Brake Discs vs Brake Drums: Difference’s, Pro’s and Con’s Explained

Every modern vehicle is fitted with its own set of brakes, designed to be able to handle the car’s specific needs.

“Disc brakes are generally considered to be superior to drum brakes – for several reasons. First, disc brakes do a better job dissipating heat. Under severe use, such as repeated hard stops or riding the brakes down a long incline, disc brakes take longer than drum brakes to lose effectiveness, which is a condition known as “brake fade.”

Disc brakes also perform better in wet weather, because centrifugal force tends to fling water off the brake disc and keep it dry, whereas drum brakes will collect some water on the inside surface where the brake shoes contact the drums.”

“Drum brakes use a wide cylinder that is open at the back, similar in appearance to a drum. When the driver steps on the brake pedal, curved shoes located inside the drum are pushed outwards, rubbing against the inside of the drum and slowing the wheel.”

While the majority of modern vehicles make use entirely of the brake disc system in both rear and front brakes, a surprisingly large amount of vehicles are fitted with front discs and rear brakes. Why is this the case?

“Braking causes the car’s weight to shift forward; as a result, about 70% of the work is done by the front brakes. That’s why your front brakes tend to wear out faster. Drum brakes are less expensive to make than disc brakes, largely because they can also double as a parking brake, whereas disc brakes require a separate parking brake mechanism.

By fitting disc brakes to the front wheels and drum brakes to the rear wheels, manufacturers can provide most of the benefits of disc brakes while lowering costs.

Even so, a car with disc brakes on both front and rear axles will provide superior braking performance in wet weather and on long downgrades. Incidentally, you should never ride your brakes when driving down a long incline. Instead, downshift and let the engine control the car’s speed.”

So, how do you know which type of braking system your car is fitted with?

“If your car was built in the last thirty years, it most likely has disc brakes on the front wheels, but it may have drums in the rear. If the car has wheels with big openings, you may be able to see some or all of the brake assembly. Seen through the wheels, disc brakes have a flat rotor set back from the inside surface of the wheel and a wider piece (the caliper) at the front or rear of the disc. Drum brakes have a cylindrical drum that sits flush against the inside surface of the wheel.

h/t to thoughtco.com for the “brake-down” of the differences between brake discs and brake drums.

Related Tags: Brake Disc Skimming

 

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Cover Image Credit: Centric Parts