The Real Cost of Installing Cheap Brake Pads
Ever since the first issue of Brake & Front End came off the presses, the magazine has warned of the costs of using inferior friction materials with brake pads. In the 1930s, the magazine fought the fight against cheap brake pads coming from “mail-order houses.” In the 1940s, cheap materials were blamed for costing the war effort in terms of lost materials and manpower due to locked wheels and crashes.
Today, we are in a fight against cheap replacement brake pads that put profit ahead of safety.
The brake repair market is starting to become dominated by a “good enough” mentality. Good enough to some is just being able to stop in a “reasonable” distance at normal driving speeds and last for 10,000 miles. But, when asked to perform an emergency stop or a series of hard stops, the vehicle can become unsafe with longer stops and a low pedal when cheap brake pads are used. You may rationalize that the customer may never perform these more severe braking maneuvers, but you can never be sure what kind of conditions a vehicle will be driven under.
Are you sure that little old lady does not drive with two feet? Can you be sure that the truck that just came into your shop will never tow a boat? Is it really worth installing cheap brake pads in order to be able to advertise, and hopefully make profit on, a $99 brake job special?
So, what standards should you have when selecting replacement brake pads? Try them for yourself! Set aside some time when the shop is not busy or on a weekend to test the brands of brake pads you install. Perform at least four emergency stops from 55 mph to a dead stop back to back. Let your right foot be the judge. A series of hard stops will simulate the punishment a pad might have on a major metropolitan freeway during extreme stop-and-go traffic. It goes without saying that you first need to find a road or parking lot with very little traffic and use common sense.