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Brake Tech Series: So, What Else Is New?

Saturday, March 1, 2008 - 00:00

TECHNOLOGY NEVER QUITE stands still. Changes aren't always as revolutionary as the introduction of antilock braking, electronic calipers or ceramic rotors. They're more often evolutionary — the kind that lead to revised specs or techniques. You know, the stuff Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) are made of. Or equipment changes. Or new tools. Or the introduction of kits to deal with conditions found in the field.


Are you using the right kinds of disc brake pads on the vehicles you service? You may not be. In the last several years, there's been a sea change in OE pad specs to the extent that ceramic-formula pads are the most common type in new cars. If you're still using semi-metallics nearly across the board, you're sending many customers with late models out with a different friction type than they came in with.

"Don't be surprised to see quite a few of them back complaining about noise or dirty wheels," says Bendix Brakes Answerman Jay Buckley. "You might be using the 'wrong' kind of pad in more than half the cars you're servicing!" The main reasons manufacturers have been leaning toward ceramics, he adds, "is that they're quieter and cleaner."

Buckley says close to 70 percent of Asian cars now use ceramics: so do about 65 percent of domestics. Percentages aren't as high for autobahn-ready Europeans.

You're making a mistake, though, if you swing the other way and start installing ceramics across the board. For one thing, there are the cars and trucks that came with (and still come with) semi-metallics or low-mets as OE. And Buckley adds that for many high-performance drivers, or those who otherwise subject their brakes to hard use, "semi-mets are often right for them."

It's easy enough to find out which kind of pads were OE in a given vehicle. Pad suppliers note it in their catalogs, and they're the type new-car dealers will offer first.

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