I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about choosing the right brake pads for my car – I mean, my purchases are pretty much based on what I hear from other people and reviews that I can find on the internet. But, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one that does this, which is why I decided to call up our friend Justin Cockerham at Performance Friction Brakes (PFC) for some input on how to choose the best brake pads.
I expected some straightforward answers, like “if this is what you do, this is what you should buy” type-of-thing, but that’s not what I got – I learned there’s kind of a lot involved when it comes to picking the right brake pads, and from now on, I’m going to leave it to the professionals.
As a company, PFC has three main areas of expertise; 1) OE Manufacturing, 2) Aftermarket/Street Cars, and 3) Racing. So, basically they have things down-pat, from stuff you can buy at your local auto parts store for your mom’s daily driver, to components for IMSA and NASCAR race cars. Justin works specifically in the Motorsports and Sports Car division.
There are three to five compounds made by PFC that would suit the performance driving enthusiast, and with answering a couple of simple questions, the number of choices can usually be lowered down to two.
“Nine out of ten people, when they call us, they think they want one thing and end up going with something completely different,” Justin said. PFC reps generally start with the simple make and model question, then dive into things and find out the avenue in which the car will be raced– whether its SCCA, BMW Club of America, or even Le Mans, and compare sprint versus endurance – then hone in on friction compounds.
Basically there’s three important topics; the type of racing you’re going to do, the kind of tire you will be running, and the modifications your car has. Any power-adders, suspension, wheels, and tires, all play a very important role when selecting the correct braking setup.
There are countless brands out there these days and even more private label brands. It’s hard to know what you’re really getting anymore, so rule number one: stick to reputable brands!
Turnology: If you could give advice to someone looking for the perfect brake setup, what would you suggest?
Justin: “A: I would consult the rulebook. Check and see if you can run a caliper, and check if there’s disc size restrictions. B: Talk to someone that has your exact same make and model [car], and see what they are running. There’s Spec Miata groups, or Spec E46 groups that are super popular right now – reach out to some people and see what’s working well for them. Then, take that information and call a manufacturer.”
“It’s always best to call the manufacturer and talk to a representative when buying suspension, brakes, or anything else along those lines. Because, if you think about it, we can have the exact same part, and one we use on a BMW, can have completely different characteristics on a Porsche or on a Mustang.”
PFC has endurance racing pad options that are track capable, but with a focus on wear longevity, as well as some more autocross types, that have more bite for cars that are modified and running grippy tires.
“There are hundreds of brands and hundreds of compounds out there. One thing that sticks out to me, is people come in with these ideas.… But, if you line up 15-plus different brands of brake pads, they all are going to proclaim the same thing – a great bite, great materials, whatever – but, everyone has their own methodology or ‘secret sauce,’ if you will.”
There are pads out there that are better than ours for certain setups, but at the end of the day, these people are making a decent sized purchase, and we want to make sure everyone gets what they’re wanting.
PFC patented its carbon-based, semi-metallic pad material back in the ’80s, and has prototyped over 400 materials for different market programs in the past year. The carbon semi-metallic pads seem to be the hot ticket – from bite, to friction, and wear.
When you are ready to make your next brake purchase, you can call PFC for some input – they have technical representatives in all areas of expertise, with three different departments in their “Race” division (circle track/short track racing, road racing, motorcycle racing, and drag racing) ready to give input on brake setups at any given moment to ensure consistent fun lap after lap.