Hawk Performance: Choosing the Right Brake Pads for any Situation

Paid article presented by Hawk Performance

photos courtesy of Hawk Performance

Hurtling down the road or track in a car is one of the best feelings in the world. One better: Bringing all of that speed down to a controlled, safe stop. Brakes are a huge deal in our world, and companies like Hawk Performance make them work their best. We spoke with Hawk’s own Edwin Mangune to get their story, as well as some knowledge about what separates a good pad from a great pad.

Origin Story

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Hawk got its start 30 years ago, when a few executives working at Carlisle Brake & Friction (Hawk’s parent company) needed new brake pads. They raced dirt circle tracks, and couldn’t find a suitable brake pad compound. So, they went to the production team and asked them to come up with something better. “Make a new pad compound from scratch” sounds like a tall order, but the way Edwin tells it, it’s just physics – physics Carlisle Brake & Friction has been mastering since 1924. They make friction components for everything from airplanes to trains to automobiles, with their products found on military vehicles, farm tractors, and everything in-between. The production team knocked out a few prototypes, settling on two new compounds: Hawk Black and Hawk Blue 9012.

And they worked. So well, in fact, that the Hawk executives found themselves putting in extra orders for their racing buddies. The orders from friends and family escalated, the feedback was positive, and a new company was formed: Hawk Performance. Those two pad compounds? They’re still sold today, completely unchanged from their original formulations.  

Though Hawk is still just a small part of the Carlisle group, they’re huge in the motorsports world. Hawk is the Official Brake Product for motorsports organizations like the National Auto Sport Association, Ron Fellows Performance Driving School, Allen Berg Racing School, Stadium Super Trucks and the SCCA. Don’t race? Hawk has you covered there, too, branching out into performance pads for all sorts of situations, like aggressive street cars, tow vehicles, and more.

What Makes a Race Pad?

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“So,” we asked Edwin, “What makes a race pad different from a street pad?” The way Edwin explained it, a racing brake pad is a pad without the limitations of street pads holding it back. Rather than attempt to be a jack of all trades, race pads are noisy and dusty. They’re optimized for track work, and nothing gets in their way. Even Hawk’s entry level race HP+ pads—which are gentle enough on rotors to use as a daily-driven street pad—are dusty and noisy compared to anything you’d find on a dealer lot.

Get past the dust and the noise, Edwin explains, and you can really focus on the application’s needs: What kind of surface is the vehicle racing on? What kind of car is it? Does it have a lot of horsepower, or is it more momentum-based? How much does it weigh? What kind of tires is it running? A Corvette on good tires will need different pads than a stock Honda Civic.

The primary consideration, says Edwin, is torque. It’s how much friction the pad imparts on the brake rotor. Why does it matter? It’s natural to assume that higher-torque pads are better, but the goal is ample stopping power without constantly locking tires, since once the tires lock, there’s nothing more your brakes can do. A well-matched pad choice will allow the driver to modulate the brakes effectively, consistently stopping exactly where they expect to stop. Science guides this decision, but at the end of the day it’s completely based on driver’s feel—the person racing the car will make the decision. As Edwin says, “If you ask someone how the brakes feel and they respond, ‘I wasn’t thinking about them,’ then that’s ideal.”

Temperature is the next consideration, specifically the pad’s optimal heat range. If your pad combination is light on brake torque, the duration of brake use may be extended to slow or stop the car thus generating high brake rotor temperatures. Edwin says that a torquier pad will generally run slightly cooler (the driver spends less time on the brakes), but the primary drivers here are weight and power, because at the end of the day it all comes back to physics. Brakes stop a car by converting kinetic energy into heat, and a fast, heavy car has more kinetic energy (and thus more heat) than a slow one.

Small, lightweight cars don’t need pads rated for higher temperatures, because they can’t actually get them up to the optimal temperature range. However, a big Corvette with gobs of horsepower and sticky tires will need a torquier, higher temp pad. What’s the penalty for running pads in the wrong temperature range? Edwin: “If you’re using a friction material that’s overheating, you’ll see heavy pad transfer, assuring that the pad will get burnt or glazed which reduces stopping power. If the pad isn’t heating up enough, you’ll see reduced initial bite and stopping power.”

