What Are The Best Brake Pads For Towing? (2020 Reviews)

Best Brake Pads for Towing

Hauling any substantial amount of weight puts a lot of stress on your braking system. For the safety of yourself, your rig, and other drivers, a well-maintained braking system is essential. The pads are only one component of the braking system, but they are the most replaceable. Depending on the quality and use, most brake pads need to be replaced every 25,000 – 50,000 miles.

Quick Picks: Compare 2020’s Best Brake Pads for Towing

Our #1 Pick
Power Stop K6268-36 Z36 Truck and Tow Front and Rear Brake Kit
Runner Up
ACDelco 14D699MH Advantage Semi-Metallic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
Also Consider
Bosch BSD1194 SevereDuty 1194 Severe Duty Disc Brake Pad
Power Stop K6268-36 Z36 Truck and Tow Front and Rear Brake Kit
ACDelco 14D699MH Advantage Semi-Metallic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
Bosch BSD1194 SevereDuty 1194 Severe Duty Disc Brake Pad
Our #1 Pick
Power Stop K6268-36 Z36 Truck and Tow Front and Rear Brake Kit
Power Stop K6268-36 Z36 Truck and Tow Front and Rear Brake Kit
Runner Up
ACDelco 14D699MH Advantage Semi-Metallic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
ACDelco 14D699MH Advantage Semi-Metallic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
Also Consider
Bosch BSD1194 SevereDuty 1194 Severe Duty Disc Brake Pad
Bosch BSD1194 SevereDuty 1194 Severe Duty Disc Brake Pad

How to Choose the Best Brake Pads for Towing

Not all brake pads are created equal. A quick scan at the parts store will reveal a variety of options that range in more than just price and quality. Some brake pads are considerably messy or create a lot of noise. They come in different materials each that have their benefits and drawbacks.

Evaluating Cost of Brake Pads for Towing

Replacing braking systems, including pads, can be a costly venture. It is tempting to try to cut costs as much as possible by choosing the least expensive pads available.

But like most goods, the tradeoff for cost savings upfront is typically in shorter life spans and decreased performance that can have your rig back in the shop more often than you might like.

Brake Pad Noise

Usually, noisy brakes are a sign of bad things. Grinding, squealing, and scraping are signs that your brake pad material is worn, and it is time to get them replaced. But even if you have recently replaced your brake pads, you might still notice some noise, so what gives?

Some metallic brake pad materials tend to develop a thin layer of rust when a car sits for a couple of days, and there is a lot of moisture, like rain. You might notice some noise when you first begin driving, but after the first few times of braking, it should stop.

By comparison, ceramic brake pads make a lot less noise. But many drivers prefer the performance of metallic pads over ceramic and opt to put up with a certain amount of squeaking and chirping.

Brake Pad Mess

Speaking of metallic brake pads, have you ever noticed a lot of thick metal dust on your rims? All brake pads produce some dust as they wear down. However, highly metallic brake pad materials provide the most noticeable dust. Ceramic pads tend to produce light-colored dust that is barely noticeable.

Rotor Wear

The brake pad material you choose will also directly impact rotor wear and how frequently you will need to replace the more expensive components in your braking system. While metallic pads have unparalleled braking and safety performance, they are also very hard on the rotors.

The metal that brake pads are made from is very hard. This strength makes them the most durable choice, but it also means that they wear hard on the rotors and other braking system components.

Special Considerations for Towing Vehicles

Most brake pads are designed with the weight of the vehicle that they will fit on in mind. However, if you tow any significant weight with your vehicle, you will need to invest in a heavy-duty brake pad or see greater wear and more frequent replacements.

Greater Stopping Power

With the extra weight in tow, you will need much greater stopping power to see the same responsiveness from your braking system during normal driving. A brake pad that performs poorly in this category and can feel a lot like your weight is pushing you when you try to stop.

There are two factors that directly affect the stopping power of a brake pad outside of the material’s ability. The amount of weight of your rig and the speed you are traveling. Slower speeds require less braking power over higher speeds.

And, lighter weights require less braking power than heavier weights. As you can imagine, a heavy rig traveling at high speed requires maximum braking power.

The amount of stopping power is generally dependent on the amount of friction that the brake pad produces. A carbon metallic brake pad will have a lot of friction and will provide excellent stopping power. However, it will likely be noisy and produce a lot of carbon dust that will gunk up your rims.

