Brake Pads Comparative Evaluation Program
Replacement Brake Pad Performance Evaluation Project - National Institute of Justice/Michigan State Police
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) sponsored its third comprehensive evaluation of replacement brake pads for police patrol vehicles in 2010. The goal was to provide law enforcement agencies across the country with information that will help them make informed decisions regarding replacement brake pads. This program was administered by the Michigan State Police (MSP) Vehicle Test Team and entailed two test stages. Stage One was an FMVSS 135-based inertia dynamometer laboratory performance screening test, and Stage Two was conducted on vehicles in two steps consisting of high-speed straight-line braking and pursuit-style driving. Companies with registered business addresses in the United States or Canada and experience with high performance brakes and/or friction materials were invited to submit samples.
Greening Testing Laboratories, Inc., assisted in the program execution and administration.
Police patrol vehicles, by the very nature of their use, are subjected to much more severe operating conditions than the average passenger car. During the course of a vehicle pursuit or while responding to an emergency call, police vehicles are frequently operated at high speeds. While operating at these high speeds, the need may arise to stop quickly, based on road and traffic conditions. The ability to stop the police vehicle in a consistent and safe manner is a vital need to ensure the safety of the officer operating the vehicle and the general public as well.
One of the most important components that affect vehicle stopping performance is the brake pads. Most commercially available brake pads are manufactured with normal, everyday driving characteristics in mind. As such, they tend to sacrifice higher-end performance capabilities to provide longer life to the components of the vehicle's braking system under normal operating conditions. Whereas these brake pads are perfectly acceptable for the average motorist, these pads can potentially have dangerous consequences when installed on a police vehicle and subjected to the severe operating conditions routinely experienced by this type of vehicle.
In 1995, in response to a request from the Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Council (LECTAC) and based on the success of the first evaluation of patrol vehicle tires, NLECTC developed a comparative evaluation testing protocol to evaluate the performance characteristics of the various replacement brake pads commercially available to law enforcement agencies. This protocol was developed with the assistance of the brake pad manufacturers and experts in police vehicle evaluation and testing. The first evaluation program was conducted in 1997. As with the prior evaluation of patrol vehicle tires, distinct performance strengths and weaknesses were identified for each brand of brake pad. Brake pads that provided the shortest stopping distances were found to frequently show the greatest amount of rotor wear as well. This is significant because rotors are an expensive item to replace in comparison to brake pads and can significantly increase vehicle maintenance costs.
This information, which was previously unavailable, is critical to police agencies in their selection process. Based on this information, agencies may choose to sacrifice minor variations in stopping performance to select a brake pad that extends rotor life, thereby reducing overall maintenance costs. Conversely, if a brake pad is found to exhibit unacceptable stopping performance, it can be eliminated from consideration.
NLECTC previously performed its second evaluation of replacement brake pads for police vehicles during June 2000. A total of 24 brands (13 on a 2000 Ford Police Interceptor, 11 on a 2000 Chevrolet Impala) were tested. The NLECTC bulletin and Equipment Performance Report (EPR) detailing the results of this testing are currently available.
This testing program is another critical component of NLECTC's voluntary equipment testing and evaluation program, which helps to ensure the safety of the braking components installed on police vehicles. Brake pad manufacturers interested in participating in future evaluations should contact NLECTC at the telephone number or email listed below.
Alex Sundstrom, Testing Coordinator
Phone: (800) 248-2742
Last updated: March 1, 2014