As the editor of BRAKE & FRONT END, I make it a point to try out as many friction materials as possible. I have tried $20 pads, and expensive performance pads that can cost as much as $180 a set. I fint it amazing what a great set of brake pads or shoes can do for a vehicle.
This is a great time for the aftermarket friction material industry. Never before in the history of the aftermarket, is there such a large selection of friction materials. I’ll be the first to say that in recent years it seems that your chances of finding a really bad set of pads has increased. But, the chances of finding really great pad has also increased.
It has been the mantra of the aftermarket to say, “We are just as good as OE.” But, some friction material suppliers can truly say, “they are better than OE.” This diversity of friction philosophies allows you to pick the right pad for the driver’s needs and driving style.
Different brands and product lines may have different “friction philosophies.” One manufacturer of pads could believe in an adhesive approach that puts a transfer layer of friction material onto the rotor. While another brand of pad may take a more aggressive abrasive approach to friction. It is not that one pad is overall better for the vehicle – that is up to the driver.
There is one friction compound that I absolutely love. This compound has great stopping power and a high coefficient of friction. Once some heat gets into the pads and rotors, it is a shear joy to brake late for a corner. But, if I let someone else drive my car, all they do is complain about the brakes. They say that the car is hard to stop, and the pedal was hard. Also, they seem to notice the amount of brake dust on my wheels. Also, I’ll admit that they are not the most “rotor friendly” pad.
If I was to install another brand of friction material on the vehicle that is designed to have different properties, I might not be as happy. But, the other driver may find the brakes more to their liking. Also, they might like the fact that pads and rotors last a long time.
In this marketplace, just shopping on price is doing your business a great injustice. You can find huge price differences between different product lines for a single application. But, it is up to you to decide which product best matches the car and driver.
It seems that every year we are inundated by marketing from a brake pad company saying that its pads are made of some new space-age “unobtainium” friction material. Some of this marketing is Madison Avenue hogwash, but some of it is real science that can make a difference. How do you decide? Try the brake pads for yourself. Do not be afraid to try a new brand of friction materials on your own vehicle and change it often.
I know that working on their personal vehicle is avoided by some technicians like the plague, and techs tell themselves that we are conducting parts longevity testing by not working on their own car. But, experimenting with new friction materials can help you to recommend the best pad for a specific customer.
Talk to your customers to find out what their expectations are for their brakes. Ask them what is most important to them, and what is their driving style. If you are selling a customer a high-end set of pads for the front, do not be afraid to sell them rear pads as well.