Ceramic Brake Pads
Ceramic brake pads are commonly used replacement brake pads that are suitable for passenger cars and light trucks. They are durable, lightweight and nearly dust-free while not subjecting your rotors to excessive wear. They are made of a combination of materials that include ceramic fibers, a filler material and some type of bonding agent. Ceramic is strong and can easily disperse heat created by friction between your brake pads and rotors. The only disadvantage to ceramic brake pads is that they are more expensive than the other types. In this case, spending a bit more for ceramic brakes can help prevent damage to your rotors as well as having to clean brake dust off your alloy or aluminum wheels constantly. Semi-Metallic Brake Pads
Semi-metallic brake pads have been around the longest and are typically the most common replacement brake pads purchased. The only thing that has changed about semi-metallic brake pads over the past 20 to 30 years is what comprises their structure. Semi-metallic brakes used to be made with asbestos, but since it has been tied to a myriad of health issues, it is no longer used in their manufacturing. Today they are made of steel, copper, iron and other assorted bits of metal mixed bonded with resin. While semi-metallic brake pads are inexpensive, they tend to be somewhat noisy and create more dust as they are rougher on your rotors than ceramic brake pads. Low-Metallic Brake Pads
Low-metallic brake pads are comprised of the same components as semi-metallic brake pads but obviously have less metal content. This makes them easier on your rotors, but can still sometimes be noisy and dusty. However, they do provide better braking and dissipate heat better due to having less metal compounds in them. Low-metallic brakes are commonly used for large trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles due to their durability and relatively low cost. Organic Brake Pads
Organic brake pads are composed of high-temperature resin combined with a variety of natural fibers such as glass, Kevlar or carbon, which are fused together with a high-temperature resin. While this combination is easier on your rotors and has less dust, they are not as good at dissipating heat as the other types. They beat metallic brake pads in performance and are good for quick, aggressive braking situations.
Now that you know more about the four different types of replacement brake pads are available, you can choose which ones fit your vehicle, driving habits and budget. Remember that while ceramic brakes will most likely be the most expensive, they may or not be the right fit for your particular car, truck, SUV or minivan. The best advice is find a manufacturer whose standard brake pads perform well in testing, and then choose the type of brakes you want from within that brand.