When it comes to maintenance items on your vehicle, one of the most important components you need to pay attention to are brake pads. Having high quality brake pads could save you from getting into an accident, and they should be replaced on a regular basis. Unfortunately, shopping for the best brake pads can be cumbersome and tedious, with hundreds of options available in the market that cover a wide range of prices.
So here’s a breakdown of 13 recommendations to help make your shopping experience a bit simpler. Keep in mind that most brake pads are sold separately for the front and rear, so make sure you’re getting the correct product for what you need.
For more information on brake pads, refer to our table of contents.
Updated 10/30/2020 with info on galvanized brake pads!
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick for Rear Brake Pads: NRS Brakes Galvanized Brake Pads
- 2. Editor's Pick for Front Brake Pads: NRS Brakes Galvanized Brake Pads
- 3. Best High End/Performance Option: Brembo Brake Pads
- 4. Best Budget Option for Rear Brake Pads: ACDelco Advantage Ceramic Rear Brake Pads (14D698CH)
- 5. Best Budget Option for Front Brake Pads: Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Front Brake Pads (ZD465A)
- 6. Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Rear Brake Pads (BC905)
- 7. ACDelco Professional Ceramic Front Brake Pads (17D1367CH)
- 8. Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set (ACT1089)
- 9. Power Stop Z23 Evolution Sport Front Brake Pads
- 10. Wagner ThermoQuiet Ceramic Rear Brake Pads (QC1304)
- 11. KFE Ultra Quiet Advanced Premium Ceramic Front Brake Pads (KFE914-104)
- 12. Bosch Blue Brake Pads (BE923H)
- 13. Centric Posi Quiet Ceramic Brake Pads (105.0923)
- Everything You Need to Know About Brake Pads for Your Car
- What are the different types of brake pads?
- Semi-metallic Brake Pads
- Organic Brake Pads
- Ceramic Brake Pads
- Galvanized Brake Pads
- When should I replace brake pads?
- Can I replace my brake pads?
- How long will my new brake pads last?
- Tips to make your brake pads last longer
1. Editor's Pick for Rear Brake Pads: NRS Brakes Galvanized Brake Pads
It seems like an obvious thing, but galvanized steel is a rarity in the brake pad world. That’s why we rate these NRS Galvanized brake pads so highly.
After decades of supplying its NRS technology to big names in the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), NRS Brakes are now available to everyday consumers. That experience means that NRS Brakes have lots of applications for all manner of vehicles, that all fit and function right out of the box come time for replacement.
What is galvanization, and why does it matter for brakes? Galvanization is a process that coats the entire steel with zinc, fighting off corrosion. Modern brake pads, especially aftermarket ones, tend to come painted or untreated. As road grime finds its way into the pads, it causes them to wear prematurely, and can even lead to a full delamination, where the friction pad disconnects from the backing plate. NRS Brakes’ galvanized steel will ensure that the steel does not deteriorate and gives the friction the opportunity to fully wear down making it the longest lasting brake pad in the market. NRS Brakes uses the patented SHARK-Metal technology to mechanically attach the friction pad to the plate instead of a simple adhesive.
The payoffs are two-fold: NRS brakes can outlast traditional pads, while also offering quieter operation and improved braking performance. What’s more, the company tests all its brakes beyond the standards required of OEMs.
Best of all? They’re produced in Canada.
2. Editor's Pick for Front Brake Pads: NRS Brakes Galvanized Brake Pads
We’re repeating ourselves here for good reason: if NRS’ galvanized brakes are good enough for the rear of your car, they’re good for the front too.
In fact, front brakes are even more important. Cars lean heavily on the front axle during braking, with that end of the car doing the majority of the stopping action. That’s why we’re recommending a full set of NRS pads. Galvanization extends the life of a brake pad, instead of the steel falling apart or rusting before the friction material actually wears down. The Canadian company’s SHARK-Metal technology also allows it to be fully mechanically bonded. Glues are susceptible to heat and contaminants—two things a road-going car’s braking system faces on a daily basis, especially in colder climates.
NRS brakes aren’t the bargain option, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. And who can put a price on safety?
3. Best High End/Performance Option: Brembo Brake Pads
Brembo is one of the most well-respected and well-known brands in the braking industry, so if you’re looking for the best performing pads, it’s recommended to go with the Brembo name. Specializing in braking components, Brembo’s brake pads are engineered and designed to enhance braking power, helping minimize braking distance while offering a quiet and safe braking experience. Many of the company’s products feature Brembo’s multi-layer ESE (elastomer – steel – elastomer) signature red shim, so you know you’re getting a Brembo product. This shim also helps dampen noise and minimizes vibrations.
