Buying and fitting new brake pads for your car image
Buying and fitting new brake pads for your car

Brake pads and discs or rotors can be home fitted by most mechanically minded folks observing safety guidelines especially with the use of a suitable manual.

The choice of pad brands is endless so this short guide gives you some insight from a manufacturer who blends its own pads, produces them 100% in the UK and makes some of the finest pads on the market at less than manufacturer prices.

First beware of ultra low prices. The materials used in brake pads varies and is NOT controlled by most governments allowing the use in some cases of Asbestos or Ceramic fibers (not Ceramic particles which are perfectly OK) and are cancer causing. The dust in worn brakes can be dangerous if inhaled and as you wont know what was in your vehicle originally be mindful of this. Low priced pads however are almost always low quality and we will discuss this later.

There are two basic types of pads on the world markets, Premium Organics and semi metallic. These make up 99% of all brake pads sold. Manufacturers almost exclusively use semi metallic in new car builds because of the low price of this material but there are better products around at good prices.

What makes a BAD brake pad?

Pads all look similar and the smiling shop assistant wants to take your money and ring it quickly into the cash register will gladly sell you WHAT HE HAS ON THE SHELF telling you they are great pads and that he has sold “Loads of them and never had a complaint”. That may or may not be true.

Firstly a shop keeper is extremely unlikely to have the first clue about what a brake pad is made of let alone know the difference between blends. Shop owners are guilty of selling “Boxes” or brand names and you need to be the expert here to get the best value for your money so let us make you just that – a well versed consumer

A bad brake pad will almost always do these things:
  • Wear out fast
  • Be noisy emitting grinding sounds under load
  • Be unstable in braking pulling left or right at random and causing panic
  • Wear your brake discs out 2-5 times faster than a decent brake pad type
  • Cause masses of brake dust
  • FADE under heavy braking as though your brakes were oiled and fail to stop your vehicle. Heavy loads in your car or towing will really highlight this so beware

The latter failure is extremely common is low priced brake pads and it might be too late when you find out that the pad in the flashy “Household Name” box is not all it is cracked up to be.

The things to ask your provider of brake pads that will set you on the right course are along these lines:
  • Where are the brake pads made?
  • Is that factory ISO approved?
  • Are the pads he is offering you DOT tested (for the USA) and FMVSS marked with a two letter code such as FF, FE, GF, GG printed on the pad or an ECE R 90 number (for Europe) with an E letter followed by two digits showing country of testing and a 5 digit number. Ask to look at the pads in the box.
  • Is the brake pad you are selling me the same grade as the ones in my car (referring to the R 90 number or the FMVSS letter grading)
If he doesn’t know the answer to these questions you are taking your chances.

Shop-keepers are also very good at telling you something is a “Well known brand” but the caution here is that many brands have a top grade of product for car manufacturers and an aftermarket grade of a far lower spec for the unsuspecting punter. So brand really means nothing here plus the guy talking to you may have worked the previous week as a Pizza delivery driver the past week anyway.

Semi metallic pads are basically just that, a pad that is up to 50% steel fiber (steel wool) compressed with some resins and a few additives but due to the very low prices of steel fiber these are the low cost brake pads where many of the quality problems exist.

EBC brake pads by comparison are 100% UK made in an ISO facility, 100% ECO friendly and toxin free being the first (and at the time of writing ONLY) brake pad that is blended with ALL sulfides including the nasty antimony removed. Plus EBC make the worlds leading range of what are called “premium Organics”. These contain little or NO steel fibers but instead contain higher tech aramid fibers that are more gentle on your discs or rotors, almost always less dusty, perform great and can bring your brakes back to better than new feel and performance.

How to choose the right GRADE of brake pad

Check out the range of EBC brake pads on this link for various driving styles and needs. EBC make a range of brake pad grades available online at very nice prices, the Ultimax brake pad being way lower in price than manufacturer pads and a pad to beat anything out there in terms of stopping power and stability.

Regular street use –Urban Driving – Ultimax Grade
Sport street use on lighter cars – Greenstuff 2000 grade
Faster street use on Premium cars – Redstuff ceramic grade
Sportscar/Muscle Car grade – Yellowstuff grade
Heavy street vehicles and 4 x 4 – Greenstuff 6000 grade
Trackdays and Racing – Orangestuff grade

The motto is – LOOK ONLINE for info or BUY online – Don’t just accept the first thing a shop offers you, ask the shop for the brake pad choices or selections he offers and DON’T go for the cheapest.