Stopping on a dime: Part II

Just last week, I discussed the awesome braking performance of EBC’s kevlar-ceramic high-performance Green Stuff Brake pads.  These pads truly live up to the hype, as they have a grip hard enough that you can actually feel the disc being clamped beneath your foot.  But, if that is the case, why is it that they are now sitting in a box beneath my desk?

Clearly it’s not due to performance.  And for many people who I’ve talked to, brake squeak and dust isn’t an issue with EBC Green Stuff.  Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case for me.  Is it my driving style?  Perhaps some quirk in my 9-3’s brake assembly?  An issue with the rotors (even though my repair shop changed them twice)?  Or maybe it’s just environmental conditions such as ambient temperature or humidity?  Either way, the squeak was really bothering me, and there was a bit much dust.  Luckily, I was due for an oil change and had one final chance to see if the mechanic had any suggestions as to what I could do.  That is when he suggested I swap out the EBCs for a pair of Akebonos.

I have got to admit, that initially I was skeptical.  By switching to Akebonos, I’d lose the wide-operating temperature of the EBC brakes for a fully Ceramic set that generally requires to be “heated up” before achieving optimum performance.  But, would it truly pose a problem for me?  And is it possible they may even perform better in my case?  My hesitation was enough that I was close to refusing his offer, but then it hit me: I have started down this road towards customizing my Saab for a reason.  And once the day comes that I have my own car maintenance facility (commonly known as a “garage”) and a non-comedic collection of tools, I need to be prepared to do something bold: and that is to experiment.  So, I gave them the go-ahead.  Later that afternoon, it was time to drive home.  I could tell right away that these brake pads are completely different animals.  That sudden “vice grip” feeling is completely gone.  The pedal feel is a bit softer on initial pressing for sure, but harder pushes are met with a much firmer clamp that is far better than the OEM pads.  Yes, these surely represent a considerable departure from the what I have come to expect with the EBC pads.  Does that mean they inferior?  Absolutely not, just — different.  After finishing the break-in period I have now concluded deciding between two sets of brake pads is surprisingly difficult.  It’s kind of like comparing a fine brie to a bright red tomato.  If you can imagine a 3D graph, with pedal pressure, brake pad temperature, and the amount of resistance on the pedal as each of the axes: you’d find a different graph for each of these pads.  And even then, you just don’t have a complete picture, as there is a tactile awareness of the pad’s surface pressing against the rotor that, by virtue of incredible automotive engineering, the driver can actually perceive.  While I miss the immediately firm grip of the Green Stuff — I actually like the feel of these pads.  And of course: there is absolutely no break squeak, and no dust.  My recommendation?  Both EBC and Akebono make fine brake pads, and both are very much worth a try.  In terms of safety, I’ve found the Akebono pads have no problem bringing my car to a full-stop.  But, you have to apply pressure differently than with the EBC pads.  There was one point when I was getting used to the new pads, I was expecting the car to slow down more than it did during hard cornering (which was rather alarming as I was cornering along a concrete barrier).  But, now, I find myself corning just as fast as I did with the Green Stuff.  So, as another American expression would go:  “Your mileage may vary”.

10 thoughts on “Stopping on a dime: Part II”

  1. Ha! I went the exact same path you did, Ryan, with my 2000 9-3 hatchback. I first replaced the original OEM pads when they wore out with EBC Greenstuff pads, but did not like the dust or the fact that they seemed to slightly warp the rotors over time. Since then I switched to the Akebono ceramic pads and stuck with them.

    • Huh, interesting. How do you like the Akebonos? I find that the brake feel to be growing on me. When it’s time to replace the rears, I’m probably going to go with the same ones.

  2. I went to the Saab-USA branded Akebonos on my 9-3 hatch a couple of years back, and they’ve been great. They did take quite a while to break-in, but they are now absolutely smooth, quiet and dust-free (I now get more brake dust on the rear wheels than the front ones).

    The truly amazing thing about these pads is that they’ve barely worn the rotors. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got 80,000 km out of them.

    • Yes, I’m very interested to know about Hawk pads. I’ve heard really good things about them. From what I understand they have no squealing or dust, but bite really nice. I’m curious if they’re really similar to the Akebonos or not… Either way I think I’m going to be buying Akebonos or Hawks pretty soon. I’d say I could be the guinea pig but seeings as I haven’t used EBC or Akebonos I have nothing to base it off of (except the really crappy off brand pads that are on the car, the previous owner cheaped out and you can tell big time).

  3. I’m also thinking of buying some Akebonos pads.

    I noticed Akebonos makes a Euro pad and Performance pad,
    I can really make out which would be better? i would think performance is the better of the 2, but not for sure.

    Can anyone help on this?

  4. I found the screeching took quite a while to subside with EBC Green. At first it was quite annoying, even to the point of attracting attention from grocery cashiers! After a winter, they were quiet for the rest of their (relatively long) lives. Note that the ones I used were pre-abrasive-surface versions, and the rotor had some 5000 miles on them and were not turned or anything. I do recall that yours were new.

  5. I installed EBC red ceramic pads on the front of my daughter’s OG 9-3 18 months (about 25k miles) ago when the rotors were replaced. She tends to be tough on brakes (i.e brakes late and hard). She has had no squeaking with the reds, and dust has not been a big issue. They are wearing well too. However, the pads and rotors are due for another change due to “warping” of the rotors. I attribute this more to her driving style than the pads, because regardless of the pads used rotor life has been relatively short on her car.

  6. I have had EBC Red Stuff pads on my NG900 for about 20k miles and the pad thickness is almost 100% still. There is some grooving in the rotors starting, but very minor, and the rotor thickness overall remains almost unchanged. I’ve never tried Green Stuff pads but I think next time I get pads for this car (though I may never need to at this rate!) I’ll try Green Stuff. Though I sometimes drive my Saab hard, Red Stuff pads are really better for the occasional autocross/track day kind of abuse and are really unnecessary for even my spirited driving. Red Stuff pads and even Green Stuff are harder than a cheap rotor, so make sure you buy a high quality brake rotor and you’ll have them forever. Otherwise, you’ll warp a rotor and have wasted money and time. Mine squeaked really badly for a good 1500 miles or more, but finally quieted out and have been great ever since.

    Hawk pads for NG900/OG9-3’s are hard to find so I have no feedback for a Saab application, but my brother autocrosses his Miata with Hawk Pads and really likes them so I am expecting a similar feel to EBC.

    Akebono makes a lot of OEM brake pads for manufactures so for your purposes, I’m not surprised you like the feel of them more. The “after market” Akebono pads just feel like a more effective OEM pad rather than a vice grip.

    Until I have a bad experience with EBC I’m going to stick with them. I like that initial clamping force feel you describe. I’m interested to put a set of Green’s on my Lotus Elise! Red’s would be too much I think and would just overwork the ABS system 🙂

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