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What is a Brake Lining?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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A brake lining is a friction material bonded to the steel brake shoes or pads. In most automotive brake pads and shoes, the brake lining is riveted to the metal pad or shoe. As the brake lining wears down, the brakes may chatter, squeak or squeal. Left unattended, the brake lining will continue to wear until the rivets begin to eat into the rotor or drum and generate the need for a costly brake repair. Brake pads and shoes are typically replaced as a unit, unlike earlier brake jobs that required a new lining be applied to a vehicle's brake pads.

When deciding on new brake components for a vehicle, there are often many choices for the type of brake lining used. As a rule, the lining that includes a lifetime warranty is a very hard friction material. This material is intended to wear for a long time, requiring less frequent brake changes. The downside is that this very abrasive substance is prone to wearing out brake rotors and brake shoes at a much faster rate than the original type brakes. When choosing a lifetime brake pad, it is wise to reference the vehicle manufacturer's recommendation.

When it is time to change brake pads on any vehicle, it is always important to change both sides of an axle at the same time. Although it may be tempting to only change the noisy side, an uneven braking surface can cause an ill-handling vehicle under braking conditions. Changing both the left and right side brake pads ensures even braking pressure when the brake pedal is depressed. This is not always felt in normal day-to-day driving; under emergency braking conditions, however, it can mean the difference in successfully stopping a vehicle or being involved in a skid.

While the earliest brake lining was made with asbestos and other dangerous materials, linings manufactured since 1970 have not used asbestos-containing materials. Advances in technology have created longer lasting, better stopping braking components. Using space-age technology, a brake pad will often last two years or more depending on driving habits. A new brake pad should never be installed on an old rotor or drum. It is always wise to resurface the rotors and shoes when changing pads.

Surfacing the rotors and shoes ensures a fresh and smooth surface for the pads to grab onto. It also creates a level surface so the pads wear evenly. If the rotor or drum has been worn too thin, it should be replaced to ensure safety.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Jun 18, 2014

@Melonlity -- you've touched on one of the primary reasons to get an expert to replace those pads instead of doing the repair yourself. Of course, there are amateur mechanics who know what they are doing when it comes to replacing those things, so this advice doesn't apply to them.

Here's the thing. If you don't get the pads put on just right, you could warp your rotors. If you don't get the hydraulics working just right, you could warp your rotors or wind up without brakes.

By the way, if you do wind up with a warped rotor, consider spending a few extra bucks to get a heftier, performance grade one. It will costs you a little extra, but it is far less likely to warp in the future and can actually improve your braking. Those are both very good things.

By Melonlity — On Jun 17, 2014

Why do breaks squeal when pads are low? Because they were designed to do that. If your breaks are squealing, get them replaced else you could warp your break rotors and those things are expensive. Getting new brake pads installed doesn't cost much, but changing out brakes pads and rotors is expensive enough to make you cringe.

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