from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

There isn’t much drama in making a car move but stopping it safely can be terrifying and dangerous! Brakes are a vehicle’s primary safety system and no matter how gently you drive they wear out. Question is; do you know enough about brakes to intelligently buy replacements?

Think about it; every time you drive, your brakes determine whether your trip into eternity does or does not begin during the next stop. But maybe you feel this doesn’t apply to you because you’re a superior driver. If so, you’re even dumber than the idea! You aren’t that good plus you can’t control other drivers and even slow speed accidents injure or kill thousands annually. Not to mention all the drivers who daily rely on brakes that couldn’t possibly stop them effectively in a true emergency.

But getting reliable information about brakes is tough. Until recently unless you were in the repair business you had no realistic way to judge brake quality. Asking questions was mostly a waste because you couldn’t know if the answers were real, sales lies or spoken from ignorance. More confusing is that everyone’s brake jobs “Are the best.” Truth is, most drivers wouldn’t know a quality brake job if it bit them in the ass so, they buy price! Come on, you wouldn’t buy surgery at a donut shop “I’ll take the special with latte, a jelly-filled and double Lasik” yet you buy one of the single most important safety items in your life from the lowest bidder. That’s mind-boggling!

New car brake systems are engineered to match critical vehicle and brake-design characteristics. Also new car brakes must meet a strict government standard so buying Original Equipment (OEM) brake parts should mean OEM performance.

Although OEM brake parts are a proven way to go many drivers feel they’re too expensive. This and endless mind-numbing cheapest guy in town $89.00 brake job ads may be why so many drivers buy non-OEM, aftermarket brakes. Unfortunately, not all aftermarket brake pads are good quality, especially when you buy them from the “cheapest guy in town.” Plus there is no enforcement of brake parts quality standards so you have no protections except your knowledge, concern for safety and common sense.

Historically, there wasn’t a standardized and understandable test available to consumers to help determine aftermarket brake quality but today there are two, D3EA® and BEEP®. Passing either test means the parts meet minimum federal new car brake performance requirements. Now you can make sure you’re buying high-quality aftermarket replacement brake pads. Sadly, both programs are voluntary but if you insist on seeing either the D3EA® or BEEP® symbol on the box you’ll be safe. Also, if you deal with a trusted, quality shop not a cheapest guy joint they may have quality pads that are not in either program yet but are good performers.

Buying lowest bidder brakes can be annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Cheap brake pads can mean noisy brakes, which although usually not a safety issue, is truly annoying. But far beyond annoying is brake performance which determines your safety and the safety of everyone around you. Most lowest-bidder brakes work okay under normal conditions but during a dangerous panic stop too-cheap may not stop your car quickly enough. Your cheap-ass pads may add several feet to your stopping distance forever changing what would have been a near miss into a costly or deadly accident. Remember it’s all over in seconds and there’s no undoing it!

Brakes are ultra-important so always look for and insist on quality parts and quality installation by an ASE® Certified Brake Technician. Safety requires effort, it doesn’t just happen. Over their lifespan quality brake pads usually only cost pennies per week more than potentially life-threatening, cheapest guy in town junk!