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What is the difference between disc and drum brakes

What is the difference between disc and drum brakes?

Since the launch of ‘brakes’ back in the 60s, the braking system has immensely improved over the years. However, you need to understand the difference between disc and drum brakes.

In the early 70s, leading car manufacturers decided to enhance the braking system from drum to disc brakes. To avoid any kinds of road incidents, the manufacturers started to include components such as lightweight steel, carbon fiber, and sintered metal.

The majority of the vehicles have their stopping power in their front wheels, which is why disc brakes were added there initially. However, the 1999 Mazda owner replaced the disc with drum brakes to chop off production cost and purchase price.

Well, this might give you a clear indication that cars installed with disc brakes are pricey in the market. In addition to that, let’s understand the difference between disc and drum brakes and which braking system will prove to be the finest for your modern vehicle.

The common principles: Friction and heat

Before you get into the dispute of which the braking system is better, you must understand basic principles first.

Regardless of which braking system your car is using, without ‘friction’ and ‘heat’, you won’t be able to stop your vehicle. When you apply some resistance for turning the car’s wheel into a certain direction, the vehicle’s brakes help the wheel to slow down and then eventually stop.

Sometimes you might get confused as to why your car is taking so much time to stop? It depends on a few factors; the total braking surface area, braking force, and the total weight of your vehicle.

Nevertheless, it primarily depends on your car’s braking system. The more powerful it would be, the more easily it would be able to generate heat to stop your car. This is where the difference between disc and drum brakes comes into play.

Drum brakes

Hand levers were replaced by drum brakes. They were given this name as they were accommodated in a round drum that used to rotate with the wheels. Inside it, there was a set of shoes made up of heat-resistance friction material just as hard used in the clutch plates.

The process of making it work wasn’t that difficult, whenever the brake pedals were steamed, it would force the shoes to slow down the wheels of the vehicle. Fluid was another element that was transferred from the brake pedal to brake shoes to make it work.

Moreover, the decline of drum brakes started when the cars were tested on a dropping valley. It is a known fact that mountains are full of highs and lows so when drum brakes were pressed repetitively in a small amount of time, they lost their effectiveness.

As discussed above, heat plays an important role for the car to stop. However, the continuous generation of heat became heavy-duty for the drum brakes and it became harder for the driver to stop the car.

Disc brakes

Just like drum brakes, disc brakes also rely on friction and heat. However, due to advanced technology, the quality of disc brakes is superior.

Disc brakes consist of a slim rotor and small caliper which are used to stop the wheels. The small caliper has two brake pads that work simultaneously when the brake pedal is forced.

One of the reasons why disc brakes took over the drum brakes was the removal of heat. Disc brakes are entirely exposed to the air which helps to cool the rotor immediately when the brakes are pressed. One of the great examples could be the Formula F1 racers. They are the ones who need to use the brakes after every thirty seconds while they compete with others. However, drum brakes weren’t able to control the pressure and became less efficient.

It was high time for the racers to realize the importance of disc brakes. Due to their installation, racers can use the brake in every emergency and repeatedly.


In the last 20 years, the quality of both the brakes has improved. However, it would be very rare for you to find a vehicle that has four-wheel disc brakes. According to experts, modern drum brakes work perfectly for 60-90% of drivers. However, if you drive a Dodge Viper or a Ferrari to race so disc brakes would be suitable for you.

Choose the braking system which satisfies your needs and drive safely.

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