Brake Pad Technology

An insiders look at brake pad technology compliments of Performance Friction. Performance Friction is well known in the racing and high-performance automotive accessories industry as one of the premiere providers of brake components. Spend more than a few moments watching any telecast of an automotive racing event and you’re certain to hear “Performance Friction” more than a few times. Perhaps part of the reason for this is because they have more than 80 years of racing experience and they’re involved in just about every form of automotive racing.


This article will be the first in a running-series of articles devoted to sharing “insider” info about brakes, brake components and the importance of braking systems.

We asked the experts at Performance Friction, “How are brake pads developed, tested and marketed, in general?”

Their answer is as follows:

Brake pads are developed, tested and marketed with many different factors in mind. Manufacturers are very protective of their friction formulations, which with a tweak here and a tweak there, one can modify the performance factors of the brake pad dramatically.

For example, if one is trying to develop a low dusting pad, then the tests run will zero in on the using more of the raw material fibers that contribute most to lowering dust. If one is only worried about developing a performance pad, then tests run by the manufacturer will pinpoint raw materials that affect performance most, and increase content of those fibers in their formulation.

As with any product, manufacturers market their brakes based on the features and benefits offered to the consumer. However, just because it says so on the box – buyer beware and be informed is a wise move. It is always better to have an understanding of what is in the pads and technology you are trusting to place on your car.

Even as safety systems such as ABS and traction control have become more demanding, consumers of new vehicles have come to expect transparent operation of their brakes.

Essentially no noise and long life are expected yet, according to JD Power, brake noise is cited at the second most problematic area across the entire vehicle for new vehicles! The popularity of SUVís and high performance autos such as Porsche, BMW, and Jaguar, coupled with the general downsizing of braking systems to increase fuel economy, have put a greater burden on friction manufacturers to supply an appropriate brake pad for every vehicle type.

Performance Friction is responding though, with application of more technology in product design, including:

– Use of statistical design techniques to develop new generations of friction material and studying effects of exotic materials such as ceramic fibers on performance.

– Evaluation of thousands of friction compounds. The data is stored in a computer database that can be analyzed using conventional statistical techniques or artificial intelligence/neural network techniques.


– Development of friction material types including ceramic modified low metallic content materials (as well as the Carbon Metallic (TM) materials required by heavy duty applications).

– Incorporation of noise dampening underlayers between friction material and steel backing plate that reduce noise dramatically.

– Implementing computer aided Finite Element Models of the pad, rotor, and caliper to predict problem noise frequencies and propose design enhancements like pad chamfers and plate design changes.

– Verification of computer models with experimental ìmodal vibrationî testing.

The environmental aspect of friction material development also cannot be overlooked. Contrary to popular belief, friction material containing asbestos is still being produced and sold in surprising volumes. Several brake pad manufacturers are facing overwhelming financial problems, including bankruptcy, due to impending asbestos litigation. Current California-based legislation (Proposition 65) has restricted the use of materials such as antimony (which contains traces of arsenic), lead compounds, chromium, and potassium titinate, as well as asbestos.

As you can see, Performance Friction knows a thing or two about braking. We look forward to bringing you future articles about automotive brake technology, and will be launching a new section within the Roadfly Website strictly devoted to bringing you cutting-edge, insider info on this exciting topic. Roadfly would like to thank Performance Friction for taking the time to provide us with this information, and we look forward to bringing you more information in the future.

Be sure to check out Performance Friction’s website as it’s full of tips, tricks, and information that will make you appreciate your brakes every time you press “the middle pedal.”

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