Of course, every pad is still a compromise, with longevity the primary consideration after stopping power and heat capacity. Case in point: Endurance racing pads, which trade brake torque for longer pad life.

What About Dual-Duty Pads?

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What’s the special sauce that goes into pads marketed as dual-duty, suitable for street driving as well as track work? Edwin explained it simply: “What’s important if you’re using any pad on the street is it needs to work stone cold. That’s the difference versus an all-out race pad. That’s why you shouldn’t use race pads on the street.”

What Should I Use for Autocrossing?

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“Again, it highly depends on the vehicle and most of the factors listed for race pads, keeping in mind that these pads need to work stone cold,” says Edwin. He shared one data point with us: A champion who runs a street-class 2011 Camaro SS uses Hawk HPS pads, which is Hawk’s entry-level street pad. “It’s a very common pad for autocrossers, with proven success,” says Edwin. There may be a new standard soon, though: Hawk’s new HPS 5.0 pad is better than the HPS, as it offers more brake torque and initial bite/feel, yet can handle higher temperatures, too.

What About My Truck?

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So then, what about the trucks and SUVs hauling those race cars to the track? Hawk has them covered, too, with their LTS and Super Duty pads.

If you’re after maximum stopping power and don’t care about dust and noise, Hawk recommends their Super Duty pads. They offer way more torque than the factory compound, but as always there’s a tradeoff: they’re dusty and noisy. These pads can only be used for extremely heavy applications that can get the pads up to temperature. Hawk also recommends the Super Duty pads for professional fleet use, where stopping power is more important that comfort and appearance.

If you’re not a fan of dust or noise, or your truck spends lots of time without a trailer hitched up, Hawk recommends their LTS line of pads. LTS pads provide superior stopping power and longer pad life, without excessive noise and dust. Hawk offers them for most import and domestic trucks and SUVs.

Should I Bed My Brakes?

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Always. When it comes to bedding brakes, Hawk absolutely recommends it—in a motorsports environment it’s definitely necessary, and it’s simple. How do you do it? Edwin explains: “The main goal is to transfer friction material without thermally shocking the rotors.” In laymen’s terms, gradually get the brakes warm, then park the car. Edwin shared one example: Drivers at Willow Springs running cars with V8s and slicks take about 4 laps with high-torque, high-temp pads to bed them. They bring them up to temp slowly (7-800 degrees is hot enough, though race temps can be 1600 degrees), then park the car for 20 minutes to complete the heat cycle.

What happens if you skip brake bedding? Best case, you’ll have inconsistent pedal feel, with worst-case outcomes starting at cracked rotors and proceeding to situations where a tow truck might be necessary. The bottom line is simple: Always properly bed your brakes after changing pads and rotors.

Full Stop: Takeaways from Hawk Performance

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What did we learn? Though at the end of the day physics can’t be changed, clever brake pad compound selection can make a car faster, safer, and easier to drive. The bottom line is simple: Match your brake pads to your car, and don’t be afraid to ask the experts for help. Hawk Performance’s website lists dozens of pad compounds, so you’re sure to find the right match for your car.

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Comments
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mspeedP5
mspeedP5 New Reader
5/8/19 4:29 p.m.

It's disappointing that when I do a product search by vehicle on their website they only go as new as 2017.

I've got a 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE...

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Dork
5/8/19 4:34 p.m.

In reply to mspeedP5 :

I'm sure a phone call would be effective.

GPz11
GPz11 Reader
5/8/19 4:46 p.m.

For sure, give them a call.

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) UltimaDork
5/8/19 7:54 p.m.

My 2006 MX-5 just got a sweet upgrade.  From parts store ceramic pads to HPS 5.0 all around.  My butt dyno says it was at least a 50% improvement in stopping power.  And since physics says deceleration is just negative acceleration I can now brag about having 300 “brake” horsepower.

adam525i
adam525i Reader
5/8/19 8:23 p.m.

