By on February 4, 2009

A reader writes:

I’m beginning to shop around for pads for my ’07 Sonata (3.3 liter motor). I’m looking to replace the OEM pads (which were very good, BTW) with something with a little more bite. Initially, I was looking at ceramic pads, but I’ve noticed in my shopping that Titanium Kevlar pads are roughly $10 cheaper depending on where you go. What is the consensus between Ceramic vs. Titanium Kevlar? Is it one of those you get what you pay for deals? Or is there a value? Also, would it be ill-advised to mix and match? Say Ceramics up front and Titanium Kevs in the rear? I’m having a somewhat hard time looking for sites that offer ceramics for the rear of the car. Do the B&B recommend any good sites for brake shopping? TireRack doesn’t offer them, at least for my car. I’ve scoured the forums and they are mostly useless on this subject. I basically want a set of pads that bite well, haul the car down noticeably and give good feel. I don’t care about brake dust.

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47 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: Ceramic or Kevlar Brake Pads?...”

  • avatar

    If you don’t care about dust, I’d go with semi-metallic pads. Never used kevlar, don’t much care for ceramics after the one set of Akebonos (sic?) I used. Tracked one of my cars (130+miles in one day) with them on an otherwise stock system and they did a great job.

    I’ve used Performance Friction and highly recommend them. Easily available at Autozone.

  • avatar

    Google is a friend of mine.

    I have ceramic brake pads on most of my vehicles since they last longer. I have kevlar EBC’s on my track car.

  • avatar

    There are far more variables at play between brands of pads than just whether they say “Ceramic” or “Semi-Metallic” on them. Different brands use different pad compositions which affect every performance metric including noise and dust. For example, somebody who say all “Ceramic” pads are quieter than “Semi-metallics” is a liar.

    Personally, I would highly recommend Hawk brand pads. If you want something with good bite and little noise and dusting, get the Hawk HPS pads. The difference between most stock pads and the Hawk HPS pads is night and day. HPS have more initial bite and are very progressive and easy to modulate. Now, you won’t be able to get these pads at Auto Zone or the like, you will have to order them from some place like, but they are well worth it.

  • avatar

    Get EBC Green Stuff pads. Tirerack has them. Most OE replacement ceramics and metallics will likely feel just like your original pads. They may last longer, but it may be at the expense of rotor life. The EBC pads offer better initial friction and won’t chew up your rotors. They’re a bit more expensive, but well worth the money.

    In terms of improving cornering performance, different front/rear pads won’t be much of a benefit. Granted if you throw an expensive racetrack-formula pad on the front, you’ll notice a little more yaw under braking, but that’s not very advisable as the pad and rotor life will be greatly reduced.

  • avatar
    John R

    @Sajeev Mehta:

    I’m the one doing the shopping. If you don’t mind me asking what didn’t you like about the ceramics?

  • avatar

    I’ll second the recommendation that Hawks are very good. Whatever you do, don’t play games with mismatching front and rear compounds or brands.

  • avatar

    John R, the Akebono ceramics I used were soft on bite (almost like a spongy pedal) and always felt vague, never felt that with the 2-3 different brands of semi-metallics I’ve used. It is true that you get what you pay for, some “house brand” semi-metallics are a very noisy and dusty, but the PF carbon metallics keep me happy. (even the cheapest of their lineup are decent)

  • avatar

    Oh and I have mix-and-matched pads front to rear on the advice of people who open track my make/model, and have had no problems with their recommendations.

    My “track” car (using the term loosely) has PF’s up front and Wagner (Thermoquiets?) out back. Car stops like an animal and withstands the heat of 10-15 track runs at MSR Houston without a cool down period.

    *Just don’t mix-and-match pads willy-nilly*

  • avatar

    I replaced the OEM pads on my Legacy Spec. B with Hawk HPS. They made a massive difference in pedal feel: higher initial grab, but easy to back-off.

    The next step after any change to a performance brake pad – if not before – is better fluid AND braided lines to each caliper. The braided lines will go a longer way to eliminating spongy feeling brakes than anything else you can do.

  • avatar

    I happen to be in the brake pad business.

    Replacement brake pads must fit the specific car in their braking performance. Get the brake pad approved for your car. Both over- and underbraking is dangerous, especially when different pads are on different axles. ALWAYS change all pads per axle, that’s why they come in sets of 4. And always get the type approved for your car. In Europe, and in the more than 100 countries that follow the ECE standard, a type approved brake pad may not deviate more than 15% from the original pad. Your car may spin out if you have incompatible pads on the front and rear axles.

    Many pads have Kevlar in the friction material. A pad with or without Kevlar is not better or worse, what matters is the overall performance of the friction material.

