Drum vs. Disc Brakes: An Overview

June 8, 2021 2:33 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Brake technology has changed a lot over the years. If you own a classic car—or have been driving since the 1960s—you have probably driven with drum brakes. In fact, you might be driving with both disc and drum brakes right now, depending on what kind of car you drive. In the early ‘70s, manufacturers started moving from drum brakes to disc brakes, at least at the front of the vehicle. Today, most cars are manufactured with both disc and drum brakes, if not all disc brakes. Read on to find out the differences between drum brakes vs. disc brakes, and why disc brakes are so popular today.

Drum brakes

Drum brakes include a drum that rotates with the wheel and houses all the brake components. When the brakes are applied, the brake shoes would press against the drum to slow the wheel. Drum brakes use fluid to transfer the movement from the brake pedal to the brake shoes. Like disc brakes, they also create a significant amount of heat.

The problem with drum brakes is that they can create too much heat. Unless the drums can help the heat dissipate, the drum brakes can fade. This makes them less effective, especially when they have to bear a heavy load—like driving down steep hills, or braking hard and very suddenly. When the brake components heat up too much, they lose the ability to slow the vehicle. This can be quite dangerous.

Disc brakes

Disc brakes also use friction to slow the wheels, but they do it in a much different way. Disc brakes use a rotor and caliper with brake pads to stop the car. When the brake pedal is pressed, the calipers and brake pads squeeze together to slow the wheels.

The main difference between disc brake and drum brake construction is that disc brake components are more exposed. That means that heat doesn’t build up in the brake system the way it would inside the drum. You’re much less likely to experience fading when you use disc brakes, making them safer overall. It also allows drivers to brake harder when necessary—something that was first designed for race cars, and now comes standard in just about every car today.

Using drum and disc brakes together

Because the brunt of the braking force falls upon the front wheels, most cars today use both drum brakes and disc brakes. Disc brakes go in the front, allowing drivers to stop quickly and safely without overheating. Drum brakes are often used in the back, since the back wheels don’t generate quite as much heat and friction.

Using both types of brakes is a way for manufacturers to save money: drum brakes are cheaper to manufacture and install. If you drive an economy vehicle, you probably have both types of brakes. If you have a performance vehicle, however, you may have disc brakes in the front and back.

For more information about disc vs. drum brakes, call Dana’s Tire Center today.

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