I'm unclear about 'organic' (NAO) vs ceramic vs semi-metallic.

For years, I'd just go to the parts store and say "I need pads for [whatever low-end Chevy I was driving]," and then get the 2nd-cheapest pads. AFAIK, they were always semi-metallic.

Now, it seems like the default pad is 'ceramic', even for 'economy' pads. (eg, Rock Auto) So, OK, things change. But, I read things like this:

  • ... the majority (roughly 70%) of new cars sold in the US still come with [NAO pads] from the factory.

  • ... [NAO pads are] Suitable for normal driving/commuting across many environments

And other things like this:

Ceramic brake pads are generally a term for a group of pads known as NAO or non asbestos organic pads

Or this:

If you have a high-performance sport car, or at least drive your vehicle like it is one, you're likely best off choosing semi-metallic brake pads. On the other hand, if you do a lot of urban commuting, you might find a solid ceramic brake pad to be the better option. If you don't put a lot of mileage on your vehicle, an organic brake pad might be the best, low-price option

So, my question(s)

  • Does "ceramic" really mean NAO, ex when they cost more than $xxx?
  • If not, are NAO pads available? How are they identified?
  • Were the pads I bought back in the day really 'semi-metallic', or were they probably actually NAO?
  • When the time comes I will get organic/NAO . Hopefully the same as original; I have 75,000 on the originals and they look good for 100,000 ( 2011- Nissan Murano). My son ( who sells auto parts) says they must be organic because metallic and ceramic would wear the rotors and my rotors show no wear.. Commented May 19, 2019 at 17:06
  • Also consider that for many drivers, the amount of brake dust is a bigger concern than "performance" or a small cost difference.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


[Here's everything y][1]ou'd ever want to know about brake pads. It's up to date and accurate. http://ricksfreeautorepairadvice.com/best-kind-of-brake-pads/

It explains the difference between the two types of friction and the three types of pad materials along with pros and cons.


From what I can tell, there is some ambiguity in the naming practices.

Some manufacturers (like EBC) may consider ceramic to be a class of NAO, while others may not.

When you look at the definitions of each, there could be some overlap in the names, however there are some distinctions that could separate them as well.

I would guess that most of the pads that you have purchased were semi-metallic if you were staying in the budget range, however that could certainly have changed as the popularity shifted and the actual cost of production came down for NAO.

Just looking at Autozone there doesn't seem to be a dramatic cost difference between semi-metallic and ceramic any more until you get the upper end of performance. Additionally, (at least in my area) they don't list any as NAO.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .