Best Brake Pads: Boost Your Braking Power to Avoid Accidents
Our recommended brake pads to help your ride stop on a dime
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.Read more.
PUBLISHED ON April 26, 2019
Your brakes are one of the most integral safety systems in your ride—full stop. In a white-knuckled panic stop where a matter of mere feet can spell the difference between an accident and a close call, a set of superior brake pads could save your life. Join us as we compare the best brake pads around in an effort to keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.
- Best OverallAkebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad SetSummarySummaryThese top-rated brake pads offer unbeatable performance, longevity, value, and OEM-style quality.ProsProsVirtually silent operation, DOT certified, superb longevity, no break-in period required, produces minimal brake dust.ConsConsIt only comes with the pads and shims.
- Best ValueWagner QuickStop Ceramic Brake Pad SetSummarySummaryOur recommended brake pads for everyday driving deliver smooth stopping power for the dollar.ProsProsSmooth and relatively powerful braking performance, minimal brake dust buildup, excellent price.ConsConsNot recommended for hard street driving or racing applications, not the quietest brake pads.
- Honorable MentionStopTech 309.10780 Street Performance Front Brake PadsSummarySummaryThe best front brake pads for enthusiastic street driving, occasional track days, and heavy commutes.ProsProsExceptional braking power in warm and cold climates, superb fade resistance, easy to install, produces very little brake dust.ConsConsExpensive, which may be overkill for light commutes and other casual driving scenarios.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Brake Pads
- Increase in stopping power. One of the most effective ways to stay safe on the road during all types of driving conditions is to increase your vehicle’s stopping power. Swapping worn-out brake pads for a set of top-rated brake pads will dramatically reduce your braking distance, potentially preventing you from colliding with objects during panic stops.
- Consistent braking performance. Not only will a set of new brake pads optimize your braking power, but it’ll also give you smooth, reliable braking performance. Worn pads can cause inconsistent and unreliable braking performance, increasing your risk of striking objects during hard braking. The best brake pads resist heat and fade for dependable braking performance that keeps you safe.
- Longer Lifespan. Upgrading your tired, old brake pads with a set of quality replacement pads will increase their overall longevity. Semi-metallic, fully-metallic, and ceramic brake pads are typically the longest-lasting brake pads available, but organic brake pads tend to wear down your rotors and discs at a slower rate than the other materials.
- Reduced brake dust. Certain brake pad materials produce more brake dust than others. Typically, ceramic is the best brake pad material in terms of brake dust buildup, with organic brake pads coming in second. Semi-metallic brake pads usually generate the most brake dust, though the exact amount depends on the manufacturer’s unique friction formulation.
- Quieter operation. One of the telltale signs of worn-out brake pads is a piercing, loud squealing or squeaking sound while braking. In addition to boosting your braking power and performance, a set of spiffy new brake pads will reduce these embarrassing noises.
Types of Brake Pads
Semi-metallic brake pads are composed of metal and non-metal materials. Typically, the composition is roughly 30 percent metal, but the best semi-metallic brake pads that have a composition of up to 60 percent copper, iron, or steel. The remaining composition is usually organic or mineral filters that act as binding agents. Semi-metallic pads have great stopping power, durability, and heat dissipation, but they can be noisy and create more dust than ceramic pads.
Fully-metallic brake pads offer even stronger and stabler braking performance than semi-metallic brake pads. The metals employed in its construction deliver reliable, smooth, and potent stopping power, making this type of brake pads an excellent choice for hard street or track use. Fully-metallic pads have all the above downsides of semi-metallic pads, but they may also wear your rotors quicker than other types of brake pads.
Ceramic brake pads are the newest and most expensive brake pad material. These brake pads are made of thick, dense ceramic material. The advantages of ceramic brake pads are superb stopping power, quiet operation, low brake dust buildup, superior longevity, and low wear on rotors. Some drawbacks of ceramic pads include an expensive price tag and reduced efficacy in colder climates. Ceramic brake pads are ideal for city and highway driving in most weather conditions.
Non-asbestos organic (NAO) brake pads are constructed from organic material, so they don’t pollute as friction material is worn down, and they’re easy to dispose of. NAO brake pads feature a softer friction material than other brake pad types, so they’re quieter and easier on your brake discs and rotors. The downside to their soft material is that they wear faster and produce dust. Organic brake pads are recommended for driving applications that don’t require heavy braking.
Akebono was founded in 1929 in Japan, during a time that Japan’s automotive industry had only produced 400 vehicles. Today, Akebono operates research and development technical centers in the United States, Japan, and France, and has become an OEM supplier for such brands as Audi, Chrysler, and Ford. The brand manufactures brake friction materials and foundation brake assemblies such as brake calipers and brake pads. One of its best-selling products is the Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set.
Founded in 1886 with a headquarters near Stuttgart, Germany, Bosch is a multinational electronics and engineering company with a reputation for manufacturing premium quality products. Bosch’s portfolio of products is incredibly diverse, ranging from security systems to auto parts and accessories such as brake pads. One popular product in this category is the Bosch BC905 QuietCast Premium Disc Brake Pad Set.