When it comes to safety for all involved, the compromises on aesthetics are generally worth the increased performance in stopping power.

Design and Shape of the Brake Pad

In a perfect world, the brake pad will meet the rotor surface in a completely even union. The two surfaces will lay flat against one another for the maximum amount of surface contact. And an equal amount of force will be applied across the entire pad. But that is in a perfect world.

The world that we live in sees all kinds of variations with the shape of the brake pad, or the specific brake caliper, bracket, or hardware might interfere with a perfect union. Or, in some cases, flexing of the hub or condition of the vehicle might interfere.

A poor fit will produce excess noise and will likely contribute to uneven or excessive wear on your brake pads. The best fit for your vehicle is an OEM spec, but in many cases, those are not available or may be cost-prohibitive. Luckily, many brake pad manufacturers have made some adjustments to help aftermarket pads fit better and produce less noise.

Engineered brake pad chamfers are designed to ensure that the largest edge of the pad makes contact with the rotors. This increases friction by increasing surface area.

Keep in mind that some brake pads do not need chamfers due to the type of friction material used. But if they do include chamfers, you will want something that has been specifically engineered to improve performance.

Friction Material for Towing

A wide variety of natural or synthetic materials are used in brake pads to increase friction. These are sometimes also called reinforcing fibers. These include aramid, metallic, ceramic, glass, acrylic, or carbon.

Aramid fibers or sometimes aramid pulp is used as reinforcing fibers in brake pads to increase friction. Aramid is a synthetic fiber that is particularly strong and heat-resistant. These fibers are most commonly used in military-grade applications, so if you find them in an aftermarket brake pad, you can be assured that they will handle heavy towing.

Metallic or carbon fibers are most common in towing brake pads as they naturally provide sufficient friction to stop the extra weight involved. However, metals are more susceptible to bending and bowing in high-heat situations, so the more friction that is produced, the more the brake pad is affected.

Ceramic is equally popular for brake pads because it has a high heat resistance and produces minimal noise and mess. However, side-by-side ceramic is a softer material and will wear out much more quickly than a metallic brake pad. If your rig’s brakes get heavy use, such as regular driving through the mountains, then ceramic pads are not likely to hold up.

Brake Fading

Have you ever noticed that your brakes become softer as they are used more? A fresh set of brake pads can stop pretty hard and make you feel confident, but over time they soften. Even well before their useful life is up, they have become soft enough that stopping while towing might make you a little nervous.

This phenomenon is referred to as brake fading. Brake pads made from harder materials are more resistant to experiencing brake fading. Some manufacturers include special engineering to maintain their brake pads and prevent fading from occurring.

Top Picks for the Best Brake Pads for Towing

The best brake pads for towing will be strong and durable enough to provide hard, responsive stopping power, whether you are hauling a 1500 lb utility trailer or a 9,000 lb travel trailer. These pads will offer a good fit that limits noise and will continue to perform well with minimal fading in all driving conditions.

Semi-metallic and ceramic composite brake pads are an exceptional compromise in this area. And OE manufacturer AC Delco is the most trusted manufacturer to get these pads from.

These are more than just a great brake pad that handles towing as well as daily driving; they are designed with your whole system in mind. AC Delco’s proprietary design helps draw heat from excess friction away from your rotors, which protect them from warping and help to extend the life of your entire braking system.

Choosing the right brake pad for your rig is a big decision. Not only is replacing brake pads costly, but a braking system failure caused by faulty or worn brake pads can cause a devastating accident. Choosing the right material for performance and longevity can make your head spin.

Our guide will help you narrow the playing field so that you can make an informed decision based on what you need and want.

Best Towing Brake Pads for Daily Driving Comfort

Ceramic brake pads will be your best choice when it comes to a nice, quiet brake pad. Although it traditionally does not have the best stopping power, modern technology allows us to combine materials and add carbon reinforcing fibers to improve friction and provide better stopping power.

Power Stop Truck and Tow Brake Kit

Power Stop brake pads are best for anyone who is looking for a nice, quiet daily driving pad that is durable enough to handle occasional towing.

Power Stop uses a proprietary carbon-fiber ceramic material that offers up to 30% less dust and virtually noise-free braking. Driving with these pads is a pleasure. Ceramic pads have a pretty high heat-resistance, much higher than metallic materials. But just in case your heavy load really makes them work, they are drilled and slotted to aid cooling.

