How to choose the right brake pads

As is true with the selection of almost any automotive part, how you’re going to use the part you’re shopping for means everything.

Brake rotors are no different.

A good brake system is an important piece of the ultimate-stopping-power puzzle, but it’s not the most important part. Always remember that your brakes don’t stop your vehicle. Your tires do.

Ultimately, your brake system is only as good as your tires and suspension allow it to be. Upgrading your tires and shocks is an ideal first step to achieving the brake performance you seek.

As for brake rotors, you have a lot of options. We’ll cover many of them, highlighting the pros and cons of each. There are many types, most of which are differentiated by the type of cuts on the rotor surface—slots, dimples, holes, etc. The surface cuts allow more air to reach the rotor surface, more effectively dissipating heat which allows your brakes to run cooler.

The downside to the cuts is that by reducing the rotor’s surface area, you’re also eliminating some braking force. Which is why when selecting brake rotors, application is everything.

How to choose the right brake padsSolid surface rotors

Solid, or smooth-surface, brake rotors are typically made of solid cast iron, and are most often found in standard OE applications on non-performance vehicles. The upside of solid surface brake rotors is that they typically have a longer life than brake rotors with cut surfaces. They are relatively quiet and don’t produce much dust compared to other rotor types.

Choose a solid surface rotor if you’re simply looking for an OE replacement option for your daily driver.

How to choose the right brake padsSlotted surface rotors

Slotted rotors provide higher friction levels than solid surface or smooth brake rotors, making them a popular choice among competition drivers and heavy truck operators. The extra bite provides enhanced stopping power for trucks towing heavy loads. On the downside, brake pad life will be slightly less and hard braking at higher speeds will emit some pedal flutter.

Choose a slotted surface rotor if you drive a truck or SUV, do a lot of towing, or are a performance race car driver who prefers the durability of slotted rotors to drilled rotors.

How to choose the right brake padsCross-drilled surface rotors

Cross-drilled brake rotors offer even more friction and stopping power than slotted rotors. Uneven rotor wear is one of the primary concerns. More serious is the risk of stress cracks forming from rigorous racing conditions. Racers should consider other options unless drilled rotors are required as part of the rules of a particular racing league.

Choose drilled brake rotors if you drive in lots of rainy conditions. Drilled rotors provide the best bite in wet conditions. Also, if you’re looking for lightweight rotors, drilled rotors typically weigh about 20 percent less than their non-drilled counterparts.

How to choose the right brake padsCross-drilled and slotted surface rotors

And somewhere in the middle lie these rotors, featuring both types of surface cuts. They offer something of a performance compromise between drilled and slotted rotors. Rotors that are both drilled and slotted are best for street applications.

Choose cross-drilled and slotted rotors if you’re looking for long brake life and good stopping performance in street driving. These rotors do a great job dissipating heat. However, heavily drilled rotors will overheat and experience premature fade under repeatedly aggressive racing conditions.

How to choose the right brake pads

How to choose the right brake pads

Slotted and dimpled surface rotors

The addition of dimples offers a popular alternative to those looking for the aesthetics of drilled rotors with the stress-crack resistance of non-drilled rotors.

Choose slotted and dimpled rotors if you love the drilled look but need the toughness of a non-drilled rotor for vigorous braking in high performance racing applications.

By following these basic guidelines, combined with the right set of tires and well-tuned suspension, you’ll be obliterating the competition in no time.

The type of driving you do determines how heavy-duty you’ll need your brakes to be.

If you’re commuting to work, you’ll want quiet brakes that create minimum dust to keep your wheels clean for longer. However, you won’t necessarily need high-performance brakes – just safe and effective ones.

For more challenging driving conditions, such as towing heavy loads or heading on a 4WD off-road adventure, you’ll need tougher brakes. Likewise if you have a high-performance vehicle or frequently drive on long, winding roads that are demanding on your brakes, you’ll want high-performance brake parts to match. Since you’ll likely use your vehicle for street driving as well, look for versatile brakes that work optimally in both easy and challenging conditions.

Climate control

Your brakes should be able to perform well in any conditions – wet, dry, warm or cold. However, it’s also worth considering that some brakes are better suited for Australia’s hotter climate. Certain materials, such as ceramic, remain stable at higher braking temperatures, helping your brakes to last longer.

