Brake Pads for the E36 M3

Nov 20, 2010

I’ve been doing autocross and track days with my 1997 BMW M3 for long enough that I can offer some insight into the brake pads available for E36 M cars. What follows are the brake pads that I have driven, in order of heat handling. If you only drive on the street, the top of the list is where you want to be. If you have a race car, the bottom is your domain.

EBC Greenstuff

An awesome street pad, thanks to producing much less dust than stock. I drove these pads at my very first HPDE with the National Capital Chapter of the BMW CCA; the track is not their forte. By the end of the second day, I had burned through ¾ of the pads, and the car was putting out clouds of smoke braking into turn 1 on Summit Point’s main circuit. Unsurprisingly, this was accompanied by significant fade.

Like stock pads, these will work for your first track experience if you are conservative, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Thanks to their low dust, EBC Green Stuff work great for street pads and even the occasional autocross.

Hawk High Performance Street (HPS)

The HPS are biled as a stock-replacement pad and I would agree with that. They dust a bit less than BMW OEM pads, and provide a little bit more fade resistance. For track use, the HPS is much like stock or the EBC Greenstuff mentioned above–they’ll work if you’re new & conservative or slow.

Axxis Ultimate (ULT)

These are quite similar to the HPS–less dust than stock, good feel even when stone cold, and a bit more heat handling capability than stock. They work great for street driving and autocrossing, but are only good for limited (read: slower) track use.

Hawk High Performance Plus (HP+)

The HP+ are a good compromise between track and street pads. I recently used them for a fade-free weekend at Thunderhill with ambient temperature of 70-80F. Unlike a full-on track pad that is downright scary on the street, the HP+ is decidedly OK on the street. The first stop of a drive (or after not using them on the highway for a few minutes) will be a bit longer than stock pads, but not the Flintstones feeling of track pads.

Hawk Blue

I am lazy, so I put my pads on at home before driving to the track, so I got to experience these on the street. To begin with, the first stop from neighborhood speeds takes about twice the distance you expect, and the initial bit is nonexistent. After a couple more low speed stops, the brakes have enough heat to work just fine, but they still squeal as though you are murdering cats with each brake application.

On the track, the Hawk Blue is an awesome pad. Being a true track pad it takes some heat before they really work, as described above. Just like you need to get your tires and brain up to temperature, with a track pad you need some heat in the brakes before they will do what you expect. You should be driving judiciously on your out lap anyway, so this ought not be a problem. The wear on these is much better than any of the aforementioned pads–a day at Laguna Seca burned less than one quarter. If you have been going to the track for a while, or if you’ve gotten fast enough to begin feeling fade in your existing brake setup, get some track pads.