Ultimate Mustang Brake Pad Guide

Ultimate Brake Pad Guide Steeda

Since the Mustang debuted, Ford and aftermarket companies alike have continued to push boundaries among various systems within the Mustang to improve performance. While adding horsepower and torque to your pony is on the mind of every enthusiast, in the name of speed, allowing for optimal braking performance is crucial, whether on the street or track. Luckily, for many years, Steeda has been very fortunate to work with performance braking companies like Hawk Performance to develop brake pad & rotor solutions that will fit every enthusiast's needs. Recently, we were able to partner up with Hawk Performance & Nitto Tire to perform a complete test of Hawk's latest and greatest braking products, regardless if you have a Fox Body Mustang or the latest S550.

Fortunately, thanks to modern automotive technology and innovation in the last couple decades, engineers have developed various brake pad compounds to increase braking performance at an unprecedented level. Not only finding the right performance brake pads & rotors, but also bedding them can be a challenge on its own. Fortunately, Steeda has taken out the hard part of testing and procedural steps so that you don't have to! Thanks to our friends over at The FIRM (Florida International Rally & Motorsports Park), we recently did some hardcore brake testing and punishment with our 2015 Steeda Q350 Mustang EcoBoost with the latest in Hawk Performance braking technology and Nitto NT01 road racing tires.

Throughout this brake pad guide, Steeda will give you an unfiltered overview of which brake pad applications will be best suited for your needs. By the end of it, you will understand how tires can affect your braking and handling, choosing the correct brake pads for your application, and learning how to properly bed your new brake pads to ensure optimal durability for maximum performance.

Street Test Video Track Test Video
The Importance Of Brake Pads How Does Pad Compound Make A Difference? Proper Brake Pad Bedding Procedure Street Brake Pad Testing Track Brake Pad Testing Which Brake Pads Should I Choose? Infographic

Mustang Brake Pad Testing

What Makes Mustang Brake Pads So Important?

For well over a hundred years, the innovation of braking technology has progressed at unfathomable levels. During the 1930s, automotive brakes were mainly found as a drum to stop your vehicle within a reasonable distance. Fast forward to today's current technology and innovation, braking performance is at an all-time high and readily on-demand for any enthusiast; now profoundly found in the form of disc brakes. No matter if you're on the street or track, brake pads and supporting components are vital parts of safety standards, which enable the ability to stop on-demand.

Today, factory-built vehicles like the Mustang must have anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control, and other precautionary systems to meet federal regulation guidelines. Without a good set of brake pads, your Mustang caliper does not have the friction it needs to clamp down on the rotor to provide stopping power to bring your Mustang to a grinding halt. Think of it in this analogy; your shoes provide the comfort, grip, and stopping power when you're walking or running; the same methodology is applied to your brake pads. They provide the cushion between the rotor and caliper to enact tremendous stopping to aid you in cornering, turn-in, and weight transfer. It results in the ability to outperform the competition. Still, you also need to understand that each set of brake pads has limits on what they can accomplish in various driving conditions.

In the world of high-performance aftermarket braking components, enthusiasts tend to seek out drilled & slotted rotors and larger brake calipers to improve stopping power while receiving a race-inspired look. We hate to break it to you, but without the correct brake pads, it won't do you much good to get the braking performance every enthusiast strives to attain. Without proper friction and heat into your braking components, your Mustang will not come to a dead stop as efficiently as you would like. Fortunately, thanks to industry leaders like Hawk Performance, they can develop and engineer various brake pad materials to aid enthusiasts in their braking problems.

Brake Pad Compound

How Does Brake Pad Compound Make A Difference?

S550 Mustang Rear Brake

One thing needs to be clear about brake pads; all are not equal, which is an absolute fact! When it comes to road racing, carving up a favorite mountain road, or taking it to the competition on the autocross, selecting the right brake pad will ensure your Mustang is set up for the correct driving environment. First and foremost, a stock OEM brake pad is designed for the average vehicle to give it ample stopping power to drive around town, highways, and open roads. Brake pads manufactured for racing or spirited driving require more intensive material such as carbon or ceramic to give it the bite that enthusiasts desire. The more aggressive the compound is, the more it will absorb more heat, which will provide more stopping power. Note that certain brake pad materials like ceramic need an optimal operating temperature to get the most performance out of them.

