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Best Brake Pads of 2021: Stop on a Dime!

Buying cheap brake pads is tempting. However, you shouldn't risk installing a sub-par set of brake pads just because you wanted to save a few bucks.

The Best Brake Pads

If you don’t know much about brake pads, don’t fret. You can safely ditch your OE brake pads for something more reliable. Remember, your vehicle’s acceleration is only as good as the braking system used to stop it.

1. Akebono ProACT Ceramic Brake Pads

If you’re looking to replace your OE brake pads while still feeling like you’re upgrading, then this set from Akebono is good choice. They are made of Akebono’s unique Pro-ACT ceramic friction formulation that helps eliminate virtually all noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).

The most important thing to note is that they are DOT certified. This isn’t a surprise since Akebono makes such a point of manufacturing to OE standards. They are manufactured to be resistant to fade (long lasting), rotor friendly, require no break-in period, and experience minimal brake dust (cleaner wheels).

Akebono has shown why their 75 years of expertise in the braking industry means something. With smooth braking and enhanced durability, these brake pads are significantly better than most brake pads you can find on or offline. As long as you’re not looking to become a street racer, these ceramic pads are great.

2. ACDelco Ceramic Front Disc Brakes

ACDelco is a GM original equipment parts brand, which means that these should fit most GM vehicles without a hitch. Each of these pads had to pass an NVH test, as well as SAE J2784 before they leave the factory. That means that they break effectively, silently, safely, and reliably.

They are integrally molded for bond integrity, and they come with premium slots, chamfers, and shims that help smooth braking and diminish vibration. This model comes with a stamped backing plate that helps prevent premature wear.

So, whether you’re looking to drive around the city, or hit the freeway, these ceramic brake pads can definitely take it.

3. StopTech Street Performance Brake Pads

StopTech is known for making high-performance brake pads for race cars. If you’re looking for something for everyday use, you might consider skipping these and picking another option.

StopTech brake pads feature a scorched pad surface that offers a solid bite even when your brakes are cold. On the other hand, these are made of high-temp compounds that ensure consistent performance under all conditions, as well as pad wear. Thanks to that, these pads last longer

According to people who bought these, they are the perfect replacement for much pricier Brembo or Hawk brake pads.

Whether you’re looking to use them for light track purposes, or spirited street driving, these will definitely live up to their reputation.

4. Bosch Ceramic Rear Brake Pads

These ceramic pads are a good example of why Bosch is such a huge brand. They created platform-specific ceramic materials so that these brake pads can provide silent operation as well as amazing stopping power.

Bosch QuietCast brake pads boast a Molded Shim technology that guarantees stability and a great lifespan. Their OE style multilayer system is there to provide silent operation, and users agree that these are wonderfully quiet.

What we especially like here is the advanced aerospace alloy that these pads are made of. This ceramic formula is completely copper-free, which makes these the best in their class.

Another thing people appreciate here is the fact that these brake pads come with all the necessary hardware and the synthetic brake lubricant you might need. You’ll notice that they don’t differ from your car’s OE pads when it comes to fit, but that they are superior when it comes to performance.

5. Wagner Ceramic Brake Pads

Wagner is a brand that makes the affordable brake pads for everyday use. They aren’t amazingly quiet, but they aren’t super noisy either, and they do have a bite and provide smooth stops.

According to Wagner, their braking pads are 35% quieter than other budget options, and they also offer 15% more stopping power. They are made of a ceramic formulation that is low copper 2021 compliant, and they are designed to fit and perform just like OE parts.

However, while these are great for normal driving conditions, we wouldn’t recommend them for heavy braking purposes, as this ceramic formulation doesn’t have the best heat dispersion.

What Makes “Good” Brake Pads

brake pad caliper

Eventually, there will come a time when your vehicle requires necessary maintenance. Especially on parts that wear out regularly like brake pads. It’s important to remember that a vehicle is only as great as the braking system that stops it.

Brake Pad Features to Consider

There are a few factors that you should take into consideration before you buy brake pads.

Do They Fit Your Vehicle?

This goes without saying.

Not all brake pads will fit the same car models as brake pads are not universal. What may fit your 2010 model, may not fit your upgraded 2018. Automakers have a way of changing components and parts often. Luckily most online platforms allow you to check if your vehicle is compatible with a specific set of brake pads.


