Which Are The Best Brake Pads? Ceramic vs. Semi-Metallic

Ceramic brake pads produce less brake dust compared to semi-metallic brake pads, and while ceramic brake pads are great for smaller cars, they can be noisy on heavy cars and trucks. Semi-Metallic brake pads have better temperature fade resistance and a higher level of friction than ceramic brake pads.

What are ceramic brake pads?

These pads use ceramic compounds and copper fibers in place of the semi-metallicpad's steel fibers. This allows the ceramic pads to handle high brake temperatures with less heat fade, provide faster recovery after the stop, and generate less dust and wear on both the pads and rotors.

What are organic brake pads made of?

Organic brake pads, sometimes called nonasbestos organic brake pads, are made from natural materials liked glass and rubber, as well as resins that can withstand high heat. In fact, the high heat helps to bind the brake pad materials together. Kevlar is also an important component in many organic brake pads.

The braking system in your vehicle is perhaps its single most important safety mechanism. Without brakes, a vehicle is left relying on time to slow its forward momentum. So how do brakes work? When you step on your brake pedal your car pushes fluid through its brake lines into each wheel, gradually bringing them to a stop at the same rate. As a whole, your brake system is turning your car’s kinetic energy into friction that slows your tires and brings your car to a stop. The brake pads in your vehicle are the source of that friction, which is created as they press up against the braking discs in your car.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of brake pads available, the pros and cons of each type, particularly the differences between using ceramic and metallic brake pads, and help you understand how to choose the best brake pad for your vehicle and driving style.

CERAMIC BRAKE PADS

Another option for brake pads are ceramic brake pads. These brake pads are made from ceramic very similar to the type of ceramic used to make pottery and plates, but is denser and a lot more durable. Ceramic brake pads also have fine copper fibers embedded within them, to help increase their friction and heat conductivity.

Since they were developed in the mid-1980s, ceramic brake pads have been consistently increasing in popularity for a number reasons:

  • Noise-Level: Ceramic brake pads are very quiet, creating little-to-no extra sound when the brakes are applied.

  • Wear & Tear Residue: Compared to organic brake pads, ceramic brake pads tend to produce less dust and other particles over time as they wear down.

  • Temperature & Driving Conditions: Compared to organic brake pads, ceramic brake pads can be more reliable in a wider range of temperatures and driving conditions.

But, as with most things, there is some “give” that comes with the “take”; ceramic brake pads do have some limitations. Primarily, their cost: due to higher manufacturing costs, ceramic brake pads tend to be the most expensive of all types of brake pad. Also, since both ceramic and copper can’t absorb as much heat as other types of materials, more of the heat generated by braking will pass through the brake pads and into the rest of the braking system. This can cause more wear and tear on other braking components. Lastly, ceramic brake pads aren’t considered the best choice for extreme driving conditions, such as very cold climates or racing conditions.

METALLIC BRAKE PADS

The final type of brake pad is the semi-metallic brake pad, often referred to as just “metallic brake pad”. Metallic brake pads are comprised of anywhere between 30% and 70% metals including copper, iron, steel, or other composite alloys. These various metals are combined with graphite lubricant as well as other fillers to complete the brake bad. The metallic brake pad compounds that are available vary, with each offering their own advantages for different situations as diverse as daily commutes to track racing.

For many drivers, especially those who value high-performance, the choice between ceramic vs. metallic brake pads is easy. Performance-driven drivers prefer the metallic brake pads because they offer improved braking performance in a much wider range of temperatures and conditions. Because metals are such a good conductor of heat, they tend to be able to withstand more heat while simultaneously helping braking systems cool back down more quickly. They also don’t compress as much as organic brakes, meaning less pressure needs to be applied to the brake pedal to affect stopping ability.

However, there are some disadvantages to metallic brake pads. They tend to be noisier than ceramic or organic brake pads - meaning a louder ride - as well as more stressful for the brake system, adding more strain and wear on the brake rotors. As far as price goes, metallic brake pads tend to fall somewhere between organic and ceramic pads. They tend to produce more brake dust than the other two varieties as well.

CHOOSING THE CORRECT BRAKE PAD

So which brake pad is the best choice for you when deciding between ceramic brake pads vs semi metallic vs. organic? It really is dependent on the ride you expect from your vehicle combined with your personal driving style. If you have a high-performance sport car, or at least drive your vehicle like it is one, you’re likely best off choosing semi-metallic brake pads. On the other hand, if you do a lot of urban commuting, you might find a solid ceramic brake pad to be the better option. If you don’t put a lot of mileage on your vehicle, an organic brake pad might be the best, low-price option for your driving habits.

Below is a simple table that illustrates some of the comparative differences between organic, ceramic, and metallic brake pads.

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