Ceramic brakes move to mainstream aftermarket acceptance

Ceramic brakes move to mainstream aftermarket acceptance

Consistent braking, OE formulations and complete kits make ceramic-based brakes a natural fit for technicians

Brake repair and maintenance is the bread-and-butter of every independent service shop in Canada. And over time, the needs of Canadian drivers has slowly begun to change the nature of what kinds of aftermarket brake material and technologies are being asked for when they roll their vehicles into the bays for a brake fix.

Today’s car owners are looking for aftermarket brakes that are as good as or better than the original OE brakes that came with their vehicle the first time it rolled off the lot. That means the replacement brakes must provide a consistent braking force, and most importantly, not be noisy when the vehicles rolls out of the bay at the end of a brake replacement job.

That is why ceramic brakes are becoming such a hot item amongst independent service providers and makers of aftermarket brake pads and parts. Since the early 1990s, vehicle manufacturers, first with higher-end vehicles but soon in an ever growing number and range of passenger vehicles, began to replace conventional semi-metallic brake pads with ceramic-based pads and discs in order to address issues of noise, dust and wear. The aftermarket soon followed, rolling out aftermarket ceramic brake products to meet that growing demand.

Kenneth Selinger, director of marketing and product development for the aftermarket and OES division of Akebono Brake Corp., North America in Elizabethtown, Ky. said the move to ceramic brakes was also driven in North America by the growing use of ceramic brakes on Asian vehicles, something that was quickly noticed by North America’s Big Three auto makers.

“The Big Three benchmarked all the Japanese car manufacturers and they saw those Japanese manufacturers using ceramic pads on all their vehicles and the high level of customer satisfaction with Japanese braking systems. And when (the Big Three) dove in deeper, looking at what delivered that customer satisfaction, they saw a preponderance of ceramic friction materials being used not only on the luxury and high-end vehicles, but also on their mainstream vehicles.”

The main difference between ceramic-based brakes and semi-metallic is that ceramic brakes contain no steel fibers. While steel provides a great deal of strength and is an excellent conductor of heat away from the rotor, it also made the pads quite noisy. Over time, that steel also caused the brake rotors to wear quickly. Ceramic materials and formulations allow the brake to produce less wear on the rotor and can handle brake temperatures and eliminate a great deal of noise.

According to a Frost & Sullivan report on ceramic and other friction products, ceramic friction is expected to grow significantly by 2011, with a 60 per cent increase in revenues from 2005 where ceramics held a 38.2 per cent market share in the U.S.

“Last year, 2006, was the first year that ceramic replacement pads, as a category in North America, surpassed semi-metallic pads. Semi-metallic pads, since the early 80s have been the dominate material of choice,” added Selinger

OE formulation key to making successful aftermarket brakes

“Carbon Ceramic brakes today offer longer rotor life and less noise and than those of non-steel and semi-metallic friction, without the harshness of depleting the rotor life prematurely and causing excessive dust on wheels,” said Charles Pariano, manager of North American aftermarket sales with AISIN World Corp. of America in Torrance, Calif. “Noise and dust are important issues, but safety is key to replacing like for like materials on today’s vehicles. People expect safe and quiet braking systems and don’t like to get their upgraded wheels dusty either.”

Eric Dussault, vice-president of Alco Brakes in Loretteville, Que. added a key selling point for ceramic-based brakes are the consistent braking over the life of brake. Ceramic brakes will perform well from the first time the brake is applied to the 500th time that brake is applied, he added, which is something consumers are looking for when they put on new brakes. They don’t want to come back to a shop saying that the brakes are not working as well as they did the first time the brakes worked to stop the car.

Another key selling point which technicians should emphasize to potential brake customers is that today’s aftermarket ceramic replacement pads are equal to OE ceramic brakes, featuring identical formulations and designs. This can put a customer’s mind at ease knowing the product going into their vehicle is not in any way inferior to their original brakes. And today’s aftermarket manufacturers have a wide-range of vehicle-specific formulations as well.

For example, AISIN’s aftermarket ADVICS line of premium brakes are made to meet OE specifications and to provide a consistent braking performance, as well as low noise and low dust. AISIN’s Pariano added that some higher-end vehicles roll off the assembly line with ADVICS brakes on them now.

“Replacing friction when needed with matched friction is important.” Pariano continued. “ADVICS ceramic pads are available for a variety of Asian import models.”

Akebono Brake Corp.’s popular ProAct and Euro ceramic brake are optimized to better control for noise, vibration and wear. The pads are also post-cured and heat-scorched to ensure a better braking effectiveness right out of the package and chamfered and slotted for better fit and control.

“The thing that is unique about our products is that we take our OEM technology, in its purest form, and we apply that to our aftermarket products. So our ProAct pads and Euro pads, which are 100 per cent ceramic, have our validated OEM technology, undiluted. We have over 26 unique ceramic friction materials in our aftermarket program, and we are adding to that.”

Don’t forget the hardware

One of the biggest reasons that independent service providers have for comebacks is the use of old hardware when installing the new brakes. All of the major aftermarket brake manufacturers include with their brake pads kits that will have the necessary replacement hardware or parts needed for a brake service, and make the maintenance and replacement of brakes easier and more efficient.

For example, Akebono’s ProAct brakes comes with precision-fit bracking plates to help reduce noise and a high-temperature resistant moly lube, and such things as wear-sensors and drop-in kits.

“We provide every single component so that (a technician) can simply take the product out of the box, bolt it onto the car and hand the keys back to the customer,” added Selinger.

Not a tough sell

Sometimes the biggest issue car owners will have ceramics is cost. Many will look at the price and balk, often asking why the technician is recommending such pricey technology in the first place. Why not go with other brakes they may ask, ones that are cheaper?

“When an installer approaches a customer, I would recommend they try to understand what the customer’s primary concern is,” Selinger said. “If the vehicle is one that they are getting rid of soon and just doing due diligence on maintenance, then maybe a ceramic pad is not for them. But if the customer is maintaining the vehicle over the long term, surely they want to have trouble-free braking performance. So if the installer can focus in on the key features and benefits of ceramics pads then the sale should be easier.”

Pariano added that while ceramics certainly have a slightly higher cost, the “inconvenience of noise, squeal and dust are significant reasons to replace their brakes with carbon ceramic pads for safety and peace of mind.”

Brake Installation tips

Know what the customer wants to sell brakes properly

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ brake solution on the market. Independent service shops should ask what the biggest concern a customer has. If it is noise and dust, ceramic is a good choice. If the vehicle, however, is being used for such things as heavy towing or deliveries of heavy objects, a semi-metallic
pad is likely preferable.

Use good torque

Disc pads should be tight in the caliper and the caliper should be torqued to the housing.

Flush the brake fluid

Brake fluid should be flushed when replacing hydraulic brake components. ABS units should be bled separately.

Pressure sensors

Tire pressure sensors may need to be reset or recalibrated after a brake job.

Leave a Reply