Quality improvements

Good brakes are essential to your safety, so they’re not something to compromise on. When you buy replacement brakes, they should be at least equal in quality to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) braking system components.

If you want your brakes to last longer or want even better performance, such as for heavy-duty or off-road driving, you can upgrade to brakes that are even better quality.

The right materials

High-quality ceramic material is long lasting, able to withstand high temperatures and reduces brake fade when driving in wet conditions. For those outside Australia, ceramic is not ideal in very cold climates.

Semi-metallic brake pads are usually less expensive than ceramic, and can be ideal for heavy-duty vehicles. However, compared to ceramic pads they don’t last as long and produce more dust and noise when you brake.

Quiet design

The most common reason people upgrade their brakes is to reduce noise. As mentioned, ceramic material offers the advantage of being very quiet when you brake.

But the design is also important for quieter braking. For instance, the brake shim goes between your pads to prevent vibration and absorb sound. A shim with multiple layers provides extra insulation, further reducing noise.

Environmental impact

Certain brake parts are better for the environment than others. In particular, brake pads wear down over time and fine particles of the worn material are left on our roads. When it rains, these are washed into the gutter and eventually end up in rivers and lakes.

Many brake pads contain copper, which can help provide smooth braking but damages our waterways and doesn’t break down. It’s important to know you have a choice when it comes to your brakes, and there are quality alternatives that don’t contain copper. Look for low-copper or copper-free brake pads, such as in the Protex range . If you’re looking to lower your environmental impact, low or no copper brakes are worth thinking about when you’re looking for your next replacement brakes.

Determining the Best Racing Brake Pad Compounds for Your Vehicle

One of the most common questions we get from club racers is about choosing the right racing pad set up. Most drivers who club race have made their choices over time by trial and error. We try different manufacturer’s pads and compounds. We talk with our fellow racers. We browse forums for the best track day brake pads. Ultimately, the driver’s preference is what matters, and very few are alike.

A common mistake made at the club level is the tendency to choose the most aggressive racing compound. Assuming you need the most aggressive racing brakes may not produce the result you are looking for. This can result in a poorly balanced race car, among other issues. Many times, finding the right setup means dialing in the right balance in the front and rear of the vehicle.

How to choose the right brake pads

How to Choose Your Racing Brake Pad Compounds

In a perfect track brake system, you should be able to use the same compound front and rear. This means accounting for factors like bias, line pressure, deflection, caliper “stiffness” and swept area. Few weekend warriors have a perfectly balanced track day brake package (rulebook and cost factor play into this). Most club racers need to find the right balance between the front and rear.

As a general rule, we find the best racing compound for our front calipers based upon our racing requirement (endurance, time attack, etc.). Then, we often take a step down in torque for the rear pads. This helps us avoid locking in the heat of battle and causing “wheel hop”. This strategy works well and is practiced in even the highest professional levels.

Raybestos offers a wide range of racing friction compounds to fit all types of racing, applications and driving styles.

Track Day Brake Pad Setup Example

For example, a heavy endurance set up requires pads with a very low wear rate. A typical set up may include ST45 compounds in the front with ST43 in the rear. Both of these formulas are long-lasting, fade-resistant and complement each other at high heat. They ramp up aggressively while maintaining a drivable balance, with a slight bias split front to rear.

See the graph to the right to view the coefficient of friction of all our racing formulations through the temperature cycle.

Researching the Best Track Day Pad Formulations

Finding the best track day brake pads is a key to winning on every level. We recommend starting by researching all of the compounds available to you.

Raybestos gives a thorough breakdown of each of our racing compounds. We help make it easy for you to see what each compound delivers along with its ideal usage.

If you have any questions, we have the technical advisors available to help you navigate these decisions. Please email [email protected] with any questions.

Once you are ready, you can purchase your racing brake pads directly on our website. Click the button below to start shopping.

How to choose the right brake pads and rotors

There are a wide variety of options for Maxima owners when considering replacing/upgrading brake pads and rotors. Ulitimately, there’s no universal best decision. It’s a matter of deciding what is most important to you. Much like tires, brakes often require a compromise, a person’s selection says a lot about their priorites.