H.A. Wagner forged the Wagner Electric Manufacturing Company in St. Louis, Missouri in 1891. The company’s first product was a self-starting motor for a desk fan, which proved to be a breakthrough and put the brand on the map. As time marched on, Wagner entered an impressive amount of other product categories, including electric light bulbs for automobiles, self-adjusting brakes, and dual-tandem master cylinders. Today, one of its most popular products is the Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Pad Set.
Brake Pad Pricing
- Under $30: Shoppers will find a host of appealing options for brake pads in this bargain price range. Value-priced brake pads vary a lot in terms of quality, stopping power, and durability, so be sure to conduct a brake pad comparison to find the right set for your needs.
- $30-$60: The best street brake pads on the market today are usually priced within this range. Buyers can expect to find semi-metallic, organic, and ceramic brake pad options at this price point, with most pads delivering excellent performance, wear resistance, and value.
- Over $60: Generally, the best type of brake pads for aggressive street driving, heavy commuting, and track days are priced at over $60 per set. These premium brake pads are usually ceramic and employ advanced materials and designs to achieve maximum fade-resistant braking power, reliability, and longevity.
The best brake pad material for your replacement pads depends on your needs. Semi-metallic and fully-metallic pads offer excellent braking performance, longevity, and durability but can be noisy and generate brake dust. Organic pads are eco-friendly and easy on your rotors and discs, but their braking power and longevity are lacking compared to the other materials. Lastly, ceramic pads offer near-silent, powerful, and reliable braking power at a higher price point.
During most street driving, the average temperature of your brake rotors and pads won’t exceed 392 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, track days can send the average temperature of your rotors and pads soaring near 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s why it’s critical to consider what temperatures your pads will endure and to select pads that are designed to resist fade under this temperature range.
Ease of Installation
Brake pads are sold as a set (front or rear), or as a complete set (front and rear). The amount of hardware included with a brake pad set depends on each individual brand. Some manufacturers include the bare essentials, usually the pads and shims, while others elect to throw in everything you need to install your pads. Some shoppers prefer a plug-and-play set, while others don’t mind purchasing additional hardware necessary for installation.
Brake pads are engineered for specific driving applications. Some brake pads like NAO pads are designed for lighter economy cars that are used for light commuting duties. Others are developed from advanced fade-resistant materials and deliver the potent performance necessary for aggressive street or track use. It’s vital that you consider your driving style and application before selecting the best type of brake pads for your needs.
While we already mentioned that worn brake pads can screech or squeal like a hangry pig during feeding time, certain brake pads can be noisy during operation, too. Generally, semi-metallic and fully-metallic brake pads tend to be the noisiest of all types of pads, followed by organic brake pads. Ceramic brake pads are usually the quietest brake pads available, though some brands offer more silent operation than others.
- Brake Dust Buildup: If you despise having to clean the brake dust off of your wheels every week, consider ceramic brake pads for their low brake dust buildup. Semi-metallic, fully-metallic, and to a lesser extent, organic brake pads tend to produce more brake dust than ceramic brake pads.
- Price: If you’re on a shoestring budget, it’s not always the wisest idea to go with the cheapest brake pads on the market. These discount brake pads are sometimes poorly built and will wear out quicker than slightly pricier brake pads. There are several excellent, value-priced brake pad sets available today, so make sure you select a set that offers a solid mix of performance, longevity, and quality.
Best Brake Pad Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set
If you’re looking for the best replacement brake pads for your commuter car, look no further then the Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set. This premium ceramic brake pad set gives you exceptional braking performance, longevity, and quality.
Exquisite quality is present throughout the Akebono brake pad set’s construction, earning it DOT-certification for offering OE-level craftsmanship. Akebono’s proprietary ProACT ceramic friction formulation helps to eliminate virtually all noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), making these pads extremely smooth and quiet during operation. They’re also built to resist fade, produce minimal dust, reduce wear on rotors, and require no break-in period. This makes them perfect for consumers looking for a no-hassle brake pad set with superior performance and longevity.
These ceramic brake pads come with very few shortcomings, with the most noteworthy one being the limited hardware this set comes with—just pads and shims. It’s also worth mentioning that these ceramic brake pads aren’t recommended for aggressive street or track use so hardcore gearheads may want to consider a high-performance brake pad set. For the majority of drivers though, these may be the best brake pads for your needs.
Best Value: Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Pad Set
Are you a penny-pincher who would like your ride to stop on a dime? The Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Pad Set represents a fantastic value-oriented option that offers decent stopping power, durability, and low brake dust buildup.
According to the manufacturer, these brake pads are 35 percent quieter than other budget options on the market, and they also deliver 15 percent more braking power. The construction is a low-copper, 2021-compliant formulation which promises low brake dust buildup and smooth, decently quiet stops. Another plus is that these inexpensive ceramic disc pads are engineered to provide OE-style fit and performance.
