The stock brake pads that come on most vehicles are thoroughly tested to ensure reliable, consistent stopping power. They’re often relatively quiet, produce little dust, and are designed to make the braking process feel as smooth as possible. These are all great qualities when it comes to a daily driver, but once you start adding aftermarket modifications into the mix, they might not be up to the task. Brake pads are rated for a specific level of performance, but when you gussy up your ride with forced induction, race-ready exhaust, a cold-air intake, or any other components that increase horsepower, your old original equipment manufacturer (OEM) brakes might start to look a little underwhelming.
In the world of high-performance brake pads, two leading brands have emerged to help drivers stop in their tracks. Dynamic Friction Company (DFC) and Powerstop Brakes are two of the most popular aftermarket brake part specialists on the market, producing a full line of brake pads along with brake rotors, drums, brake shoes, hardware kits, and brake sensors. So, who comes out on top in the battle of Dynamic Friction vs PowerStop Brakes? We’ll take a closer look at each company and its offerings and explore some of the reasons you might want to upgrade your brakes in the first place.
OEM Versus Aftermarket Brake Pads
Most drivers only think about their brake pads every three to five years when it’s time for a replacement, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to the performance end of the spectrum. Drivers who put their vehicles through a lot of abuse, whether it be excessive stop-and-go driving, track racing, or traversing steep terrain, are a different story altogether.
OEM pads not only wear out quicker than many aftermarket options, but they also have a longer stopping distance and are prone to warping brake rotors due to their poor heat dispersion. OEM brake pads are also usually more prone to brake fade during high-performance applications, which is truly the worst-case scenario. For those who have been lucky enough never to experience the phenomenon, brake fade occurs when the brakes are overtaxed — usually thanks to a heavy load or high speeds — leading to a sudden loss of braking power. It can be a scary experience for any driver, and it speaks to the importance of picking the right set of brake pads.
That said, aftermarket performance brake pads might not always be the right choice. If the most high-speed action your car, truck, or SUV sees is when you’re trying to overtake another driver on the highway, the expense and effort of replacing your stock pads with an aftermarket product may not be worth the hassle. Secondly, there’s the issue of fitment. While the OEM pads with your vehicle were designed to work with the specific make and model, most aftermarket brake pads are universal, meaning they’re made to fit on a wide range of vehicles. This universal design might seem like a positive, but it can lead to some real issues when it comes to getting the right fit. There’s a little margin for error, but if you end up with a set of brake pads that aren’t the perfect fit, you might well experience some excessive noise or even reduced stopping power.
Dynamic Friction Company
Based in Los Angeles, Dynamic Friction Company (DFC) was founded in 2015 to provide the auto market with high-quality brake products for a wide range of vehicles. The company’s flagship pads — at least as far as the high-octane set is concerned — would have to be the DFC Active Performance product. Constructed from a proprietary high-friction formula, the DFC Active Performance pads are built for rapid pedal response and brake control, no matter what conditions you might encounter. With high torque and a potent initial bite that’s key for performance applications, the pads are a great choice for track or street racing. The DFC Active Performance pads are built to perform under the toughest conditions and have been tested in extreme temperatures ranging from -30° to 1400° Fahrenheit.
While DFC does make some of the industry’s leading high-performance brake pads, they have a presence across the whole market with a number of products designed for daily driving. At one end of the spectrum, you’ll find the DFC 3000 Ceramic pads, which are designed for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks. Like the DFC Active Performance pads, the DFC 3000s excel in a wide range of temperatures and are noteworthy for their low dust emission and fade resistance.
Stepping up a level, you’ll find the DFC 3000 Semi-Metallic, also designed for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks, which are noteworthy for their long service life, low noise, and low impact on the brake rotors. The DFC 5000 Advanced represents another step up, giving drivers some of the best performance in the industry thanks to their OEM-based formulations that allow them to work in perfect harmony with your vehicle’s Automated Braking System (ABS). Like all DFC pads, the DFC 5000 Advanced is post-cured and scorched to burn off the uncured bonding agent left over from the manufacturing process. By scorching off this substance, the pad’s break-in period is significantly reduced, allowing drivers to use their new pads without delay.
If you’ve got a particularly heavy vehicle or are looking to do some serious towing or off-roading, DFC has you covered with the DFC Heavy Duty pads. In addition to being low-dust and low-noise, these semi-metallic pads are ideal for frequent braking scenarios, offering consistent performance no matter how heavily you’re loaded down or how steep of a grade you’re ascending.
DFC must be doing something right as they’ve made a habit out of collecting some of the industry’s most coveted awards. 2022 marked the sixth straight year that the California company earned recognition from the Friction Materials and Standards Institute, a trade organization that’s been keeping tabs on the brake industry for over 70 years. Most recently, DFC took home the New Assignments and Applications award in acknowledgement of their considerable research and development activities. DFC has also recently earned the Automotive Parts Association (APA) New Supplier Award for 2022.
