Automobile brakes don't get all the press that hot rod stuff like engines, turbos and headers do but the brakes on your car are performance items too.  They should get more attention . Think about it, after you have invested in all the tech that makes your car go fast, what good is it if it doesn't stop fast?  With help of Patrick Volvo, a Schaumburg, IL-based Volvo dealer, we will look at the options you have when you are performing a brake job.

Performance vs Replacement

The first thing to determine is what level of performance are you looking for when you are doing a brake job. Are you looking to perform a standard job on your regular car or upgrade the brakes on a performance car. In either case, the two main components to consider are the pads and rotors. Let's take a closer look at both components.

Brake Rotors

Brake rotors are the flat round discs that are located right behind your wheels. If you have alloy rims on your car, you may be able to see the brake rotors through the spokes. They are the shiny metal surfaces you see. If your vehicle is equipped with disc brakes, you have several options for replacements.

Factory - These rotors will generally be your lowest cost option at your local dealer or auto parts store. They are commonly made of iron and are either solid or internally vented.

Slotted – Slotted rotors have shallow channels engraved on the surface of the rotor. These channels help to dissipate heat and allow water to flow off the rotor surface. Slotted rotors look nice and perform well, however, they can cause pads to wear down a bit more rapidly.

Drilled - Drilled rotors are built for performance applications. These rotors have dozens of holes drilled through them to maximizing heat dissipation. They have a nice performance look to them too but are typically quite expensive.

Brake Pads

Brake pads are the things that squeeze together on the spinning brake rotors and create enough friction to slow the car down. The problem is that this friction eventually wears them down and they need to be replaced.  You are probably familiar with the term "brake job." Replacing the brake pads is what a mechanic generally does when doing a brake job.  Brake pads are categorized into 3 main groups:

Non-metallic - Generally the lowest cost option, these are your standard pads. They perform well but usually don't last a long time.  If you think that you will be selling or trading your car soon, standard pads will work fine.

Semi-metallic – This is a mid-range option as far as cost and durability. These pads have a harder feel to them when you apply the brakes but will last a long time because of metallic threads embedded in them.

Ceramic - These are the top shelf option and are generally for performance vehicles. Ceramic pads provide more stopping power than the semi- and non-metallic types while being extremely quiet. You probably didn't know there were so many options for brake pads and rotors!  Don't be intimidated by the choices, however, your local dealer or mechanic can help you decide which is best for your car.

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