Drum Brakes VS Disc Brakes

Brakes have evolved a great deal since they were first created. This is after the invention of sintered metal, carbon fiber, and lightweight steel, together with the adoption of ABS, have all contributed to reduced stopping distances and generally safer cars. This has as well lead to manufacturers embracing the new braking systems in the cars. That is why today’s cars have disc and drum brakes. In this article, we are going to discuss the two and their differences. Usually, the cars being manufactured today come with front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. Read on to know more.

The system used by brakes

When stopping a vehicle, the disc and drum brakes utilize a common principle. This is friction and heat. Through the application of resistance or friction, to a turning wheel, a car’s brakes cause the wheel to slow down and finally stop, forming heat as a byproduct. The rate at which a wheel can be slowed down relies on a number of factors such as barking force, car weight and braking surface area. Moreover, it as well relies on how well the braking system converts wheel movement into heat and subsequently, how fast this heat is removed from the brake parts.

Disc brakes

These have a superior design than that of drum brakes. They have a slim rotor and small caliper to stop wheel movement. Inside the caliper, there are two brake pads, one at every side of the rotor, that clamp together when the brake pedal is pressed. Also, fluid is applied to transfer the movement of the brake pedal into the movement of the brake pads. But unlike drum brakes, disc brakes have a rotor used in the disc brakes is totally exposed to the outside air. This exposure functions to constantly cool the rotor which greatly lowers the tendency to overheat or lead to fading.

Drum brakes

Drum brakes are usually housed in a round drum that rotates along with the wheel. Inside, it has a set of shoes, that when the brake pedal is pressed it forces the shoes against the drum and slows the wheel. The fluid contained in the drum brakes is utilized to transfer the movement of the brake pedal into the movement of the brake shoes. The only issue with this brake is that under high braking scenarios, the drum brake normally fades and loses its effectiveness. The fading is a result of too much heat build-up in the drum.

Difference between disc and drum brakes

Disc brakes are generally regarded to be superior to drum brakes for various reasons. To begin with, disc brakes carry out the amazing task of dissipating heat. When used vigorously, such as in repeated hard stops or riding the brakes down a long incline, disc brakes usually take a longer time than drum brakes to lose effectiveness. In addition, disc brakes perform excellent in wet weather, because the centrifugal force tends to fling water off the brake disc and keep it dry. On the other hand, drum brakes will gather some water on the inside where the brake shoes contact the drums. Also, drum brakes are the least expensive when compared to disc brakes. Furthermore, drum brakes can be applied as parking brakes too, while disc brakes can require a totally different parking brake mechanism.

How to identify disc or drum brakes on a car

For those with a car created within the past 30 years, there is a high chance that it has disc brakes on the front wheels, but it may have drum brakes in the rear. And in the situation where the vehicle has large openings, you may be in a position to view some or the entire brake assembly. If you’re able to see through the wheels, you can note that disc brakes contain a flat rotor set back from the inside surface of the wheel and a wider piece at the front or rear of the disc. While drum brakes contain a cylindrical drum that sits flush against the inside surface of the wheel.


It is very clear that the two types of brakes which are disc brakes and drum brakes have evolved to become very effective in performance. That’s why you will find disc brakes in the front wheels and drum brakes in the rear wheels. But some cars have disc brakes on all their wheels.

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