“DFC continues to demonstrate unwavering commitment to providing the aftermarket with high quality brake components,” says Jesus “Chuy” Villalobos, R&D Manager at DFC. “This year’s FMSI award is an affirmation of the competitive advantage we offer our customers. We provide unrivaled quality and are consistently bringing first-to-market brake components to the automotive community.”
PowerStop Brakes was founded in Chicago around two decades ago, but the company’s roots stretch all the way back to the childhood of co-founder Arvin Scott. While working at his grandfather’s auto parts store in his youth, Scott realized that the stock brakes that come on most vehicles left a lot to be desired. This adolescent epiphany has never been far from Scott’s mind, leading him to found PowerStop brakes to, in the words of the company’s website, “make the brakes that should’ve come on every new car.”
Like DFC, PowerStop produces pads for a wide range of high-performance rides, daily drivers, off-road rigs, and burly towing vehicles. The company claims that its upgrade kits are available for 98 percent of the vehicles on the road today, from late model cars, trucks, and SUVs all the way back to some of the 60’s most iconic muscle cars.
While PowerStop certainly caters to the performance end of the market, the company says that every driver — no matter their horsepower — could benefit from aftermarket brake pads. “Brake upgrades shouldn’t just be for high-performance vehicles,” says PowerStop co-founder Scott. As such, PowerStop’s offerings start with the Z16 and Z17 Evolution Ceramic Brake Pads.
Designed with a low-dust formula, these pads are notable for their dual-layer rubberized shims, which insulate brake noise for nearly silent operation. The company’s Z23 Evolution Sport Carbon-Fiber Brake Pads are perfect for anyone looking to give their daily driver a little performance boost. Upgrading from ceramic to carbon fiber allows for more stopping power without the negative side effects that can come with performance brakes, namely driveability.
The Z26 Street Performance Carbon-Fiber Ceramic Brake Pads are designed specifically for muscle cars and other high-horsepower, high-performance vehicles, combining the best attributes of ceramic and carbon-fiber construction to give drivers the stopping power they need. These low-dust, low-noise pads are not only infused with carbon fiber, but they also come with premium stainless-steel hardware and shims, which make for better heat dissipation while drastically reducing noise.
If you’re gearing up for track days or a high-performance driving event (HPDE), you’ll want to check out PowerStop’s Track Day and Track Day Spec brake pads. The basic Track Day pads are great for racing newcomers, allowing you to focus on the high-speed fun without having to worry about your brakes calling it quits before the checkered flag. Their carbon-fiber/metallic construction goes a long way in reducing brake fade, which is an important consideration when you’re rounding the track at 150 mph.
Brake pads are all about maintaining a high coefficient of friction, but that can be difficult when you’re subjecting your ride to the stress of a track day or HPDE. PowerStop’s Track Day pads are ready to bring you to a screeching halt no matter how hot the brakes might get, making them ideal for high-performance applications.
Once you’ve cut your teeth on your local racing circuit, it might be time to upgrade to PowerStop’s Track Day Spec pads, which use a metallic pad compound to ensure extreme fade resistance at even the highest speeds. They might be on the more expensive side but are well worth the investment if you’re intent on taxing the speedometer, though you don’t have to take our word for it. PowerStop is the official brake supplier of the renowned Radford Racing School, once the largest purpose-built driving school in the world.
PowerStop’s Z36 Truck and Tow Carbon-Fiber Ceramic Brake Pads deliver the severe-duty stopping power that bigger, loaded-down vehicles so desperately need, but the company’s most unique product might be their Z37 Top Cop Carbon-Fiber Ceramic Brake Pads. Specifically built for police pursuit vehicles, these pads give you top-tier performance when you need it most.
Between the speed, abrupt turning and stopping, a high-speed chase is one of the most taxing jobs any vehicle will undergo. PowerStop’s Z37 pads have undergone rigorous testing in simulated pursuit scenarios, allowing law enforcement to focus on the task at hand without having to worry about what will happen when they step on the brakes.
PowerStop might sell many of the same types of products as DFC, but their approach is a little bit different. Instead of forcing drivers to source their brake pads, rotors, and hardware piece by piece, PowerStop has introduced an innovative “one-click brake upgrade kit” that packs all the parts for a full brake overhaul into one box. This approach makes PowerStop particularly well-suited to the DIY set, allowing drivers to complete their own pad and rotor replacement in the comfort of their own garage without the endless trips back and forth to the auto parts store.
There’s a Variety of Brake Pads on the Market for All Types of Drivers
There’s no understating the importance of your vehicle’s brakes, but the average driver often overlooks them. This is a shame because aside from the engine itself, the brakes are arguably one of the most important components in any vehicle; just ask someone who has experienced brake fade or had their pads, rotors, or calipers fail while in the middle of a drive.
Dynamic Friction Company and PowerStop have carved out a niche in the industry by catering to performance-minded drivers, but as PowerStop’s Scott says, premium braking products shouldn’t be limited to those who regularly reach for the 91 octane. When it comes time for your next brake pad and rotor replacement, consider looking into an aftermarket offering from DFC, PowerStop, and the like. While upgraded pads are a must-have for track days and HPDEs, the truth is that every driver can benefit from a fresh set of premium aftermarket pads.