Ceramic Brake Pads Vs. Metallic

by Holly Huntington

You compromise brake safety and performance by not replacing brake pads when needed. Some brake pads wear out quicker than others, and produce more pad dust as well, which why you should know the features of metallic and ceramic brake pads.

Replacement Brake Pads

As brake pads begin to wear out on a vehicle, they need replacing. The type of brake pad chosen and its metal content (or lack thereof) plays a significant role in how long the pads will last. Type also affects how much noise the brakes will make, the dust produced onto the car wheels, and the expected braking performance.

Significance

Brake pads provide a necessary resistance between the brakes and the wheel rotors on a vehicle. As you apply the brakes to slow a vehicle, or to stop it quickly, they produce heat. The faster the vehicle is going—and the faster you need to stop—when applying the brakes, dictates the wear and tear on the brake pads, and the heat production. Brake pads with metal in them handle more heat before they break down, which makes them a more durable pad to purchase. The downside is that metal brake pads make more noise, produce more brake pad dust and wear out the rotors faster than those without metal.

Types

Brake pads for vehicles have changed in the past 25 years, according to ConsumerReports.org. In fact, the brake pad industry has gone from offering only two types—asbestos and semi-metallic—to offering four basic types: non-asbestos organic, semi-metallic, low-metallic NAO and ceramic.

Metallic Features

There are two types of metallic brake pads: low-metallic and semi-metallic. The low-metallic type contains only a minimal amount—10 percent to 30 percent—of steel or copper, so they produce less noise and pad dust than the semi-metallic type, but more than ceramic brake pads. Semi-metallic brakes contain more metal—30 percent to 65 percent—and more types of metals, including chopped steel wire or wool, copper, iron powder or graphite mixed with inorganic fillers. This type of brake pad is noisier, wears down the brake rotors faster and may not offer as good a brake performance during cooler temperatures than ceramic or low-metallic pads. However, it is more durable than the other two, and has good heat transfer, according to Consumer Reports.

Ceramic Features

The ceramic brake pads provide users with excellent braking benefits, without sacrificing the rotors to do so. And, while more expensive than the metal pads, this type doesn't produce the quantity of brake pad dust that metal pads can, with less noise, says Consumer Reports. Ceramic brake pads are lighter in color and contain ceramic fibers, bonding agents, nonferrous fillers and—sometimes—tiny amounts of metal.

About the Author

Holly Huntington's writing has been published online by eHow.

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