What are ceramic pads? Why the buzz over ceramic?
Contrary to popular belief and current marketing strategies, ceramic brake pads and rotors are not available in the general automotive market. A true ceramic brake pad is just that, a ceramic composite material that is designed to run against itself. The latest market trend toward ceramic brake pad technology is 90 percent marketing and 10 percent fact, according to Hawk. The reality is that the market defines ceramic brake pads as friction material with more than 1 percent ceramic content.
Considering that ceramic materials have been used in organic, NAO, and semi-metallic formulations for decades, the marketers simply repacked and relabeled existing technology. It should be noted that several friction manufacturers have developed NAO and semi-met formulations with a higher than normal concentration of ceramic materials. Typically, the ceramic element still remains under 15 percent of the overall friction formulation content. What is important to understand is the marketing promise of a "ceramic" brake pad and fulfilling that promise with a NAO or semi-met product that has a minimum of 1 percent ceramic content.
The "Ceramic" brake pad promise
Low noise output. Minimal NVH issues
Low dust output
Medium coefficient of friction
Stable coefficient of friction over a broad temperature range
Good rotor wear
Note: The ceramic brake pad promise takes the best features of both the semi-met and NAO characteristics and rolls it into one product technology. This is not by accident.
What type of brake pad would Hawk recommend to the average enthusiast who plans on his car being street-driven only?
Hawk Performance offer three products for street vehicles, HPS for passenger and performance street cars, LTS for light trucks and SUVs, and Performance Ceramic for select domestic and European import cars and trucks.
Yes, all three products have 1 percent or more ceramic content. What's more important is that they all deliver the performance characteristics promised.
What type of pad for the guy who drives his vehicle on the street then might take it for an occasional autocross or drag race?
Use race pads for the track and street pads for street. Some companies offer autocross products that are safe to use when driving from home to the track and back. It is still strongly recommend that consumers change back to street pads after any race event. Some pads need a lot of heat in them to work properly and are not suitable for the street.