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Brake Pad compound guide - match your pad to you needs.

Brake Pad compound guide - match your pad to you needs.

Note: Credit on this well-written and sometimes humorous descriptions of selecting a pad compound goes to Wunderladen Racing.  The original article is here.

 

Track Brake Pad Guide

Brake pads, part of the braking system that is seldom thought about until you're at the track, hauling a**, heading into a corner, you go to brake and BAM your pedal is hard but the car isn't stopping, YIKES.

We're putting this post up so you hopefully don't find yourself in that situation by creating something of a guide to reference for popular brake pad compounds on the market today and help you decide which may be right for you, because let's face it there are TONS of track capable pad compounds. Forewarning this is going to be a long read so grab a snack and get comfy.

Before we dive into different compounds let's rewind to that scenario at the top. For those not familiar, that's what's referred to as brake pad fade. Many people have heard of brake fade before but normally what is being referred to is fluid fade, where the brake fluid has gotten too hot and began to boil, resulting in a spongey pedal. Pad fade is where the brake pads themselves are no longer are able to create friction because they have gotten hotter than their working temperature.

The main difference between fluid fade and pad fade are that with fluid fade the pedal gets soft, with pad fade the pedal remains hard, but the more scary thing about pad fade is the window of warning is much shorter than fluid fade. Fluid fade will give a progressively softer and softer pedal and longer braking distances accordingly. Pad fade will have longer braking distances to start but since there is no good warning that the brake system is fading, the expected response from the driver is the hit the brake pedal harder, which creates more heat, and causes the pads to fade even worse! The best way to avoid pad fade is to use a brake pad which will not be over temped by your track uses.

You may have wondered "How is brake pad performance quantified scientifically?". Pads are run on a brake dyno and the friction it creates is measured as well as its temperature. This helps to establish a friction coefficient, or Mu. Higher Mu means there is more friction being created, which stops the vehicle faster, and lower Mu means there is less friction. Temperature is a key factor in the equation as Mu will change depending on temperature and a temperature ceiling can be defined for a given compound which helps tell "how hot is too hot" for the compound.

So "what brake pad is best?" is about as easily answered as "what car is best?". It is entirely dependent upon who you're asking and what their background is. Even though we have tried to make this guide as thorough as possible, it never hurts to ask someone else what their recommendation for pads is. To try and keep this as pertinent as possible to your situation, this is going to be broken down into 3 groups based upon how serious you (and your car) are about track driving. If we can find a Mu rating for the pad it will be at the end of the description, although a single number doesn't tell the entire story so don't just look at that.

 

Group 1: Track driving hasn't consumed your soul or your car, yet. You're trying to figure out what will work on track for your car which may potentially be your daily driver.

Group 1 is honestly the hardest group to address in this post because at the end of the day great track pads make sh*t street pads and great street pads make sh*t track pads. But there are some options that span the gap decently as long as you understand it will do neither exceptionally well compared to something that sits at either end of the spectrum. Pads covered here will not have exceptionally high Mu, actually many of them do not have published Mu vs temperature graphs by their manufacturers. Most if not all of these pads will have more dust and noise than an organic or ceramic street pad.

Powerstop Track Day pads: These are our go to pads that we recommend for cars that see infrequent track use, hell it's even in the name! They don't last the longest, but are cheap and easy to find. They aren't the best performing pads in this group but not the worst either and can be street driven without worrying about chewing up rotors super fast while also still being fairly reliable for emergency cold stop situations.

Hawk HP+: Depending on who you talk to these may be adequate or inadequate for track use. We wouldn't use them on a heavier vehicle but for a light vehicle that you don't want to change pads on for the track they can be used. Keep in mind you may need to give them cooldown laps to avoid pad fade. It certainly wouldn't be our first choice in this group.

EBC Yellowstuff: These are fairly on par with the HP+. They make for a good sporty street pad but we wouldn't recommend them for use on a heavier vehicle and it is likely they will need cooldown laps on track to avoid pad fade. We'd take these over an HP+ for track use but just barely.

Gloc R6/Carbotech AX6: We're going to lump Gloc and Carbotech pads together because their compounds are often regarded as being extremely similar if not the same. These compounds can be street driven with light track use. They're advertised as not needing any heat to be effective and are a popular choice for autocross.

Winmax W3/Paragon R3: These are also going to be lumped together, Winmax produces both pads but Paragon is more popular in the states since Winmax is an Australian company. We have no firsthand experience with these pads but on paper they seem fairly on par with the R6/AX6 (at least for max temp) with the caveat that they may need a bit of heat put in them to get best performance. Mu = 0.36

EBC Bluestuff B: Until recently we hadn't realized EBC has reformulated their Bluestuff into two separate compounds. The B compound makes for a good dual purpose compound which can be safely street driven and still withstand elevated temps from light track use. We have yet to try these but seem very promising for this type of application. Mu = 0.42

Carbone Lorraine RC5+: The RC5+ is CL's entry level track pad. It has decent Mu but it certainly has its limit on track. It's relatively friendly to rotors, modulation is good, and pad life is great. These also make for a good rear compound with group 2 compounds in the front for applications where less rear braking force is desired.

Powerstop Track Day Spec pads: These are a step above the Track Day pads and could maybe be a group 2 pad. They have a bit more Mu and handle slightly higher temps. Powerstop says they shouldn't be used on the street but we've driven them on the street before without issue although we wouldn't make a long term habit of it. They definitely need a bit of heat put into them for best performance so be mindful that emergency braking situations on the street may need a bit extra distance.

 

Group 2: You're past the curiosity stage, you know you want track driving to consume your soul and your car. You've modified your car a fair bit and it gets track driven on a fairly regular basis, but it may still drive to and from the track or around town on nice weekends.

Group 2 is where we start getting into the pads that CAN be used on the street but we don't recommend it. Most of these pads require some warm up to get into their efficiency zone. Infrequent street driving is okay on these pads but there may be some accelerated rotor wear because higher metal content pads wear through rotors faster when they are cold. You should also expect to have a fair amount of dust and some noise with these pads, but the trade off is a measurable increase in braking performance and heat capacity over the group 1 pads.

EBC Bluestuff NDX: This is the other blue compound that EBC makes. It is very similar to the B compound but slightly more aggressive and it could maybe be considered for group 1 but we feel it's a good starting place for group 2. Mu = 0.52

Ferodo DSUNO: The DSUNO is a one of Ferodo's mid range pads. It has a good effective heat range and Mu is strong once the pad is up to temp. The max of its heat range is 750C which makes it a very capable compound. Mu increases with temp and this compound has a strong initial bite but it's nothing crazy. Mu = 0.50

Gloc R8/Carbotech XP8: These compounds are the next step above the R6/AX6 and do a fairly better job of handling heat and having a bit more Mu. They are pretty easy on rotors when warm and have very good modulation. We tend to recommend these when you're looking for something less aggressive in the rear to avoid rear lockup.

Winmax W5/Paragon R5: These compounds are a good jump over the W3/R3. Modulation is good and peak Mu isn't anything crazy but won't fade as early as the W3/R3. Initial bite isn't overly aggressive either. We've used these pads on low-moderate powered cars (200-300hp) with good results. Mu = 0.43

Pagid RSL29: The RSL29 compound is Pagid's medium Mu compound. It can certainly hold it's own on track but is only rated to about 650C and the Mu does start to decrease after about 600C. It doesn't require much heat to get in its efficiency zone and it's pretty easy on rotors. It is also regarded as being a very easy pad to modulate. Mu = 0.45

Cobalt XR3: The XR3 is one of Cobalt's mid range pads that has moderate Mu which rises slightly with temperature. It doesn't need much heat at all to be in it's efficiency zone and has excellent modulation. This compound would make for a good rear axle compound in heavier applications (above 2800lbs) where less Mu is desired to avoid rear lockup. We don't have any experience with Cobalt compounds but we certainly would like to give them a try in the future.

Cobalt XR4: The XR4 is said to be a lower Mu version of the XR3. Similar in behavior just with less overall friction. It would also make for a good rear compound in lighter applications (under 2800lbs) where less Mu is desired in the rear to avoid lockup.

Ferodo DS1.11: The 1.11 compound is one of Ferodo's intermediate compounds. It has a large effective heat range from 200C to 750C and the Mu is fairly mild but very linear across its effective heat range. It is lower on initial bite to give improved modulation. Mu = 0.48

EBC RP-1: This is a relatively newer compound from EBC and although we have yet to try it (have some in the mail at the time of writing this), it looks like a great option for something that isn't too high on Mu and has some nice linear modulation. EBC says they are very easy on rotors but do require some warm up to get into their efficiency zone. Mu = 0.45

EBC RP-X: Another newer compound from EBC, it's fairly similar to the RP-1 but with higher Mu and heat capacity meaning it will be a bit rougher on rotors and need a bit more heat to get into its efficiency zone. These could potentially be a group 3 pad but we felt it was closer to group 2. Mu = 0.55

Gloc R10/Carbotech XP10: These compounds are a great option in the middle of group 2 and what we would consider a benchmark for group 2. They can handle even more heat than the R8/XP8, but do require a bit of warm up to get into their efficiency zone. They are still relatively easy on rotors compared to more aggressive pads.