  • Performance
  • Resistance to fade
  • Weight
  • Noise
  • Cold performance Durability
  • Style (yes, for many this is priority #1!)

Popular PAD options:

Pad Advantage Disadvantage
OEM Relatively consistent performance regardless of operating temperature. Quiet. Long life. Hard to modulate. Very grabby. Prone to fade under heavy use
Hawk HPS Easy to modulate with good pedal feel, very little brake dust, good fade resistance, more stopping power. Must be warm for optimal power, require more pedal pressure when cold, a few complain of squeaking, may wear more quickly than OEM.

While only 2 pads are listed above, the Hawk pad is very representative of tradeoffs inherent in performance street style pads. The Hawk pads are arguably the most popular choice for 5th Gen owners who choose to upgrade from OEM. Other popular choices for OEM replacement include Akebono and Hawk ceramic pads.

Have input on advantages/disadvantages of other pads? Contact me and I’ll add them to the list.

Popular Rotor options:

Rotor Advantage Disadvantage
OEM Light Prone to warping
300Z Rotors Fade resistant Heavy and pricey
6th Gen Maxima Fade resistant, improved stopping power. Heavy, won’t fit smaller wheels, pricey
Frozen Rotors/Cryo Rotors Ultra durable – less prone to warping and longer life due to increased wear resistance. Very Pricey
Brembo Blank Light, cheap Some claim these are no more resistant to warping than OEM
Generic Napa blanks Light, very cheap Questionable quality
Cross-drilled (many brands) Style. Some claim resistance to fade but most experts agree it’s of minimal value More prone to cracking & faster pad wear
Slotted (many brands) Style. Same claim of better resistance to fade. More noise & faster pad wear

Have input on advantages/disadvantages of other rotors? Contact me and I’ll add them to the list.

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What’s the best way to keep your car’s brakes in shape? Install the best brake pads you can afford. According to brake pad manufacturer, Akebono, when it comes to replacing your brake pads, experts agree that choosing the right brake pads for your driving style will help you drive more safely and with more confidence.

So, what’s your driving style?

The Performance Driver-If you’re a performance driver you’ll need a brake bad that is designed to lower operating temperatures and deliver faster, quieter, more controlled stops while extending rotor life and the life of all brake system components.

The European Driver-Luxury and performance are both required when you drive European vehicles. Brake pads should therefore provide the same safe and aggressive pedal feel you have come to appreciate, only without brake dust.

The Severe Duty Driver-High miles driver, extreme heat and cold and heavy loads are all examples of severe duty driving. To address these needs, choose brake pads that are engineered to virtually eliminate noise and vibration.

The Every Day Driver-Many drivers feel that because they simply drive their cars to work or school every day, they do not need to pay attention to what brake pads they put on their car. “That couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Bill Hilbrandt, vice president of research and development for Akebono Corporation North America. Ultra premium and premium ceramic pads are the best choice for this style of driving. Tests show that the leading ceramic brake pads last longer than traditional brake pads in most stopping situation.

To learn more, visit www.ake

Regardless of your driving style, nothing is stopping you from finding the right replacement brake pads.

How to choose the right brake pads

There are 5 main warning signs that indicate your brakes are worn or damaged. 1. A high pitched or grinding noise when you apply the brakes. (Some pads have warning indicators that make this sound to alert the driver when the friction material is low.) 2. An unusual vibration during braking. (This normally indicates a warped brake disc which has the potential to lead to a loss in brake performance.) 3. The brake pedal feels softer to press than usual. (Air or moisture may have contaminated the brake fluid causing extended pedal travel.) 4. The distance it takes for the car to slow down or come to a complete stop during braking has increased. (Worn brake pads or discs can result in an increased stopping distance during braking.) 5. The vehicle pulls to one side when braking. (Sticky calipers can cause the vehicle to pull to one side and lead to a reduction in braking performance.)

How do brake systems work?

How to choose the right brake pads

The majority of brake systems are simple. At each wheel you have a brake disc, brake caliper and a pair of brake pads. When you press the brake pedal, brake fluid is forced to the caliper which then squeezes the brake pads against the brake disc thus slowing the vehicle down.

How to check the condition of your brake discs and pads

Brake Discs

Brake Pads

How to choose the correct brake discs for your vehicle

How to choose the right brake pads

While at MicksGarage we try to narrow down the brake pads and discs for customers vehicles with our registration number look up (reg-look up) or car drop down options. These systems may not be able to provide enough information to narrow down the results to the exact type of brakes discs for your vehicle. Customers will be offered all of the brake pads for their make and model but the correct items may need to be picked from the range listed. For example: Two Audi A3’s of the same year and engine size may require different types of brake discs. These differences can come down to what factory the vehicle was built in or what extra features it has. The best way to ensure you get the correct brake discs is to check the diameter of the brake discs already fitted. The diameter and thickness of the disc is illustrated below. To measure the diameter you may not have to remove the wheel, however it would make the measuring process easier. You may also want to record this size for future reference. After checking diameter of your own brake disc, use it as a reference to the sizes quoted on our website.

The following information is also important for selecting the correct brake pad.

Brake Disc Type:

There are two main types of brake discs: Vented & SolidHow to choose the right brake pads These two types of discs are easy to tell apart if you look at them from the side. If you have alloy wheels with reasonable space between the spokes you will probably be able to tell if your brake discs are solid or vented without even taking the wheel off. Vented brakes discs, are two flat discs put together, one on top of the other, with gaps between them to allow air flow. This helps the discs stay cool and improves braking and extends the life of the discs. Solid discs are just that, a solid disc with no space between them. See picture.

How to choose the correct brake pads for your vehicle.

How to choose the right brake pads

The best and easiest way to ensure you get the correct pads is to check the shape and size of the pad already fitted. This may be time consuming but it will ensure you get the correct brake pad. With brake pads we always offer an accurate image along with the relevant sizes, the image and size should be a perfect match to the pads on your vehicle. If multiple dimensions of the brake pad are shown, measuring your brake pad will ensure you select the correct one. The image below illustrates the dimensions of a brake pad. The following information is also important for selecting the correct brake pad. Fitting Position: This is the position of the brake pad, it will either be for the front or rear axle. Brake System: These are the manufacturers of the brake pads, if more than one manufacturer is shown when you have a car selected you will need to check your brakes for the brake system of the pad fitted. Wear Warning Contact: A Brake wear indicator also known as a wear warning contact is used to warn the driver of the vehicle that the brake pad is in need of replacement. If your brake pads have wear warning contact system then you must select a brake pad that has this function. To Construction Year: Some brake pads only fit a vehicle up until a certain time period.

What’s the difference between all these pads? Which ones should you get for your bike and your type of riding?

There are a lot of different variables with disc brake pads, both for Road and MTB. Not only do you have to get the correctly shaped disc pad that fits your particular brake caliper, but you also have to choose what sort of compound you want the pad to be made of.

How to choose the right brake pads


Different brake calipers have different shapes and different methods of holding the pads in place. Thankfully getting the correct shaped pad is pretty obvious.

Look at what your brake is called (it’s usually written on the lever reservoir and/or the caliper body) and then find a disc pad of the same name. If the model names don’t quite match or are incomplete, take your exisiing pads out and double-check the shape of them compared to the potential replacement pads’ shape.


This is where it gets confusing. Fundamentally there are three types of brake pad compound, although some manufacturers confuse things by using new buzzwords or sound-alike terminology.

The three fundamental compound types are: sintered, organic and semi-metal.

Sintered pads are sometimes called “metal” or “metallic”. Organic pads are sometimes called “resin”.

Each of these three compounds has their own benefits and disadvantages. Their is no perfect brake pad for every rider or type of riding.

Pros and cons to each compound

You can’t really tell what compound a pad is just by looking at it (well, unless you’re a real pad geek anyway!) so you’ll need to check the product description or packaging carefully for information.

How to choose the right brake pads

Sintered pros

  • They last the longest.
  • The pad material can withstand very high temperatures.
  • They don’t glaze over.
  • They have lots of power at the ultimate top-end power (sustained high speed DH stuff).

Sintered cons

  • They take ages to bed in.
  • High temperatures can cause mineral oil systems to fade on very long sustained descents.
  • They lack initial bite feel.
  • Can be noisy.

How to choose the right brake pads

Organic pros

  • Quick to bed in.
  • Very good initial bite feel and modulation.
  • Less noisy.
  • They don’t pass as much heat into mineral oil systems.

