A. It depends on what your customer wants. The “best” friction material for one customer might not be best friction material for another. One customer may want longer brake life or quieter braking while another is more interested in stopping power and fade resistance.
The best advice is to follow the friction recommendations provided by the brake manufacturer. Most brake suppliers offer a range of specially formulated friction materials in their product lines. The may have “good,” “better” and “best” products, with good being some type of low-cost economy pad, better being an OEM equivalent type of friction material, and best being some type of premium friction material such as ceramic or semi-metallic.
Semi-metallic friction materials, for example, can handle high braking temperatures better than nonasbestos organic (NAO) and ceramic compounds and have good fade resistance. But semi-metallic pads may require more brake pressure when the brakes are cold, and increase rotor wear and noise due to their harder consistency.
Ceramic friction materials are typically quieter than semi-metallic linings, resist wear better than most NAO friction materials, and produce little visible brake dust.
Many ceramic compounds also are rotor-friendly and reduce rotor wear. But ceramics can’t handle as much heat as semi-metallics can under hard braking conditions.
Some replacement pads use one type of friction material for the inner pads and a different type of friction material for the outer pads to optimize overall braking performance.
The performance for any type of friction material will depend on its hot and cold friction characteristics, its wear and fade resistance characteristics, its noise characteristics and the type of dust it produces. Price also is a big factor, too. For some customers, cost may be the only thing that matters (they usually want the cheapest!). Other customers may be more interested in reducing noise or brake dust. Others may want to upgrade stopping power and fade resistance over the original equipment brakes. The only way to find out what they really want is to ask them.
Some customers also may have a brand preference when it comes to choosing a particular friction material. If you carry that brand, great! You’ve made a sale. Follow the brake supplier’s recommendations and try to match the product with the customer’s expectations be it cost, overall value or performance.