Winmax W7/ParagonR7: These compounds slot right above the W5/R5 with a bit higher heat capacity and still relatively moderate Mu. Will require a bit of a warm up to get into their efficiency range. Mu = 0.53

Raybestos ST43: The ST43 has long been a stalwart for capable track pads that do a lot of things well. It has moderately high Mu but is still fairly easy to modulate without being too rough on rotors. Unfortunately as of the time of this writing Raybestos has discontinued much of their ST pad compounds from what we've heard so finding some may be a challenge.

Gloc R12/Carbotech XP12: These are right towards the top of what we would consider a group 2 pad and maybe have one foot in group 3. They have more heat capacity than the R10/XP10 but need more of a warm up to be efficient. These do a great job on moderate powered cars (200-400hp) at moderate weight (2800-3300lbs), modulation is still good with a bit more initial bite than the R10/XP10. These make for a good rear pad with group 3 front pads when less rear pad is needed to avoid rear lockup.

Carbone Lorraine RC6(E): The RC6 and RC6E are CL's middleweight compounds. They have decently high Mu and good modulation without being too hard on rotors or needing a ton of heat to get into their efficiency zones. The RC6E is a sintered pad which means pad life is exceptional compared to many other compounds in group 2. Mu = 0.52/0.50

PFC 08: The 08 compound is PFC's endurance compound. It is intended for uses where pad life is very important. It has moderate Mu curve that rises slightly across the temperature gradient. It has better rotor life than other PFC compounds but would likely be hard on rotors than other group 2 compounds.

 

Group 3: You no longer have a soul, you're about the track life, it's really all you think about. Your car probably isn't even registered or driven on the street anymore, its sole purpose is to rip laps at a racetrack.

Group 3 pads shouldn't be used on the street. Your brake won't immediately fall apart if you do but many of these pads require a good amount of heat to work well which makes them a bad choice if you find yourself in an emergency cold stop situation. Not only that but many of these are very tough on rotors when they're not hot and if a soft rotor is used you'll end up going through multiple sets of rotors per set of pads. Despite those downsides these are the pads you should be looking at if you don't want to compromise in braking performance on track.

Pagid RSL1: The RSL1 is Pagid's highest Mu compound but isn't all that high compared to many other compounds in group 3. It is regarded as being fairly easy on rotors and having great modulation. It's heat capacity is fairly good although it may fade before some of the other compounds in group 3. Mu = 0.51

Ferodo DS3.12: The 3.12 compound is one of Ferodo's race oriented compounds. This pad is used in a fair amount of professional racing series and has a strong but not overwhelming initial bite. The heat range is 300C to 850C which means it isn't likely going to fade on you ever. Unfortunately we have talked with a few time attack drivers who weren't fond of the brake pedal feedback these pads gave. Mu = 0.54

Ferodo DS4.12: The 4.12 compound is the slightly bigger brother to the 3.12 compound. It has the same effective heat range of 300C to 850C but with a strong initial bite and more Mu across the heat range. Ferodo also says the release characteristics are slightly superior than the 3.12. We don't have any firsthand experience with this compound. Mu = 0.58

Carbone Lorraine RC8: The RC8 is CL's hardest punching compound. It has more Mu than group 2 compounds but is still lower than other more aggressive compounds in group 3. Despite this it is rated to 1000C so fade will not easily be found and modulation is still fairly reasonable. Mu = 0.62

PFC 11: PFC has what some would call a cult following. All of their pads seem to work very well and the 11 is no exception. It is the replacement for their older 01 compound which was a benchmark compound in the racing world. They're a moderately high Mu pad which has a slightly rising curve and they can handle a large amount of heat. We don't have any firsthand experience with them but we've heard they're fairly rough on rotors so a hard rotor should definitely be used with these. Expect them to need a decent warm up as well.

Gloc R16/Carbotech XP20: These compounds are great for pure track use. High Mu without too much initial bite means they can handle a ton of heat without fade but still have fairly good modulation. These are best paired with a high carbon rotor to avoid prematurely wearing out rotors.

