Brake Pads & Rotors Buying Guide

You put careful thought into the parts you buy, but your brakes are especially critical. After all, they contribute a lot to your driving safety. You know you can’t afford to skimp on pads and rotors, but you also want the best value for your money. So how do you select the best ones for your vehicle? This quick buying guide offers some basic information and wise advice for buying brake kits for trucks, cars and more.  

Types of Brake Pads 

Not all brake pads are the same. This statement seems rather obvious, but let’s dig a little deeper. Maybe while shopping for pads, you’ve just looked for the cheapest ones that fit your vehicle. While shopping by make and model is a good start, your efforts shouldn’t end there. Most auto parts retailers carry a wide range of custom brake pads. You’ll usually find them in four categories: 

  • Light-duty 
  • Heavy-duty 
  • Performance 
  • High performance 

It’s wise to evaluate your driving habits – they’ll guide you in picking the best pads. Light-duty pads are typically made with non-asbestos organic or aramid fiber, so they’re softer than other kinds. The major benefits are quieter operation and less force exerted on your rotors. If you have a lightweight vehicle and you don’t do a lot of driving, light-duty pads are a great cost-effective option. 

Heavy-duty semi-metallic pads are great for most commuters. They’re rougher on your rotors, but they cool faster and last longer – ideal for repeated stop-and-go traffic. Performance pads are usually made with ceramic with pieces of copper woven into the material. As a result, they excel at friction and heat dissipation. Ceramic pads are also quieter, don’t produce dust and offer longer life plus less brake fade. Performance brake pads cost a bit more, but they’re well worth the price if you regularly do heavy driving. 

High performance brake pads are made with ferro carbon or carbon ceramics. These pads offer the best stopping power and heat dissipation with the least amount of brake fade. They may not work best for regular street driving, but they’re ideal for performance driving.  

Brake Rotor Options 

Replacing your rotors is a different matter altogether. Unless you regularly do aggressive driving and braking, you’ll probably need to swap your pads twice before switching out your rotors. Keep in mind, however, that replacement frequency on the type of material in your rotors. Softer metal rotors wear down quicker, so you may need to switch these and your pads at the same time for dependable braking.  

Of course, you may get better usage, performance and value from brake kits with calipers. Full brake kits are available for daily commuters and heavy-duty towing, but you’ll commonly find full kits with calipers included. Performance kits usually include carbon ceramic pads, durable rotors designed for temperature control and calipers to upgrade the look of your street machine. 

Shopping for Your Brakes 

Now that you better understand your options, it’s time to go shopping. A trustworthy auto parts dealer is your best bet for finding the exact types of pads, rotors and other gear you need. Check your dealer’s customer feedback, shipping options and return policies before you buy.

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