Most of Brembo’s offerings you’ll find online are ceramic brake pads that are created through an Original Equipment Direct Molding Pressing Process to provide an accurate and proper fitment for your vehicle. This process uses extreme pressure to compress friction materials, providing a balanced bonding to the backing plate. Afterwards, Brembo puts their pads through a thermal scorching process to lessen running-in and fading.
4. Best Budget Option for Rear Brake Pads: ACDelco Advantage Ceramic Rear Brake Pads (14D698CH)
Part of ACDelco’s Advantage Ceramic brake pad lineup, these pads are affordable and offer great performance for the rear brakes. Using a ceramic formulation that uses less metal, these pads provide quality braking power in a quiet and low-dusting package. Available for nearly all makes and models, these pads use basic shims, slots, and chamfers to help diminish noise, vibration, and braking harshness.
Ready to be installed right out off the box, the overwhelming majority of owners are satisfied with the performance these pads have to offer, especially at the price. They’re relatively quiet, fit well, and make little to no noise. A small number of owners however, have experienced cracking with their brake pads.
5. Best Budget Option for Front Brake Pads: Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Front Brake Pads (ZD465A)
Brake pads can range significantly in pricing, so if you’re trying to keep things on a budget, here’s a good option. From Wagner, these QuickStop Ceramic front brake pads feature an application-specific design to help reduce noise-causing vibration. Designed, tested, and certified for OE performance, these brake pads feature a low copper 2021 complaint ceramic formulation.
The entire lineup of Wagner QuickStop pads features a 100% post-cured process, delivering a longer and more gradual oven cure rather than scorching. This helps ensure even friction performance throughout the life of the brake pad. Each package includes OE-style lubricant for installation.
6. Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Rear Brake Pads (BC905)
If you’re in the market for replacement rear brake pads, Bosch’s QuietCast Premium should be towards the top of your list. Bosch is one of the most popular brands when it comes to automotive replacement parts, and is often used by automakers as a supplier for original equipment (OE) components. These brake pads are engineered to deliver exceptional stopping power and quiet operation, while producing as little brake dust as possible.
Helping contribute to quiet operation, these brake pads feature a shim style that is heated and pressure cured between two layers of steel, providing lower noise, increased strength, and corrosion resistance. When it comes to performance, Bosch’s QuietCast Premium uses the same aluminum-based alloy used in aerospace engineering. These are copper-free brake pads that are already complaint with 2025 Copper Free legislation.
Engineered, tested, and manufactured in North America, it’s very likely these pads will fit your application since Bosch offers best-in-class coverage for all vehicles.
7. ACDelco Professional Ceramic Front Brake Pads (17D1367CH)
For front brake pads, our recommendation comes from ACDelco’s Professional Ceramic line. These brake pads have been tested to SAE J2784 for braking effectiveness, as well as Noise/Vibration/Harshness (NVH) and durability/wear testing for assurance of quality. Using ceramic, semi-metallic, and organic formulas, these brake pads provide safety and reliability for a wide range of vehicle applications.
Helping to reduce noise, vibration, and braking harshness, ACDelco has outfitted these pads with premium shims, slots, and chamfers. They also have a stamped backing plate, which allows for proper pad movement within the caliper assembly. The stamped backing plate also helps reduce noise, brake pulsing, and protects against premature wear. Each brake pad has its friction material molded to the backing plate for bond integrity.
ACDelco is one of the most trusted brands in the automotive industry and is the true General Motors Original Equipment parts brand, manufacturing over 90,000 GM OE and other parts.
8. Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set (ACT1089)
Although a bit pricier than other options on this list, Akebono’s ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set is a high-quality offering, available for domestic and Asian vehicles. Akebono is the largest supplier of OE pads and is the top choice of automakers in North America, so you know you’re getting an OE-quality product that is suitable for a majority of car owners.
These pads are designed using vehicle-optimized friction formulations with a focus on eliminating noise, vibration, and harshness, while severely limiting brake dust. These are great replacement brake pads for OE ceramic units, but can also serve as an upgrade from conventional pads.
Along with providing low dusting and smooth braking, these pads will also provide improved pad wear performance, which means longer times in between needing new pads.
9. Power Stop Z23 Evolution Sport Front Brake Pads
If you’re looking for a high-performance option and willing to pay the price for it, take a look at the Power Stop Z23 Evolution Sport brake pads. These pads feature a carbon fiber-infused ceramic formula to deliver superior braking power and performance. Helping extend the life of these brake pads by resisting rust and corrosion is a powdercoated backing plate, while premium rubberized shims help deliver noise-free braking. These are also chamfered and slotted like OE pads to help reduce noise.
As a performance brake pad, these will resist fade up to much higher temperatures than standard OE units. Each brake pad set comes with ceramic brake lubricant, while certain applications will also include a premium stainless steel hardware kit and bin bushings.
