If you are into cars, you probably about the standard "big three" of brake pad types: ceramic, semi-metallic and non-metallic. If not, don't fret we are going to review them plus add a fourth that few people know about: Progressive Brake Pads

The big three

Standard brake pads are usually categorized into 3 main groups. Why is this even important to know? Because you may be asked which type you prefer next time you have the brakes done on your car. (Besides you never know when you might be on a game show and one of the categories is "Brake Pads.")

1) Ceramic pads- Ceramic pads literally have ceramic materials imbedded in the pad friction surfaces. These glass-like substances are naturally heat resistant and provide more stopping power than the other types of pads. Because this type of pad is a little more exotic, ceramic brake pads tend to be more expensive than the other types.

2)  Semi-metallic pads– This is a mid-range option as far as cost and durability. These pads will last a long time because metallic threads are embedded in the pad friction surfaces. Most cars come from the factory with semi-metallic pads because they are a good mid-range option.

3) Non-metallic-These are your standard brake pads. They are inexpensive ($10-$20,) perform well, but usually don't last very long. One complaint that frequently comes from people that go with the non-metallic pads is that they tend to shed a lot of brake dust too and make the wheel rims dirty. If you are going to keep your car for a while, spend the extra money and get better pads.

Regular brake pads are linear

Your standard semi-metallic pads are what is called a "linear-style pad." This refers to the way they act and feel. Our technical consultant at Williams Brothers Chrysler of Dundee, MI explained this further. When you push on the brakes and your car has linear pads, very quickly you will get a decent amount of friction capable of stopping the car from normal speeds.  If you want more, you push harder and your car slows down quicker. The whole process seems predictable and, well, linear.

Progressive brake pads

Many sports cars utilize progressive brake pads. This means they have a progressive feel to them, which means that there is very little ‘bite' when you first touch the brakes.  The idea is that as you apply more and more pressure, the stopping power comes up much quicker.

Progressive brake pad materials achieve this quality by requiring a certain amount of heat to be built up before the friction really starts to clamp down.  When the brakes are cool, you won't get that heavy jerky bite, so you can go ahead and get on the brakes at high speed and not unsettle the car (or motorcycle).  Once the brakes are applied, you can modulate pressure and comfortably feel where you want to be.  Pad temps will quickly shoot up past 800 degrees F as they dig in, and you can ride that wave all the way through the braking zone.  When you let off, they will quickly cool back down again.


There are a number of companies that make progressive pads. One of the most popular is EBC Brakes. They have been making pads since 1978 and offer a number of different levels. EBC's RedStuff pads are for street use, their YellowStuff are for street/track use, and their BlueStuff are for pure track driving. Another company to look into is Brembo. Brembo is an Italian company that has been making brakes for over 50 years. They have a wide variety of not just brake pads but calipers and rotors too.