Are OEM Brake Pads Better Than Aftermarket Brake Pads?

When shopping for brake pads, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices on the market. A good way to narrow down your options is to decide whether to get OEM or aftermarket brake pads.

So the million dollar question is: which type of brake pads should you get for your Honda?

The answer? It all depends on your needs, but OEM is usually the better solution.

Why OEM Brake Pads are Generally the Better Choice

OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer, meaning OEM parts are the same as the parts that were originally installed at the factory. When you buy a brand new car, every single part you see on the car is OEM.

Honda wheel

When you buy an OEM replacement part, the quality is guaranteed because the OEM replacement is specifically designed and built for your car. This is particularly true of brake pads, as brake systems are often designed around the performance characteristics of a specific pad. OEM brake pads are important for a few reasons:

  • Brake pads are part of a carefully balanced system. Odds are good your vehicle's brake system was designed around the brake pads chosen by the automaker. That's because brake pads are very much the 'heart' of the brake system. If the system isn't designed around the pads, it will be loud and produce lots of dust.
  • OEM pads are manufactured to exacting tolerances. Brake pad fitment is incredibly important, as a pad that's not quite the right size or dimension will suffer from performance issues. Sometimes, these issues are "just" loud noise (squealing and scraping), excessive dust, or short lifespan. With an OEM pads, the fitment is exact because the tolerances demanded by Honda are tight.
  • Brake pads are vital to your safety. Honda and other major automakers know that the future of the company rides on the safety and well being of their customers. As a result, OEM brake pads are always top tier in terms of quality.
  • OEM pads are usually quiet, and don't make much dust. Brake noise is annoying, and it's one of the biggest complaints consumers have about their vehicles. OEM pads are often designed to be noise-free. As for brake dust, not only does it make your rims look ugly, but it can be corrosive too. OEM pads produce minimal dust by design.

What About Aftermarket Brake Pads?

The term 'aftermarket' can apply to a lot of different brake pads - from the cheap bargain brake pads at your local autoparts store, to premium performance pads designed for track use.

Civic racing

Cars on the race track require aftermarket performance brake pads to handle high heat and to help the cars stop faster, via Karl Wright.

When you're looking at aftermarket brake pads, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. True performance brake pads aren't a good fit for a street car. If you're taking you car to the track every weekend, you want to think about buying a performance brake pad. But if you're just an enthusiast who drives to and from work most days, a performance pad will be loud, dusty, and slow to warm up.
  2. A lot of cheap aftermarket pads contain asbestos. Believe it or not, it's legal to buy and sell brake pads containing asbestos. Asbestos is extremely toxic, but because of a court ruling from a few years back, it's possible to buy a set of pads that contain asbestos. These pads are almost always very cheap, so beware.
  3. Most aftermarket pads are 'universal' parts. A brake pad is basically two parts - a compound that does the actual braking, and then a backing plate. Most companies use a universal compound for their pads, because that keeps costs down. This is bad for most vehicles, however, because cars need different compounds than trucks, SUVs that can tow need different compounds than crossovers that rarely tow, etc. Most of the time, a universal brake pad is the wrong pad.
  4. Quality aftermarket pads usually don't cost less than OEM. If you buy your OEM pads online, you can usually get them for the same price as a set of quality after-market pads. A set of brake pads for a late-model Accord is about $40 - you can't buy a name brand set of aftermarket pads for much less.
  5. You get what you pay for. Brake pads are like a lot of things in life: If you buy a cheap set of pads, you can expect them to wear out faster, make more noise, and perform worse than OEM pads.

Summing Up

OEM brake pads are good for a few reasons:

  1. Most of the time, the brake system in your car was designed for the OEM pads.
  2. OEM pads are quiet, minimize dust, and perform well.
  3. OEM pads are designed for normal daily driving.

If you're using your vehicle in a 'normal' way, than OEM pads are probably the best option. If you buy them online, you'll get them for about the same price as you would a set of decent aftermarket pads.

Unless you're racing your vehicle, you've modified your vehicle to make it substantially more powerful than stock, or you're doing some other type of unusual activity (towing a heavy trailer day in and day out, carrying around a bunch of payload all the time, doing a burnout every time you leave the parking lot at 5), OEM pads are best. Aftermarket pads are really only a good option in a handful of scenarios.