10. Wagner ThermoQuiet Ceramic Rear Brake Pads (QC1304)
Another option from Wagner is the company’s ThermoQuiet line of brake pads. Featuring Wagner’s OE21 low copper technology, these pads use a complex matrix of materials that replicate the functions of copper but provides improvements to NVH control, stopping power, durability, and dusting. The company claims these pads offer 35% quieter operation compared to Wagner’s previous ceramic pads, while providing 15% more stopping power. They’ll last a lot longer too with 40% reduced fade.
These pads are a great option if noise is important to you. Although they’re a bit more expensive than standard ceramic pads, they do last a bit longer, which pays for itself in the long run. Some owners do complain however, that these pads produce a fair amount of brake dust.
11. KFE Ultra Quiet Advanced Premium Ceramic Front Brake Pads (KFE914-104)
From KFE comes these Ultra Quiet Advanced Premium Ceramic brake pads an OEM fit and no hassle limited warranty. These pads will deliver solid performance with low noise, thanks to dual rubber shims that dramatically reduce vibration noise. KFE’s pads also require less break-in time, since these undergo a thermo scorched manufacturing process.
Offering enhanced brake bite, these pads also have long life slots and chamfered edges, further contributing to pad life and less noise. Keep in mind however, that not all applications will have slotted and chamfered features.
These pads are manufactured with 100% asbestos-free materials and meets the 2021 national standard material safety standards.
12. Bosch Blue Brake Pads (BE923H)
Another offering from Bosch are the company’s Blue brake pads featuring advanced platform specific friction material formulations—NAO-Ceramic and semi-metallic formulas—to deliver optimal performance. These pads use OE-style multi-layer shims for superior noise dampening, while a rust inhibitive coating helps prevent rust. Included with each set of pads is a hardware kit and synthetic lubricant, while slots and chamfers on certain applications match the OE design for quick and easy installation.
These pads are ideal for the everyday driver who is looking for performance at an affordable price. They go through the same testing and engineering process as Bosch’s premium braking products, but are a more budget-friendly option.
13. Centric Posi Quiet Ceramic Brake Pads (105.0923)
From Centric are these Posi Quiet Ceramic brake pads featuring precision cut or shaved backing plates that help reduce vibration and noise. These pads are manufactured using extreme pressure that compresses the friction material, creating a more consistent material density throughout the pad. All Posi Quiet pads feature mechanically attached, application specific shims, which also contribute to noise reduction.
Centric says these pads offer stable friction performance across a wide temperature range and ensures better braking performance with minimal noise. The company also uses a scorching process on all its Posi Quiet pads, helping force any impurities out of the friction material while pre-burnishing the pads to shorten the break-in process.
Everything You Need to Know About Brake Pads for Your Car
As we mentioned before, brake pads are extremely important when it comes to the safety of your vehicle. They’re a key component to slowing down your car efficiently and quickly, and you’ll likely know when it’s time to replace your brake pads because braking performance has noticeably suffered. Unfortunately there are no predefined time periods as to when your brake pads should be replaced, as that naturally depends on the amount of driving you do and the type of driving you do. Typically however, most companies recommend changing your pads within two years.
Below, we’ll go into detail about everything you need to know about brake pads, including the different types, when you should replace them, and even tips on how to make them last longer.
What are the different types of brake pads?
Nowadays, most modern vehicles leave the assembly line with a variety of different brake pads as standard equipment. Some automakers will equip conventional, non-performance vehicles with more affordable pads to keep costs down, while high-performance vehicles likely come with high-performance pads. Some vehicles may even use a combination of different types of brake pads, with an emphasis on performance in the front of the vehicle.
Below, we take a look at the most popular types of brake pads you’ll find on the shelf at your local auto parts store or online.
Semi-metallic Brake Pads
For most vehicles, you’ll find that semi-metallic brake pads are most popular. Mostly made of metal, these pads are durable and efficient, while offering solid durability. Typically, semi-metallic brake pads feature metal content between 30% and 65%, which is mixed with graphite, copper, or steel wire wool. The result is a pad that offers good heat transfer capability, which is important to keep brakes performing as well as possible.
Organic Brake Pads
Softer than semi-metallic brake pads, organic brake pads tend to have less than 20% metal in its construction. These pads however, have lower noise and produce less brake dust than other more high-performance pads. Some organic pads will also lessen the wear on your rotors, making them last longer.
Normally you’ll find that organic pads are made with different fibers and resins to withstand high temperatures, but they typically wear quicker than semi-metallic brake pads.
Ceramic Brake Pads
As the latest solution in the brake pads market, ceramic pads are slowly becoming more and more popular with manufacturers. Constructed with ceramic fibers and an assortment of non-ferrous fiber materials, ceramic pads are a solid solution for a wide range of temperatures. These pads typically have lower noise levels and less brake dust, but they’ll cost noticeably more.
