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The Best Car Brake Pads 2021

Best Brakes Pads

Your car’s brakes are the only component that will effectively slow down your car. Therefore, it’s important that you check your brakes on a regular basis to ensure they are working as they should. The most common component that requires replacement are the brake pads. When it comes to the replacements, you have several options to choose but the type you choose is highly dependent upon your budget.

If you require a quick answer, the best brake pads are the ACDelco 171-1010 GM, which are proven to reduce brake harshness, noise and vibration. However, if you do lots of heavy towing or drive a large vehicle, the Power Stop Z36 are the best alternatives that won’t disappoint.

In order to rate the brake pads within this article, we based our recommendations upon our experience, plenty of research and a number of factors. The factors that we considered included their construction, performance, noise output, brake dust accumulation, included hardware and value for money.

Car Brake Pads Comparison

Brake PadsTypeType
ACDelco 171-1010PerformanceCeramic
EBC 7000 SeriesTruck, SUV & TowingOrganic
Power Stop Z36Truck, SUV & TowingCeramic
StopTechPerformanceSemi Metallic
Akebono Ultra-PremiumPerformanceCeramic
Wagner ThermoQuietBudgetCeramic

The average car owner may think that all brake pads are the same but this isn’t the case. Some are designed to increase stopping power whereas others reduce noise and vibrations for additional comfort inside the car.

Brake dust is another major factor when it comes to buying your replacement brake pads. Constantly having to use a wheel cleaner to remove brake dust on your wheels can be really frustrating. However, if this is something that really bothers you, many brake pads are designed to reduce brake dust.

Below is a list of the best brake pads that are suitable for all cars and budgets.

The Best Brake Pads


1. ACDelco 171-1010 Performance Brake Pads

ACDelco 171-1010 Performance Brake Pads
ACDelco are one of the best brake pad brands in the US and they offer a range of options that include performance to budget brake pads. The 171-1010 pads in particular are designed for performance with a premium construction, which is required for fast and powerful cars.

Other features of the ACDelco Brake Pads include:

  • Integrally molded for bond integrity
  • Premium shims, slots and chamfers
  • Designed for reduce noise, vibration and harshness
  • OEM replacement
  • GM recommended
  • Easy replacement with old pads

Overall, the ACDelco 171-1010 are the best performance brake pads that are a direct OEM replacement. Many performance pads may require you to upgrade other components of your braking system, which can be fairly costly. However, these brake pads skip that step and are also far cheaper than most OEM replacements.

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2. EBC Brakes 7000 Series Truck Brake Pads

EBC Brakes 7000 Series Truck Brake Pads
The EBC 7000 Series Greenstuff brake pads are designed for trucks and SUV’s that need more stopping power. They are a sports replacement for OEM brake pads with a more performance based construction for the extra stopping power and reduced brake dust.

Other features of the EBC Truck Brake Pads include:

  • Low levels of brake dust
  • Heavy duty construction
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Organic brake pad material
  • Patented Brake-In coating
  • Powerful and silent braking
  • Triple layered wolverine shims

There aren’t many brake manufacturers that provide a lifetime warranty with their brakes. However, EBC are very confident of their pads and they are the best brake pads for trucks on the market. As you can imagine, trucks are heavy and it takes more power to stop them. Therefore, it’s worthwhile investing into pads that are suited for large vehicles such as the EBC 7000 Series Greenstuff set.

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3. Power Stop Z36 Towing Brake Pads

Power Stop Z36 Towing Brake Pads
For those that regularly tow, your brake pads will wear down far quicker. However, you can overcome this by purchasing brakes pads for towing, which have been designed to reduce fade, provide extra stopping power and be far more durable. This is where the Power Stop Z36 brake pads are the perfect solution because they’ve been designed specifically for towing and large vehicles.

Other features of the Power Stop Z36 include:

  • Engineered for more brake torque
  • Durable enough for higher gross vehicle weights
  • Carbon fiber infused ceramic material
  • Quiet and low dust formula
  • Thermally stable for more braking power

For those that are serious about towing, you may have already installed a trailer brake controller. However, you can go a step further with the best brake pads for towing, which are these Power Stop Z36 pads. With reduced fade and more stopping power, these will improve your towing abilities and safety.

