CHARLOTTE – Curious about your brakes? We’ve got some answers!
There are two kinds of brakes, disc and drum. Disc has become the standard on almost all cars these days, but drum brakes can occasionally be found on fleet vehicles and certain economy cars.
Disc is called such due to its shape. Disc brakes are made up of pads, rotors (the disc) and a caliper. The rotor and pad sit in-between the caliper. When the brake pedal is pressed, the caliper presses the pads onto the rotor to stop the vehicle. Disc brakes are considerably lighter and don’t overheat as quickly, but they are exposed to the elements.
Drum brakes consist of a drum, pistons, and “shoes.” In drum brakes, when the brake pedal is applied the pistons push the shoes up against the inside walls of the drum, forcing it to stop. Drum brakes do most of their functions internally, so they are protected from the elements, but they are much more susceptible to overheating.
Many moons ago drum brakes were considerably cheaper both in installation and maintenance costs, but these days the price difference over the life of the vehicle is much more even. Rotors and pads have gotten much cheaper as the years have gone on thanks to discs becoming so commonplace from the factory.
As far as the old question “which is better?” goes, there’s no real “right” answer but disc seems to be the preferred option of both the OEM’s and aftermarket retrofitters.