Brake rotors and pads are not universal to all cars but can be interchangeable between certain vehicles. The sizing of the pads and rotors, hub bore/pattern, and wheel size are just a few factors that have to be checked before even attempting a swap. It’s something that you need to research and measure in order to correctly pair the two but generally, it’s best to select parts designed to work with your vehicle rather than trying an unknown set-up.

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How Do I Know What Brake Pads And Rotors Fit My Car?

An easy way to find out what brake parts your car uses, is to go to the official manufacturer parts page. All the major manufacturers have a parts website that you can use to search for your vehicle’s parts.

Here’s a neat trick, in your browser type in parts.(your cars’ make).com, 9 out of 10 times it will lead you directly to the manufacturer’s official parts page. This has worked for every car maker I’ve tried but in case it doesn’t a quick google search will bring it up just the same.

On the parts page, you want to search for brake parts by using your car’s VIN (vehicle identification number). This group of 17 characters is a unique identifier to your car specifically, this denotes model, trim, packages, and features. You can find it on the driver’s side corner of the dash by looking from the outside in.

This takes the guesswork out of deciding which options, trims, or packages your vehicle has and gets you exactly the rotors and pads that fit your vehicle.

Even two cars of the same make and model aren’t universally interchangeable. Automakers use different brake parts on cars depending on engine size, trim level, performance packages.

So let’s say I drive a 2007 Camry, and you drive a 2007 Camry, but I have a V6 and you have a 4 cylinder. Our brake pads and rotors will be different because the heavier and more powerful V6 requires more stopping power.

And that’s just a simple example, brands like BMW can have multiple different brake setups all offered on the same model car. This is why I recommend the VIN lookup for parts, but you can go the year, make, and model route if you aren’t inclined to use your vehicle’s identification number.

Just make sure you get all the specifications correct before you order your pads and rotors, especially when going with non-OEM parts.

A great place to look up brake parts by year make, and model is partsgeek.com, they have thousands of parts for almost every vehicle that you can look up and compare. Their prices are pretty good too.

Are Brake Pads And Rotors The Same Front And Rear?

For most cars, the rotors and pads will be different between axles. Since the majority of the braking in a vehicle is done by the front wheels, you’ll see on the vast majority of cars that the front brakes will be bigger. The easiest way to tell is to just look at the size of the brake calipers.

You’ll see even on very high-performance vehicles like BMW M cars or AMG Mercedes’ that even with massive brakes, the rear calipers are smaller. There may be some vehicles that have equal brakes front and rear but it’s highly unlikely just due to the physics of braking.

When you apply the brakes in a moving car, the mass of the vehicle wants to keep it going forward. This shifts the weight balance toward the front of the car as the wheels dig for grip and lift the rear. This is why cars have bigger brake pads and rotors in the front and smaller ones in the rear. It’s Physics bro.

Which Brake Parts Should I Use Aftermarket Or OEM?

When you choose OEM replacement parts, you’re getting what the manufacturer designed the vehicle to come with. The benefit of this is that your brakes will work exactly how the car did when it left the factory.

There’s no guesswork on how the brakes and rotors will perform, plus you remove the possibility of quality control defects. If you like the way your vehicle stops and want it to remain the same, OEM is not a bad way to go.

However, brake parts are one of the few areas of a car where you can purchase parts from third parties that are higher quality and will perform better than OEM. For brake pads and rotors, there are several different designs, materials, and compounds to choose from.

All have varying levels of benefits and potential downsides so you can decide which suits your particular needs. Personally, I think improved aftermarket brake pads and rotors are the way to go, especially when you compare the cost to OEM parts. Oftentimes you can get better stopping power for less money.

What Materials For Brake Pads Are Best?

Anytime someone suggests the best “anything”, it should be taken with a grain of salt, and brake parts are no different. Brake parts can be better or worse at one particular aspect of braking, and you have to decide if that’s the most important factor to you.

Brake pads come in three main compounds and they’re judged by several factors. Those factors are performance (how well they stop), durability (how long they last), brake dust, and noise.

Organic

More than half of new cars sold come with organic compound brake pads. Originally these pads were made with asbestos but as that became outlawed due to its harmful nature they were replaced with carbon, fiberglass, rubber, and kevlar compounds.

Ceramic

These brake pads use a mixture of copper filings and ceramic compounds (the kind you make pottery with).

Semi-Metallic

These brake pads use a percentage of metal filings anywhere from 20%-80% in their composition. The particles include iron, steel, and copper mixed with binders like graphite.

brake pad types, are brake pads and rotors universally interchangeable
Brake Pad Comparison

What Type Of Rotors Do I Need?

brake rotor types, are brake pads and rotors universally interchangeable
Different Brake Rotor types

There are four main rotor types to choose from when buying new, plain, drilled, slotted, and drilled and slotted. Each of them is better at one or more aspects of braking.

Plain

As the title says they have a solid face surface with no modifications. This is the most common type of brake rotor you’ll see. Best use for Average drivers.

Slotted

These rotors have slots engraved in them to help remove brake dust and exhaust gases. Spirited driving on a frequent basis is needed to utilize its benefits.

Drilled

Have holes drilled in them to dissipate heat. Seen on more high-end cars, who see occasional spirited stopping.

