Brake Pads: Organic, Semi-Metallic or Ceramic?

Brake Pads: Organic, Semi-Metallic or Ceramic?

First and foremost, braking is a tradeoff. A brake pad that works fine on the street isn’t suitable on the racetrack, just like a dedicated race pad doesn’t function adequately on the street. There will never be one “ideal” brake pad for every type of vehicle or every type of driver in every situation. Driving style, personal preferences and usage requirements of your particular vehicle are undoubtedly different from one person to the next. There really is no perfect answer, so here we discuss the pros and cons of different types of brake pads so you can make an informed decision about which kind is right for you.

The Evolution of Brake Pads

Organic Brake Pads

Pros:

  • Soft, quiet, easy on brake rotors
  • Don’t require much heat to generate good friction
  • Produce less dust than metallic pads
  • Low manufacturing cost
  • Suitable for normal driving/commuting across many environments
  • Perfect for every day vehicles and drivers

Cons:

  • Only operate well within a relatively limited temperature range
  • Wear out quickly compared to other types of brake pads
  • High compressibility – can cause “mushy” brake pedal feel
  • Will quickly lose their coefficient of friction when overheated
  • Not at all suitable for performance driving

Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

Pros:

  • Dramatically increased braking performance over organic pads
  • Have a much higher thermal threshold due to metallic content
  • Still provide good cold bite
  • Have a much wider operating range (temperature)
  • Low compressibility – will provide a firmer brake pedal feel
  • Much more resistant to brake fade than organic pads
  • Numerous compounds available – suitable for anything from daily street driving to extreme track use

Cons:

  • Tend to be noisier than organic or ceramic pads
  • Produce more brake dust
  • More abrasive than other types of pads – will wear brake rotors more quickly
  • More expensive than organic pads (but generally cheaper than ceramic)
  • Require careful and proper bedding-in for best performance

Ceramic Brake Pads

Pros:

  • Quieter than semi-metallic pads – emit noises that are above the range of human hearing
  • Produce finer, lighter-colored brake dust which does not stick to wheels
  • Longer lifespan than organic or semi-metallic
  • Stable under a wide range of temperatures for consistent performance

Cons:

  • Typically the most-expensive type of brake pad
  • Do not produce as much cold bite as semi-metallic pads – may not be ideal in extremely cold climates
  • Do not absorb heat as well as semi-metallic pads which can increase brake system temperatures
  • Good all-around braking characteristics but were never designed as heavy duty/racing brake pads

Braking is a Compromise