Ceramic brake pads are one of the newest options that are available for automobiles today. This product is composed of a dense ceramic material which is embedded with copper fibers to give it a resilient level of friction when you apply the brakes while driving. Think of the surface as being similar to that of a pot being fired by a kiln. It is technology that has been in use since the 1980s to create an alternative to the semi-metallic and organic pads that are the staples of this industry.
The reason why the ceramic brake pads were designed in the first place is because they produce less dust and noise when you use pressure to apply them to your rotors. Their design creates less wear-and-tear on your system as well, allowing you to save on maintenance costs when you swap out your brakes as indicated by your service manual.
There is no change to the stopping power that you’ll receive. When you review the pros and cons of ceramic brake pads for most vehicles, you might even discover that you can receive a superior level of stopping power with this product. They are not right for every vehicle owner, so here are the key points to consider.
List of the Pros of Ceramic Brake Pads
1. These brake pads are usually quieter than the other options on the market.
Ceramic brake pads still make some noise when you use them, but the frequencies they emit when pressed against the rotor are higher than the range of human hearing. Most people cannot hear the majority of the sounds they produce. That makes them must quieter than the semi-metallic pads that are available for your make and model, allowing you to focus on the conversations in the cabin or what is playing through your audio system.
2. The dust that ceramic brakes produce is finer and lighter.
When you use organic or semi-metallic brakes, then the dust from the pads will eventually make its way around your wheels and rims. It is a dark dust that can stick to surfaces, requiring you to clean this area with specialty products to ensure that it can work correctly. Thanks to the design of ceramic brake pads, the dust from each use of the brakes is finer and lighter in color. It sticks less often to the wheels, which means you have less work to do when trying to keep your vehicle looking its best.
3. Ceramic brake pads last longer than the other options.
If you want to avoid changing your brake pads for as long as possible, then the ceramic option is your best option. The average life of a brake pad is somewhere between 25,000 to 60,000 miles, but it is not unusual for a ceramic product to last beyond the 80,000-mile threshold. Even if you have heavy wear-and-tear on your braking system, ceramic pads should last for about 40,000 miles between changes. Some semi-metallic options can last longer, but you’ll typically get the best value by choosing this option.
4. You will receive better stopping power with ceramic brake pads.
Because the ceramic pads are constructed of fibers and other materials that create less friction and heat during the stopping process, you’ll receive a more consistent result when you need the power to make a quick stop. Although cheaper pads in this category will sacrifice more of their lifespan during a heavy stop than other options, you’ll receive a superior result when seconds matter. That’s why it is usually a best practice to invest in the highest-quality ceramic brake pads that you can afford when it is time to replace them in your vehicle.
5. These pads are stable under a wide range of conditions.
You don’t need to worry about what the temperatures outside are, how wet the roads are, or how hot your wheels are when you have ceramic brake pads installed on your vehicle. Despite their higher manufacturing cost (especially when compared to organics), you will discover that their stability is present in almost any driving condition. Whether you’re driving in snowpack conditions with chains on your tires or a hot road on a summer day, the response is going to be the same when you press the brake pedal. That makes the outcomes of your vehicle more predictable as you get behind the wheel.
6. You will receive a faster recovery with ceramic brake pads.
The ceramic compounds of these pads mix with the copper fibers to create a faster recovery for your vehicle after you complete a stop. You don’t need to worry about an immediate re-engagement causing damage since it can handle the higher temperatures with less heat fade under most conditions. This advantage makes it possible to enjoy all of the benefits of fast stopping power with only minor concerns about wear-and-tear unless you are towing something or driving in the extreme cold.
7. These pads can come in a variety of particle sizes.
You will discover that the ceramic brake pads that do the best job typically have a very small particle size. Some of the best options on the market today are about 1/1000th the thickness of a dime. There is minimal variation in sizes or specific hardness, so you will want to look at how binders and friction modifiers change your experience. Make sure to look for a 100% ceramic product instead of a formulation that only sprinkles a little bit of it in so that it can meet the broad industry definitions which exist today. When you purchase a true ceramic, you should be getting pads that can last at least 2-3 years with regular driving habits.
List of the Cons of Ceramic Brake Pads
1. Ceramic brake pads do not absorb heat very well.
If you drive down steep declines as part of your regular routine, then semi-metallic brake pads might be a better option to consider. The ceramic material does not absorb heat as well, which means your brake system temperatures can be consistently hotter when managing steep terrain. If you adjust your driving style to shift down in your gear box to reduce speeds that you can manage this disadvantage a little bit, but you’ll notice that your car tends to run hotter with the brakes using this product almost all of the time.
2. This product is more for an all-around driving experience.
Although ceramic brake pads do offer an excellent all-around braking experience, this product is not designed for heavy-duty use. If you are in start-and-stop traffic all day long, then a different material option will provide you with a better long-term result. These brakes are not designed to work with racing vehicles either, so you might see some issues develop if you’re trying to apply the brakes quickly while driving on an Interstate highway. You’ll get a quiet and clean stop under “normal” conditions, but you’re going to pay for that outcome with a reduction of the overall performance of the pads.
3. These brake pads are usually the most expense option on the market.
If you are on a tight budget and your vehicle needs new brake pads, then ceramics might not be the right choice to make. Ceramic brake pads are usually the most expensive option that is available for your vehicle. If you hire someone to do the work for you, then a complete rotor and pad replacement with ceramics could easily be more than $500. If you purchase only the pads to do the work by yourself, then you can expect to pay about $200 for the product.
Most ceramic brake pads are about 2-3 times more expensive than their semi-metallic counterparts. They can be up to 4 times more expensive than organics with their higher manufacturing cost. The other options wear out faster, but you need to have the initial capital investment available to get the most out of this product.
4. Ceramic brake pads do not function as well in the extreme cold.
Trying to get your vehicle to operate correctly when temperatures plummet during the winter months can be challenging for any setup. When you have ceramic brake pads equipped to your car, then you might notice that they do not produce as much of a bite when compared to semi-metallic pads. Your vehicle needs to warm up some before you can take advantage of all of the benefits of this technology, which means you’ll spend more on fuel to achieve a similar performance. If you live above the 45th parallel along the interior (not by the coast), then you might want to take a closer look at the semi-metallic brakes for winter so that you can achieve the stopping power you want.
5. These pads do not work well in towing situations.
If you use your vehicle to tow a fifth-wheel, contracting trailer, or virtually anything else that is within its capacity, then ceramic brake pads are not the right option to consider. Whenever you approach the maximum weight for a tow with your vehicle, additional pressures are placed on the braking system since its stopping you and your trailer. You’ll go through the pads quickly because you must press harder on the system to get it to work correctly, negating the cost savings you can experience over the long-term with this option. The additional force also transfers more heat to the rest of the braking system to increase the wear-and-tear on your other components.
6. Some ceramic pads can be hard on your rotors.
Because of the copper fibers that are in the ceramics of these brake pads, you will find that there can be scratching or grooving that occurs sometimes on your rotors. Although you won’t have the problem with black dust, you might go through a set of rotors with every set of pads that you install on your vehicle. The best way to avoid this potential disadvantage is to purchase the highest-quality ceramics that your budget can afford to avoid potential issues with the manufacturing process.
The pros and cons of ceramic brake pads allow us to make an alternative choice to improve the stopping power of our vehicles. There is a cost element to consider with this product, but there are also some tremendous benefits to review since they can bite well in a wide variety of conditions. If you’re looking for consistent power when you need to stop quickly, then ceramics are typically the best option to consider today.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.