What Is a Brake Lining?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2014
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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 brake 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 brake 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, brake linings manufactured since 1970 have not used asbestos-containing materials. Advances in brake lining 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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