Brake pads are obviously an essential item on every vehicle and different types of vehicle will have varying requirements as to when these should be replaced depending on usage and other factors.
What is a brake pad?
They are an integral part of disc brakes and comprise of steel backed plates with special friction material adhered to the surface facing the disc brake rotor. The pads work through friction and transform the kinetic energy of the car into thermal energy. The brake caliper contains two pads and when the brakes are applied the caliper then squeezes the pads onto the spinning rotor which slows down or stops the vehicle. The heat energy generated by the brake pad transfers minute amounts of the special friction material to the disc, and allows the pad and disc to have a surface that stick together sufficiently to allow the vehicle to be slowed or stopped.
Obviously given time and wear and tear the friction material and the component parts start to wear down, and this is usually evidenced by screeching noises or other unusual sounds coming from the wheels, although there are other methods for alerting the driver depending on the type of car, such as dashboard lights that come on when an electric circuit is closed. However, some vehicles will undergo more heavy duty driving than others so it is vital that the pads are regularly assessed to check they are still functional and fit for purpose.
Different types of Brake Pads
Most disc brakes have two pads per caliper, however racing cars have calipers that can accommodate up to six pads at a time and these have been technically modified to have different frictional qualities that are variable for optimum performance brakes. There are a wide variety of disc brakes from those used for less intense driving to more aggressive and durable brakes for racing and other performance sports. Although car manufacturers will recommend specific types of pads for their vehicles, these can also be customised to get better performance by those who understand the properties of pads and the relative driving environment. For instance, compounds can be altered by buying a different but compatible pad or upgrading to a performance pad depending on personal preference, driving styles and car usage. However, it is crucial that good advice is sought if buying non-standard pads as operating temperature ranges can vary which could lead standard pads to fade under pressure, or performance brake pads being ineffective in the cold for example. With the right advice and parts, brake fade can be reduced by ensuring the right kind of pads are installed that have greater durability and quality than standard pads.
How Brake Pads can improve your car
Whatever the type of vehicle or the reason for driving, there are some basic considerations to ensure you select the best brake pad material. The key functions of the material must be it's ability to prevent brake fade; efficient recovery time from differing conditions such as increased heat or moisture; the effects of water on braking; the life of the pads in conjunction with wear to the rotor; the ability of the pad material to enable smooth contact with the rotor or drum.
All these features will make a difference in terms of what kind of pads you choose and there are four primary types of pads available: semi-metallic, ceramic, low metallic and organic that come in at a range of prices. However, price is not the only or main consideration as mentioned above, and the varying types of brake pad all come with pros and cons. Semi-metallic pads have been a less expensive and standard choice for a number of years for vehicles such as trucks and cars. Ceramic pads are popular as they are fairly durable and will enable hard stopping without too much wear and tear but are a bit more expensive than some other types. Low metallic pads contain less metal and so generate less dust and are often to be found in buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles, and are also lower in price. Finally, organic pads are made from materials such as carbon, glass and resin and are durable with less dust and are more suitable for urban driving conditions as a rule.
So, when choosing pads, take some time to look at your driving needs and compare the different kinds of products on offer. You will find a diverse range and a lot of choice to enable you to optimise performance whatever the driving conditions.