A closer look at the biggest cost component in the manufacture of brake linings

One of a fleet maintenance manager's most critical evaluations is which brake lining is the right fit for their fleet. In an economy where bringing costs down is more important than ever, it can be difficult to justify spending more for a premium grade brake lining, such as Marathon's HeatStar. But does the money saved at time of purchase really extend through the life of the lining? That's where the rubber meets the road.

To truly understand how to assess and compare the quality/value of a brake lining, we have to look to its formulation. In other words, examine the raw materials used in the friction formula. What is a lining made of, exactly? As it turns out, not all linings are created equal.

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  • Friction materials are comprised of various types & grades of raw materials, used in widely varying percentages
  • Raw materials typically represent 65% of the cost of a brake lining, labor only 35%
  • Phenolic resin, fiberglass strand & abrasives (aluminum oxide) are the key Tier 1 raw materials & very expensive
  • Graphite, rubber & friction particle are important tier 2 raw materials & also expensive
  • Every friction product has its own unique mix of raw materials designed to deliver specific performance criteria or meet specific price targets
  • Quality of raw materials is critical (eg. purification standards) & impacts cost
  • Premium grade friction products use more high quality tier 1 & 2 raw materials and lower percentages of fillers
  • Economy grade and far East manufactured friction products use lower quality raw materials and more of the less expensive fillers