    As far as friction material families go, there are semi metallic, low metallic, ceramic, and organic. Kevlar can be in all of them, it doesn’t make a special family. Low metallic usually have the best bite, ceramic feel smoother. That’s why low metallic is popular in Europe where higher speeds are driven, whereas ceramic is more popular in the lower speed US. But again, never ever mix them.

    Also see

  • avatar

    +1 for both Hawk HPS and Performance Friction.

    I have HPS on my street car and PFs on my track car.

  • avatar

    The only brake pads rigorously validated for your specific model (by actual engineers and everything) are the OE pads. Bolt anything else on your car and you are doing development work. Not that this is a bad thing; just so you know.

    In general, any pad is a compromise: between service life and stopping distance, fade resistance and brake noise, etc. And in general: Unless you are doing track days or drive like an idiot, the OE pad will be the best overall compromise for a road car. (If the factory could select a more aggressive pad without a penalty elsewhere, it would. Cost is not an important factor as they purchase by the zillion.) That you drive a Sonata rather than an Ariel Atom or Lotus 7 suggests something to me about what you expect in a car, and also suggests that in the end you would be happiest with the OE pads.

  • avatar

    The Sonata is a great car. But we’re talking about a street driven family sedan, not some autocross or club racing car.

    If your OEM pads are still good, keep them. If they are worn out have your friendly Hyundai dealer put on a new set of OEM pads. Hyundai likely spent a lot of time working out the optimal pad/rotor combination.

    Obviously whatever you do don’t buy the made in China asbestos set in lead brake pads that PepBoys or Autozone sell.

    Since you mention Tire Rack you may have already upgraded the original, somewhat budget, tires on your Sonata. If not that is the only improvement I really recommend making.

  • avatar

    Here is my question. Is there some kind of disadvantage to steel braided brake lines?

    If not I’m surprised that they haven’t become ubiquitous as a factory OEM feature, at least in sporty cars.

    They cannot be that expensive to mass produce, especially in a developing country. What, maybe 10 cents more per brake line?

  • avatar
    John R

    @ Bertel Schmitt:

    “ALWAYS change all pads per axle, that’s why they come in sets of 4.”

    I figured that. That’s why I thought this was curious…

    From what I gather so far here is that metallics may be what I’m looking for.

    Does anyone know if these EBC pads Summit is selling come in 4? It says “sold as a set” but does that mean I’ll get four pads?

  • avatar

    Be skeptical of brands that steer you into thinking pads with some race track benefit or heritage is key. It usually is not. These pads need heat in them for maximum effectiveness and are changed out between every race. You do not want that.

    Look for good initial bite, equal bite side-to-side, comparable bite hot, cold, wet, or dry, quiet, reasonable disc and pad wear, and unobtrusive dusting.

    If the pedal is spongy after professional bleeding, higher performance brake lines from the chassis to the caliper can be helpful. To check if the rubber lines are expanding under pressure, hit the brake hard with someone grasping the line. If it feels like it is swelling, change the lines.

  • avatar

    Until the brakes start fading, the friction between the tires and road will limit your braking ability, and not the pads.

    Or to put it another way, as long as your brakes have the ability to lock up your wheels, upgrading your brake pads won’t help you stop one bit.

    So unless you are autocrossing (highly doubtful in a Sonata), save your money and stick with the OEM pads. If you really want to improve your stopping ability, get a better set of tires.

  • avatar

    As far as I can tell, stainless lines are not used simply for cost reasons. It’s the same on motorcycles – 90% use rubber lines (which swell and deteriorate over time) while a few brands (Ducati, Triumph and Harley) use stainless braided as standard (which give much better feel, more progessive bite, and more sensitivity at the lever). A good set of lines for a bike run around 100-200$ for fronts, which is considerably more than rubber items. And it’s worth it if you are serious about setting up everything properly. But most people don’t care or don’t know, so why would a manufacturer bother with the extra expense?

    Stainless lines are also harder to manipulate into tight curves. They act like a spring and can’t be twisted more than a few degrees without becoming hard as a tree branch. Add to this that you need to line up everything to bolt it together and it gets tricky (some kits now have swivel connections to make it easier). I can see how this would be a pain in a car, where the brake lines need to go through tight spots and move considerably with the wheels. Mess up, and you’d get major chafing or strain on the line which could lead to a failure. So rubber is a safer bet to prevent a simple screw up.

  • avatar


    The major disadvantage to steel brake lines is that you can’t tell from a visible inspection when the inner rubber hose has become deteriorated. The steel braiding hides any cracking or swelling – indications that a failure is likely.

  • avatar
    John R


    Yeah, tires are very much next on my agenda. I’m looking at Kumho Ecsta ASXs or the new Eagle GTs. But before I do that, I want to make sure that these wheels w/Sumitomos I have from a previous car fit on my Hyundai before I buy the Kumhos. They’re practically brand new summer tires and I’m going to wait until the spring at the earliest to put them on. The bolt pattern is universal, but I don’t have the facilities to verify. I live in the city and I don’t want to change rims in the middle of the street, plus it’s kinda cold around here.

