I never think about my breaks until a service center says that it’s time to replace them. Brakes are a critical component of your car, but they are usually maintenance-free until they need to be replaced.
The best brakes for your vehicle are ones specifically sized for your car or truck. Knowing the correct size and what your budget is will help you choose a good option. The best brakes are the same or close to the same as the car manufacturer suggests for your use.
The times I’ve had to stop on a dime are the times I was glad my brakes worked so well. I tend to drive at normal speeds and don’t drive on hills too much, so regular rotors and brake pads work fine for me. Others will want higher-performing brake components for more demanding conditions.
How do You Know if they are Good Brakes?
Brakes are comprised mainly of brake pads and rotors. You can choose to get the low-cost option for both brake pads and rotors, and you will likely be fine with getting your car to stop well, although it’s best to use the type of brake pads suggested by your car manufacturer.
Brake pads and rotors need to meet certain specifications from the manufacturer of the vehicle in order to operate correctly. Some car manufacturers will install ceramic brake pads; others use semi-metallic brake pads.
Although most manufacturers use organic brake pads from the factory, probably because they are cheap and get the job done if you have a heavier car, it may have semi-metallic brake pads because these offer better stopping for larger vehicles.
To find out if the brakes you are going to buy are good, consider what they were made of. Consider the product’s quality compared with others you are looking at. It may be difficult to find all the information you need, but with some searching, you will find pertinent information.
Here are some things to look for when buying brake rotors and pads.
Rotors / Disc Brake
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After Market, OE / OEM, and Original Parts
When trying to find good parts for your brakes, you will want to compare different brake pads and rotors to find which ones are best for you.
Original parts and OE (Original Equipment) or OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) should function the same, whereas aftermarket products may work better, the same, or worse than the others.
Generally, you want to stay away from aftermarket products unless you see they have a good track record, deliver good performance, and have good customer reviews.
You can find a good brake that is original or OEM because the manufacturer has determined the specifications that need to be met for good braking on the vehicle they sell. Original and OEM are made in the same way, with the same specifications, so you can get similar results for good-quality rotors and pads.
Brake Pads Characteristics
A ceramic brake pad may be used on a lighter car for good stopping and a lower cost of maintenance for your car since it won’t wear your rotors as fast. A brake pad may say it’s ceramic, but different companies will put different parts and mixtures in the ceramic, making it perform differently from another ceramic pad.
Doing a little research will help you find the materials used in the brake pad and how customers rate the performance of the pads. Search online for the specific brand and part to find more information.
The different types of materials in brake pads may impact stopping power, heat absorption, and rotor wear. Brake pads come in ceramic, semi-metallic, and organic. Here are some examples of each type and their characteristics
A rotor is made from iron or steel. Different grades of iron can be used, so each rotor can perform differently. Most rotors use recycled steel or iron and come with a flat, non-drilled surface from the manufacturer.
When driving in snowy conditions, rust may be a concern. You may want to get a coated rotor to help prevent corrosion. An iron rotor can usually provide more braking power than steel, even though steel is stronger.
While iron may crack under extreme braking conditions with high heat and develop hardened areas, and steel may warp. Both brakes, under normal conditions, will work well.
Steel wears longer than iron and is less likely to rust. Iron will cost less and can usually stop vehicles better.
When shopping for rotors, you can find drilled steel rotors because they are less likely to crack than iron.
So, to sum up, the positive characteristic of iron and steel rotors:
Made of recycled steel. Perform extremely well under normal driving conditions when drilled and slotted.
- Last Longer
- Can be Drilled and Slotted
Made from iron. Performs well under normal conditions.
- Better Braking Power
- Cost Less
- Can Handle Heat well
Made from aluminum and other materials. it May perform better than steel and iron under normal conditions.
- Good for acceleration and braking
- Weighs Little
- Can Handle Heat Very Well
Should I Replace my Rotors with my Brake Pads?
When car brake pads are replaced, the rotors are often replaced at the same time. It makes sense to do this because the new brake pads need a flat surface to lie on, but the rotor is no longer flat because of the wear from the previous brake pad.
You can resurface the rotor, but that may result in more expense since resurfacing costs almost the same as some rotors and doesn’t leave much life on the rotor before it needs to be replaced. Check with the mechanic to determine the cost of replacing it now vs. resurfacing and replacement later.
