Ceramic and semi-metallic brake pads offer different advantages and drawbacks. Ceramic brake pads generally last longer and offer quieter stops. However, they are less efficient in cold weather and can cause dangerous heat build-up in race cars and other high-performance vehicles. Semi-metallic brake pads wear down more quickly, which can produce a noticeable amount of dust. They are also noisier than ceramic brakes. However, semi-metallic brakes are more versatile over a wider range of temperatures.
For most family vehicles, ceramic brakes are the preferred option. These brakes are also called “organic brakes” and are made from ceramic and copper. Although most ceramic brakes perform relatively poorly when cold, they quickly warm up when a car starts to run. The benefits of increased brake lifespan and quiet operation can be a good trade-off for temporarily sluggish performance. Exotic cars sometimes feature ceramic composites that get better performance at extreme temperatures, but the cost for this technology has kept it away from the masses.
Semi-metallic brakes are made of metal, friction modifiers and fillers. They are 30 to 65 percent metal by weight and could include steel, iron, copper and other materials. These brakes are best for race cars because they can handle higher temperatures. They also provide the sensation of tighter driver control because with metal having low compressibility, less braking is needed to feel an effect.