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GIMMIE A BRAKE - Part I

by Jim Lunson

 

One of the big questions I am always getting is: what brake pads are the best to buy for the MG? There are a multitude of types available and each has its own merits and drawbacks. I dont make a strong recommendation because the choice is dependent on your own individual driving and investment criteria.

The basic type brake pads available are:

Organic - these are the least expensive pad types you can buy. For the MGB, they run about $15-20 for a set of pads. The pad material is made of natural fibers and minerals (but no longer asbestos) and are mixed with a small percentage of metal flakes (usually iron) mixed in. They provide adequate stopping power for normal street applications, but have a relatively low coefficient of friction, meaning they wont bite very well into the rotor or drum they push against. This requires more pressure on the pedal to make a stop and they will tend to fade (slip) at higher temperatures. The low metal content means they will not last too long either, and they tend to produce a lot of brake dust as they wear. But they will stop the car, wear fairly well if you dont add a lot of mileage or do a lot of hard braking such as in racing.

Semi-Metallic - These type pads are an improvement over the organic in several ways. They usually have much more metal particles in the pad mix, often the metal is brass or bronze which has better gripping ability, and they use a better mix of compound filler materials, meaning they will last longer. They run about $40-50 for a set for the MGB.

Exotic Materials - These are another step up in performance. They are similar to the semi-metallic noted above, but use a different compound (usually Kevlar (the green stuff)) as the binder. This material simply does more of what I described above; better bite like the semi-metallic, better wear than the semi-metallic, and a much better resistance to heat which eliminates fading. These come into play in more severe conditions like racing, or auto-crossing where these traits are important. These run around $70 for the MGB and will give you excellent braking for a long time no matter how you drive.

Ceramic - This brake pad material is the newest innovation in brake technology. This is a special heat resistant compound used for the pad material and it is mixed with or faced with copper. These tend to wear forever, will never squeal, produce no brake dust and provide the best braking power at virtually all temperatures. They usually run about $100 a set for the MGB.

The dilemma becomes what kind of driving are you going to do the most, how often do you mind changing the pads (the labor is exactly the same for all types) and do you need to clean the brake dust off the wheels frequently or do you not care if they get a little dirty (wire wheels definitely enter into this factor). My recommendation is that unless you do severe driving with your MG such as racing, go for the higher quality pads as your pocketbook can handle. Most MGs are not driven that much so whichever pads installed will usually last a long time spreading the cost over many years, but stopping power is important for safety. You cant decide to change the pad material when you suddenly have to slam on the brakes to avoid a serious accident so think ahead. And the infernal dusting of lower priced materials is a real hassle, especially on wire wheels. So look at the various options in the parts catalogues and stores, read the fine print as to what they describe the pad material as made of and compare the prices. A decision then will be fairly obvious. I run Kevlar on my MG, ceramic on the big family car and semi-metallic on the old clunker station wagon. I try to match the pad to the type driving done by each car and found this combination works fairly well for me.

The other element in braking is the rotor used on disc brakes (MGB front brakes). This is the surface that the pads squeeze against to make the stop. There are several options available for these as well. I will try to cover the options and pitfalls of this element of braking next month.

 

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