The good news is, most companies are producing ceramic brake pads now, which makes pricing more competitive. You’ll notice most of our recommendations are ceramic brake pads, as they strike a solid balance between performance and price, arguably more than semi-metallic pads.
Galvanized Brake Pads
The metal backing plates on your brake pads are susceptible to rust, which can lead to rust-jacking and delamination, serious issues that can compromise the safety of your braking system. That’s why no matter what friction material you choose – semi-metallic, organic, ceramic – opting for galvanized brake pads can make a major difference in the lifespan of your pads.
Galvanization, or the act of applying a protective zinc coating to steel, is not a new technology, but it is relatively new when applied to brake pads. The benefits, however, are clear, making this a worthwhile option for those in the market for a premium brake pad. Cheap, low-quality brake pads attempt to prevent rust and corrosion through a layer of paint, which quickly wears or burns away. The rust-resistant zinc used on galvanized brake pads, meanwhile, results in a steel backing plate that is rust-proof to the core. That means longer brake pad life and more consistent, predictable stopping power throughout the life of the pad, even in harsh wet or wintery climates.
Plus, since they’re paint-free, galvanized pads are also more environmentally friendly. While galvanized brake pads do cost more at the point of purchase, their longer lifespan means they’ll require less frequent replacement, offering significant long-term savings—not to mention greater peace of mind when it comes to the increased stopping power on the road.
When should I replace brake pads?
Given the variety of brake pads, vehicles, and driving styles that exist in our world, there’s no clear answer to when you should replace your brake pads. There are however, a few guidelines you can follow or things to look for that indicate when it’s time to swap out for new pads.
Some vehicles are equipped with a brake pad warning system, with the vehicle notifying you when you need to change your pads. These systems use a simple sensor, which activates when brake pads wear to a certain level. Unfortunately not all vehicles are equipped with this system, especially older and more affordable vehicles.
One of the biggest indicators that you need new brake pads is if you’re hearing screeching or squealing when you’re braking. That’s typically a sign that your brake pads have worn to the metal backing plates, so you’re experiencing metal-on-metal contact with your rotor. In some situations, the noise may not be noticeable until it’s “too late,” at which point you should change your brake pads immediately.
Car pulling to one side
There are numerous reasons why your vehicle would be pulling to one side, but one cause could be worn brake pads. If your vehicle is pulling hard to one side, make sure to check if you need new brake pads, among other things, such as a flat tire.
If you’re experiencing vibrations during hard braking, this could be the result of worn or overheated brake pads or warped rotors. Either way, you’ll want to check your brakes to make sure nothing needs to be replaced.
There is always the option of simply looking at your pads to see if they need to be replaced. If your wheels allow, you can see the outside of your brake pad—the portion that is pressed against the rotor—to see if they’ve been worn down. Normally if you see 3mm or less of pad remaining, it’s time to get a new set.
Can I replace my brake pads?
Like most automotive-related maintenance tasks, the answer to that question depends on how comfortable you are working on your own car. Replacing brake pads however, is a fairly simply and straightforward task, similar to changing your oil. If you have some basic knowledge of tools and how to work on your car, it’s not a difficult job and there are plenty of people who changes their own brake pads from the comforts of their garage.
It does however, require the right tools, and if you’re not experienced or comfortable working on your car, you will want to consult a professional. Keep in mind that brakes are one of the most important safety features on your car, so you don’t want to install your brake pads incorrectly.
How long will my new brake pads last?
It’s only natural to wonder how long your new brake pads will last once you’ve installed them. But the answer isn’t straightforward, since again, it comes down to which types of brake pads you’re using and your driving style. If you’re often driving on the freeway with little to no traffic, your brake pads will experience less wear and tear than a person who is stuck in stop-and-go city traffic all day long.
It’s important to regularly monitor the wear on your brake pads, so you know when they need to be replaced.
Tips to make your brake pads last longer
Although we can’t tell you how long your new pads will work, there are some general tips to make sure they last as long as possible.
- Try to anticipate when you’ll need to brake so that it doesn’t have to be done harshly
- Slow down before intersections if you know you have to stop, this way you don’t have to use your brakes as much
- Watch your speed since the faster you go, the more you have to apply your brakes when it’s time to slow down
- Pay attention to traffic ahead of you, sometimes you can simply let off the accelerator instead of using your brakes if you anticipate a slow down in upcoming traffic
- Toss out any excessive weight, since a heavier car takes more stopping power
Now it’s worth mentioning that you don’t want to necessarily make a conscious effort to preserve your brake pads. Given their cost, you should always use your brakes as much as necessary to be safe on the road. In other words, don’t go out of your way to try to get as much life possible out of your brake pads if it comes at the cost of safe driving.
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