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The Truth About Aftermarket Brake Pads Warning

When it comes to the brake pads you count on, some aftermarket brands do not play by the same rules as OEM manufacturers. Here’s the problem and how you can tell if your new brake pads are the safest.


According to a recent Engineering Explained YouTube channel episode, there are 4 key features on design and manufacture of your braking pads:

  1. Rust protection
  2. Friction attachment
  3. Backing plate flatness
  4. Abutment tolerances

In today’s video topic article, the focus is on the “Friction Attachment” aspect of brake pads. Friction attachment is---as the name implies---what prevents the pads on their backing plates from slipping off and resulting in what could become catastrophic brake failure.

Here’s the Problem

Basically, the problem discussed is that while OEM brakes rely on small cleat-like metal spikes to ensure that the pads stay on their backing plates, some aftermarket products skip or “chintz” on this tiny---but important---detail.

Related article: Toyota Maintenance Mechanic Shows How to Cut Brake Repair Job Costs in Half

Related Fun Word Fact Aside

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “chintz” originally is a Hindi word meaning “spotted” used in reference back in the day to cotton fabric stained or painted through a laborious handmade process often with a glaze to give the pattern a striking look as well as durability.

Eventually, as with all things, less expensive ways were found to replicate the look, but without the function as noted by female novelist George Eliot who gave us the classic “Silas Marner” you may remember from your Junior High lit class. Ms. Eliot is credited with use of the term “chintzy” in a letter to her sister about reputed aftermarket muslin fabric saying, "The quality of the spotted one is best, but the effect is chintzy." 

It takes little stretch of the imagination that her intended meaning of “chintzy” in the letter later morphed into a slightly different variant such as the more hip term “janky” ---meaning of “poor quality” or “unreliable.”

And so, it is with brake pads as well.

Learning Something about Brake Pads

Follow along with the host as he discusses the problem with aftermarket brake pads and learn some fascinating bits of brake pad history such as why you are no longer seeing the traditional rivet holes in brake pads that were the standard toward ensuring pads stayed attached to their backing plates and why this is so important to the topic…and the brake pads you depend on today.

Spoiler Alert: The Key Take-Away Point

In case you do not have the time to watch the video in its entirety, the key take-away point is that brake pad attachment comes in two primary flavors: those with metal cleats of a sort to physically keep the pad on the backing plate; and, those that rely on using an adhesive rather than cleats to chemically keep the pad on the backing plate. The reveal is that metal beats chemical in this rock, paper, scissors game of chance on your car’s brakes all because of the heat brakes experience. So, how do you know if those brake pads you are considering are the metal cleat type? Look for the “Z Label” on the parts box.

The Sketchy Truth About Aftermarket Brake Pads

For additional articles related to your brakes, here are a few for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on  “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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Image source: Deposit Photos