Are you hearing that familiar squeal from your brakes that means your brake pads are in need of replacement? If so, you should consider which type of brake pads you should use. Ceramic brake pad linings are a relatively new compound in the automotive world. Cars first started coming equipped with ceramic brake pads in the early 90s. The ceramic compounds have changed significantly since the first introduction into the marketplace. Initial concerns with the original ceramic compounds focused on the reduced stopping power with cold brakes, and premature wear of the rotors. This was because the original compound was adapted from automotive racing, and when you are racing a vehicle the brakes are being treated in a very different way than during every day driving situations. Tires, brakes and the engine reach a significantly higher operating temperature in race vehicles and this is the temperature that the ceramic components were designed to operate in. The ceramic materials are now more suitable for every day driving and are considered an upgrade regardless of whether the vehicle was originally equipped with semi-metallic, ceramic, or organic pads.
Advantages are seen with all brake lining compounds, however, the only advantage that the semi-metallic pad offers is its incredibly low price. Although both compounds do an excellent job of stopping your vehicle, there are some notable advantages specific to ceramic brake pads. First and foremost, the ceramic pad does not create a visible brake dust that blackens your wheels. If you have wheels that you are proud of, i.e. chrome or wheels that cost more than your vehicle; you will be a big fan of the ceramic brake pad. The second advantage is the reduced tendency to squeal. The ceramic compound does not contain steel fibers; the metal content in some semi-metallic pads was found to be the source of brake squeal for some manufacturers. The ceramic compound also typically lasts longer than a semi-metallic compound, and this is seen as an advantage with most vehicles, because pads normally wear out quicker than the rotors. Finding a perfect balance of wear between rotors and pads, so that rotors need to be replaced at the same time as the pads do, is the ideal situation. Ceramics typically help make this happen, but most vehicles brake designs are quite different and this is not always the case.
Once you know the difference between the two products the choice becomes clear. If you are replacing the pads on your daily driver you should pay the incrementally higher price and purchase the superior ceramic brake pads. If you are only trying to keep that old beater alive for another year then maybe you will find the semi-metallics to be the more suitable and economical choice. Bottom line, like all auto repairs there are options when it comes to the quality of the replacement auto part that you use to keep your car or truck on the road. Cheaper is not always better – there are a number of factors to consider.