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4. StopTech Performance Brake Pads

StopTech Performance Brake Pads
StopTech are part of the Centric Parts brand that provide high performance brake pads for race cars and these brake pads follow the brand’s great reputation. They’re designed for performance and are also a cheaper alternative to the ACDelco listed above.

Other features of the StopTech Performance Brake Pads include:

  • Scorched pad surface for positive brake connection
  • High temperature compound for even pad wear
  • Rotor friendly with a low dust formulation
  • OEM replacement
  • Factory style shims to reduce pad vibration noises

Overall, the StopTech brake pads are a cheaper alternative to OEM pads and are an excellent all-round option that won’t disappoint. They also have the benefit of being suitable for track use too.

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5. Akebono ProACT Brake Pads

Akebono ProACT Brake Pads
Akebono are another popular car brakes brand in the US and these ceramic brake pads known as the ProAct model have been designed for both performance and affordability.

In terms of the features of the Akebono ProAct, they include:

  • Reduced noise, vibrations and harshness
  • Designed to increase rotor and pad life
  • OEM quality replacement
  • Reduced brake dust for clean wheels
  • Included brake wear indicator sensor

Overall, these brake pads are excellent all-rounders that are used as an OEM replacement for most Japanese vehicles. At a low cost with OEM qualities, these brake pads are an excellent replacement that won’t disappoint.

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6. Wagner ThermoQuiet Ceramic Brake Pads

Wagner ThermoQuiet Ceramic Brake Pads
Ceramic brake pads are known for being fairly expensive but Wagner have developed these affordable alternatives. As you can see from the ThermoQuiet branding, these pads are known for their low noise output with Wagner claiming that they are 35% quieter than most of the alternatives.

Other features of the Wagner ThermoQuiet Pads include:

  • 15% more stopping power
  • Less brake dust for cleaner wheels
  • Uses low copper technology
  • More durable and longer lasting
  • Made in the US
  • Includes hardware
  • OEM replacement

Overall, the ThermoQuiet series by Wagner are very popular throughout the US and for good reason too. They are the best ceramic brake pads for the money that are designed to fit the majority of cars and also outperform most OEM replacements.

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How We Rated The Brake Pads

As well as plenty of experience from performing several brake pad replacements, we also based our recommendations upon research and multiple factors. The factors that we considered included their construction, performance, noise output, brake dust accumulation, included hardware and value for money.

As you can see from the photo below, we have changed some really worn brake pads over the years. With this particular set that we replaced, we certainly got our money’s worth!

worn out brake pad and new brake pad

Car Brake Pad Buying Guide

Replacing your brake pads is a relatively simple mechanical job that anyone with basic DIY skills can do. There is a range of brake pads available for every type of vehicle but finding the best can be fairly difficult. Everyone has different requirements that can include increasing stopping power to reducing noise. The recommended brake pads above should provide insights to what’s available.

When it comes to the braking system of your car, all the components need to be fully functioning. Worn components will increase the stopping distance and could potentially be the direct cause of an accident. Therefore, it’s crucial that you pay close attention to the health of the brakes with the pads being the component that requires frequent replacement.

Some car owners will get their brakes pads changed as soon as the warning sensor appears on their dash. This is advisable but if you ever feel that your brake pads aren’t performing as they should, you should get them checked out as soon as possible.

To help you make an informed buying decision, we have produced the below guide regarding brake pads.

Types of Car Brake Pads

Depending upon the type of car you own and the performance that you want to achieve, there is a range of types to choose from. The four main types of brake pads include:

  • Semi metallic
  • Non asbestos organic (NAO)
  • Low metallic NAO
  • Ceramic

The majority of stock vehicles on the road that are built for the “average” car owner will use semi metallic brake pads. These are widely used due to their low cost and they’re made from a mixture of steel wire, graphite, copper and friction modifiers. Benefits other than the affordability include durability but they are also effective at transferring heat. However, they are known for producing increased noise, wearing down your brake rotors faster and not being as effective in cold temperatures.

Non asbestos organic brake pads are often referred to as “NAO Pads” and they are made from fibers, high temperature resins and other filler materials. If you are looking for a quiet brake pad setup, opting for this type of pad is highly advised. Other benefits include the fact that they are softer, which avoids rotor wear but also this also mean they wear down much quicker with the addition of further brake pad dust.

Low metallic NAO brake pads are a mixture of the two types above. They are made of organic materials with the addition of 10 to 30% metal depending upon the brake manufacturer. Although more expensive, they do provide the best qualities of the two above types.

