New vehicles must meet federal performance standards—a minimum stopping distance in a variety of situations under a specified pedal effort. Many consumers assume all aftermarket replacement pads will perform just as well or better than factory parts, but that's not necessarily the case.
In an effort to improve the customer's comfort level—and also to avoid future government regulations—brake manufacturers can test and verify their products under two voluntary certification standards. Both are designed to ensure that replacement brakes are as effective as original equipment, and consumers should make sure that any pads being installed on their vehicle are certified.
The first is an independent proprietary program developed by Greening Testing Laboratories in Detroit called D3EA—which stands for Dual Dynamometer Differential Effectiveness Analysis. This procedure tests front and rear friction materials together on dual dynamometers, then simulates vehicle weight and speed through a computer program to measure braking effectiveness and balance for different applications. D3EA was introduced in 1996, and among the first aftermarket companies to achieve D3EA certification were ACDelco, NAPA, Raybestos, and Satisfied.
The Brake Manufacturers Council (BMC) has a second certification standard called BEEP, or Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedure. BEEP testing is conducted on a single dynamometer, and the numbers are washed through a computer program to compare brake performance with federal standards for new vehicles. The BEEP approval seals appear on packaging as manufacturers submit products for certification.
The D3EA tests are proprietary and more expensive, but they're also completely independent and tougher to pass. Brake manufacturers have contended that most consumers change only the front or rear brakes at one time, so a concurrent dual test is unnecessary. But, according to officials from Greening, NHTSA tests in the 1980s concluded there was a significant reduction in braking performance when there was a differential between front and rear replacement pads as compared with original factory parts. That report provided some of the motivation for the brake industry to begin seeking a certification standard before the federal government issued regulations for replacement pads. The obvious concern over BEEP testing is that the manufacturers themselves oversaw the development of the certification standards. While the program received input from the Society of Automotive Engineers and actual certification is currently conducted at an independent laboratory, BMC members can conduct similar tests on their own single dynamometers and compute the numbers.
Consumers must remember that not all of an aftermarket manufacturer's lineup gets certified, only pads designed for a specific vehicle that passed the designated test. Also, since the D3EA tests are expensive, manufacturers may test just the standard line for a particular vehicle. One can assume then that any upgraded line from that same manufacturer will meet the test standards. That's why heavy duty or the new ceramic pads may not carry the seal. The best advice is to look for manufacturers that aggressively test their standard line, then move up in grade if you need more performance or seek other advantages such as minimal wheel dust.