Article > Brakes

What is the Real Cost of a Cheap Brake Pad?


By Andrew Markel

The brake repair market is starting to become dominated by a “good enough” mentality. Good enough to some is just being able to stop in a “reasonable” distance at normal driving and last for 10,000 miles. But, when asked to perform an emergency stop or a series of hard stops, the vehicle can become unsafe with longer stops and a low pedal. You may rationalize that your customer’s customer may never perform such severe maneuvers, but how can you be sure?

Are you sure that little old lady does not drive with two feet? Can you be sure that a truck will never tow a boat? Is really worth it for your customers to install cheap brake pads in order to be able to advertise and hopefully make profit on a $99 brake special?

Inferior brake pads will start to fade and pedal travel will be almost to the floor. Look at the pedal travel data on the second hot stop of the FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) Test. It is the friction level that provides the deceleration torque to stop the car, but it is the pedal travel or fluid displacement that actuates the brake and is required for proper ABS functionality. If the fluid displacement increases too much, it can dramatically inhibit the response of the anti-lock brake system. Also, inferior pads will start to smell worse than the average burnt clutch. Some inferior brake pads may have a very acrid or pungent aroma due to the use of cheap glues and fillers. Also, the smell can be attributed to coatings and paints that may be burning.

Look at the coatings or paint on the brake pads. Often the best-looking brake pad will not look the same after four stops from 55 mph. This is because the paint will burn off and often catch fire. This will leave the metal backing plate exposed to the elements. Corrosion may cause rust-jacking that can weaken the bond of the friction material to the backing plate. Also, the rust can spread to slides and shims causing unwanted noise. A high-quality pad will have a coating or plating on the backing plate that will stand up to the heat of four hard stops with little change in appearance.

Some inferior brake pad manufacturers use only a handful of friction material formulations across an entire product catalog. This means that the same friction material may be used on a SUV and compact, the only thing they change is the backing plate. This can lead to compromises and may even influence the braking balance front to rear.

Look beyond the edge code. The edge code system has been around since the 1950s and was initially designed as a quality standard for manufacturers. The test was used to determine if a supplier was shipping from the assembly plant same stuff as the last batch. The edge code doesn’t reveal how it will perform a specific vehicle or under real world conditions.

Another issue is the use of copper and other metals that turn into environmentally damaging compounds when they are heated during braking. All brake pads produce dust — where the dust goes is becoming a bigger issue. When dust is produced by the brake pad, the majority of the dust falls on the road where it is washed into the storm drains that wash into larger bodies of water. It can also end up in your lungs. Metals like copper will not kill large animals, but it kills the small microorganisms lower in the food chain. When the foundation of the food chain dies, so do the rest of the creatures in it.

Some metals and their derivatives can cause cancer and birth defects in humans. There is a current move in California to significantly limit or eliminate the use of copper in brake pads. This is expected to be adopted nationwide in the future. The question remains as to who will be responsible for disposal of what is in the field and when? Also, antimony is banned by Proposition 65 in California. Violations of Proposition 65 may carry prison sentences. Environmental issues and carcinogen class action law suits can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars and place even the largest of companies into financial disasters. These liabilities are extremely powerful as they reach into the past before protective legislation.

Ask for MSDS sheets and certifications that materials do not contain antimony compounds, chromium, cadmium, lead, asbestos or other carcinogens. You have a right to be informed. You may also request indemnification by the brake manufacturer in regards to these issues; however indemnification may not totally limit your exposure, especially if your brake manufacturer is in a protected foreign country.
  Previous Comments
avatar   Wolfe   star   8/28/2009   5:52 PM

One point I was trying to make about the MSDS on brakes is that the air you breath in New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Detroit, MI; and other heavily automobile populated areas is going to contain a lot more of this residual dust in the air than say, Arizona or Nevada. Not to mention that the amount of residue left on the streets in areas that do not rain often is going to be heavier as well. This all has bearings on how well you are going to stop. And if your brakes contain an inferior material or inadequate substance, this will affect it as well. It may not seem useful information right now, but somewhere down the road, that information will present itself and can make or break a sale. I was planning on buying a high definition television from ABC Warehouse and the salesman had no idea what the half life was on any of the product he sold. I went to The Gramophone (a privately owned company) and asked them. Not only did they tell me the half life, they gave me so much information about televisions that

avatar   Wolfe   star   8/26/2009   6:41 PM

I was unable to find any MSDS sheets on them either, so when you are able to locate them, let me know. I also feel that the Brake Best Select are a better product, because I know the name and I have used them (and had friends use them) before. So while I know that the Thermoquiet Wagner are a better product, ultimately I chose to go with the cheaper ones that I know and on a Focus, there is no real reason to spend "big bucks" if the vehicle does not need it by default. I was also making a brake joke in my statement (brakes stop me from having a bad day, get it?). I love to hear discussions from people when they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately the reply space here is a little limited. I do appreciate you taking the time to put such thought into your replies though.

