The Difference Between Brake Pads


The Difference Between Brake Pads – Semi-Metallic, Ceramic and Organic, Brake Pads

Brake pads are a vital part of a vehicle, it’s able to convert kinetic energy to heat in order to stop your vehicle in its tracks. The brake pads send a signal to the brake rotor thus creating ample friction to stop your vehicle.

In the 1950s, when discs were used to substitute drums, brake pads were manufactured from asbestos. It was very affordable and it worked very well at dissolving heat, however, the bad side was that the brake dust was found to be responsible for lung cancer. Luckily for us, there are so many inexpensive brake pads that are not a danger to our health.

Here are ways of narrowing down your choices should you wish to shop for a new brake pad.

Carbon-based brake pads

These were the first type of brake pads used to substitute asbestos. They are manufactured from different organic materials such as glass, Kevlar, carbon and rubber. Carbon-based brake pads are quiet even when it’s cold, and need to heat up to their model functioning temperature. Some studies, later on, found numerous inadequacies with the carbon-based brake pads which made them largely changed.


  • Quiet
  • Best for everyday driving
  • Inexpensive


  • Wear out quickly
  • Overheat easily
  • Not for performance driving or towing
  • Soft pedal feel

One begins to wonder why carbon based brake pads are still manufactured despite all these findings. It’s the same story as to why there are brake drums on contemporary cars. Brake drums and carbon-based pads can rarely be found these days, though they can still work well. They were manufactured cheaply and also sold cheap. Should you require the cheapest option then carbon-based brake pads are the way to go.

Semi-metallic brake pads

With the flaws of the carbon-based pads, engineers began to search for a better alternative that was how the semi-metallic pads were born. It was first used in the more powerful cars of the 60s. With steel, iron, graphite and copper among the components, the semi-metallic pads stood up to different kind of temperatures.


  • Firmer pedal feel
  • Enhanced brake performance when compared to carbon-based pads
  • Heat tolerance for a range of climates
  • Very good for heavy duty work


  • More brake dust
  • Makes more noise
  • Need a break in period

Semi-metallic pads are a very good choice if you are city based with lots of stop starts, enjoy performance driving, tow regularly or require a nice pad for your everyday commute. However, the price is higher than the carbon-based pad, it’s just a case of “you get what you pay for”.

Ceramic brake pads

These set first came onboard in the 80s, it offered some enhanced features over the semi-metallic pads but they are for everybody.


  • Quiet
  • Lasts long
  • Fewer brake dust {does not stick to the wheels}
  • Better rejection of heat


  • Makes noise when cold
  • Costly

Ceramic pads became the standard OEM brake pad for modern vehicles and the reason is obvious. Irrespective of the higher cost, drivers preferred it because it lasted for long and offered less to no brake dust. It’s not recommended for drivers who are towing, racing or in very cold temperatures.

If your vehicle came with ceramic pads then that is what you should replace them with. In other words, you shouldn’t change a factory fitted ceramic brake pad with a lesser quality brake pad and anticipate the same result, it can’t happen.

Which brake pads to buy

If you are to select between ceramic and the semi-metallic pads, you’re advised to go with what the manufacturer added to the calliper or better. If your Ford F-250 had a semi-metallic installed, stick with it when buying replacements. If the manufacturer installed ceramics on your Honda Accord, then go with the same option when doing replacements.

If you tow heavy loads or brake with a weighty foot, make use of semi-metallic pads. Don’t try to be smarter than the manufacturer and upgrade to a ceramic pad without any research. If you really have no choice but to use ceramics brake pad, purchase the highest quality available.

Just ensure that you are purchasing a brake pad that is suitable for where you reside, your hobbies and your style of driving.

If you are unsure as to which type of brake pads you need pop into your friendly Gloucester garage!

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