Depending on the material chemistry and type of ceramic brake pad, some need proper warm-up to get to the operating temperature that gives a racer or enthusiast the brake bite and stopping power they need. To understand further, let's take a deeper dive into the science behind brake pad compound. Ceramic is the standard compound and material used in high-performance brake pads; the reason for this is the chemical makeup it holds within is supremely stout and resistant to fade as well as heat. Hawk Performance can harness this incredible compound by adding heat-treating processes and chemicals that allow it to take extreme temperatures upon hard braking, heat cycles, and repeated abuse, depending on the series of brake pads you choose.

It's important to remember that all brake pads composed of ceramic compounds are not created equal; we recommend that you use the proper brake pad designated for the specific application you intended to use it in, whether it is on the street or track. Luckily, Hawk Performance has a full lineup of street pads and their track series of DTC pads manufactured with a specific density and ceramic material that allows for the best braking performance possible for your application.

Bedding Your Brakes

Bedding Brake Pads Properly

Like everything in the performance and Mustang world, each part requires a proper bed-in to provide maximum performance and durability. It is no different when it comes to your brake pads. After installation, brake pads have a series of processes you must enact to ensure proper heat cycle, longevity, and verifying they mold correctly within the braking system. According to manufacturer specifications, bedding your brakes is crucial to enabling the best out of your new brake pads.

After installing the new brake pads on your Mustang, you will want to double-check everything is correctly installed and torqued to OEM specifications for proper safety and functionality. Once you have completed this, you will need to complete the following steps to correctly bed your brakes. Thanks to Hawk Performance, we can give you proper bedding procedures for your brake pads below. This process is also covered in the Street and Track videos below, as well!

Street Brake Pad Bedding

Once you have your new street brake pads installed, you will need to do the following to break-in the new pads correctly.

  1. Start by doing six to ten stops with moderate braking pressure from 30-35 miles per hour.
  2. Once finished, make two to three more stops applying hard brake pressure from 40-45 miles per hour.
  3. Whatever you do, do not drag your brakes!
  4. For fifteen minutes, allow for your brakes to cool down.
  5. After all, these steps are completed, your street brake pads are ready for use.

Track Brake Pad Bedding

Unlike street pads, Hawk Performance offers track brake pads which require a much more in-depth brake bedding process to get the maximum performance out of them.

  1. Once on track, get your Mustang up to a medium speed while engaging your brake pedal to slow your car down, but without coming to a complete stop. You will want to release the brake pedal quickly and be sure not to drag brakes whatsoever. Repeat this four or five times.
  2. Upon higher speeds, engage your brake pedal to slow the car down without coming to a complete stop. You will want to release your brake pedal quickly and ensure you do not drag your brakes, and repeat this step at least five times.
  3. At race speeds, engage your brake pedal on your Mustang to slow the car down without coming to a stop, release the pedal fast, be sure not to drag brakes, and then you will want to repeat these steps a minimum of three times. Allow a few seconds between brake engagements while your Mustang is in motion.
  4. You will want to park your Mustang for approximately twenty minutes or until the brake rotors are entirely cooled and do not hold the brake pedal during the duration of this step.
  5. Note: if you experience any brake fade, or the pedal becomes soft become apparent, park your car for at least twenty minutes. Whatever you do, do not hold down your brake pedal.

S550 Mustang Front Wheel Street

If needed, you can download Hawk Performance's Brake Pad Bedding Instructions (PDF) right here.

Whether you need a street or track application brake pad, properly bedding your brakes will ensure you get optimal bite, modulation, deceleration, and overall stopping power. No matter your driving style, doing this necessary procedure is paramount even if you are on a favorite canyon road or carving up a road course like The FIRM (Florida International Rally & Motorsports Park).

