Semi-Metallic vs Ceramic Brake Pads: Which Is Better?

As someone who’s worked on cars for a long time, I’ve had many customers ask me which brake pads to choose—the semi-metallic ones or the ceramic ones. Well, it mostly comes down to this. 

The semi-metallic pads with metal fibers are great for tackling heat with superior stopping power. So, it’s a good pick if you drive aggressively or in harsh conditions. The ceramic pads, on the other hand, are made from dense ceramic materials. 

They last longer, are quieter, and don’t create much dust. Hence, they’d work well if you use your car for everyday driving. Let me tell you a bit more about semi-metallic vs. ceramic brake pads so you can decide which works best for you.

What Are Ceramic Brake Pads?

Ceramic brake pads came around in the 1980s as car companies were trying to solve some issues with regular brake pads. They’re made from the same stuff you’d use to make plates or pottery, but it’s been strengthened for brake pads. It’s really dense and durable. 

They also mix some copper fibers that help conduct heat and increase friction. The best part is they’re super quiet compared to other brake pads. When you push the brake pedal, you’ll barely hear a thing.

Ceramic pads mostly suit everyday driving, such as your regular commute to work or driving the family around on weekends. As long as you’re not kicking the car into extreme situations or weather, ceramics will treat you well.

The only downside is that they can overheat if you really push the limits of performance. And you’ll pay a bit more upfront compared to normal brake pads. 

What Are Semi-Metallic Brake Pads?

Semi-metallic brake pads are another common option that has actually been around longer than ceramic pads. They came about to replace the old school full metal brake pads since those had some issues.

Semi-metallics contain a mix of metal and other fillers to make up the brake material. Usually, it’s somewhere between 30% and 70% metal—things like steel, iron, copper, and different alloys. They also mix in a lubricating filler like graphite. Each company tweaks the exact formula.

Because the mixtures can vary, some semi-metallics are aimed more at commuters, while others focus on performance driving. In general, though, they perform better in more extreme situations, such as cold weather or hitting the racetrack.

Some brands have also tried to make semi-metallic pads suitable for everyday driving. However, many people don’t like the extra noise and dust they can create compared to ceramic or organic pads.

Semi-Metallic vs Ceramic Brake Pads: What are the Differences?

Semi-Metallic vs Ceramic Brake Pads Differences?

Both ceramic and semi-metallic brake pads are widely used in various vehicles. And while they serve the same purpose, they are distinct in their own way.

Let’s explore in more detail what makes them unique in different aspects and how to determine whether they are right for you.

At a Glance

FeatureSemi-Metallic Brake PadsCeramic Brake Pads
Heat ManagementExcellent for high-performance and heavy brakingGood, but may fade under extreme temperatures
DurabilityDurable, but wear may increase with aggressive drivingHighly durable, long lifespan even with heavy braking
Stopping PowerSuperior, especially when hotGood, but less than semi-metallic
Dust ProductionHigh, can lead to dirty wheelsMinimal, keeps wheels cleaner
Noise LevelNoisy due to metal fibersQuiet operation, less noise and vibration
CostLess expensive upfrontMore expensive initially, but lifespan can offset cost

Heat Management

Semi-metallic brake pads are generally better at managing heat than ceramic pads, and they perform better in higher temperatures. That’s because the metal in semi-metallics can absorb and dissipate heat more efficiently than the ceramic material in most ceramic pads. 

That’s why they hold up better in situations with lots of brake use that cause things to heat up a lot, like aggressive driving. This makes semi-metallics really resistant to fading, which is when the brake pads lose their ability to stop the car effectively as they get hotter.

Now, ceramic pads can manage to heat well too, especially high-quality ones designed for heat. But in general, semi-metallics are known as the champs for dealing with heat.

Yet, let’s not forget that a brake pad’s ability to manage heat depends on other things, too. This could be the quality of the brake rotors, the overall brake system design, and the driving conditions.



When it comes to durability, ceramic brake pads usually have the advantage over semi-metallic pads. Due to their build material, ceramic pads are known to last longer and hold up better to wear and tear, even with heavy braking. 

While semi-metallics are durable, too, they may not last as long, especially if you drive really aggressively. They do give great stopping power and performance, but the material tends to wear out in extreme situations.

Ceramics’ durability is largely due to its composition. It’s engineered to deal with friction really well and bounce back quickly without losing effectiveness. This extended lifespan and reliability are why ceramic is known for being tough.

Stopping Power

Stopping Power

Typically, in terms of stopping power, semi-metallic brake pads have an edge over ceramic pads, especially once they’ve been heated up from braking a lot.

That’s because the metal fibers in semi-metallics can really grip onto the brake rotors aggressively. This gives you stronger braking and makes them less likely to fade out as everything heats up.

Now ceramic pads can provide good stopping power, too, for sure, so long as they’re high-quality materials engineered to handle heat well. Yet, many believe they still lag behind semi-metallic pads

Again, it’s important to remember that braking is affected by many other factors besides just the pads. The type of rotors you have, the overall brake system design, and how you’re driving all can play a role, too. 

Dust Production

If you can’t tolerate ugly, dirty wheels, you’ll have to steer clear of semi-metallic pads, which usually make more of a mess than ceramic ones. 

The metal fibers in semi-metallics really dig into the brake rotors when you hit the brakes. So, over time, you end up with more wear and dust buildup.

Ceramic pads are known to create less dust overall since they’re gentler on the rotors. This can keep things cleaner and make everything last longer. No wonder so many luxury cars use ceramic.

The metal in semi-metallics just causes more friction when braking. While it means better performance, it also stirs up a lot more dust that ends up coating your wheels.

Noise Level

Ceramic brake pads are usually way quieter than semi-metallic ones. The sounds that ceramic pads make are at a higher frequency that we can’t actually hear. So they stay pretty silent when you hit the brakes.

The metal fibers in semi-metallics can cause more noise to carry through. Even though we want the performance they provide, sometimes it’s nicer to have brakes that do their job without screaming about it.

But ceramic does a better job damping down vibrations and noises that happen when braking. It just quiets everything down more.


A ceramic brake pad typically costs more than a semi-metallic one. That’s because ceramic pads require different, more complex materials and processes to make them.

They’re worth it, though, since ceramics generally last much longer before needing replacement. They also create less ugly brake dust, which you’ll constantly be cleaning off your wheels. Although semi-metallics are a bit cheaper upfront, you may have to replace them more often.

Which Brake Pad Should You Choose? 

When it comes to picking ceramic or semi-metallic brake pads, it really depends on how you use your car and the conditions that you’re likely to face.

If you mostly drive around town for work or errands, ceramic pads can be a great fit. They’re nice and quiet with little dust, which is perfect for everyday commuting. Ceramics also tend to last longer between replacements.

But if you track your car or need serious stopping power for some reason, semi-metallics are the way to go. Maybe you drive in the mountains a lot or tow heavy stuff—they’ll bite harder in an emergency.

Freeway commutes at high speeds could also lean towards semi-metallics for that peace of mind. And the same can be said for harsh winter driving, too since they hold up better in cold weather.

Similar Posts