along with riding motorcycles and off-road vehicles.
These brake pads are made using bonded brake linings placed on high-pressure die-cast aluminum platforms. They also include lead-in and lead-out chamfers at the brake lining ends. One other nice aspect of these brake pads is that they are radius-ground and edge-trimmed to enhance smooth braking performance.
EBC Brakes designed these brake pads to meet OEM specs and they are performance guaranteed. They also are certified asbestos-free for enhanced personal safety. Included in the package are the brake shoe springs and other installation support hardware.
7. Wagner QuickStop ZD1444 Ceramic Disc Pad Set
Wagner has a solid reputation for manufacturing quality brake parts and brake pads like these are the reason why. They are designed to enhance rapid stopping power on a wide variety of automobiles. These brake pads have features in them that will help provide ‘like new’ braking performance.
One of these features is their ability to stop without making noise and producing large amounts of brake dust. The included application-specific slots, chamfers, and shims help with this. They are also designed to engage in a manner that gives consistent braking pressure across the entire pad. Part of the reason for this is due to the gradual post-cured process that’s used in making the pads.
Due to their ceramic material, they should also hold up well under most normal braking conditions. Included in the kit are all the stainless-steel hardware parts needed for quick installation, brake lubricant, and installation directions. These brake pads are even certified to meet or exceed OEM specifications.
What are Brake Pads?
As everyone knows, spinning wheels on a car are what make it go forward and backward. But there will come a point where this moving process needs to end. That is where a car’s brake system comes into play. Brakes stop a vehicle’s momentum completely or cause that momentum to slow down. How do brakes do this? When a vehicle’s brakes are activated, a part of those brakes is pressed against another brake part that is attached to the metal wheels on a car. The name of the brake part that presses against the brake part on the metal wheels is called a brake pad.
These brake pads can be made of several different types of friction causing material. When the brakes on a car are pressed very firmly, with the help of brake pads, this action can bring a speeding car to a stop in just a few seconds. Over time brake pads will wear down and lose their effectiveness. That’s why all car owners will have to periodically have their brake pads replaced.
Best Brake Pads Buying Guide
Here is a buying guide full of helpful brake buying advice. If you get to know the information here, you stand a good chance of finding the perfect set of brake pads for year vehicle.
What to Consider When Buying New Brake Pads?
Before you start shopping for your new brake pads, you first have to ask yourself some important questions. These include:
What is the make, model, and year of my vehicle?
You cannot even begin to shop for brake pads without knowing the above information. That’s because not all types of brake pads fit every type of vehicle. So this information is critical when searching to make sure you buy brake pads that fit your vehicle. You should be able to find it in your car owner’s manual or on a metal plate attached to the driver’s side door.
Do I need brake pads for the front or back of my vehicle?
This is an important question if you don’t work on cars much. That’s because you may not realize that the brakes used on cars are usually different in the front or back. So make sure you know what type of brakes you are buying pads for and match up the pads you order accordingly.
What type of driving do I do most?
There are many different styles of brake pads that are made for all different types of driving conditions. Someone who drives on highways most of the time will want brakes that stop smoothly and quietly. Those who drive high-performance cars are usually concerned with quick stopping under heavy braking using pads that don’t wear out easily. So you have to somewhat match the brake pads that you buy with your driving style.
How long do I plan on keeping my current vehicle?
This question has everything to do with the quality of the brake pads that you want to install on your vehicle. If you have a leased vehicle that will be turned back into the dealer in 6 months, there is no reason to purchase high-end brake pads for that short amount of time. Just the opposite is true if you intend to have your current vehicle for a while. Get the best pad that’s available so you don’t have to worry about changing your brake pads again for a while.
9 Important Brake Pad Features and Specifications
In order to get the proper brake pads, you will need to look at these important brake pad features:
Of course, it goes without saying that a set of brake pads must fit the vehicle that you intend to put them on. So when shopping for brake pads, you have to have information on the make, model, and year of your car available. Most manufacturers will put out a chart or list of the types of cars that their brake pads fit. You will have to cross-reference your information with the information on these charts. If you don’t see your vehicle listed on a manufacturer’s chart, then those brake pads will not fit your car. You can consult an auto parts store or a manufacturer if you are unsure a set of brake pads fits.
You also have to know what style of brakes are on your car to get the right brake pads for it. Here are the two main styles of brakes:
This is the older of the two different styles of brakes. They work by having pads that exert pressure on special brake ‘drums’ that are attached to the wheels. Drum brake pads are located in the center of the wheel and press outwards when activated. These styles of brakes have been around much longer than disc brakes. Drum brakes tend to heat up faster and are impacted by moisture much more easily than disc brakes. They are also being steadily phased out. If you have brake drums on your car chances are you will only find them on your vehicle’s rear wheels.