These pads are a nice upgrade for towing vehicles to provide the extra stopping power that your stock package may not offer. They look great too! These brake pads are zinc plated and resistant to rust and corrosion, so they look good behind your wheels. Plus, with lower dusting, you won’t even notice that they are there.

Pros

  • All power stop brake pads are available for front and rear so you can get the same great look and performance all the way around.
  • A proprietary carbon-fiber material provides improved braking power for heavy loads without sacrificing daily driving comfort.
  • A flashy zinc-plated design looks nice behind the wheel and resists rust that looks unsightly and causes some noise.

Cons

  • Depending on your vehicle and the OEM spec, you may not notice any improvement with these pads.
  • These come with high-quality stainless steel shims, but they can warp, which will cause more noise. You may notice squeaking when applying brake pressure at low speeds due to the warping.

The Power Stop brake kit is convenient because it comes with everything that you need to replace your brakes and rotors. A 60-day manufacturer warranty covers this product for any defects, but as many haulers know, it can take longer than 60 days to notice issues if your haul infrequently.

AC Delco Advantage

AC Delco brake pads are good for anyone who uses their towing vehicle as a daily driver and wants to install their own brakes with ease.

These are a great, jack-of-all-trades brake pad option that will have the durability and stopping power needed to tow while still being clean and quiet for daily driving.

These pads are made from a blend of ceramic, semi-metallic, and organic fibers that each offer unique benefits to the overall design. Ceramic is clean and quiet and preferred for daily driving. Semi-metallic fibers add strength and durability, which help the pads hold up longer and perform better. Other organic fibers may be used to reinforce strength and durability.

AC Delco’s proprietary formula has been designed to draw heat away from the rotors. If you have ever had a problem with warped rotors, these pads can help prevent that from occurring. Warped rotors usually occur because too much heat is trapped near the rotor, and it heats up the metal, causing them to warp.

Pros

  • These pads require absolutely no machining. They fit great right out of the box and, in many cases, will outperform the OEM pads.
  • Very quiet brakes. An excellent choice for anyone who drives their towing vehicle regularly.
  • Proprietary design protects rotors, increasing the lifespan of your braking system.

Cons

  • AC Delco is the true General Motors OEM brand, so the quality isn’t in question here. But good quality aftermarket brands could potentially save you some money.
  • Although these pads have been engineered to include materials which make them stronger and more durable, ceramic is still the softest material and will wear the quickest.

AC Delco semi-metallic, ceramic-blend brake pads are a great choice for anyone who uses their towing vehicle as a daily driver. These pads are manufactured by a leading brand name and deliver on the quality and warranty to back them up. You will be hard-pressed to find any faults with these pads, even if you install them yourself.

Best Brake Pads for Heavy Loads

If you are doing some serious hauling, you may be in a position where you will have to sacrifice some of the perks of clean and quiet brake pads in order to get a pad that will consistently perform.

It takes significantly more resistance to stop a heavy load, and the faster that load is traveling, the more resistance it takes. In many cases, ceramic pads are probably not meant for this job.

Bosch SevereDuty Disc Brake Pads

Bosch SevereDuty brake pads are best suited for anyone who hauls heavy loads or hauls in constant stop-and-go traffic.

Severe Duty brake pads use OE-style multi-layer shims, slots, and engineered chamfers to reduce the noise typically associated with heavy-duty pads. While most brake pads marketed as heavy-duty are metallic, Bosch has created a heavy-duty alternative that is semi-metallic and ceramic.

Bosch brake pads are engineered and manufactured in North America with OE-style design and formulas. Quality is a given with this reputable brand, so there is no concern that they will perform as expected. What is more surprising is that this manufacturer has found ways to reduce the noise inherent with semi-metallic pads.

Pros

  • The copper-free formula is environmentally friendly. All brake pads dust and those particles are often left on roadways and washed into water sources by rainwater. By limiting the use of copper in these brake pads, the manufacturer is doing its part to protect aquatic life.
  • It has best-in-class performance for superior friction and stopping power.
  • Engineered and produced in North America, subject to rigorous quality standards for a long, durable life.

Cons

  • These are Severe Duty pads designed for constant stop-and-go traffic and/or heavy towing weights. If you only do occasional hauling or tow lighter loads, then this product may not be necessary.
  • While efforts have been made to quiet these pads, they are semi-metallic and will produce some noise.