EBC SR-11: This is one of EBC's newest track compounds. It is a sintered pad which means it made differently than non sintered pads but all you need to know is it will last a fair bit longer than a non sintered pad. The SR compounds also have lower thermal conductivity which means rotors will run at a lower temperature. Mu level is lower than most other group 3 pads but can still handle a ton of heat without fading and is relatively easy on rotors compared to most other group 3 pads. Mu = 0.55

EBC SR-21: This is EBC's other newest track compound. Like the SR-11 it is a sintered pad so it will last a good while and be a bit easier on rotors than other group 3 pads. The main difference between from the SR-11 is it has a much higher Mu so there will be much more initial bite but the Mu curve is fairly constant so modulation is easier than other high Mu pads in this group. Mu = 0.65

Hawk DTC-60: These pads are right at home in group 3. They can handle a lot of heat but don't have too much Mu making modulation pretty decent. They're a good option for very aggressive pads that modulate well. They're not super easy on rotors but not the worst either. A pretty healthy warm up is needed to get them in their efficiency zone. One of the things we particularly don't like about the DTC pads is how acidic the dust is. If you are using wheels which you care about the finish on you will want to clean the dust off immediately after the track day. Once the DTC dust gets wet and dries it may as well be cement with how aggressively it etches paint. Mu = 0.61

Hawk DTC-70: The DTC-70 has been a good to track pad a long time for those who like a lot of initial bite in a pad that can handle a monstrous amount of heat. Getting these pads to fade is near impossible and works well for high power applications. These pads are particularly hard on rotors, especially when they're cold and a good warm up is definitely needed to get them in their efficiency zone. These carry the same dust warning as the DTC-60s. Mu = 0.70

Project Mu Racing 777: PMU makes some solid track pads that not a ton of people know about. The 777 compound is a moderate Mu compound with a great effective heat range of 300-800C. PMU says it has good initial bite and modulation as well as great fade resistance. Mu = 0.55

Project Mu Racing 999: The 999 is a step above the 777 in terms of Mu. Effective heat range is slightly wider at 200-800C with higher average and peak Mu. There is more initial bite over the 777 so modulation may be slightly harder than the 777. Mu = 0.59

Raybestos ST47: These are the bigger brother to the ST43, higher heat capacity, more Mu, and a bit less easy to modulate. We've not heard about them being super rough on rotors but don't expect them to be as easy going as the ST43. And again, with them being discontinued you'll be hard pressed to find some.

PFC 13: The 13 is PFC's "high Mu" compound which means it has considerably more initial bite compared to their 08 and 11 compounds. It can handle a great amount of heat according to PFC but we wouldn't expect rotor life to be better than the 08 or 11 compounds.

Cobalt XR1: The XR1 is Cobalt's highest Mu compound. Like many other group 3 compounds it has a ton of initial bite with a steadily rising Mu curve and able to handle a very large amount of heat but said to still have good modulation. Cobalt says rotor life is good compared to other high Mu compounds but we have not been able to talk with someone who has run this compound to verify their claim.

Cobalt XR2: The XR2 is said to mirror the XR1 in capability but without the large initial bite. We would expect rotor life to be a bit better than the XR1 and still have exceptional modulation behavior.

Gloc R18/Carbotech XP24: These compounds are the highest Mu compounds offered by these companies. They have a lot of initial bite and can handle a boat load of heat. They definitely need a healthy warm up as they're not doing much until they're at 400F and even then they'll want more heat to be in their efficiency zone.

 

A note about tires: Brakes work best when balanced with tires of appropriate performance. Your super capable group 3 brake pads are pointless if they're being used with an all season tire. If the pad is too aggressive for the tire they will be very hard to get up to temp and in their efficiency zone because the tires lock up too easily. The other extreme situation would be running a group 1 pad with a race slick. This would arguably be better than the first scenario but it's still not great because the pad isn't aggressive enough to create enough braking force to get the tire into a lock up condition, which means braking force is insufficient. Our rule of thumb would be as follows:

  • Group 1 pads = capable summer tires and non "super" 200TW tires
  • Group 2 pads = any 200TW tire or 100TW tire
  • Group 3 pads = "super" 200TW tires, 40-100TW R compound tires, non DOT racing slicks

You'll notice there is some overlap between tires and what pad groups they work with. That's because this isn't a hard cut off rule, there is some overflow between groups depending on the vehicle in question, the driver's preference, and how it is being used.

A note about weight: The weight of your vehicle will also bear an influence on what pads are appropriate for your application. More weight means the pads have to work harder and ultimately run hotter. Less weight means it will be easier for a pad to achieve lockup. A heavy vehicle (over 3300lbs) with group 1 type usage may need a group 2 pad to last on track. Conversely a light vehicle (under 2500lbs) with group 3 type usage may be better suited with a group 2 pad if a group 3 pad causes lockup too easily.

Well that's it! We feel this is most of the well known compounds that you're bound to find at any given track event, but we're not all knowing, if there's one that you think we should have on the list let us know in the comments.

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