These are by far the most common type of brakes found on cars these days. They differ from drum brakes in that they apply to stop pressure from the sides of a wheel. Disc brakes are steadily replacing drum brakes because they work better and hold up longer than drum brakes. So there is probably a better than 90% chance your brake pad search will only include disc brake pads. The biggest drawback with disc brakes is they are more complicated to work on and more expensive.
Just like most products, brake pads also come in a wide variety of choices. Some of these are not so expensive and lower quality and others can be very high quality and costly. Many factors go into determining the quality of a set of brake pads. This includes thickness, composition, metal backing, and more. Also, keep in mind that the quality of your brake pads is a huge contributor to safety when driving. So you may want to avoid at all costs having lower quality brake pads installed on your vehicle.
These days there are three major types of materials that brake pads are made of. This includes:
These types of brake pads were developed out of health concerns as an alternative to brake pads that contain asbestos. They are the least common type of brake pads found on cars.
Here are brake pads that are made out of a combination of metal and other fillers. They are the most commonly found type of brake pads on automobiles.
This is the latest entry into the brake pad market. They are quickly gaining on semi-metallic pads because of their long life and low dusting characteristics.
A whole section will be devoted to describing brake pad types in more detail further on in this article. None of them is a bad choice to put on your vehicle if they are quality made.
Brake Dust Reducing
One of the byproducts of using the brakes on your car is that this action produces dust in your wheel area. That is not a good thing. It can build up and start to cause problems with your brakes and other nearby working car parts. It can also cause tires to vibrate and brakes to become noisy when applied. This is why manufacturers have gone to great lengths to design brake pads that emit very little dust. When brake pad shopping, you want to pay attention to what the manufacturer says about the dust they create. Ceramic brake pads tend to cause the least amount of brake dust buildup.
The brake pads on your car are subject to much wear and tear. You already know that because you are here looking for information on how to replace your current brake pads. Replacing brake pads is not something that you want to do very often. That means you want to install new brake pads that are very durable so they will last a while. It most cases, brake pad thickness is a good indicator of how long a brake pad will last. This combined with the type of material the pads are made out of. Manufacturers will also point out the characteristics of their particular brake pads that will help them last longer.
Included Installation Hardware/Kit
There is much more that goes into changing brake pads than just having to change the pads themselves. It will also take certain small hardware items. This includes such things as a special lubricant, springs, chamfers, and shims. If you purchase a brake pad replacement kit that has these items, it will simplify the process. It will also save you from having to go to an auto parts store and search for these items yourself. So make sure you know what comes with your new brake pads besides just the pads themselves.
Some new brake pads come with certifications that give you certain assurances. This includes being certified OEM replacement pads that will keep manufacturers warranties valid. Other certifications such as the Differential Effectiveness Analysis (D3EA) and the Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedures (BEEP) symbolize quality brake pads that have been tested thoroughly for performance.
If your brake pads arrive and you do not like the looks or quality of them, then you should be able to return them. That’s why it’s nice to buy a set of brake pads that come with some type of money-back guarantee. They should at least be returnable if they have not been used.
Some brake pad manufacturers have a lot of confidence in their brake pads. Those that do will often offer a warranty on their pads. This may come in a form such as a mileage guarantee if the brake pads have been properly installed. So make sure you are aware of any warranty that applies to your new brake pads.
This application of this information should be done in the same manner as if you were using our dent puller buying guide. That’s to consider all the information provided here before making a purchase.
Types of Brake Pads
As was mentioned, there are three major types of brake pads. Here they are described in a little more detail. This includes their advantages and disadvantages.
Organic Brake Pads:
These pads were originally developed as an alternative to brake pads that were commonly made using asbestos. If you are not familiar with asbestos, it has been linked to several different types of lung problems. Manufacturers use glass, fiber, rubber, carbon and other materials to make organic brake pads. Organic brake pads are relatively inexpensive and low noise producing when braking. They also wear out quicker than any other type of brake pad.
Semi-metallic Brake Pads:
As the name indicates, these are brake pads that are made using a significant amount of metal in them. That is usually iron, steel, or other metals that are combined with fillers. They perform well and do a nice job of keeping the heat off of the brake discs. Semi-metallic brakes can be noisy and a little pricey.
Ceramic Brake Pads:
These are the newest types of brake pads to enter the marketplace. They have only been around since the 1980s. Hardened ceramic material with a slight amount of metal is what they are made out of. Ceramic brake pads are known to be super quiet and last a long time. They are not the preferred choice of pad in colder climates and they can be very expensive,
Why Is It Important to Replace Brake Pads?
