Brake pads -- one new and one used

Metallic brake pads are perhaps the most common brake pads found on cars today. The brake pad on the left is new; the pad on the right is used.

Dave White/iStockphoto

Metallic Brake Pads

Most vehicles on the road today have metallic brake pads. In case you're wondering, these brake pads aren't just slabs of metal. They're typically made of iron, copper, steel and graphite all mixed and together and bonded to form the pad material.

The reason that these pads are so common is simple -- metallic brake pads are cost-effective and durable. They provide good performance and are good at transferring the heat generated by friction with the brake rotors. The downside of metallic brake pads is that they're heavy, which can have a (small) negative impact on the car's fuel economy. Also, because of the extra weight, metallic brake pads aren't the best choice for high-performance driving. Being made of metal makes the pads very hard. That's what makes them durable. But because there isn't as much "give" in metallic brake pads, they can cause more wear on the brake rotors than other types of brake pads. The metallic brake pads themselves hold up well, but they often negatively impact the durability of other brake parts. Finally, metallic brake pads work best when they're warm. When a vehicle with metallic brake pads first gets going on a very cold day, stops may take slightly longer than usual until the brake pads heat up. 

For most drivers, the positives of metallic brake pads outweigh the negatives, especially since metallic brake pads are good for stopping heavy vehicles like trucks. 

Keep reading to learn about brake pads for specialty vehicles.