Disc vs. Drum Brakes

Free Insurance Quote Comparison

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Dan Wesley is an American entrepreneur and executive. He is an expert in insurance and personal finance, known for creating web portals that connect people to resources to help them meet their goals. As a mentor and leader to many, Dan strives to position himself and those around him for success. Experience Dan graduated in 2000 with a degree in Nuclear Medicine. Dan left medicine but contin...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: May 11, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Disc Brake vs. Drum Brake

  • rotate
Disc and drum brakes offer different methods of stopping a vehicle.

Disc Brake

Brake fluid

Rotor (disc)

The rotor provides a friction surface for the brake pads to press against.

Air flow


Cooling fins

Heat can negatively impact brake function. Specially designed internal fins act as a “fan” to pull cooling air through the disc.

disc brake cooling fins diagram

Brake pad

Brake pads contact the rotor and cause friction to occur. Once friction is great enough, the rotor is unable to spin and the vehicle stops. Brake pads are the primary wear point of the system, and are designed to be easily replaceable.


As the brake pads wear down, the piston slowly adjusts to make sure the pads can continue to contact the rotor.

Caliper bracket

The caliper bracket attaches to the vehicle and holds the brake pads in place, though still allowing them to slide toward the rotor when the brake pedal is depressed.


The caliper houses brake fluid and the piston. Incoming brake fluid pushes the piston inward, causing the interior pad to press against the rotor; once the interior pad presses against the rotor, the caliper moves to bring the exterior pad in contact with the rotor.

Brake pedal

Slide pins

Drum Brake

  • rotate

Anchor pin

As well as providing an “anchor” for the return springs to hook around, in some instances the anchor pin can also assist or replace the wheel cylinder in keeping the brake shoes from rotating with the drum when the brakes are applied.

Return springs

Return springs pull the brake shoes off the brake drum when the brake pedal is not being pressed.

Brake shoe

Brake shoes contact the drum and cause friction to occur.

Hold down spring, pin, and retainer

Pins and retainers keep the hold down springs in place while the springs allow the brake shoe to move when necessary.


By turning an adjustment screw, the adjuster can be lengthened to ensure that the brake shoes remain a similar distance from the drum as the shoes wear down.

Backing plate

The backing plate is attached to the axle housing and does not rotate. It holds the wheel cylinder, anchor pin, and pin.

Brake drum

The brake drum houses and protects the inner brake parts. The inner rim of the drum is the braking surface.

Brake pedal

Wheel cylinder

As brake fluid enters the wheel cylinder, it pushes the seals/pistons outward, causing the brake shoes to contact the inside of the drum.


Parking Brake

  • rotate


If a personal vehicle has disc brakes on the rear, a ‘mini’ version of a drum brake will often be placed inside the disc. A less common option uses a self-adjusting screw mechanism inside the disc brake pad assembly (not shown).


When the parking brake, and in turn the cable, is pulled, a lever and bar assembly pushes the brake pads against the drum.



Generally, disc brakes dissipate heat efficiently because the components are exposed to airflow.

  • Brake fade (a reduction or loss in braking power) is less likely to happen.
  • Since most of a vehicle’s stopping force is usually on the front brakes, many vehicles will have disc brakes on the front.
  • Drum

  • The average cost for the drum and brake pads of a drum brake can be around 77% less expensive than comparable disc brake components.
  • Drum brakes are well protected from outside elements and are usually less likely to corrode.
  • Since the rear brakes often account for less of the vehicle’s stopping force, many vehicles will have drum brakes on the rear.


Share / embed code

• Copy/paste the code below to share this project on your site (in an iframe).

• We only require a link back to this page and name attribution (ex: “by Quote.com”)

Sharing images

(click for large versions)

Free Insurance Quote Comparison

Enter your zip code below to view companies that have cheap insurance rates.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption