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FAQ: The Brake Pad BBQ Treatment

Information by John T. Christian - 'secret' shared by Shawn Dewey

Technical input from Andie Lin of Cobalt Friction Technologies

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New brake pads need to be 'outgassed' to get rid of gasses trapped in the pads during the manufacturing process. Typically, this is done by performing numerous high speed stops in succession. However, this causes the temperature to rise very quickly and maximum temperatures are usually not held for a long time. The BBQ method provides a more gradual heating and cooling cycle and allows the maximum temperature to be held steady until outgassing is complete. This slower process has been unscientifically verified on road race tracks by John Christian (and Shawn Dewey) to increase the life of the pads by a significant amount.

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The procedure is very simple.  Stick the pads in an outdoor BBQ and turn the heat on high, or close to high.  Put them on the side of the grill, not over the heat source or the hottest part of the coals, so the temperature rises gradually.  They will smoke and stink and your neighbors will hate you.  Bake the pads until they stop smoking.  Usually this will take around an hour or two.  Finally turn the gas off (or let the coals burn out) and let the pads cool to ambient temperature slowly inside the BBQ.  Leave them in there overnight, if possible, for the most gradual cool-down.  The pad material may discolor but that is okay.  Also the paint on the metal plates may peel so you may want respray them for rust protection before you install them.

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We had an interesting discussion about this on the Team3S email list, where there were advocates and doubters.  First, an exchange of ideas, then some new and valuable information from one of our Team3S member-vendors, who's an expert in brake technology:

Q:   Should Porterfield R4 and/or R4S brake pads be BBQed before use?  The coals are hot!  :-)

A:   Absolutely!  But you don't want them so close to the coals that you ignite them!  You want to bake them at high heat to "outgas" them.  Yes, they will still smoke and stink a lot - you'll probably piss off a few neighbors.  :-)  But it makes all the difference in the world at the track...  For one thing, they don't have to warm up as much to work at optimum, as all brakes do.  And they won't stink as much after a few hard stops (and make you think you broke something).  We didn't BBQ the previous set (R4S), and at the track we could see them smoking and stinking all over the place, especially when we finished the first few runs and came back to the pits.  Fiercely AWful smell...  But we BBQ'd this most recent set and they stopped tight right from the first run.  No smoke, no smell, no muss, no fuss, no bother...  :-)

Q:   FWIW --- I tried the BBQ on one set of pads a year or so ago and found that when finished the surface was very uneven, as much as 1/16" or more.  I sanded them down to provide a flat surface although I'm sure that a few laps would have accomplished the same thing.

A:   That's exactly the point!  You *can* do it at the track and suffer the smell and partial brake capacity as the brakes get rid of the impurities OR you can do it in advance and not have to make the first couple of runs choking on brake smoke.  Perhaps you didn't do a *g-r-a-d-u-a-l* warmup and cooldown when you did the BBQ?  As I pointed out to Jim M, you want to bake them at high temperature, not put them over the hottest part of the coals to burn.  Then after an hour or so, turn off the heat and leave them in the BBQ after it's off (as the instructions point out) to cool down slowly (I leave mine overnight).  Fast heating or cooling would no doubt warp the pads and make them uneven.  And I get max performance out of new brakes even on their first track run with BBQ-ing - I don't get that when I don't BBQ.  I get fade and smoke until they are outgassed, then by maybe the 3rd run I get max performance...

Q:   There have been claims of extended life as a result of barbequeing but I find that hard to believe ---  If Porterfield could get extended use from pads by heat cycling them I'm sure they would do it.  A BBQ may get the pads up to 600 or 700 while a 20 minute track session may get them up to 1000.  I think it more a matter of maybe doing some prep work in advance and making a stink at home rather than at the track.  The last few times I've done the bedding on the way to the track on some open stretches of road.

A:   Why would PF want them to last longer?  Why not let us waste material and weaken the pads (so we have to replace them sooner) with rapid heating and cooling at the track?  When I BBQ, I don't have to bed the brakes - they aren't uneven and they work perfectly first time out.  You should try a SLOW heatup/cooldown sequence in the BBQ and see if you feel differently.  For me, BBQing is much better, and the brakes seem to last longer.  I'm copying this post to Andie Lin (formerly at Carbotech, now with his own company) - perhaps he can do a test for us with his new pads, with- and without a BBQ procedure.  He runs his NSX at the track and can give us "butt dyno" data, plus he has the testing equipment to either debunk a myth or prove the validity of BBQ-ing brake pads once and for all.

Fortunately, Andie Lin *did* respond, and he gave us this primer on the BBQ question:

Interesting and somewhat amusing... BBQ-ing bake pads.  But, in the final analysis, it works to varying degrees, depending on the compound and manufacturing technique.

Typically, a high-resin and binder brake pad compound will require more outgassing.  Back in the day (when I was in diapers), brake friction compound technology wasn't very well developed (not to the level it is today), and a much higher resin and binder content was used, than was necessary.  This resulted in the need for outgassing new pads before subjecting them to race/aggressive conditions/use.  Nowadays, not only is the resin and binder content kept to the bare necessary minimum (less is actually better, to a point...provides a better bond strength to the backing plate for integrally molded pads), but pads are typically outgassed at the factory as part of the manufacturing process... similar to what you are trying to achieve by sticking them in the BBQ.

Based on what I have done and seen, you will notice an improvement in wear, as well as a shortened bedding in time if you bake your pads...  But it must be done gradually.  I feel that an open flame BBQ grill will heat-shock a pad compound, and possibly compromise structural integrity.  If you want to heat-treat your brake pads before use, the following recommended times/temperatures can be used as a starting point:

High-Performance Street Pads (Axxis Ultimate, Hawk HPS, etc.)

1 hour @ 200F
4-5 hours @ 450F
*allow to cool off overnight to room temperature

Track Pads (Ferodo DS3000, PFC 01, PFC 93, Pagid Orange, etc.)
1 hour @ 200F
2-3 hours @ 400F
4 hours @ 600F
*allow to cool off overnight to room temperature

Most ovens increase heat at a very gradual rate, so you don't need to worry about heat-shocking the pad. Same for cooling them down...just let them sit in the oven until they cool...don't take them out and dunk them in water, etc.  Basically, you need an industrial convection oven to do it "right", but a standard house oven works:  Two notes:  1) Put them in with the pad material facing UP.  2) It will stink your house up if your oven does not have an integrated vent.

This being said, a proper "bedding" procedure requires heat AND pressure AND abrasive friction...basically, they have to be used on the car.  Further, I don't believe in "dyno bedding" of a dynamometer will maintain constant torque, while in a real-world situation, torque requirements change as the car decelerates.  Heat-treating your pads will result, primarily, in less initial dusting (and thus wear), and will hasten the bedding procedure.  This does not mean you can just put the heat-treated pads on the car and start using them as you would under race/track conditions (i.e., you can't install them and beat them from lap 1).  It simply means they will bed in faster, and thus last longer.  Compound wear on a new brake pad is 20-40% faster during the bedding procedure than a pad that is fully bedded.  If you heat-treat the pads before installing them, you will improve wear during the bedding procedure to perhaps 10-15%.

Sounds hokie, but it works.  In the case of certain compounds, heat-treating will also improve the stopping power (i.e. braking torque), lower the dust level (i.e. due to slower wear), and reduce noise.  This is the case with some street compounds.  I can't list which ones they are due to the nature of my relationship with the manufacturers of these compounds (i.e. they consider it an alteration of their product, and do not condone it - and I respect that).

DISCLAIMER:  I am not endorsing this procedure by the end-user.  I am simply concurring that it *does* work.  Hope this helps...

---  Andie W. Lin
Cobalt Friction Technologies
1013 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Office: 954.828.1512 :: Fax: 954.828.1517

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