If you replace it later, consider that you have to take the car in again at an additional cost to replace the rotor, and they will probably want to replace the brake pads because they are no longer flat and will impact stopping ability.
The Best Brakes Parts for Your Car Will Match how Aggressively you will be Driving
While shopping for brake pads, you may notice that some will emphasize their ability to handle the heat well. Heat is an important factor in car brakes. Car brakes and rotors, as well as airflow through the brakes, need to be taken into account if you ride the brakes or drive aggressively.
When the brakes get hot, this can increase the wear on the brake pad and may cause glazing and cracks on the pads, and rotors may warp. Under normal conditions, a car’s brake system won’t be taxed too much, and heat-related issues shouldn’t be a problem.
If you are planning on using the brakes often when driving or are involved with heavy braking often, such as with racing, getting brakes and pads that help reduce heat would be helpful. Also, consider the quality of the product and recognize that better-made parts would stand up to the heat better.
When researching rotors, look to see if you can get a high-quality iron rotor because this will impact the performance of the rotors and give them a better ability to handle the heat. Steel rotors can be good as well but may warp under intense heat.
When researching brake pads, you usually find that higher-tier pads will perform better than the pads from the car manufacturer. Try to get pads that have been galvanized to prevent rust and ensure they can last longer without failing.
Some brake pads and rotors claim to handle the heat well.
If you are driving under normal conditions, you should be fine with a part from the car manufacturer, OEM, or a trusted brand. Most any product will work well, although you may want to get the rotor or brake pad that has the characteristics that best suit your driving conditions and specific needs.
Problems with Over Braking (Riding the Brakes)
If a driver is using the brakes a lot, such as truck drivers going downhill that need to slow down and they are using the brakes until they are too hot, cracks and glazing can occur. Aggressive braking when racing a car can also create these conditions.
Glazing is when the brakes heat up, and the surface where the brake pads touch the rotor is glazed. This prevents the brake pad from applying enough friction to stop the car normally. If you see smoke come from the brakes or hear noises as you brake, it’s time to check for glazing or cracks.
You can ask a mechanic to inspect the brakes. They may recommend replacing the brakes and rotors for safety reasons. Some people still use their brakes after glazing until the glazed part is rubbed off by friction. Others try sanding the glaze off. Either way, your brakes are not as effective until they are flush with the rotor surface.
Cracks occur when heat and pressure cause the brake pad to split in one or more places. This is a problem that requires the brake pad to be replaced.
You don’t want part of the brake pad to fall off and ruin your brakes. To prevent problems with cracking, make sure to stay within the limits of normal braking and ensure no undue pressure comes from the brake lines or calipers.
The best ways to solve heat-related issues are to reduce heat by allowing the brakes to cool down, get high-quality brake pads and rotors, divert airflow under the car so it can cool the brakes, and get the brake system checked by a mechanic or yourself to ensure brake pads are wearing down correctly and everything is working properly.
If you plan on driving with constant use of the brakes, such as braking down hills often, determine if you need to take precautionary methods to cool down the brakes.
The brake pads and rotors can determine part of the heat build-up. Consider the material used in your brake pads and rotors and how that will impact heat and stopping distance. However, the best solution is preventative. Try driving under normal conditions as much as possible.
Are bigger brakes Better?
Size may matter. A larger size rotor and brake pad could help make the brakes more efficient at dissipating heat. If you upgrade your brake rotors and pads to a larger size, some websites state that this will help stop the car sooner, while others say size does not impact stopping distance.
When stopping, the brake pad type and rotor type will have the biggest impact, and I think the size of each part plays a part, but it’s secondary. There are many ways to adjust brakes to increase braking power, such as increasing brake line pressure.
Making adjustments can create issues, though. The best way to add more stopping power is to not make major changes and increase the brake pad and rotor size.
My opinion is that changes tend to create more problems than they fix. Unless you’ve got an extremely safe and accurate system, I would advise staying with the same size brake parts and being extra safe going with OEM parts or original manufacturer parts.
The best brakes are those that fit your style of driving and help you stop well in different weather conditions you are likely to be in. Determine what your average driver will be like to get the best parts for your vehicle.
For most consumers, upgrading to drilled and slotted rotors and getting ceramic, semi-metal, or carbon-fiber brake pads will be your best option.
Although each person’s driving conditions will be different, so determining each part’s characteristics will help you make the best decision.