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Ceramic vs. Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

There are different types of brake pads geared toward certain vehicles, but arguably the two most popular models are ceramic and semi-metallic. Semi-metallic brake pads have been used on brake systems for decades while ceramic pads hit the market in the 1980s but started gaining traction in the 1990s. Both are reliable options but have significant differences. Here are some factors to consider when choosing between semi-metallic and ceramic brake pads.

Ceramic Brake Pads

Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

Lifespan

LongerShorter

Heat Transfer

AverageExceptional

Noise

QuieterLouder

Cost

Less affordableMore affordable

*Refer to the Brake Pads Buying Guide for more specific tire types and other information.


Ceramic Brake Pads

Advantages of ceramic brake pads

  • Quiet - Ceramic brake pads are made from a blend of primarily ceramic materials with small amounts of non-metallic substances. These kinds of brake pads are softer, which helps reduce noise significantly when braking.
  • Low Amount of Brake Dust - The materials used to make ceramic pads only creates a light amount of brake dust. Unlike other types of brake pads, which typically generate larger amounts of brake dust, the dust from ceramic pads is easier to clean from a car's rims.
  • Durability - Ceramic brake pads are much more durable than metallic or organic brake pads. Their durability also makes them last longer than their counterparts.
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Limitations of ceramic brake pads

  • Not Suited for Large Trucks or SUVs - Ceramic brake pads are softly constructed and don't necessarily perform well with heavy duty pickup trucks and SUVs that haul more weight than passenger vehicles.
  • Can Warp Rotors - Ceramic brake pads might struggle in high performance vehicles because of their soft composition. With constant stopping and going, these types of pads can create a high buildup of heat that can eventually lead to warped brake rotors.
  • Expensive - While there are affordable options available, most ceramic brake pads have a higher price tag than semi-metallic brake pads or organic alternatives.
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Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

Advantages of semi-metallic brake pads

  • Ideal for Heat Transfer - Semi-metallic brake pads are usually made from steel wool, copper and other metal substances, which can handle the high temperatures from heat transfer better than ceramic brakes.
  • Perfect for Heavy Duty Trucks and SUVs - Large pickup trucks and SUVs carry more weight, which tends to generate more heat and pressure within the brake system. Since semi-metallic brake pads are constructed to handle heat transfer, they're perfectly suited for heavy duty vehicles.
  • Affordable - These kinds of brake pads are commonly used by most manufacturers, and they are less expensive than ceramic or organic pads.
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Limitations of semi-metallic brake pads

  • Noisy - Whenever you slow down or come to a complete stop, these kinds of brake pads are usually louder than ceramic models.
  • Create Brake Dust - Semi-metallic brake pads generate a thick and stickier brake dust than ceramic pads. A large buildup of brake dust can be difficult to clean and ruins your rims' appearance.
  • Short Lifespan - Semi-metallic models use materials that don't last as long as the ones used in ceramic brake pads.
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