avatar   Edward P. #1145   star   8/26/2009   5:21 PM

--have become sick handling brake pads. There's also a recall on children's atvs because the paint their frame is coated with contains low contents of lead. MSDS? I don't base my products on price alone, typically the theory is "more bang for your buck." I keep up continuous communication with my commercial customers (who install my products everyday), retail customers, tech articles, brochures and different magazines. Although most of my customers will consider pricing before they listen to my sales pitch. I find that an actual testimony of use in my products offer me more information than an MSDS sheet.

avatar   Edward P. #1145   star   8/24/2009   5:11 PM

--cadmium, chromium, lead...etc, doesn't offer me much help. I don't know how these elements pertain to stopping power, and neither does this article. Proposition 65 is a "hippie-make change happen" movement just like Global Warming and their counter party proposing Global freezing. Apparently only in the bankrupt state of California are cheap brakes unreliable; I also have a folding lawn chair that does not allow me to sit on it in California due to fire safe restrictions that are unparallel to California's policies. I actually have many people prefer cheap brakes over Brake Best Selects, Ceramics, or Wagner ThermoQuiets due to the fact that their increased stopping ability and long life guarantee comes with squeaking and rotor replacement. I mainly sell them to commercial customers due to lifetime warranty which adds job security for their business. MSDS sheets are very reliable and effective for cleaning products and solutions, especially on electrical parts that can't handle certain chemicals, but I never

avatar   Edward P. #1145   star   8/24/2009   2:39 PM

Well "Wolfe" you did challenge me to read the MSDS sheets on the brake pads we offer, in doing so I came up short; maybe "Dave M." could help me find them in teamnet --Library>MSDS Info didn't get me anywhere-- If you consider braking a very influential part of you're day then why would you not buy the better product (Wagner Thermoquiets) but consider the Brake Best Selects cater better to your needs for a mid priced Ford Focus. Is it true that you did not consider the MSDS sheets and rather thought that paying $40 dollars was more "worth it" than paying $61 dollars. Most of my customers consider pricing first. I can up sell the Wagner brakes till I'm blue in the face but if my customer only wants to spend $20 dollars, then I find that my customer service relationship with my customer actually declines steadily; think of how you perceive a car salesman and why you perceive them the way you do. In a heavy duty application Wagner would be a better product but my knowing if the MSDS sheets say they contain cadmi

avatar   Wolfe   star   8/19/2009   5:54 PM

I know more about video games and computers than I do about cars. But when it comes to cars, do I want Thermoquiet or will the Brake Best Select be more than enough for me? I can tell you that I know the Wager are a better product, but for my 2000 Focus, it is not worth it (in my opinion). So when you ask me about what video game system is best for you, what am I going to ask? Which one has more games that you would like? If you want a family system, Nintendo Wii. If you want blood and gore, 360 & PS3. What kind of driver am I and how hard are my stops? This will determine what brakes I want. It doesn't matter what product you are selling, knowledge is everything to the customer that knows nothing. And you can quote me on that.

avatar   dave m oreilly 1835   star   8/17/2009   4:42 PM

It does sadden me a little bit to see some of these rediculous comments from fellow team members. I have not read all the msds sheets on all of our brake pads. But you know what... I will now, knowing your product is the first step to selling it. I can tell you if the more expensive bads are better for you today, but tomorrow I can. 90% of all my upselling comes from me knowing why a part is better and telling a customer what there money is going towards. I know im not going to spend extra money just because some counter jockey says I should. A knowledgeable and caring counter person will have the highest sales, more life long customers, and higher growth (word of mouth rate),than the "these pads are good" counterman.

avatar   Wolfe   star   8/8/2009   7:53 AM

Yeah, price low and sell high. A great company motto, but can you guarantee that those higher dollar brake pads don't do exactly what this article is talking about? I love brake pads too, they are the best part of stopping me from having a really bad day. But have you sat down and looked at the MSDS on every single product that you are selling to your customers? I can guarantee that you do not. It's great to see the O'Reilly family commenting, but why not show us that you guys are smarter than "I love brake pads." Add some real information if you want to comment. Show us that your paycheck is still earned by providing details and a "real" answer/comment.

avatar   Edward P. #1145   star   6/24/2009   10:11 AM

I price low and sell high after giving all of my customers a hi-5. And after never saying NO I make sure to add as many related sales as I can. With this combination and a low price guarantee I improve my CTA remarkably, plus the commission is great! (.006%) :)

avatar   DON W OREILLY 1408   star   3/16/2009   3:49 PM


avatar   TODd MILLER   star   3/7/2009   7:00 PM


avatar   Edwardo-o'reilly 1859   star   2/16/2009   9:44 AM

You Mean... Brake stuff is awsome

avatar   Edwartd O'Reilly-2036   star   2/13/2009   7:08 PM

woahhh duuudee

avatar   Wurtzer-O'reilly 2036   star   2/12/2009   2:45 PM

Some rotors are really cool too!!!

avatar   Corney O'Reilly 1145   star   2/11/2009   6:24 PM

Brake pads are awesome!

avatar   Dustin O'Reilly 1572   star   2/6/2009   10:50 AM

I love brake pads!

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