Mustang Street Brake Pads

Mustang Street Brake Pad Testing

When it comes to factory Mustang brake testing, it's not difficult to find OE brake pad 60-0 MPH measurements thanks to many magazine tests out there. So, comparing a factory GT350 versus a factory GT PP1 car is pretty easy in terms of knowing what you'll get making the jump to a GT350. However, if you're the kind of driver that doesn't want to make that jump to the GT350, but they want the Shelby GT350 braking potential, then upgrading your brake pads is a solid bet.

Enter the Hawk Performance street brake pad lineup. Between these three pads, you'll surely be able to outfit your Mustang with enough stopping power to carve corners on your favorite backroad or autocross event with confidence while having the ability to pull up to your local cars & coffee without sounding like a dump truck screeching to a halt.

The folks at Hawk Performance put a ton of R&D into their pad materials to offer the best possible bite, modulation and stopping power while keeping brake dust and noise to a minimum. It's truly a win-win if you're looking for a step-up over the OE brake pads.

S550 Mustang Street Brakes

Hawk Performance Mustang Street Brake Pads

HPS-5.0 Brake Pads

Being the successor to the all-popular Hawk HPS pad, the HPS-5.0 is a solid pad that offers the most factory-like attributes in terms of performance. For many of you that may be looking to replace your factory Brembo brake pads due to excessive dust, the HPS-5.0 is the perfect street performance upgrade that not only improves on stopping power, but also reduces dust.

  • Hawk HPS-5.0 Breakdown
  • Hawk HPS-5.0 Temperature Graph

Performance Ceramic (PC) Brake Pads

While the HPS-5.0 is a solid choice for those that plan to carve up some backroads and the occasional autocross course, the Performance Ceramic (PC) brake pads from Hawk take things up a notch. These brake pads are perfect if you're looking for all the creature comforts of a street-oriented brake pad, but want the stopping power, initial bite and modulation out of a pad that can take a bit more heat. After driving both back-to-back, cold and street temperature initial bite is definitely a bit more snappy than the HPS-5.0. If you're not quite ready for track pads, but enjoy a spirited drive more often than not, then the PC pads are for you.

  • Hawk Performance Ceramic Breakdown
  • Hawk Performance Ceramic Temperature Graph

HP-Plus Brake Pads

As mentioned in the video, the HP-Plus pads take some of those creature comforts you get with the PC and HPS-5.0 pads and throw them out the window. Unofficially coined Hawk's autocross brake pad, the HP-Plus trades noise and dust for stellar initial bite, modulation and stopping power in cooler temperatures. This provides track-like brake pad attributes without the hassle of warming up your pads to sky-high temperatures that you simply won't reach on an autocross track being only 60-75 seconds on-course. If you're looking for a dedicated set of autocross or light track duty brake pads and don't mind a bit of dust and noise when cold, then look no further than the HP-Plus.

  • Hawk HP-Plus Breakdown
  • Hawk HP-Plus Temperature Graph

How We Set Up Street Pad Testing

The testing for Hawk's street brake pad lineup was rather simple. For the test vehicle, we'll be using our 2015 Mustang Q350 EcoBoost project car. Our head tech, Jamie Bell, will be piloting the car to 60 MPH, and slamming on the brakes at the double cones. There are a series of cones further down starting at 80 feet, for every 10 feet up to 130 feet. These cones will be used to measure each brake pad and where Jamie comes to a complete stop after every test.

For the street pad testing, we will be running the car three times with each brake pad. The results will be an average of front rotor temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and stopping distance from 60-0 MPH in feet.

Steeda Q350 EcoBoost Street Brake Pad Testing

Street Test 2015 Mustang Q350 EcoBoost Specs:

Street Brake Pad Test Results

Hawk Performance Street Brake Test

After testing, it was easy to see that there was one outlier from the trio of Hawk's street brake pad lineup. The HP-Plus definitely shined through as the go-to choice for someone who wants a great initial bite with a high friction coefficient designed for the cooler temperatures you'll get with autocross or a short track session. You also see that higher friction coefficient at work with the elevated front rotor temperatures in comparison to the PC and HPS-5.0 pads. This is due to the more aggressive ferro-carbon, high tech friction material engineered for motorsports. Again, you'll see more brake dust and noise out of these pads - but for a healthy trade-off of sheer performance.

On paper, the HPS-5.0 and PC pads from Hawk have very similar characteristics; especially when comparing modulation, noise & dust, which are all quite important for a street-oriented pad. However, when driving with these two pads back-to-back on our Q350 EcoBoost, we were able to differentiate those metrics we found on paper.

Nitto NT555 G2 Street Tire MustangNitto NT555 G2 Street Tire

In our opinion, for those drivers out there who are looking for a pad that features all the comforts of an OE brake pad, but with added performance benefits, the Performance Ceramic pad is the go-to choice. Not only does this pad material offer just as little noise & dust as the HPS-5.0, but you'll get a higher friction coefficient in cooler temperatures. This means the initial bite is quite pleasant, with the ability to modulate as you carve corners.

This isn't to say the HPS-5.0 isn't a solid brake pad choice. In our opinion, it's even a step up over OE - even for 2015+ GT Performance Package Brembo-equipped car - but it just doesn't have that initial bite that the PC pad will give you. Both pads will perform similarly in higher temperatures; falling off gradually as pad temperatures reach 600+ degrees, but for street duty, you can't go wrong with either. It just boils down to how much spirited driving you intend to do in your Mustang.

Street Testing - Nitto NT555 G2

Test Type Pad Category Front Pad Type Rear Pad Type Front Rotor Temp 60-0 MPH Braking
60-0 MPH Street HPS-5.0 HPS-5.0 192 deg F 109 ft
60-0 MPH Street Performance Ceramic (PC) Performance Ceramic (PC) 189 deg F 98 ft
60-0 MPH Street/Track HP-Plus HP-Plus 243 deg F 92 ft

Note: We were running track-spec camber for street testing, which could have yielded less than favorable results. With street-spec camber, you can expect a slightly shorter braking distance across the lineup thanks to a larger tire contact patch.

Mustang Track Brake Pads

Mustang Track Brake Pad Testing

Unlike Hawk Performance's street brake pad lineup, the lines between their track brake pads aren't as clear. For that exact reason, we were excited to outfit our Q350 EcoBoost with these pads and figure out which is the most ideal for track conditions. For these track pads, finding the right choice for your vehicle not only takes into account what you're doing with your car, but also vehicle weight, type of road course and driver ability as well.

To start, the S550 Mustang is a bit heavier than other cars out on track, like the Mazda Miata. This means you're going to require a more aggressive brake pad with a higher temperature threshold to handle bringing that bucking horse to a controlled speed as you enter that corner. In addition to that, brake bias needs to be accounted for as well. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to put a super aggressive DTC-70 pad front and rear, knowing that you could potentially lock up the rear tires and find yourself careening towards a tire wall.

A note to street drivers looking into their first set of track pads:

Many of the creature comforts that come along with street brake pads, like brake dust and noise, go out the window in exchange for grabby initial bite and massive operating temperature thresholds of 1,600+ degrees. Additionally, some track pads, like the DTC-70, require warm-up time until they are operating at full potential. On the street, these pads will never reach proper temperatures, so it's advised to have a dedicated set of street and track pads at this level.

Hawk Performance Mustang Track Brake Pads

DTC-30 Brake Pads

When at the proper operating temperatures, the DTC-30 offers really good modulation and initial bite. Being Hawk's entry-level track pad, the DTC-30 feels great up until a certain point and seems to let off as driver ability increases in longer track sessions. The DTC-30 is a good pad for autocross or short track sprints with beginner to intermediate driver skill. Once the driver is comfortable enough to start braking deeper and extending time out on track, similarly to the HP-Plus, this pad will run out of steam in relatively short order -- especially in a heavier track car, like a Mustang.

