What are the Differences Between OEM, OES and Aftermarket Brake Pads?


I hate to break this to a lot of shop owners, technicians and consumers, but 97% of the time (my estimate) when you are buying a brake pad set from a new car dealer, you are not getting the exact pad that was installed on the vehicle when it was assembled.

Sure, if the vehicle is a new platform, chances are that within the first or two year of production the pads setting on the dealer’s shelves might be the exact pad from the assembly line. But, after a certain period of time, those pads will be replaced by pads that are close, but not the exact pad. This is called an Original Equipment Supplier (OES) pad.

40706gif_00000000630Factory installed brake pads can be very expensive because the OE is willing to spend money to have quiet brakes because brake noise complaints costs a lot of money. The most expensive part of an factory-installed pad is the friction material. But, the testing and engineering of the pads are also very expensive. These costs can push the price of the pad well past ultra-premium brake pad.

When it comes to OES pads, chances are it will not be the same pad, or even manufacturer. It will be close to the OE pad because, in some cases, the OE is willing to share design and engineering specifications with the OES supplier.

Most shops will tell you they buy brake pads from the dealer if the customer specifies it or if they have confidence in the dealer’s product (which is rightly deserved in some cases). Some of these OES pads are manufactured by top-line aftermarket manufacturers.

But, the most irritating aspect of these second-line pads is when dealers try to pass off $99 “pad slaps” as “approved service” with “genuine” parts. Most of the marketing and advertising  makes it sound like the consumer will drive out of the service department with a new car for $99. It is a marketing ploy.