Brake Safety Part 5: What to Look For When Buying Brake Pads

closeup of brake disc mounted on car

When it’s time to change your brakes, you might ask yourself, there are many factors to consider.  What types of breaks should you buy? What are the brands you can trust?

Unlike foods, there are no content labels for brake pads. The formulas for brake pads are highly-guarded secrets and vary even within a single brand depending on the use of the pad. For example, a truck may need more medal than smaller cars that can use organic pads just as effectively. A particular manufacturer may offer a number of different pads for the same type of vehicle, but it is not always clear which is best. Sometimes the most expensive is not the safest.

Consider Your Normal Load and Driving Situation

Normal, certified pads should be sufficient for regular driving.  You should consider upgraded pads if you tow (boat, trailer, etc.), carry heavy loads (including passengers) or travel regularly on roads with steep grades.

Types of Brakes

There are 3 different types brakes:


These types of brakes began to be used when asbestos became a problem. They are composed of materials like rubber, glass, carbon, fiber and many more.  These are affordable and quiet but they don’t last long as compared to other types of brakes.


These brakes are made of iron, copper, steel, or other metals with graphite lubricants. These perform better than organic brakes and do a good job of drawing heat away, but they are more expensive and noisier than organic brakes.


Ceramic brakes are the newest commonly-used pad. They are made of hardened ceramic material that is combined with copper fibers. They last the longest, and they are quiet, but they don’t perform as well as the semi-metallic in colder climates. They are also the most expensive among the types of brakes.

What Brand to Use

If possible, go with trusted name brands. Sometimes, the cheap ones are not always the best. Affordability may be a factor, but keep in mind that choosing the right brake pads could save your car and your life. Your mechanic or the representative at the auto parts store should be able to explain the difference in the brands and may be able to tell you the best for your car.

Check the Warranty

Some brakes offer them, others don’t. If they do not, some retailers offer warranty programs. You will also find lifetime replacement policies with some brands. While considering price, take into account the warranty info as well.

Check the Certification

Check for Certification. Look for D3EA (Differential Effectiveness Analyisis) and BEEP (Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedures) Certifications. Make sure they reach a certain minimum Standard.


Brake Safety Part 4: How to Know When to Change Your Brakes

closeup of brake disc mounted on car

If you have ever pressed the brake pedal and the car did not begin slowing down, you know the sinking feeling you get in your stomach as you begin pumping the brakes. By taking a few steps periodically to check your brakes and paying attention to warning signs, you can avoid the cost in time and money from an accident as well as ensure the safety of others.

Here is a short-list of common signs that it may be time to change the brakes.

Strange Sounds

Listen for sounds that are out of the ordinary.  One that you need to recognize is your brake pad’s wear indicator.  Your brake pad has a small metal piece that will produce a high-pitched sound when it is time to replace the brakes.  Sometimes, it can almost sound like a bird chirping.  If you hear this sound, it’s time to check the brakes.

Squeaks, squeals and grinding are also sounds that you may hear from your brakes.  If you hear a grinding noice, your brake pads may be completely worn off.  If so, there is a good chance your rotors are being damaged.

Visual Check

Watch your warning lights on your dashboard for indicators that your brake fluid is low or that there is an issue with the braking system.  However, be sure to visually check the brake pads themselves.

If you know what to look for, you can see when brake pads need changing. The pad will appear thin.  If you are not sure, go to a car tech who will recognize not only how the brake should appear but also will have an instrument to measure your brakes for wear.

Pulling to the Right or Left

If your car seems to be pulling to the left or right while driving — especially if it happens more strongly when you press the brake pedal — check your brakes. One of the brakes could be sticking. If so, the brakes will wear down more quickly and they could damage the rotor.  (Think more expensive fix!)  Pulling doesn’t always mean it is a brake problem.  It could be poor alignment, a suspension problem, or even worn/unevenly inflated tires.


Feeling a pulse or vibration in the brake pedal when braking is NOT normal.  It could be signal of a warped rotor.  A warped rotor is a sign that something has been wrong for some time.  You should notice other signs well before this happens, but if you feel a vibration, get your car checked as soon as possible.

Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

If you care for your vehicle properly, you probably change the oil regularly.  While you (or your mechanic) are working on the car, make use of the time to check the thickness brake pads, inspect the rotors for grooves caused by the pads, and look closely at brake lines for any leaks. (There should not be even a drop of brake fluid anywhere near the wheel.)

If it is time to change your brakes, you should now how to choose appropriate brakes for your vehicle. The next article will help you know what to look for.