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Drum vs Disc Brakes: Differences, Pros, Cons

June 15, 2021

Car brakes fall into two categories: drum brakes and disc brakes.

Ever wonder how they’re different?

Or, which braking system is better?

In this article, we’ll start by comparing the drum brake system and the disc brake system and then cover their pros and cons. Later, we’ll answer five FAQs about drum brakes vs disc brakes to give you a clear understanding of each braking system.

This Article Contains:

Let’s get right to it.

Drum Vs Disc Brakes: 3 Key Differences

Although both the drum and disc braking systems slow down your moving vehicle by generating friction, there are some key differences between the two, like their:

A. Method Of Braking

Both drum brakes and disc brakes use hydraulic mechanisms to generate braking force.

Essentially, when you push down on your vehicle’s brake pedal, a piston inside the master cylinder compresses brake fluid and transmits it to points near your wheels via brake lines.

In a drum braking system, this pressurized brake fluid forces the pistons inside the wheel cylinder outwards. These pistons, in turn, push a set of drum brake shoes against the brake drum to generate friction, slowing down your vehicle.

On the flip side, in a disc braking system, the pressurized brake fluid is delivered to a brake caliper. This brake caliper then squeezes a set of disc brake pads (a.k.a. friction pads) against the brake rotor (a.k.a. wheel rotor or brake disc), generating stopping friction.

B. Braking Power

Your rotating disc brakes are constantly exposed to the atmosphere, so they can dissipate the heat generated during braking quickly.

But since drum brakes are closed (not exposed to air), heat dissipation would be much slower. This can cause brake fade, which is a loss in braking power due to overheating due to inefficient heat dissipation.

The disc brakes’ exposure to the air outside also means that it’ll work better in wet conditions.

How?

Since a disc brake is open to the atmosphere, it can sling off any moisture accumulated while driving quickly. Moreover, the brake or friction pads rubbing against the wheels can also wipe away any water, just like how your wiper blade wipes the water off your windshield.

In drum brakes, however, moisture might get trapped inside the drum and take more time to dry. This can affect the frictional force your brake shoe and brake drum pair can generate, compromising braking power.

C. Brake Maintenance Needs

Disc brakes are self-cleaning.

Remember, your brake pad wipes the rotor when engaged. This usually removes any debris that may be clinging to the wheel or brake rotor.

On the other hand, since drum brakes are generally closed, they’re prone to accumulating the brake dust generated by the drum brake shoes. If the dust accumulated becomes excessive, your brake performance may decline.

As a result, your drum brakes will need to be cleaned and serviced more often than disc brakes to ensure optimum brake performance. Additionally, since your drum brakes include more components, they’re usually more difficult to service.

Now that you know the critical differences between drum brakes and disc brakes let’s move on to the pros and cons of each of these brakes.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using The Drum Brake System?

Let’s first check out the advantages of using drum brakes for your vehicle. 

Usually, drum brakes:

Unfortunately, drum brakes have a few significant disadvantages as well. 

They:

Next, let’s take a glimpse at the upsides and downsides of using disc brakes in your vehicle.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using The Disc Brake System?

Disc brakes are a fantastic addition to your car because they:

However, these brakes have their own set of limitations

Disc brakes:

Still confused about drum vs disc brakes?

Don’t worry.

We’ll discuss the answers to the most commonly asked questions related to drum vs disc brakes now.

5 FAQs About Drum Vs Disc Brakes 

Here are answers to five questions car owners frequently ask about drum brakes and disc brakes:

1. What Are The Critical Components In Drum Brakes?

A drum brake system has the following five key components:

2. What Are The Critical Components In Disc Brakes?

Disc brakes have three main components, and they are:

3. How Do I Know Which Brake System My Vehicle Uses?

Most modern cars have disc brakes for the front wheels. 

As for the rear wheel set, you’ll either find drum or disc brakes. In lots of cars, drum brakes may be more common for the rear axle since they’re less expensive.

Why use disc brakes for the front wheels?

Usually, while braking, the weight of the car shifts forward. This means that you’ll need more stopping power in the front wheels. And since a disk braking system offers more stopping power, fitting disc brakes at the front is recommended.

In case you want to check which category your vehicle’s front or rear brakes belong to, you can try taking a peek through the wheels:

4. What Are The Most Common Symptoms Of Failing Brakes?

Whether your vehicle uses a drum brake assembly or a disk brake assembly, it’s crucial to keep track of its condition to stay safe on the road.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it could be an indication that your drum or disc brakes are malfunctioning:

5. What To Do When Your Drum Or Disc Brakes Fail?

If you notice any issues with your vehicle’s brake system, take your car to a repair shop or request a mobile mechanic to come over to your driveway ASAP.

We recommend asking a professional car technician to come over to your driveway since driving around with defective brakes can be a safety hazard.

However, when hiring a mechanic, ensure that they:

But where can you find such a mechanic?

Just use RepairSmith — a convenient and accessible mobile auto repair solution. 

With RepairSmith:

Closing Thoughts

Disc brakes are more effective than drum brakes and are more durable, making them the preferred choice for newer vehicles.

However, this doesn’t mean that drum brakes are going away anytime soon. Their lower costs and the possibility for reconditioning make the rear drum brake a viable option for most car owners.  

However, irrespective of the type of brakes you may use, you need to keep them in check.

Fortunately, you can turn to RepairSmith for this. 

Just book your repairs online, and our certified technicians will come to your driveway to take care of everything!