Brake pads are designed to create friction in a special way when they press against a brake drum or brake disc. They do this in a way that does not cause tremendous heat and in a way where braking goes smoothly. When brake pads get thin and worn, they lose their ability to do this. That results in the strong possibility of improper braking and that, in turn, makes driving a car more dangerous. Braking takes much longer on thin brake pads than it does on newer ones.
Brake Parts and How They Work Together to Stop a Vehicle
Whether you are talking about disc brakes or drum brakes, they both are activated in the same manner. The brake pedal in your car when pushed sends a signal to your brake master cylinder. This signal put pressurized brake fluid into motion. The pressurized fluid travels through a brake line in your car until it gets to a piston in the wheel brake assembly. Once this piston is activated, it closes a set of calipers that have brake pads attached to them. Once the brake pads press against the brake rotors or drums, this slows or stops the vehicle. So basically, stopping a car is the result of a chain reaction of events after the brake pedal is pushed.
How Long Do Brake Pads Last?
This is a question that’s almost impossible to give a specific answer too. That’s because there are so many factors that go into brake pad wear. This includes a person’s driving style and driving conditions. For example, someone who applies brakes smoothly and does highway driving will go a long-time in-between brake pad changes. A driver who drives in the city doing fast acceleration and hard braking will wear brake pads quickly. Brake pad material is also a consideration in the amount of time between brake pad changes. So the answer to this question is different for everyone.
Bad Driving Habits that Hurt the Useful Life of Brake Pads
There are some reasons why some people go through brake pads faster than others. It has a lot more to do with how far a car is driven. Here are some examples of bad braking habits:
Resting a foot on the brake pedal
Some people when they drive rest their left foot on the brake pedal. They do not realize that this activates the brakes a slight amount. When this happens brake pads will wear at much faster than expected.
Continuous Hard Braking
Most brakes are designed to operate smoothly. They even have anti-lock brake systems that help with this. But if you are a driver that goes fast and then gives a full push on the brake pedal repeatedly, you are going to wear out your brake pads much faster than those who slowly apply their brakes.
Hauling Heavy Loads
Just because heavy objects fit in your car or truck does not mean that you should be hauling them. The more weight that you have in your vehicle the harder it is on your brakes. This is especially true if you do not have a heavier duty suspension to assist in carrying extra weight.
Riding the Brakes While Going Downhill
Here is another big no-no that will quickly wear out brakes. That is applying the brakes continuously while you are going down a big hill. If you have a manual transmission try switching to a lower gear to relieve brake stress. Those with automatic transmissions should use intermittent tapping of the brakes instead of continuously applying them.
Failure to Do Routine Brake Maintenance
One of the fastest ways to wear out brake pads is to not do routine maintenance on your car’s brake system. It’s important to do such things as maintain proper brake fluid level and periodically blow brake dust off of wheels. This will help reduce premature wear and tear on your vehicle’s brake pads.
When to Replace Brake Pads?
The key to brake pad performance lies in how thick the pads are. This pad thickness is what allows the brake pad to make firm contact with the brake drum or rotor and slow down or stop a car. Over time the brake pad will thin down with use. There eventually will come a time where the brake pads will become too thin to do their job. When this happens, you will hear grinding or squealing noises and it will take longer for your car to stop. These are not desirable characteristics to have on something as important to safety as brakes. At this point, a visual inspection by you or a mechanic will likely confirm your brake pads are very thin. When one or more of these conditions are present, then it’s time to change your brake pads.
How to Check the Condition of Your Brake Discs and Pads?
It’s best to do this by taking off your wheels and visually inspecting your brakes. The problem being, many people do not know how to do this or what to look for. If that’s the case with you, then you should take your car to a mechanic to have your brakes inspected. They will check for things such as brake pad thickness and excess brake dust. These are strong visual indicators that brake pads may need to be replaced.
4 Warning Signs Your Brakes Are Worn or Damaged
Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to replace your brake pads:
Brakes Make Grinding noise when pressure is applied to them
This happens when a brake pedal is beyond worn and metal is hitting on metal inside the brake parts. It’s dangerous to drive with this condition because stopping power is greatly reduced.
Brake squealing when in use
Manufacturers build what they call ‘wear pins or wear indicators’ into brake pads to alert drivers when pads are getting thin. This sound is annoying and unmistakable.
This is another action that occurs when brake pads are worn or something else is wrong with your breaks. You will feel a heavy vibration through the brake pedal when you go to stop.
Visual clues are a great way to determine when brake pads are worn or damaged too. These include:
During a visible inspection of the brakes, look for brake pads that are severely worn down and thin.
Excess brake dust on wheels
These days brake pads are designed to give off a minimal amount of brake dust. So, if you see excess brake dust on the inside or outside of your wheel area, that means your pads are getting worn down or there is another problem.