Bosch brake pads are engineered with molded shims to ensure a good fit every time. This also makes it easier to DIY the install if you would like to do it yourself. Modern brake pads have not required machining since the 1970s, but some shops still do it for a custom fit. With these Bosch brake pads, machining is truly not necessary.

Wagner Severe Duty Semi-Metallic Pads

Wagner Severe Duty brake pads are best for fleets and vehicles routinely driven in demanding conditions and rugged terrain.

Wagner uses a semi-metallic, carbon-based friction material that is engineered in-house for top braking performance with heaving towing capacity loads. Like any reputable manufacturer, they follow OE-style design aspects and testing to ensure superior performance. OE-style shims, slots, and chamfers will allow a proper fit while increasing performance and reducing noise.

What’s more, is that Wagner’s copper-free formula is environmentally-friendly and compatible with the most rigorous environmental standards. The brand delivers on quality design, rigorous testing, and environmentally-friendly formulas so that anyone can feel good about buying their product.

Pros

  • OE-design includes shims, slots, and chamfers for a great fit that is easy to install and works great.
  • Semi-metallic, carbon-based friction is best-in-class for stopping power with heavy loads.
  • Paired with premium stainless steel hardware to prevent rusting, corrosion, and breakdown that can negatively impact your pads’ wear.

Cons

  • Unlike the other pads featured on our list, this is a true semi-metallic pad and will produce more noise and mess compared to ceramic pads. But they also do a better job of stopping heavy loads.
  • These are a heavy-duty design. They work well for heavy hauling or demanding driving conditions, but might be unnecessary for the occasional hauler.

Wagner brake pads are a top-quality, aftermarket manufacturer. You can expect nothing less than top quality from this brand who models their design and testing after the OE design. Rigorous testing on vehicles is performed to make sure their products withstand extreme heat, frequent stopping, and heavy loads.

Best Aftermarket Brake Pads for Towing

When it comes to automotive parts, there are two classes. OEM or original equipment manufacturer is what comes standard on the vehicle when it is purchased brand new and is what is recommended as a replacement by the manufacturer.

Aftermarket refers to the brands that are produced to be compatible with a vehicle’s make and model but are the same part that was originally used when the vehicle was brand new. There is some debate between the quality differences of OEM parts versus aftermarket parts.

The important thing to remember is that there are quality aftermarket parts available, but there are also parts available that are designed to favor a lower price over better quality.

OEM can be a good starting point, but if you are looking to improve your rigs stopping performance from how it rolled off the show floor, then OEM isn’t going to cut it. Most trucks and towing vehicles are equipped with pads sufficient for their own weight, but not necessarily for towing weight when they leave the lot.

This is ok for standard towing, but if you are doing a lot of rigorous towing, you will need to upgrade.

Hawk Performance Super Duty Brake Pad

Hawk performance super duty pads are best for excessive use, including extreme breaking with top-range heavy loads.

One of the reasons that you need special brake pads for towing is because the constant strain that breaking with additional weight puts on your brake system will produce extra heat. The heat that is produced can warp and prematurely wear braking materials. Super duty brake pads are made to withstand higher temperatures and remain strong and durable.

Hawk brake pads are an excellent choice for aftermarket towing brake pads due to having an extremely high friction coefficient. These brake pads can stop just about anything in any condition.
They will also offer a long life, which is less common with heavy payload towing because of the heat build-up. Hawk has done a good job engineering these pads to perform well at dissipating excess heat.

Pros

  • They are designed with extremely high fade resistance, so they work as well the first time as they do the 300th time.
  • Extra high friction coefficient means that it provides a hard brake. No issues with soft-feeling brakes while you are towing to make you feel uneasy.
  • Super-duty metallic brake pads provide excellent stopping performance for loads of all sizes.

Cons

  • These pads do not come with any shims, slots, or chamfers. In addition to the noise that metallic brake pads produce, these might be even more squeaky due to the fit.
  • These are meant to be heavy-duty brake pads. While they perform exceptionally well for stopping power, they do produce significant noise and dust.

Super duty brake pads are only an upgrade from OEM parts if you need the extra durability and performance that they provide. If you are only towing occasionally or still drive your towing vehicle regularly, you may feel like you traded ‘good’ brake pads for squeaky, messy brake pads.

