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Organic vs Ceramic vs Metallic Brake Pads: What’s the Difference?

The brakes are the most important part when it comes to automobile safety. Given that without brakes your vehicle would rely on time and friction to slow down. It’s clear that this system has to be as efficient as possible.

There are a few brake types. The most widespread are ceramic, metallic, and organic. These friction materials vary based on price and suit different types of vehicles.

But which option performs better — organic, metallic, or ceramic brakes?

Organic, Metallic, and Ceramic Brake Pads Compared

Organic Brakes

organic brake pads

In the 50s and 60s, brakes used asbestos as a friction material. This is because asbestos absorbs heat quite well. Asbestos is no longer used because it becomes a carcinogen (cancer-causing) in the air. Car companies needed another solution.

This is how the non-asbestos organic brakes or NAO came to be. Over time, we have embraced them as the standard. In the US nearly all vehicles use organic brake pads.

The Pros

  • Due to the low cost of materials and the manufacturing process, they are cost-effective.
  • They are inexpensive due to the low cost of materials and production processes.
  • Under normal conditions, they produce less noise and don’t put a lot of pressure on the brake rotors. This is their most significant advantage. As we all know, wear and tear can lead to the rotor cracks leading to breaks. This can be quite an expensive issue to fix.
  • Made for lightweight vehicles and normal driving conditions.

The Cons

  • Organic brakes need to cool down after use. This means they do not perform well in higher temperature ranges. That is why they are not suitable for high-performance vehicles.
  • Made of organic materials and perform poorly in extreme weather conditions.
  • Due to the materials used in fabrication, organic brakes are compressible. However, you will need to use more force to engage them. In some cases resulting in mushy or spongy brakes.
  • Organic brakes aren’t durable and produce additional dust. You will need to replace these more often.

Ceramic Brakes

ceramic brakes

The public eventually found out that asbestos could cause cancer, and the need for an alternative became fulfilled by NAO brake pads.

However, there was room for improvement. In the 80s, companies developed ceramic brakes. The material isn’t much different from the ceramics used to make mugs and plates.

In the case of brakes, they are sturdier and more suitable for causing friction. They also had bits of copper weaved into them.

The Pros

  • Produce little to no noise
  • Doesn’t leave as much dust as organic brakes
  • Suitable for extreme conditions, not only for day-to-day use
  • More expensive than organic but a longer lifespan than metallic and organic
  • The material is softer on rotors. This means they don’t stick to wheels and you don’t need to step on the pedal as hard. This results in less damage to other parts of the braking system.

The Cons

  • The most expensive option
  • Neither ceramics nor copper is the best at heat-absorption. The rest of the braking system dissipates the heat produced from brake usage.
  • Not the best solution for regions with extreme weather conditions.

Semi-Metallic Brakes

metallic brakes

As the name implies, the friction material is a metallic mixture. These metals include iron and steel alloys mixed with fillers to improve their friction coefficient. They are semi-metallic because the pad is 30-60% metal by weight.

The Pros

  • Due to their metal content, they are not very compressible.
  • Priced somewhere in between organic and ceramic.
  • The metals help dissipate heat which helps cool down the braking system faster
  • Can work in higher temperature ranges
  • Used for daily driving and performance use

The Cons

  • Are usually noisier than ceramic and organic options
  • Increased dust production.
  • Harsh on brake rotors

Conclusion

The choice between these three brake pads comes down to a number of factors:

  • What you use your car for, IE daily driving, towing, etc.
  • Your location
  • Noise
  • Price

If you’re looking for daily drivers, then organic options are likely your best bet. With that said, ceramic brakes are an eco-friendly option that damages the braking system less. If you live in extreme climates or need something for towing, consider semi-metallic options.

Brakes are one of the most important parts of your vehicle. Choosing brake pads that suit your driving style is very important.

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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