The final type of brakes pads are the performance based ceramic pads. These are the most expensive but provide the best results in terms of performance, low noise output, low dust accumulation and doing as little damage to the rotors. They are constructed from ceramic fibers, bonding agents and filler materials and are found on most performance or sports cars.

Brake Pads Wear Indicator

Brake Pads Wear Indicator

The purpose of a wear indicator is to provide a signal to the car’s computer that the brake pads have reached their limit and need to be changed. Of course, you can probably drive several miles with this indicator on but it’s advised to get them sorted as soon as possible.

There are many types of wear indicators that include electrical, position sensor, ocular and a mechanical plate where all are embedded into the pad. The electrical wear indicator is the most common and it sends a signal to the instrument cluster once the embedded part of the pad comes in contact with the rotor.

Above you can see the construction of the brake pad wear indicator and they do become damaged overtime. However, not everyone will change their sensor each brake pad change as it can be time consuming and not often required.

When Should You Replace Your Brake Pads

It’s quite hard to tell from looking at your car whether or not the brake pads require replacing. Therefore if you have the following symptoms, you should look into changing your brake pads.

  1. Brakes Warning Sensor. If this light has appeared upon your instrument cluster, this is a clear sign that you need to replace your brake pads.
  2. Pulsating Brake Pedal. Worn out or warped brake pads will cause a pulsating sensation when pressing the brake pedal.
  3. Car Pulling to Left or Right. This often indicates that the brake pads have worn out unevenly, which causes car to pull to one side. However this could indicate other issues with the car too.
  4. Metal on Metal Grinding Noise. If you feel and hear a metal on metal noise, you will need to replace the brake pads and the brake rotors immediately.
  5. Clicking and Screech Noise. If you hear a clicking noise when presses the brake pedal, this indicates the brake pads need replacing. A screeching noise may also be heard which is a result of metal on metal contact.
  6. Look at the Brakes. If you are worried, simply look at the brake pads. They should have plenty of thickness as per the image below.

performance brake pads

How to Change Your Cars Brake Pads

Replacing your old brake pads with brand new pads isn’t that hard of a task to accomplish. To change a cars brake pads you will need a floor jack or garage car lift, brake pad spreader, grease, wheel nut socket, wrench and of course the new brake pads.

Some brake pad setups may differ but you can use the below as a brief guide to replacing your brake pads.

  • Loosen the wheel bolts before putting the car on the jack or lift
  • Lift the car on the jack/lift and remove the wheels
  • Place the car on jack stands to ensure safety (if lifted upon a jack)
  • Remove the brake caliper from the rotor
    – Use the socket wrench to remove the bolts at the back of the caliper
    – Remove the caliper from the rotor and use a cable tie to hang it from the suspension (NEVER let the caliper hang when connected to the brake line)
  • Remove the brake pad from the rotor
  • Apply grease to the BACK of the brake pad
    – Do not get grease on the front of the pad or on the rotor
  • Use the brake pad spreader to replace the caliper
  • Put the wheels back onto the car and use a torque wrench to tighten the wheel bolts

The new brake pads will take a number of miles to fully bed in and feel “normal”. It’s important to note that ideally, you will want to replace the pads and brake rotors at the same time to ensure even wear. It’s also vital to take your first drive carefully and get used to the new brake pads.

Brakes Pads For Trucks & Towing

When it comes to choosing brakes pads for towing or for larger SUV’s and trucks, you must opt for a heavy duty option. This is due to the extra power required to slow down the far heavier vehicle. If you were to use standard passenger car brakes, you can expect far greater stopping distance and fading brakes.

Most heavy duty pads are a metallic or ceramic type of brake. This is thanks to their durable qualities when compared with an organic type, which are more softer and wear more quickly. Of course, some trucks are far larger than others and many people may have a large truck along with a fifth wheel hitch, therefore you should be choosing very durable brake pads. Therefore, it’s important that you base your pad selection upon the type of usage that your vehicle will be doing.

Conclusion

When it comes to the braking of your car, cost cutting shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind. Opting for aftermarket brake pads that don’t match OEM standards can result in poor performance, more noise and more brake dust.

However, if you aren’t in the position to spend a large amount on performance brake pads this is perfectly understandable. Therefore, all of our recommendations cover a range of brake pads that are suitable for all budgets and performance capabilities.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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