    Trouble is while the OEM Michellins are pretty mediocre they are lasting a while. So I think I can wait.

  • avatar

    @Bertel Schmitt,

    Bertel, I sympathize with our Sonata driver and wonder if you could clear up a disc/drum question. My 09 Fit seems woefully inadequate in the stopping department. I have been hesitant to seek out Fit forum advice for the very reason you suggested, and feared that my issues would be compounded by the fact that I have rear drums.

    Is there a reasonable way to boost stopping power, or am I stuck with brakes I consider deficient? It would not surprise me in the least to find that Honda had plans to upgrade the brakes on this vehicle.

  • avatar

    You’re driving a ’07 Sonata, the OEM brakes are “Very good”.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    If you want performance maybe trade the Sonata for a used Beemer, a WRX or a Lancer.

    That is unless one of the reasons you’re driving the Sonata is because they are pretty invisible to John Law.

  • avatar


    Drum brakes aren’t a cause for poor braking on a car that is driven normally (on the street). Plenty of cars and trucks still use them, especially in the rear where there is less brake bias.

    What is your issue – car just won’t stop as quickly as you want? Pedal is not firm?

  • avatar

    I have no experience with Kevlar but I can tell you that the ceramics that I have used on a Jeep Cherokee and a Nissan Maxima work great. They wear a long time, create no dust and have no squeal. I believe they are worth the price differential over standard pads.

  • avatar
    John R


    Haha, yeah, they are very good for what it is, but in my line of work I get (or used to get) to drive a lot of different cars from Enterprise. The last G35 I drove spoiled me.

    When I purchased the V6 Sonata it was the best compromise when insurance was factored in addition to reliability and warranty. I couple of speeding tickets and even a 4-cyl Mazda 6 blew the insurance portion of the equation out of the water. It amazes me that that a V6 Sonata without a governor is viewed as less of an insurance risk than a Mazda.

    Also I use my car for work and have to travel, if I bought an older Rex or 3-series my mileage reimbursement would be taxed. Lame. So I needed a fairly late model. I was looking at a Civic Si also, but before the Carpocalypse dealers were off their rocker for ’07 Si’s. Now, HA!, I wish I could have waited.

  • avatar

    @eh_political: You are for all intents and purposes stuck with what you have. Drums on a new car in these days and age? Egads! I supply pads for the aftermarket, and nobody wants brake shoes from me. I’d try different tires as suggested. It is theoretically possible to fit higher performance brakes to a car, but the whole brake system has to be replaced, and it must be carefully engineered. One thing should be kept in mind: Brake fluid likes to take on moisture. The older it gets, the more moisture it attracts. Fluid gets hot, moisture turns into steam, monster brake fade. Change your brake fluid once a year, or at least when changing pads. Unlikely that this is an issue with a 09 model ….

    And where Camber is going: If the pedal isn’t firm, there is air in the system.

  • avatar


    Thanks, good to know. I always wondered why my toilet could come standard with a steel braided line but not a performance car.

    John R:

    Keeping a good set of summer and winter tires instead of the standard all season tires is probably the best performance upgrade out there. Especially since “DUB Culture” has made it so cheap to get a second set of almost new, OEM take-off wheels on eBay. But living in the city does make it tough, which is why my car still has the all seasons.


    Hey, his Sonata has an SLA front suspension like an F1 car, he might not want to downgrade to one of those MacPherson strut cars.

  • avatar
    John R

    @ Bertel Schmitt or anybody:

    When a retailer says “sold as set” that does mean all four, correct?

  • avatar

    Bertel made another good point: tires. Doesn’t matter how great the pads are for your tastes if you can’t stick it to the road.

    Obviously race pads aren’t part of this discussion, but if you have to drive on WalMart-grade all seasons you should “pad” accordingly, lest you waste your money for no good reason.

  • avatar

    @ John R,

    The plot thickens. I understand, you like to “drive” your car but with the speeding tickets, if you were to buy a performance car your insurance rates would be very high….. And yes, insurance rating symbols on cars can be real headscratchers, sometimes they don’t make sense.

    I think I would still just replace the OEM brakes and maybe invest in a good radar detector(if it’s legal in your state).

  • avatar

    +1 for Hawk pads.

    Ran them with Powerslot rotors on my MX6. I could fling stuff from the trunk up to my dashboard with moderate application of the brakes.

    I miss that car. :D

  • avatar

    @John R: “Sold as set:” Set of 4 pads. Specify the axle when buying, they can be different for front and rear.

  • avatar
    John R

    Thanks so everyone so far!!

    This has been really enlightening. I’m now seriously considering just going with the OEM pads or a set of EBC greenstuff pads. I’d might be saving my money that way.