Organic cons

  • Not as long lasting as sintered, especially in wet conditions.
  • Less power at the ultimate top-end power (sustained high speed DH stuff).
  • Can glaze over.

How to choose the right brake pads

Semi-metal pros

  • Most of the best bits of sintered and organic compounds. They’re basically organic pads with sintered stuff added to them.
  • Good ultimate top-end power.
  • Decent bite feel and modulation.
  • Good durability.

Semi-metal cons

  • Can glaze over.
  • Not all semi-metal compounds are the same ie. different brands will have different sintered-to-organic mix ratios.
  • Usually a bit more expensive.

Which sort should you buy?

One thing we would say is that you don’t have to run the same pad compound in both your brakes.

A lot of experienced MTB riders run a sintered pad in the rear brake and an organic pad up front. The rear brake requires less power and feel so it makes sense to prioritise durability. The rear caliper also seems to get more filth flung through it so a harder-wearing sintered pad makes sense. The organic pad in the front brake offers good power and feel, where it is needed most. The trade-off in durability is well worth for most riders.

If you want an easy life and only want to buy (and carry) one sort of pad, then go for semi-metal pads. Tempting as sintered pads are – due to their durability – the reality is that they lack power up front and take far too long to bed in.

Going to the Alps?

This is when it might be a good idea to run a sintered pad in your front brake – or at least pack one in your kit bag in case your organic pads can’t handle the sustained onslaught.

De-glazing pads

Check your pads have actually run out of pad material. Sometimes they may just be glazed over and feeling like a spent pad. Glazed pads can be brought back to life with a bit of sandpaper or light filing.

How to choose the right brake pads

Push the pistons before putting new pads in

Before inserting your new pads make sure you re-position your caliper pistons fully back in the caliper. Ideally use a plastic tyre lever to push. If you only have a flat blade screwdriver (or similar) then make you sure you keep your expired pads in the caliper whilst pushing the piston back, this is to protect your pistons from being damaged.

It’s a good idea to try to do this task with your bike upright ie. don’t turn your bike upside down, as it may introduce air into the system if you’re not careful.

Check your caliper alignment

With your expired old pads removed it’s a good time to check the alignment of your brake caliper. Poorly aligned calipers cause weak braking and noisy braking.

If the rotor isn’t positioned bang in the middle of caliper mouth, take a few seconds to undo it and re-align the caliper before inserting your new pads.

How to choose the right brake pads

Bedding in disc brake pads

If possible take some time to bed your brake pads in properly. This may not be possible if you’re changing pads mid-ride but if you’re at home or in the car park before a ride then a proper bedding in will reap dividends.

Bedding in disc brake pads basically involves riding fast sprints around somewhere flat and smooth and hauling your brakes on hard. Do this a lot – at least a dozen times. Try not to come to a dead halt before releasing the brakes (as this can leave a build-up ‘lip’ of material on the rotor that will take a while to get rid of).

It sounds faffy and a bit silly, but bedding in your pads will extend their lifespan – a lot.

This article was co-authored by Duston Maynes. Duston Maynes is an Automotive Repair Specialist at RepairSmith. Duston specializes in leading a team that handles a variety of automotive repairs including replacing spark plugs, front and rear brake pads, fuel pumps, car batteries, alternators, timing belts, and starter motors. Duston holds an Associate’s degree in Automotive/Diesel Technology from The Universal Technical Institute of Arizona and is a Certified Diagnostic Technician and Automobile Mechanics Technician through BMW STEP. RepairSmith received The 2020 Big Innovation Award by Business Intelligence Group and The Startup of the Year by the American Business Awards. RepairSmith was also included in Built in LA’s 50 Startups to Watch and The Business Intelligence Group’s 52 Names Leading the Way in Customer Service. RepairSmith offers in-home services to provide car owners convenient and complete auto repair everywhere.

There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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It’s incredibly important that you occasionally check your brake pads for wear and tear. Worn brake pads are unsafe and prevent your car from coming to a quick halt. Those living in an urban environment will have to replace their pads more often than those in rural areas. [1] X Research source If you notice symptoms of worn brake pads, you can do a rough estimate with a straw, or you can do a more precise measurement by taking off the wheel. If you notice that your brake pads are worn down, you should replace them as soon as you can.