Brake pads are available in different types, sets (front or back), and price ranges. As we noted before, it's tempting to buy cheaper pads. We'd recommend avoiding these options altogether as they will tend to wear out faster and aren't as reliable as brake pads should be.

Brake Pad Friction Material

Different friction material exists based on driving purpose and region. For instance if you mainly drive in the city as a regular commuter then organic or ceramic are your best option. If you're a driver who frequents heavy braking and needs versatile use then metallic should be considered.

When you start to look for brake pads, you’ll discover there are three types of material that are the most popular. Let’s look at small breakdown of these materials:


In the 50s and 60s, asbestos was used as it can absorb heat well. After we learned how asbestos is a carcinogen, manufacturers went on to make non-asbestos organic brake pads or NAO. This type of brake pad is the most commonly used and chances are your vehicle will come with these when you buy it.

They are inexpensive, relatively silent, and eco-friendly. Unfortunately, they wear very rapidly and create a lot of brake dust.


In the 80s brake pad manufacturers started using ceramic as an alternative to asbestos-ridden organic options of the past. They are silent, produce minimal amounts of brake dust, and have a longer lifetime. But, they do have a downside – they are the most expensive option.


These brake pads consist of 30-60 percent metal by weight. Their price falls somewhere between the least expensive organic and the most expensive, ceramic. They aren’t very compressible and as a result, they are quite noisy and they give off quite a bit of brake dust. They also work well in greater temperature ranges that other options can’t perform in.

When to Replace Brake Pads

Brake pads typically need to be replaced every 30,000 to 70,0000 miles. With that said they can also wear out at different speeds depending on how often you use your brakes. It’s good to know the signs of worn out brake pads.

1. Scraping and Screeching

Scraping sounds are usually caused by a metallic shim that lets the driver know that it’s time to take them in for replacement. This sound doesn’t always mean the brakes are wearing out. It could be the brakes were exposed to dust and other particulates. This causes a similar sound when the pads are engaged. If this sound goes away it was likely dust or particles, if it persists, then it’s time to have them checked.

2. Thickness

Pad thickness is the easiest way to tell when they need to be replaced. You don’t want the pads to go down to the backing. Be sure to have your mechanic check your brake pads when you have your tires rotated. If there is less than a 1/4 inch of pad material left then it’s time to replace the brake pads.

3. Indicator Lights

Some vehicles come equipped with indicator lights that detail when it’s time to replace the brake pads. As they wear out the brake caliper has to extend further to make contact with the rotor. This means that the brake fluid level drops. It’s best to replace the brake pads rather than increase the brake fluid level.

Brake Pad Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q: Should You Change All of Your Brake Pads at the Same Time?

A: No. It is not necessary to change all of your brake pads at the same time. When it comes to brakes, the ones located in the front of the vehicle do most of the work.

As a result, they are worn out much faster than the ones in the rear. If you want to get technical, they should be changed 2-3x more often. If you decide to replace all of them at the same time, you would be wasting money. In addition, all of the labor it would take to change something that is not needed would be a waste.

There are some people who change all of them at the same time in order to avoid having to head to an auto body shop at different intervals.

Q: What is the Average Brake Pads Replacement Cost?

A: The average cost for replacing brake pads is around $150 per axle. This number can be lower; around $100, or as high as $300. The exact number will depend on several factors, including the area where you live and the company that you select to provide this service.

Keep in mind that there may be other services that need to be done at the same time as the brake pad replacement, like work on rotors and calipers, and this may make the price a bit higher than expected.

Q: How Do Disc Brakes Work?

A: A disc brake places pressure on discs that are attached to the wheels of a vehicle; this is what stops it from continuing to move.

In comparison to drum brakes, they have more stopping power and do not become overheated when they are used frequently. You can find these systems in all types of vehicles ranging from compact cars to sports-utility vehicles. The parts that make up the disc brake system are the sensors, pistons, brake pads, calipers, and rotors.

disc brake and drum diagram

Q: How Many Brake Pads are on a Car/Per Wheel?

A: The average car has two brake pads on all four wheels. In addition, there are some vehicles that have calipers, and these use four pads apiece. Typically a vehicle has two calipers, so that would mean an additional eight. This number is variable and can change depending on the vehicle.

If you are not sure of how many there are on yours, getting in touch with the manufacturer or speaking with an automotive professional should clear that up for you.

There is no way to get a solid answer without speaking to someone who has knowledge of the make and model of your vehicle. Providing a guess means that you could end up with erroneous information.

Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.
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