Is it true that new federal regulations prohibit asbestos brake pads from being sold?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

My dealer tells me that the reason I have to get brakes on my 1987 Nissan
Stanza about every six months is because of new federal regulations which
prohibit the use of asbestos brakes, which used to last longer. Is this
true? -- Teresa

RAY: Asbestos was a great material for brake pads, Teresa. Asbestos was
hard enough to last a good long time, yet soft enough not to scrape grooves
into the brake discs. It was perfect! Just perfect!

TOM: The only problem was that it was killing people. Those guys in the
federal government are so picky, aren't they?

RAY: So now brake pads are metallic. And, it's true, they don't last quite
as long as asbestos pads, but they're pretty close. We've had very few
complaints about their longevity. The biggest difference consumers notice
is that metallic pads are more likely to screech and make noise.

TOM: So my guess is that your problem has less to do with what your pads
are made of, and more to do with you, and how you drive, Teresa.

RAY: Brakes don't care about months. Brakes care about how many times you
stop or slow down. So in six months of highway driving, where you slow down
for an exit ramp a couple of times a day, you may hardly put a dent in a
set of pads.

TOM: Whereas in city, or stop-and-go driving, where you're using the brakes
constantly, you can easily go through a set of pads in six months.

RAY: You might see if you can adjust some of your driving habits. Try to
anticipate your stops more, so you're not on the gas pedal and then
suddenly have to brake. That's the kind of driving that eats up brake pads.

TOM: I know when I stopped putting on my makeup in the rear-view mirror on
the way to work, my brakes started lasting a lot longer! Good luck, Teresa.

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