DETROIT, Mich.–Unsuspecting consumers looking to save some money on auto repair costs may instead be exposing themselves and their passengers to potentially deadly risk when so-called aftermarket brakes are installed, rather than original equipment parts produced by the automakers, warns the Global Brake Safety Council.
The automotive safety organization says that while original equipment parts come under rigid safety and quality standards, aftermarket brakes are not regulated at all.
“For original equipment, that brake pad has to go through a battery of tests for durability and resistance of corrosion. It validates they have the stopping power to stop the vehicle in an emergency situation,” explained Scott Lambert, chairman of the GBSC in an interview with Forbes contributor Ed Garsten. “They test how well the brakes are formed, whether they make noise.”
The aftermarket is not required to do that. So the distributors of a lot of the aftermarket pads are driving this entirely by cost. The manufacturers are put in a situation they are willing to cut corners in manufacturing and validation in order to meet those cost requirements. Unfortunately, this results in a lot of pads coming in from overseas using substandard materials.
One of the major differences between the regulated original equipment and some cheaper aftermarket brakes is the type of steel used for disc brake backing plates.
The backing plate is the foundation for a braking system onto which the pads are attached, which create the friction to slow and stop a vehicle. Only steel that is pickled and oiled is used for original equipment brakes under current regulations. Pickling involves immersing steel in a strong acid solution to remove the oxide layer that forms in the final stages of production. The steel is then dipped in oil to prevent further oxidation. The result is a surface that allows for much stronger adhesion between the backing plate and the brake pad.
Steel that has not undergone pickling and oiling is called “black steel” due to the layer of black oxide left on its surface. Eliminating those two steps saves manufacturers of unregulated aftermarket brakes a lot of money, but adhesion between shoe and pad is greatly reduced and the shoe is more prone to rusting, resulting in a potentially dangerous situation for motorists and their passengers, said Lambert.
“If the frictional material, separates from the steel backing plate because the rusted backing plate is rusted all to pieces….there’s real considerable risk these parts are going to come apart and stopping distance is going to be affected,” said Lambert. “Your stopping distance is going to be significantly affected in a situation where you need all the stopping distance you can get. That is a danger to the people driving those vehicles.”
In a two-part study conducted in 2017 and 2018, the GBSC examined 10,000 brake pads replaced in garages in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Cleveland, Ohio and Houston, Texas to account for the different climatic conditions.
Results showed: 11.5% or 1,154 had excessive rust; 21.9% or 2,194 showed signs of lifted edges or separation; 6.0% or 599 show signs of “broken friction”