EBC Brakes Greenstuff Truck and SUV Brake Pad

EBC Greenstuff pads are best for anyone who wants to upgrade their towing vehicles, stopping power without sacrificing a quiet, nice-fitting brake pad.

If you are looking to upgrade your stopping power, these pads offer a nice upgrade from your OEM pads. They come with fully-shimmed edges and chamfered and slotted construction to reduce noise while operating. EBC brake pads are coated with a unique compound to supplement surface conditions for perfect brakes and easy installation.

As an aftermarket part, EBC brake pads may have a noticeably shorter lifespan when compared to OEM brake pads. The purpose of upgrading this aftermarket part would strictly be for performance to enhance stopping power.

Pros

  • These are a good, dust-free upgrade option. Most high-friction pads are metallic and produce a lot of dust, so this is a big win.
  • These pads are engineered with shims, slots, and chamfers to reduce noise, which makes them quiet to drive with. Again, most high-friction pads have a tendency to squeak and squeal.
  • Sport upgrade option to improve stopping power with GG rated friction. In brake pads, this is pretty impressive. As you go down the alphabet, the friction rating increases, so G would be higher than F.

Cons

  • These are a sport upgrade and will wear faster than OEM parts for regular driving.
  • EBC’s semi-metallic pads contain up to 50% steel, which does nothing for performance and may spark and scratch rotors.

Aftermarket upgrades are only necessary if you are looking to change something about the performance of your current brake pads. If you are turned off by dirty carbon or metal dust on your wheels, then upgrading to a metallic pad will not help. But if you are looking for more friction and better-stopping performance, these Greenstuff pads are a wise choice.

And the Winner Is…

The best brake pads for towing are based on your situation. For casual campers and haulers who still drive their truck daily, a ceramic and semi-metallic or carbon fiber blend is a great choice.

For these drivers, blended brake pads offer the quiet ride and clean performance of a daily driver with enough durability and strength to handle occasional towing. Brand name recognition and OEM authority only come from AC Delco.

Comparatively, for heavy haulers, I think ceramic is out of the question. These drivers need a super-duty brake pad that can handle rigorous driving and heavy towing.

With the work that these pads are given, drivers also need something strong and durable, so they won’t be replacing their brakes every couple of months. Hawk super duty brake pads are our favorite for their superb performance and fade resistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How frequently should I need to replace brake pads on a towing vehicle?

Most brake pads, even super duty pads for towing, are rated for 50,000 miles. There are some exceptions, so always check with the manufacturer, and of course, driving habits will impact lifespan. If you routinely change brake pads more frequently, consider moving to a harder, metallic pad.

Are ceramic or metallic pads better for towing?

Generally speaking, metallic brake pads are the only ones that are going to be hard enough to both provide sufficient stopping power and durability while towing. However, modern technology has allowed manufacturers to blend semi-metallic and ceramic materials to reap the benefits of both in one brake pad.

Can I tow in OEM brake pads?

Yes, unless you are routinely towing in harsh conditions and rugged terrains. OEM brake pads are sufficient for the expected use of your truck or SUV. If you opt for a towing package upgrade, that may include upgraded OEM pads as well, so always check the specs for your specific model.

Is Copper-free important for metallic brake pads?

All brake pads create dust, but metallic brake pads tend to create more dust than their ceramic counterparts. The dust that is created by brake pads ends up on wheels and roadways, which is eventually washed into water sources.

Copper is toxic to aquatic life, and brake pads have been attributed to be a significant source of copper in water sources. So, from an environmental standpoint, yes – it is important.

Conclusion

Most of the brake pads on the market today take advantage of modern technology to blend the best of both worlds. Drivers who tow no longer have to choose between clean, quiet brake pads and strong, durable performance.

It used to be that drivers could simply choose between metallic or ceramic. And those that were towing any significant weight really only could choose metallic.

Technology today allows manufacturers to blend materials to take advantage of the benefits of ceramic brake pads while making them stronger with carbon fibers. This technology makes ceramic brake pads more accessible to drivers who tow. It also makes it more feasible for towing vehicles to be daily driver vehicles.

The best brake pads for towing blend the best of both worlds. The strength and durability of metallic pads and the clean, quiet performance of ceramic pads. With the exception of special uses, nearly every option on our list focuses on these blended composite pads as superior to older braking technologies, and for good reason. They really do outperform the rest.

Brett Gordon
 

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.