Brake pads are a component of disc brakes, and are commonly available as a piece of steel, cut to fit your caliper, with a friction material adhered to the steel. A disc brake requires two brake pads for each wheel mounted on the inside and outside of the rotor. A piston (some calipers have multiple pistons) inside the caliper is pushed toward the rotor causing friction between the rotor and the brake pads.
There are many types of brake pads friction material depending on the intended use of the vehicle. There are very soft and aggressive to a harder more durable and less aggressive compound. A performance pad does not brake as well when cold but is superior when hot where a standard semi-metallic pad may experience fading when undergoing hard driving conditions but will work best driving around town. It is recommended to use the pad that was designed for your vehicle, for example a daily driver that came with semi-metallic pads should continue to use them unless performance modifications are made.
Brake pad materials range from asbestos to organic or semi-metallic and ceramic formulations. Each of these materials has proven to have advantages and disadvantages regarding environmental friendliness, wear, noise, and stopping capability.
Asbestos was widely used in pads for its heat resistance but, due to health risks, has mostly been replaced with alternative materials. Semi-metallic brake pads provide strength and conduct heat away from rotors but also generate noise and are abrasive enough to increase rotor wear. Ceramic brake pads accommodate higher temperatures with less heat fade and generate less dust and wear on both the brake pads and brake rotors. They also provide much quieter operation due to the ceramic compound that helps dampen noise.
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