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Should You Buy Cheap or Premium S-Cam Brakes?

3 Key Points in this Article:

  1. Cheap brakes come from cheap friction material.
  2. Higher priced brakes is a strong indicator of higher quality brakes.
  3. Premium brakes lower your cost-per-mile and make you more money.

Have you ever been tempted by a great price on brakes?

It’s normal to want to save money and as a fleet or repair shop owner you have a responsibility to increase profit where you can. But, are you really saving money when you buy cheap brakes?


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Don’t have time to read the entire article.

That’s okay, listen to episode 4 of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.


Cost-per-Mile vs. Purchase Price

When you buy brakes that are 50% cheaper than the premium brakes you’ve been buying, what does that do to your cost-per-mile?

That’s the only question that really matters because your cost-per-mile largely dictates the profitability of your commercial vehicles.

It may feel good to get an invoice for half the cost of your usual brake job but that good feeling can be extremely expensive.

The solution is counterintuitive.

Marathon Brakes - HS20

Pay more for your brakes.

How can paying higher prices be better?

It all comes down to the idea that “you rarely get more than you pay for.” All things being equal, higher prices are an indication of higher quality.

I know sometimes it feels like distributors are price gouging but in the aftermarket that is rarely the case. It is simple, most distributors have tens of thousands of parts in their inventory. They don’t have the time to price each part, so they use formulas.

My point is simply that if your price is higher it is because the part costs the distributor more, and the reason it costs the distributor more is that something about the manufacturing process drove the cost up.

Typically, the things that drive up manufacturing costs are higher quality materials and/or better technology which leads to longer lasting service intervals and overall performance.

Therefore, I recommend that you pay higher prices for your brakes.

When you manufacture a brake shoe for an s-cam brake system, the labor accounts for roughly 20% of the total cost and since brakes are manufactured in South America or Asia the cost of labor is relatively consistent globally.

The cost of producing the table and the web and the cost of shipping the finished product to North America is relatively consistent globally as well. That means that as much as 60% to 80% of the cost of your s-cam brakes is in the friction material.

If you are presented with a brake shoe that is 50% of the cost of the brakes you’ve been buying it means that the place that they saved money is in the friction material itself.

Premium Brakes Comes from Premium Raw Materials

One of the differences between brake material that is cheap (think low purchase price, higher cost-per-mile) and brake material that is more expensive (think higher purchase price, lower cost-per-mile) is the density.

Low-density brake material is cheaper to produce but it does not perform well in high-temperature situations.

Since the very purpose of a brake shoe is to contact the drum and generate heat, it is very important to have a material that can generate high heat, create the required braking force and then dissipate the heat quickly.

Raw Material Used to Manufacture Friction Material

High-density brake material costs more to produce but it works far better than cheaper low-density brake material.

High-density brake lining is better able to handle the high heat of a brake application, it also provides better brake or water fade performance and it recovers better.

Heatstar vs. Other Friction Material

High-density brake linings also have stronger structural integrity, making them less likely to crack during riveting or due to rust jacking. They also exhibit significantly better wear characteristics, especially at high temperatures.

Therefore, using high-density brakes that have a higher purchase price leads to a more efficient fleet with lower maintenance costs and lower cost-per-mile which is money in the bank for the fleet owner.

High-density is not the only characteristic that is important when considering the raw materials used in the brakes you are buying. For a more detailed discussion about friction material visit The Heavy-Duty Parts Report website: heavydutypartsreport.com

In episode 4 of the podcast, I interviewed Bob Hicks the president of Marathon Brake Systems and we discussed several features of high-quality brakes that provide superior performance and lower cost-per-mile.


If you would like to schedule a 15-minute call with me to talk about your specific situation and discover the many solutions that I sell that lower cost-per-mile and increases profit please click here.

Author: Jamie Irvine

My name is Jamie Irvine and I have been a Sales Professional since 1997 and an Entrepreneur since 2009.

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