Are Brake Pads Universal? Types Of Brake Pads

If you just got a new ride and it’s time to replace the brake pads, you may want to know disc brake pad sizes and if all brake pads are the same.

Brake pads play an essential role in every vehicle’s braking system. They enable the driver to safely slow or bring a vehicle to a complete stop. However, they are one of the more mysterious, misunderstood products that will go on your car.

There are a lot of different options available on the market shelves. They come in different designs and with different materials. So, are brake pads universal? We’ll answer that as we progress. But first, let’s look at the types of brake pads.

what size brake pads do i need

Types Of Brake Pads

Believe it or not, the ability to stop within the shortest distance when you depress the brake pedal far outweighs the engine speed. Therefore, safety should always be the no.1 priority when driving. That said, brake pads are one of the major safety components in a vehicle.

They help ensure the driver gains the desired braking response when he steps on the brake pedal. Brake pads are the braking components that push against the brake rotors to slow or stop the wheel rotation when a driver applies the brake. As the pads push against the rotors, friction is created. These causes wear and tear on the pads.

Auto manufacturers and aftermarket producers create pads with friction materials based on the vehicle’s performance and customers’ desires. These friction materials are used to convert the car kinetic to thermal energy. So basically, when one asks what the types of brake pads are, they mean types of brake pad material.

There are two brake pads on each wheel, making it four pads on each axle. Two pads are placed inside the brake caliper. Once you depress the brake pedal, the hydraulic brake force pushes the pistons inside the caliper against the rotors to slow or stop the wheel movement. 

Therefore, low-quality brake pads will affect the braking response and overall braking power and gradually damage other braking components. Unfortunately, for too many drivers, the type of brake pads doesn’t matter as far as they can manage to slow or stop without crashing other vehicles.

Here are the three most common brake pads available in the market. Uh, I’m not talking about types of brake pads on MTB. We’re discussing types of brake pads on cars.

Read Also: What Does Service Brake Assist Mean

Non-asbestos organic brake pads

For many years brake pads were made from asbestos which was an ideal friction material for brakes because of its friction and heat resistance properties. However, asbestos is a carcinogen that could cause serious health problems when the tiny fibers are released into the air and breathed in.

In any case, most automakers have phased-out brake parts that contain asbestos. In lieu of the asbestos brake pads, auto manufacturers created non-asbestos organic brake pads, also known as organic brake pads.

Non-asbestos organic brake pads are made with natural fibers and materials such as rubber, glass, carbon compounds, kevlar, and other proprietary materials.

These are typically the least expensive brake pads, and they are OEM fit for many entry-level small cars. However, there are pros and cons for each type of brake pad.


  • They are quieter than other types of brake pads
  • They give less stress to the rotors.
  • Non-organic brake pads are usually inexpensive.


  • They don’t usually work fine in extreme temperatures.
  • They wear faster than other types of brake pads.

Semi-metallic brake pads

These brake pads are found on many newer vehicles, and they have become a popular choice for aftermarket replacement brake pads. As the name implies, semi-metallic brake pads have a high metallic content.

Because of that, they are generally more durable than other pads, and they offer improved stopping power in a wider range of temperatures. However, because these materials are harder than other brake types, they can be tough on the brake rotors and tend to be noisy. 


  • More durable than other brake pads
  • Performs in a wide range of temperatures


  • Semi-metallic brake pads can be noisy
  • They can wear the brake rotors much faster.

Ceramic brake pads

Last but not the least in our list of types of brake pads is ceramic. Ceramic brake pads are becoming increasingly popular in recent years, and they come as OEM pads in recent luxury model cars.

Auto manufacturers and aftermarket producers produce ceramic brake pads to reduce the heat, noise, and brake dust produced during the braking process. While ceramic brake pads are quiet, long-lasting, and effective at most temperatures, they’re not meant for heavy-duty or high-performance applications. 

A semi-metallic is a better option if you plan to run a truck or any high-performance applications. That said, ceramic brake pads are quiet, last longer, and don’t create much dust on the wheel, which many car owners with premium wheels prefer.


  • Ceramic brake pads are quite
  • They last long
  • They are effective at most temperature
  • It reduces brake dust during the braking process


  • Ceramic brake pads are very expensive
  • They are not suitable for heavy-duty and high-performance applications.

So, what kind of brake pads do I need? Familiarizing yourself with the most common brake materials will help you recommend brake pads for your car, customer, and friends.

Are brake pads the same for front and back? Let’s find out in the following sections.

what brake pads do i need for my car

Are Brake Pads Universal?

The short answer is no. vehicle brake pads are not the same. Brake pads come in different designs, shapes, sizes, and materials for different vehicle makes and models. So while they perform the same function and have the same similarities, you can’t use just any brake pad on your car.

As brake pads do most braking tasks, it is inevitable to produce friction during the braking process and wear over time. Hence, it requires interval replacement. If you ask, what brake pads do I need for my car? You need to buy the same size and design of brake pads as the old ones.

The sizes and shapes of brake pads often vary depending on your vehicle type. Therefore, installing the right pads on your vehicle is crucial, as installing the wrong ones will be detrimental to your braking system. The same applies to brake rotors

However, if you ask, are brake pads universal on MTB? Most brake pads are universal on mountain bicycles. Though mountain bikes have different designs, they share various similarities.


Q: How do I know what size brake pads to get?

There are a few ways to know the size of your brake pads. The first is to walk into your local store with the old brake pad and have the dealers measure the length and width of the backing plates.

The second is to call your dealership and supply your vehicle’s VIN. They should be able to tell you the side of the pads to get. This method is ideal when replacing brake rotors. You can also check this article for how to check brake pads.

Q: Does it matter what kind of brake pads you get?

The type of brake pads on your wheels matters. If you drive a luxury car, consider using ceramic pads. They will work fine in a wide range of temperatures, reduces noise, and there won’t be any dust particles on your wheels. In contrast, semi-metallic brake pads work pretty fine for heavy-duty and high-applications.

Lastly, an organic brake pad is your guy if you own a compact car and are under budget. They’re inexpensive, quieter, and give less stress to the rotor. However, they wear a bit faster than others.

Q: How do I know what disc brake pads I need?

Disc brake pads come in various sizes and designs. As a result, they are not a one-brake-pad-fit-all. When determining the kind of disc pad to use based on materials, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each brake pad type.

For instance, I’d recommend organic brake pads for folks under budget and semi-metallic for truck owners. Finally, if you have a luxury car with premium wheels, consider ceramic brake pads – though they come with a high budget.

How To Identify What Type Of Brake Pads You Need YouTube Video

Final Words

All brake pads have one primary function; to push against the wheels to slow or completely stop wheel rotation depending on the applied pressure. Whether the pad is fitted on the front or rear end of the axle, they perform the same function.

This, however, prompts most folks to ask, are brake pads universal? Brake pads are not universal. While some brake pads can fit on various car models, it is important to note that they are not universal.

In fact, in some vehicles, two pairs of pads cannot be interchanged from the inner side of the rotor to the outer side of the rotor.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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