Tech Talk with Master Power Brakes

Selecting the Best Brake Pads For Your Classic Car

Posted by Master Power Brakes Team on Mar 20, 2015 10:07:12 AM

Whether you are replacing worn pads or considering upgraded performance brake pads for your new disc brake conversion kit, finding the perfect fit for your classic car boils down to how you drive. 

Hitting the brakes creates friction (and heat) which stops your car—but for optimum performance, we need to keep heat levels within an optimum specified range for best performance. Today’s brake pad manufacturers offer a number of different options tailored to match the heat levels generated by your brakes and driving patterns.

The least expensive option in a brake pad is an organic pad. These pads combine glass, Kevlar, Aramid, cellulose, and/or carbon with binding resins. In the earlier days when there wasn’t as much traffic and technology, the OEM’s used organic brake pads as they are quiet and easy on rotors. Organic pads don’t require much heat to generate the friction needed to stop a car, but they also operate best within a very limited temperature range. Organic pads were great for an everyday family commuter car, but they have relatively short service life and they are not well-suited for aggressive driving or track use.

The most common brake pad in use today is the Semi-Metallic brake pad. They are made with materials such as steel wool, iron, or copper along with synthetic components like fillers, friction modifiers, and graphite lubricants. Semi-Metallic brake pads offer higher operating temperatures than organic brake pads, and they are designed to draw heat from your rotors to combat fade. Semi-Metallic pads typically last longer than organic pads, are maybe a little harder on rotor lift and they produce more brake dust. The trade-off to this is a brake pad that stops and performs better than the previous organic brake pads. Semi-Metallic brake pads are the most common to find on today’s vehicles and what we use as a standard within our disc brake conversion kits. If a car is currently equipped with organic pads, a step up to a semi-metallic brake pad offers better performance.

Metallic brake pads are another option and are assumed by most people to be a great option. Many owners assume if semi-metallic is good, then full Metallic must be better. These pads are made using sintered steel without any synthetic additives. Fully Metallic pads are noisy and hard on rotors, but their durability and fade resistance makes them ideal for high heat, racing applications. Don’t make the mistake of assuming Metallic racing pads will offer improved performance for casual road use, or even aggressive road driving applications. Metallic brake pads are designed for high heat, racing braking applications—you can’t get them warm enough to stop effectively cruising around town. Go to the racetrack and watch the cars under caution flag laps and you will find the drivers dragging the brakes and hard accelerating into the brakes trying to keep heat in the brakes. This works well at the track but not on the street!

Ceramic brake pads fall somewhere in the middle between the Semi-Metallic option and the Full Metallic option. These pads are composed of clay and porcelain that is bonded to copper flakes and filaments. From a usability standpoint, Ceramic brake pads are the probably the quietest option available due to the ceramic materials elevating the sound to a pitch that is higher than the human ear can hear. The drawback to Ceramic pads is they don’t dissipate heat very well. Because of this, they have a tendency to be harder on the other components in the braking system in particular rotors. Ceramic pads are also more expensive than their semi-metallic counterparts.


HAWK HPS Brake Pads
Hawk HPS Brake Pads

With this said, you are probably wondering about the brake pads offered as an upgrade to about 80% of our Legend Series Disc Brake Conversion Kits. If you have noticed on our website and in our catalog, we offer the Hawk Performance HPS Series of brake pads. These pads use a unique to Hawk Ferro-Carbon compound. This material is a great combination of everything mentioned above using the safety and quality of the aerospace and motorsports severe-duty friction technology. The HPS pads offer a much higher coefficient of friction over a traditional semi-metallic brake pad and can provide 20-40% more stopping power and are much more resistant to brake fade when compared to a conventional brake pad no matter if the pads are hot or cold.

To ensure best performance and safety, remember to select a brake pad that best matches your driving style. If you have questions about brake pads or upgrading to Hawk HPS pads, contact us and we’ll gladly lend a hand.

Topics: How To Series, Better Classic Car Braking, Brake Pads

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