I'm disappointed they discontinued the Street Race pads, the DTC-30 compound worked just as well on the street and cold as the HP+ but with an extra 300 degrees of temperature capacity on top for track days.

Adam

StuntmanMike
StuntmanMike New Reader
5/9/19 6:48 a.m.

I've loved Hawk pads for a long time but for track duty I can't seem to find a good fit. DTC-30's get hot and only last 2 track days, I don't think I got the 60's hot enough, and the 50's got bad reviews and I'm not sure they're around anymore. About to try some Raybestos ST43...

I ran a set of HPS street/autox for 100,000 miles until they needed replacement and I like that they switch with track pads without rebedding. I also run the SuperDuty on my SUV and they are great- good cold bit, no dust or noise unlike the description surprisingly. I tried the Street/Race (DTC-30) on the street and it was a nightmare! Squealed like a dump truck and left a race weekend layer of dust after one drive to work. 

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
5/9/19 7:50 a.m.

I run the 5.0 on my Fiesta ST and they are a great dual-use pad. They offer good modulation and plenty of stopping power at the autocross, but are easy to live with on a daily driver. Noise and brake dust are the same as an OEM pad.  

I ran their race pad for track days and agree that they are amazing on the track, but not acceptable for the street.  They stop fine on the street, but the level of brake dust is hard to keep up with and they are noisy.  For hauling a car down on track though, they are worth the investment. 

RX8driver
RX8driver Reader
5/9/19 8:00 a.m.

I really liked the DTC-60's on my RX-8, but unfortunately they didn't make track pads for both ends of my 2015 WRX, so I had to go elsewhere.

rslifkin
rslifkin UltraDork
5/9/19 8:37 a.m.

I ran the Superduty front / HPS rear combo on the Jeep for a while.  I ended up switching away for a couple of reasons.  A big one was the forced front / rear mis-match as the Superduty pads weren't available for the rear.  Beyond that, the fronts dusted like crazy, but it was mostly rotor dust, not pad dust.  They ate rotors.  Like 2 sets of rotors down to minimum thickness and the pads weren't shot yet.  They did stop very well with a little heat in them though and they tolerated heat well.  In cold weather they were a little wooden and sketchy until they warmed up a little.  And a panic stop at 10* outside was a full second of "oh E36 M3" while the pads warmed up and then you were eating windshield.  Contrary to Hawk's warnings, I only heard them make noise once or twice in probably 90k miles with that combo (2 sets of pads).  

The replacement pads for the Jeep were a set of Carbotech AX6s.  They dust even worse than the Hawks, but it's all pad dust so it cleans off much more easily.  20 minutes of bedding and my front wheels went from clean to completely black.  Stopping power when warm is slightly better than the Hawks, but cold bite is noticeably better, especially in cold winter weather.  They are louder though.  If they're stone cold or good and hot, they're quiet.  If they're normal street driving in warm weather temperature and I brake too lightly in traffic, they squeal.  Brake harder and they get quiet. 

Heat tolerance seems just a hair better than the Hawks, but nothing major.  I got the Hawks to fade slightly once or twice, but only really beating on them.  After bedding, I've never been able to fade the Carbotechs, but I'm not sure I've pushed them quite as hard.  

Both pads do have a slight flaw for street driving: I'm too light on the brakes.  So they don't stay bedded in all that well and start to lose bite.  The Hawks took a bit more to get them re-bedded and keep them bedded in, the Carbotechs just took a little bit of me remembering to brake harder at times, especially when it's cold.  

The Hawks do carry one big advantage though.  They're less than half the price.  Oh, and they're actually in stock at places when you order them.  Unlike the Carbotechs which cost cubic dollars and when I ordered them, I had to wait about 10 days before they shipped.  I'm pretty sure it was something like "oh hey, someone actually ordered those Jeep pads we put in the catalog, I guess we should make some." 

Professor_Brap
Professor_Brap Dork
5/9/19 9:02 a.m.

I am a huge fan of HAWK pads, they go on everything I keep. 

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