It doesn’t get all the press that technologies like big engines, turbos and free-flowing exhaust systems do but the brakes on your car are a performance item too. After all, all that “go” isn’t going to be of much use if you can’t “stop.” In this article, with help from York of Crawfordsville, IN, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer, we will look at the various options you have when you are modifying your vehicle brakes or just performing a routine brake job.
Performance vs Replacement
The first thing to determine is what level of performance are you looking for. Are you looking to perform and standard brake job on a commuter car or upgrade the brakes on your performance car. In either case, the two main components to consider are: pads and rotors.
Brake pads are the devices that squeeze the spinning brake rotors on each wheel and create friction to slow them down. The problem is that they wear down over time and need to be replaced. You are probably familiar with the term “brake job.” Replacing the brake pads is the core activity when a mechanic performs a brake job. Brake pads are categorized into 4 main groups:
- Non-metallic – Generally the lowest cost option, these are your standard pads. They perform well but usually don’t last a long time. Basically, you get what you pay for.
- Semi-metallic – This is a mid-range option as far as cost and durability. These pads have a harder feel to them but will last a long time because of metallic threads embedded in them.
- Ceramic – These higher cost pads are a performance option for most vehicles. Ceramic pads provide more stopping power than the semi- and non-metallic types while being extremely quiet.
- Fully metallic – Fully metallic brake pads are generally only used on race cars. These pads are made to withstand prolonged hard braking at high speeds. Vehicles used for daily driving should not use this style pad because they are expensive and have a very hard feel to them.
Rotors are the flat circular surfaces that are part of disc brake systems. They are factory equipment on most cars today. If your vehicle is equipped with disc brakes, you have a few options for replacements.
- OEM – These rotors will generally be your lowest cost option and are what most vehicles are equipped with from the factory. They are commonly made of iron. OEM style rotors will have a flat surface and can either come solid or internally vented. (Vented rotors are generally used in the front of vehicles).
- Slotted – Slotted, or “grooved” rotors have shallow channels on the surface of the rotor. These channels help to dissipate heat, water and brake dust off of the rotor surface. Slotted rotors do, however, cause pads to wear down more rapidly.
- Drilled – Drilled rotors are built for performance applications. These rotors have dozens of holes drilled through them to maximizing heat dissipation. Drilled rotors are not as strong as slotted or solid rotors and therefore are not good for heavy vehicles.
- Ceramic – Ceramic rotors are considered a high-end upgrade or performance option. They aren’t steel so they don’t rust and they are fairly expensive.
Bet you didn’t know there were so many options for brake pads and rotors! That being said, don’t be intimidated by the choices, your local dealer or mechanic can help you decide which is best for you’re your car.