  • Hawk DTC-30 Breakdown
  • Hawk DTC-30 Temperature Graph

DTC-60 Brake Pads

Looking at the DTC-60s friction coefficient to temperature graph, you'll see that this pad is more similar to the DTC-70 than the DTC-30. With a minimal warm-up threshold, you'll see the DTC-60 is a great all-around pad that performs well when cool, all the way up to 1,100 degrees with minimal drop-off in stopping power. If the DTC-30s ran out of steam for you too quickly, the DTC-60s are a perfect step up.

  • Hawk DTC-60 Breakdown
  • Hawk DTC-60 Temperature Graph

DTC-70 Brake Pads

For the Mustang lineup, you aren't going to get much more aggressive than the DTC-70 pads from Hawk Performance. Requiring a bit of warm-up to get to their operating temperature of 400-1,600 degrees, this pad bites best from 800-1,200 degrees. At this level, it's suggested that you split pads between front and rear axles depending on brake bias. Meaning a DTC-60 or DTC-30 may be a safer pad for the rear axle, as we found out in our testing.

  • Hawk DTC-70 Breakdown
  • Hawk DTC-70 Temperature Graph

How We Set Up Track Pad Testing

Nitto NT01 Track Tire MustangNitto NT01 Road Course Tire

Knowing that these track brake pads needed to be tested at track temperatures, Steeda Way just outside of our Valdosta location just wasn't going to cut it. We reached out to our good friends at Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park (The FIRM) in Starke, FL to get access to one of the most brake-intensive road courses on the east coast! The last piece to the puzzle was a set of 315mm square Nitto NT01 Competition Road Course Tires to properly put these brake pads to the test!

We started off showcasing what happens when you take a street brake pad, such as the HPS-5.0, and subjecting it to track temperatures. By doing so, we were able to see true brake fade after those HPS-5.0 pads got nice and toasty thanks to a few laps at The FIRM.

Once we let the brakes cool down, each of the pads from Hawk's DTC lineup got their chance to shine. After the proper bedding procedures, each pad was subjected to 3 hot laps on The FIRM to get up to proper track temperatures. Immediately after those 3 laps, we performed a 60-0 MPH test, measuring the distance to stop in feet along with the front rotor temperature. This braking test was repeated 3 times for each pad, and both figures were averaged for the final results.

Steeda Q350 EcoBoost Track Brake Pad Testing

Track Test 2015 Mustang Q350 EcoBoost Specs:

Track Brake Pad Test Results

Hawk Performance Track Brake Pad Test Racing

When it comes to the brake fade test we kicked the day off with, there wasn't much surprise. There's no doubt that the HPS-5.0 pads weren't at home on track after more than a lap or two, simply because of the temperature demands that come with track use. After one moderately paced lap, Jamie came to a stop in 101 feet with a brisk 202 degrees rotor temperature. This was a pretty good outcome considering the extra grip you're getting with the 315mm wide NT01s on all four corners in comparison to the 109 feet the NT555 G2 street tires generated.

However, after going around for a harder lap and coming to a stop, rotor temperature increased to nearly 500 degrees resulting in a 15 ft increase in stopping distance from 60 MPH. We should note that the 498 degree rotor temperature barely scratches the surface of the average operating temperatures of track use. We wanted Jamie to get the brakes even hotter with the HPS-5.0s to showcase some serious brake fade, but didn't want to sacrifice his safety on such a brake-intensive course.

Changing Hawk Pads On Mustang

We then strapped on the DTC-30 brake pads front and rear to see how they stood up to 3 hot laps. Much to our surprise, Jamie freight-trained through the optimal temperature threshold of these pads pretty quickly. He reported that the DTC-30s felt great in both bite and modulation for the first lap, but quickly fell off as pad temperatures rose. With an average front rotor temperature of 612 degrees, we saw a slightly disappointing 102 ft average stopping distance, with some stops even further. This was due largely in part to the weight of our Mustang alongside Jamie's more advanced driving ability. For the driver who is just getting into racing, the DTC-30s could be a solid choice if their car is on the lighter side.

