Understanding California's Brake Pad Law

On September 27, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill (SB) 346 (Kehoe, Chapter 307, Statutes of 2010), known as the California Motor Vehicle Brake Friction Material Law. This law prohibits the sale of brake pads sold in California containing more than trace amounts of copper, certain heavy metals, and asbestos. The purpose of this law is to reduce the amount of copper and other toxic substances released from brakes from entering California's streams, rivers, and marine environment.

Beginning January 1, 2021, SB 346 prohibits the sale of motor vehicle brake friction materials containing more than 5% copper by weight. This requirement is the second of three legislative milestones that will ultimately reduce copper in brake pads to less than 0.5% by 2025.

The law requires brake friction material manufacturers to register their products with a testing certification agency and include a "mark of proof" on their brake pads certifying their products comply with regulations set by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Manufacturers may also include a certification logo on their packaging, indicating a product's compliance level.

The mark of proof includes the manufacturer ID, formulation ID, and environmental compliance markings. The environmental compliance marking is comprised of a letter ("A," "B," or "N") and the manufacture date is the last two digits (e.g., 16 refers to 2016). The environmental compliance marking will always be the last three characters printed or stamped on the brake pad. As shown in the image below, the mark of proof is typically a single line of text and is stamped or printed on the back plate or lining of the product. Refer to the State of Washington Department of Ecology fact sheet for illustrations of acceptable marking locations.

image of acceptable brake marking locations

Environmental compliance marking levels, certification packaging logos/marks, and a description of the "A," "B," and "N" environmental compliance levels, are provided in the figure below.

table of the environmental compliance packaging

The following table details allowable brake pad markings based on the vehicle manufacture date: (The "X" means it is an allowable mark, and the "--" means it is not an allowed mark.)

Environmental Compliance Level Vehicles manufactured
before January 1, 2014
Vehicles manufactured
between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2020
Vehicles manufactured
on or after January 1, 2021
No mark X -- --
A X X --

If a vehicle was manufactured before January 1, 2021, automotive repair dealers (ARD) can install brake pads that are certified as Level A, Level B, or Level N. For example, ARDs may install Level A brake pads on a vehicle that was manufactured in 2019. However, a new vehicle sold in California on or after January 1, 2021 must be equipped with Level B brake pads and replacement brake pads for the vehicle must be certified as Level B. Level N brake pads can also be installed on vehicles manufactured on or after January 1, 2021 since the copper concentration in Level N brakes is certified as less than 0.5%. However, Level A brake pads cannot be installed on these vehicles because the copper concentration is greater than 5%.

Here are some frequently asked questions to help ARDs comply with Brake Pad Law requirements.

When must an ARD replace a customer's non-compliant brake pads?

An ARD must replace a customer's non-compliant brake pads with compliant brake pads when the ARD is replacing a vehicle's brake pads. However, when performing other repairs and services, ARDs are not required to replace brake pads before the end of their useful life simply to comply with the law.

Must compliant brake pads be identified on the invoice?

No, ARDs are not required to identify on the invoice that the brake pads being installed are compliant. For information on invoice and other documentation requirements, refer to BAR's Write It Right guide.

Can ARDs sell and install non-compliant brake pads purchased prior to implementation of the California Brake Pad Law?

The law has one sell-off period that applies to an ARD's existing inventory of brake pads manufactured prior to January 1, 2014. These brake pads may only be installed on vehicles manufactured prior to January 1, 2014 solely for the purposes of depletion of inventories. The sell-off period ends on December 31, 2023.

Where can I learn more about the California Brake Pad Law?

View DTSC's presentation on motor vehicle brake friction materials provided at the January 2021 BAR Advisory Group meeting. For additional information, resources, and answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.dtsc.ca.gov. To receive updates and information regarding the California Brake Pad Law, join the DTSC email list.

Printable Version