Compared to other ceramic brake pad sets on the market, these aren’t the quietest brake pads available. Additionally, its ceramic friction formulation doesn’t dissipate heat as effectively as some other pads, so this brake pad set isn’t recommended for hard street or track use. Still, if you spend more time driving down a boulevard and not a dragstrip, the Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Brake Set may be the best replacement brake pads for its bargain price point.
Honorable Mention: StopTech 309.10780 Street Performance Front Brake Pads
If you do your best Ken Block impression on isolated mountain passes or (ideally) on a race track, it’s difficult not to recommend the StopTech 309.10780 Street Performance Front Brake Pads.
These high-performance brake pads are manufactured from a high-temperature compound that ensures consistent wear- and heat-resistant braking performance. Additionally, a scorched pad surface delivers outstanding braking performance in both hot and cold weather. The combined result is supremely stable and powerful stopping power designed for aggressive street and track use. These high-performance brake pads also produce minimal brake dust and are easy to install.
We didn’t find too many faults with these performance-oriented brake pads, but their expensive price tag may put them out of some enthusiasts’ reach. Additionally, these may not be the best front brake pads for vehicles that see more grocery runs than canyon runs. We recommend StopTech 309.10780 Street Performance Front Brake Pads for the car guy or gal who demands an ultra-high-performance pair of pads that provide the best stopping power and durability possible for their performance vehicle.
- To extend the lifespan of your brake pads, try to anticipate having to stop so you don’t have to brake harshly. Slow down before intersections if you know you’ll have to stop. Try to obey speed limits as braking from a higher speed wears down your pads quicker.
- Anticipate the flow of traffic. Instead of braking, sometimes all you have to do is let off of the throttle to slow down and maintain a safe following distance with the vehicle ahead of you. This will reduce unnecessary brake pad wear.
- Remove anything that’s excessively heavy and unnecessary from your vehicle. Remember: The lighter your car, truck, or S.U.V. is, the less wear you’ll put on your brakes when you use them.
- It’s a good idea to change your brake pads when you resurface or replace your brake rotors. Chances are that your brake pads will be worn down when your rotors need to be resurfaced, so it’s best to just service both components for maximum braking performance and longevity.
- If you’re looking for a brake pad that will last the longest, look at the thickness of the pad as well as its material type. Thicker brake pads won’t wear as quickly as thinner pads, and certain materials like ceramic and semi- or fully-metallic will last longer than non-asbestos organic pads.
- Much like replacing your tires, it’s always wise to replace all of your brake pads at the same time—even if one set is more worn than the other. That way, you’ll always give your ride the optimal braking power it needs to safely avoid accidents.
Q: How do brake pads work?
A: Brake discs feature a brake caliper, two brake pads, and the brake rotor. When you stomp on the brake pedal, brake fluid passes through the brake caliper, which presses the pads against the rotor and causes your vehicle to slow down and stop.
Q: What are the symptoms of worn-out brake pads?
A: There are several symptoms of worn-out brake pads to look or listen for. Here are just a few: squealing or squeaking under braking; pulsating or vibrating brake pedal during braking; a spongy-feeling brake pedal; poor braking performance; an illuminated brake warning light. Professional mechanics recommend that pads be replaced when the friction material has a thickness of 4 millimeters or less.
Q: How long do brake pads last?
A: Typically, brake pads should be replaced after every 50,000 miles, but the exact lifespan depends on your driving style and the quality of your brake pads. If you commute in a heavily-congested urban area like Los Angeles, your brake pads may only last 30,000 miles or less. Alternatively, drivers who live in an unpopulated area and do a lot of gentle highway driving may get 70,000 miles on a set of pads.
Q: How much does it cost to replace my brake pads?
A: If you’d prefer to keep your hands clean and let a professional replace your brake pads, a typical garage will charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per set (meaning front or back). For those mechanically-inclined individuals, you’ll have to pay for the replacement brake pads as well as any tools required for the job. Obviously, this is the more cost-effective route.
Q: Can I replace my brake pads myself?
A: If you’re relatively handy with a wrench (and other common automotive tools), changing your brake pads is a straightforward job that many novice mechanics perform from the comfort of their own garage. On the other hand, if you lack some of the specialized tools and know-how needed for the job, we recommend you let a trained professional handle the job.
Q: How do I break in my brake pads?
A: Accelerate your car to 30-40 mph, then ease on the brakes until your car almost stops. Stay off the brakes for about 30 seconds to let them cool, then repeat these two steps five times with no sudden or hard braking. Next, take your car up to about 55 mph then slowly brake to 20 mph. Stay off the brakes for about 30 seconds to let them cool. Repeat these last two steps five times.
Our top choice for the best-quality brake pads is the Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set. They’re one of the longest-lasting brake pads on the market, offering superior quality, performance, and value.
For budget-minded shoppers, we recommend the Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set.