S550 Mustang Racing Road Course The FIRM

In chatting with the Hawk Performance team as the brakes cooled down, it was suggested that we retain the DTC-30 pads in the rear and up the fronts to DTC-60s. After all, the front brakes do most of the work. Going on their suggestion, after bedding, this combination warranted an average front rotor temperature of 599 degrees with a 94 ft stopping distance. Jamie mentioned how much of a step-up these pads felt over the DTC-30s as they could hold temperature much, much longer as the laps went on.

Moving along the same line of thought, we upped the rear pads to DTC-60, and the fronts to DTC-70, for the final test. Jamie has run this brake pad combination on the car before, so he was excited to see how it performed alongside the 315mm wide Nitto NT01s. Achieving the highest average rotor temperature of 628 degrees, we were able to average 82 feet from 60-0 MPH. The last stop was even 79 feet! The harder we pushed this combination, the quicker it came to a stop.

From The Driver, Jamie Bell:
I was not trying to max out each combination, just wanted to be fair with all the pads. This was the first time using the 315mm wide NT01 tires on this car for me, so there was a learning curve that I did not fully achieve or figure out in the short day of testing. There was definitely more time to be had in the last two combinations, also if we swapped to DTC-70s in the front with DTC-30s in the rear, it likely would have been quicker. Additionally, if we had more time to run longer sessions (5-10 laps), I feel very good that there was another 1.5 to 2 seconds more to be had. To help you understand how well the test actually went, I was only 0.7 seconds off my personal best time at this track and 1.2 seconds faster than the last event I ran here.

Hawk Performance Mustang Track Brake Test

Track Testing - Nitto NT01

Test Type Pad Category Front Pad Type Rear Pad Type Front Rotor Temp 60-0 MPH Braking Best Track Time
Brake Fade,
Street Temp
Street HPS-5.0 HPS-5.0 202 deg F 101 ft
Brake Fade,
Track Temp
Street HPS-5.0 HPS-5.0 498 deg F 116 ft 1:23.446
Hot Laps, 60-0 Track DTC-30 DTC-30 612 deg F 102 ft 1:22.361
Hot Laps, 60-0 Track DTC-60 DTC-30* 599 deg F 94 ft 1:21.551
Hot Laps, 60-0 Track DTC-70 DTC-60* 628 deg F 82 ft 1:19.552

Which Brake Pads For My Mustang

What Brake Pads Should I Choose For My Mustang?

Hawk Performance Mustang DTC Brake Pad Close

With so many different brake pad compounds out there, finding the perfect set of pads for your application, especially for track use, requires some serious research. That's why we set out to put these pads to the test to help enthusiasts out there choose the right brake pad for them!

When it comes to the street, finding the right brake pad from the Hawk Performance lineup is relatively easy. In most cases, for the enthusiast who enjoys a spirited drive on their favorite backroad, or even the occasional autocross event, the Performance Ceramic (PC) pad is the perfect choice for you. Just enjoy driving your Mustang and looking for a solid upgrade over stock? Then, go with the HPS-5.0.

In between street and track and not sure which direction to go? That lands you on the HP-Plus. Coined Hawk's autocross pad, the HP-Plus brake pad offers many track-like characteristics like stellar initial bite, modulation and stopping power at the lower brake temperatures that you'll see on a 60-90 second autocross course.

Moving on to the track pads, things get a bit more confusing considering there are more factors to take into account. Things like vehicle weight, driver skill/ability, type of course and more all need to be taken into consideration when choosing the right track brake pad for your build. Being the DTC-30 for a smaller car, and less experienced driver, or the DTC-70 for the experienced racer with a slightly heavier vehicle.

We hope that our tests help point you in the right direction, and if you have any questions on the right Hawk Performance brake pad choice for your fast Ford, then don't hesitate to reach out to our experts at 1-800-950-0774!

Mustang Hawk Performance Brake Pad Testing Infographic

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Source: Hawk Performance

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