Maintenance of the Braking System
Chances are these days if you need to change out your brake pads, you will be working on disc brakes. So that’s the type of brakes that we will describe the change-out process for. Be sure to read any brake pad changing instructions that come with your new brake pads too.
How to Change the Brake Pads in Your Car?
Here are the steps that are necessary to change your brake pads:
First, you need to buy a new set of brake pads that will fit your car. You will also need some type of car jack, a tire tool, and a toolset. Choosing a tool chest that has ratchets and sockets works best. It also helps to have rags, brake cleaning fluid, and an air hose or shop vacuum set on exhaust.
Next, you will need to remove the tire that covers the brake housing that you want to change the pads on. Loosen the tire lug nuts while all the wheels are still on the ground. You will need to jack up your car to then remove the lug nuts and the tire. Make sure you check your other wheels for safety reasons so your car does not roll off the jack. Also, see our car ramp reviews for another easy way to lift a tire off of the ground.
Once the wheel is removed blow down the exposed wheel area with air to clean it up good. Turn the wheel to give you the best access to the wheel assembly. It is very important to note how you took the brake assembly apart to change the brake pad on it. This is because you have to reverse the process to put everything back together. If it’s your first-time doing brakes take photos of the disassembly steps for reference. Keep all removed nuts, buts, and parts together in a container.
Now it’s time to remove the brake caliper assembly from the rotor so you can change the pads on it. You do not have to remove the brake lines. Be careful not to twist or bend them as you work. The brake caliper assembly comes off by removing two bolts at the top of it.
Once the brake caliper assembly is loose, inspect it for cracks and clean thoroughly with the brake cleaning fluid. To get working room with the brake pads, you may need to clamp the brake pistons down. When this is done you are now ready to remove the old brake pads.
Now that the old brake pads are removed, put the new brake pads in place. Also, be sure to replace any hardware with newer hardware that came in the brake pad package.
Once the pads are in place and properly clipped in, it’s time to put the caliper back in place. Just reverse the steps used to take them off. Use the photos you took if you have any reassembly problems. Once everything is secure, then put the wheel back on. Top off the brake fluid reservoir if necessary. Take a test drive at a slow speed to make sure the brakes are working OK. If the brake pedal feels spongy, you may have to bleed the air out of the brake lines.
If you’re experiencing a lack of acceleration or high fuel consumption, you should check our best spark plug post!
Tips to Keep Your Brakes in Excellent Working Condition:
- Keep your brake fluid at an optimal level at all times. Check brake fluid level every time you check your oil.
- Have your brakes inspected at the first sign of a problem or every six months.
- Use an air hose to clean the excess brake dust from the wheel and brake areas.
- Pay close attention to dashboard brake indicator lights. Investigate immediately when these lights come on.
- Make a brake maintenance schedule for your cars. This will help keep your brakes in excellent working order. Document in detail the dates and what maintenance procedures were undertaken.
Best Brake Pad Brands
Fortunately, when you are shopping for brake pads you have a wide selection of good choices. You may be wondering which brands of brake pads come with the highest recommendations. Here are a few brake pad manufacturers that consistently turn out high-quality pads:
- AC Delco
- Power Stop
When all is said and done, you can never go wrong buying brake pads from these reputable brake part manufacturers.
FAQs & Answers
Here are some of the most common questions that we get on brake pads.
- Question: How often should I change my brake pads?
Answer: Many parts and fluids on your car are recommended to be changed based on mileage. An example is changing oil every 3000 miles. But this is not something you can do with brake pads. That’s because driving conditions, driving style, and brake pad material differ for each driver. This means that brake pads wear down differently for every driver too. So semi-annual brake inspections are the best way to determine when brake pads should be replaced.
- Question: If I don’t have my car make and model information, can I buy new brake pads by showing a counter person at an auto store my old brake pads?
Answer: Yes, but it could be very time consuming for you and the parts person. Better to have the make and model information on your car. You can always stop by your local dealer and they can get the information you need for you.
- Question: Do I have to change the brake rotors at the same time I change my brake pads?
Answer: No, you don’t have to do this if your brake rotors look like they are in good condition. But for optimal brake performance, you should have the rotors turned or replaced. Your car brakes are too important a driving safety feature to cut corners on.
- Question: How to take care of your brakes
They are a few components on your vehicle that are more important safety-wise than your brakes. Your brake pads play a huge role in your car’s stopping power. That’s why you need to check your brake pads often and replace them when necessary. When it comes time to replace your brake pads, you only want to use the best brake pad models. No matter how good of condition the rest of your brakes are in, it simply won’t matter if you have worn or substandard brake pads.
We realize we have thrown a lot at you to consider in this article. You have to remember that it will all help you find a good set of brake pads. That’s why we have done everything from brake pad reviews to answering frequent questions about brake pads. The more information that you have about brake pads, the better brake pad buying decision you can make.