    I was of the mind I could do better, but it might be the mediocre Michellins that are bothering me. I was going to replace them anyway.

  • avatar

    Be careful with ceramic pads. I had a set that was crazy noisy, Axxis Ultimates, even after a careful bed in. I’ll add a rec for Hawk HPS. They are quiet, low dust, and moderately fade resistant.

  • avatar


    how about a future “ask the brightest” column re: what are the best used car buys for $10k/$20k/$30k?

  • avatar

    Almost anything you get will be fine.

    Just PLEASE promise not to post a “what oil should I use?” question. We’ll be here all day.

  • avatar

    I have Axxis Ultimates on the front of my WRX (they replaced the Hawk HPSs that were there). I still have the HPSs on the rear axle.

    Axxis Ultimates have a little better bite than the HPSs and are more consistent in terms of not needing much heat in them, but they are a bit noisier. I found that the HPSs were soft for the first few stops on cold days and dusted a nasty brown dust.

    To be honest, as others have noted, you’ll get better actual stopping performance by fitting stickier tires. The pads you’ll be fitting to a Sonata will likely only differ in feel and fade resistance. Their ultimate stopping power is limited by the friction between the tire and the road.

  • avatar

    About a year ago I installed the most agressive semi-metallic pads I could get from Pep-Boys on my wife’s 2004 Jeep GC. They stopped well, but were very noisy in cool/cold weather.

    Finally my wife had enough of the squealing and when I replaced the shocks, I installed ceramics from Pep-Boys.

    What a difference! They stop equally as well (maybe even a bit better) – but no noise at all in any weather condition.

    My single data point says ceramic pads are a good thing.


  • avatar

    I disagree completely with comments that “OEM pads are fine”. I think this completely ignores the fact that OEM pads are more often chosen based on price than for performance. Personally, I have found that most OEM pads are as bad or worse than the cheapest ones at Auto Zone. Many are prone to excessive pad depositing (which leads to excessive rotor turning or replacement even under warranty), poor pedal feel and modulation, low fade threshold, etc.

  • avatar

    10 cents per steel line per car, or 10 cents per car even, you’re talking millions or hundreds of millions of cars in a model year production run, that’s somebody’s $100,000 cost cutting bonus right there!

  • avatar

    I like EBC Greenstuffs or Mintex Red Box.
    Definitely flush & bleed first.

    If you don’t have cross-drilled or slotted rotors, at least in the front, you might think about those.

    I’ve had noticeable changes with SS lines; much more direct input/effect.

    Any good semi-metallic pad should be fine, really.

    Oh, and Hawk pads are Rotor-Eaters.

    ++I loved my Kumho Ecstas. Tires are probably more important than overdoing your brakes. -But if you’ve already got great tires then, tally-ho.

  • avatar

    Many thanks OffCamber, and Bertel,

    Braking is simply weak in the 09 Fit, I am running WS 60 Blizzaks over the winter, and drive conservatively in any and all poor weather conditions. This includes all winter. In my estimation the abs is substandard, and braking distances are too long. I was hoping there might be a simple workaround, but expected the answers I received.

    A pity brakes are not more “up-grade-able”; and I must say, rear drums were never an issue on my CRX, saving me from “irrational exuberance” once or twice.

  • avatar

    It’s a Hyundai. It will never see the surface of a road racing course.

    Get OEM.

  • avatar

    “It’s a Hyundai. It will never see the surface of a road racing course.”

    So a guy needs to race Ferraris to justify better brakes? Get with the times. The ’07 Sonata is a very solid platform; worth upgrading (for those who are so inclined) just as much as any Camccord.

  • avatar

    I upgraded my ’97 Camaro to Hawk HPS’s and Power Slot rotors – the HPS pads stopped well, and had surprisingly little dust, despite the slotted rotors. Unfortunately, the Power Slots warped, like every other set of rotors on that car, and being slotted, you can’t get them turned.
    (I believe that GM used ‘undersized’ rotors on that car, considering it was 3300lbs and ran fairly huge rubber.)

    So, I can assume that the OEM rotors are still in good shape? How many miles?

  • avatar

    +1 on the Hawk HPS pads. Run ’em on my daily driver/canyon carver M3. Less dust than stock, more bite than stock, and longer life than stock. What’s not to like?

  • avatar

    Manufacturer pads are chosen for three things, and three things only: quietness, lack of brake dust, and longevity. Things that you don’t usually associate with good stopping.

    I’ve got Hawks, and the brake feel is much better than stock, but the squealing is pretty incredible. I think a good set of metallic or less aggressive ceramic pads would do just as well, though.

    Stainless is better than rubber, but it’s a difference you will only appreciate once you’ve switched to DOT4 and are doing repeated laps on the track. On the street, your brakes will almost never get hot enough to warrant the change to stainless lines.

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