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Your Position: Home - Automobiles Motorcycles - What’s the difference between brakes and brake pads?

What’s the difference between brakes and brake pads?

What’s the difference between brakes and brake pads?

Many people wonder if brake pads are the same as brakes. Knowing the difference and how a vehicles’ braking system works helps ensure proper vehicle maintenance and upkeep. Brake pads are not the same as brakes. Brakes is the generic term that encompasses the entire arrangement of components that work in tandem to stop your car when you press on the brake pedal. Brake pads are small, flat slabs about a quarter of an inch thick and a few inches long. When a driver applies the brakes the pads are pushed against the rotor; the resulting friction and resistance slow the car down. Over thousands of miles of driving, the surface of the brake pads will wear down completely.

What’s the difference between brake pads and rotors?

The rotor is the metal disc mounted to the axle just behind the wheel. Both the wheel and the rotor rotate in sync. Brake rotors are what your vehicle’s brake pads clamp down on to stop the car wheels from spinning. As mentioned earlier, a driver applies the brakes, the pads are pushed against the rotor, and this slows down the car with friction. Like brake pads, rotors will also get worn out over time and drivers will need a brake pad and brake rotor replacement service.

Ceramic Brake Pads vs. Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

Ceramic Brake Pad

Semi-Metallic Brake Pad

Wear & Tear on Brake SystemSomeMinimal
Brake DustMinimalSignificant Amount
Suitable for High-Performance or Heavy-Duty Tow VehiclesNoNo
Favorable for Colder WeatherNoYes


Manufacturers estimate that quality brake pads can last anywhere from 20,000 to 70,000 miles. This varies greatly as some high performance vehicle pads can wear out in less than 20,000 miles and some brake pads may last much longer.

Factors that affect your brake pads:

  1. Driving Habits: Riding the brakes often and stopping abruptly can cause brake pads to wear out more quickly.

  2. Driving Environment: Stop-and-go traffic and hilly environments where you have to control more downhill speeds can have an affect on your brake pads.

  3. Materials: Brake pads are made of different materials, each of which affects durability differently.

  4. Condition of Brake Rotors and Calipers: Your brake pads are designed to work in tandem with other brake components like rotors and calipers. If these aren’t in good condition they can affect your brake pads.






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