Drilled and Slotted

Combines drilled holes and slots for maximum heat dissipation and brake dust removal. Limited to performance vehicles designed for racing.

Which Combination Of Pads And Rotors Works Best?

Again “best” here is subjective. To make this simpler I’m going to pick what I think works best for 90% of people, 90% of the time. Most of us want to stop effectively with low noise and low dust. Plain rotors with ceramic pads provide the best combination for the vast majority of drivers.

Ceramic pads have the lowest dust and noise output vs its’s braking power. Semi-metallic can provide a little more stopping power because the metal bites into the rotor a little more but it generally isn’t worth it.

Take it from me, I’ve had semi-metallic pads and they squealed like all hell, all while putting out tons of brake dust. This resulted in a car that sounded like it needed new brakes and was constantly turning my wheels brown. The marginal stopping power wasn’t worth the hassle.

Plain rotors provide the most surface area for the pads to come in contact with. When it comes to stopping friction is your friend, and the plain rotors just allow more of it. A large surface area is king in braking.

Some people like the looks of drilled and slotted brake rotors. Fair enough they do look pretty cool but, for regular driving day-to-day, you’ll get less stopping power out of them than just regular old plain rotors because of the smaller surface area.

Now if you want to increase the stopping power and want to keep this combination of ceramic pads/plain rotors, you would need to get bigger versions of both. This requires custom parts that you will have to research.

Don’t be fooled however, off-the-shelf quality brake pads and plain rotors, made to fit your car can provide really good stopping power. Custom oversized parts aren’t always the answer as much as everyone would like you to believe.

Can I Swap Brake Parts With Other Cars?

Swapping parts with another car that’s different from yours, is almost an entirely custom endeavor. Calipers, brake pads, rotors, and the brake master cylinder have to work in conjunction to provide adequate braking force to stop your vehicle.

If your car is popular with the modification scene then there is a chance someone has gone through the effort to check which brake parts from other vehicles can work with yours. Brake parts are a popular upgrade item and if someone has figured out a way to make something work it’ll be on a forum somewhere.

If swapping brake pads and rotors are possible with your car it’ll require some modifications in the least, and very possibly custom parts like caliper adapters or spacers. This can be a hassle, especially when trying to source parts from another vehicle.

Unless it’s a direct bolt-on swap meaning no custom parts, I would suggest sticking with rotors and pads that are made for your car specifically. There are plenty of upgrades out there that don’t require all the effort and hassle that custom parts do.

Remember brakes are only half the equation in stopping. If you have brand new brake parts and old tires, don’t expect to stop on a dime. Your tires play an equal part in slowing your car down and worn tires affect that greatly. Check out our article on the dangers of low tread tires to learn more about how to effectively stop your car.

Can I Change Brake Pads And Rotors Myself?

If you’re fairly handy and like working on cars it’s a pretty low-difficulty DIY job. It goes without saying that brakes are a critical component of your car, and it’s extremely dangerous if you don’t do them properly. If you feel any hesitation it’s best to take it to a professional, safety is important and this isn’t one area to cheap out.

Changing The Brakes

Changing brake pads and rotors is a fairly simple task that most can tackle at home. There aren’t many tools required besides a jack and some jack stands, a good socket wrench set to remove the brake caliper, and a brake caliper spreader to push the caliper piston back in order to install the new brake pads.

ChrisFix has a great video showing exactly how to replace your brake pads and rotors.

Just note, this guide is for cars with disc brakes only as drum brakes have largely been obsolete from cars, but some vehicles still use them. If your car has drum brakes the parts will be different and will require a very different procedure.

Make sure you use caliper grease on the caliper slide pin to ensure proper movement, otherwise the brake pads can seize in place. You also want to grease up the points where the brake pads fit into the caliper.

Never grease the pad side (the side of the brake pad that will touch the face of the rotor)! If you happen to get some grease on there accidentally clean it with brake cleaner thoroughly otherwise your brakes won’t be doing much stopping.

Rotors are generally held in place with just the force of the caliper centering it and the lug nuts from the wheel to secure it. It usually just “rust -welds” itself into place so you might have to wack it with a mallet a few times to remove your old one. Some cars do have rotor set screws that hold them into place, the screw in from the face of the rotor into the hub, so look for those first before trying to remove your old rotors.

Now just go around replacing all the pads and rotors you need to do. It’s important to know that you must do one complete axle (front right and left or rear right and left) at a minimum when replacing pads and rotors. Do not under any circumstances replace only one wheel or one side, this can screw up your brake bias, throw off your steering, and even cause damage. I prefer doing all four sets of pads and rotors at the same time, it’s not much more expensive and you’ll get better-stopping performance.

In Sum

So although you can interchange brake pads and rotors with certain cars it’s best just to find out what fits your car and choose the parts that suit you best. Unless you’re going for a custom setup and you have the skill and patience to make it work, for the majority of us, it isn’t the best way to go about it.

It’s easy enough these days to find things online, why go through the hassle of trying to make other car parts fit yours?

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

We might receive commissions if you click on our links and sign up/make purchases. However, please know this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try to keep things fair and balanced to help you make the best choice for your needs. Thanks.

 
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