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Home / Car Insurance / Articles / Drum Brakes vs Disc Brakes

Drum Brakes vs Disc Brakes

Team AckoFeb 20, 2023

The braking system is the most crucial component for the safety and performance of a vehicle. They play a vital role in protecting the car's occupants and other road users. They are a life-saving component that can help you avoid major accidents. There are two primary types of brakes: drum and disc brakes. In this article, we dive deep into the debate of drum brakes vs disc brakes and how they perform during emergencies.




What Are Drum Brakes and Disc Brakes?

You will find two common types of brakes in the industry - drum brakes and disc brakes. Both are currently being used in automobiles.

Both of these brakes work on the same common principle of friction. What they differ in are their design and effectiveness.

One must provide resistance or friction to a turning wheel to stop an automobile. While braking, you convert kinetic energy to thermal or heat energy. This effectively brings the car to a stand still while generating heat.

The primary difference between drum brakes and disc brakes lies in how quickly this heat is dissipated.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes pre-date disc brakes. They are the first ‘in-tyre’ type of braking system. Before this, there were only rudimentary handbrakes in use.

The first drum brakes were used in a Maybach in 1900 and patented two years later. They became very popular and were widely used in early vehicles. These brakes are used in cars, motorcycles, scooters, and heavy vehicles.

How Drum Brakes Work

In drum brakes, the components are contained in a drum that rotates with the wheels, hence the name.

Inside the drum is a set of 'shoes' that press against the drum when the brake pedal is depressed. This causes friction and the wheels to slow down.

Thus, when you press the brake pedal, the steel cable in the brake line exerts pressure on the wheel cylinder and eventually causes the brake shoe to press against the drum, slowing down the vehicle.

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are a newer design and more common in modern vehicles. Jaguar first introduced these in 1953. It has become customary to find them in performance vehicles and on the front of most vehicles.

These types of brakes use the same principle of friction as drum brakes. However, they have a far superior open-air design and better braking power.

How Disc Brakes Work

Here, the components are not housed in a drum but are open and exposed to the air. Disc brakes have two main parts: a rotor and a calliper to slow down the wheels. The rotor is attached to the hub of the wheel.

Inside the calliper are two brake pads, one on either side. When the brake pedal is pressed, the hydraulic fluid exerts pressure and causes the brake pads to move inwards and press against the rotor, thus, slowing down the wheels.

Advantages of a Drum Brake

Drum brakes are an older design that continues to be used widely in cars, bikes, scooters, autos, and heavy vehicles. Here are their advantages.

  1. Drum brakes are very economical. The components are easily available and cheap to manufacture. This, in turn, lowers the overall vehicle cost.

  2. They have older and simpler components, so replacing and servicing them is easier.

  3. Traditionally, drum brakes make better parking brakes. Disc brakes cannot hold a car in the parked position. In a disc brake, design adjustments are required for housing the parking brakes. So, additional space is needed for the disc brake to accommodate this.

  4. It requires less force to apply these brakes.

Disadvantages of a Drum Brake

Drum brakes come with their own set of limitations as well. Here are the details.

  • The drum braking system tends to fade under high braking conditions. By 'fading,' we mean they lose effectiveness. Since all the drum brake components are contained in a metal drum, they tend to heat up quickly. Heated brakes produce less friction, which reduces their effectiveness.

  • There are several parts in a drum brake. Even if one of these parts stops functioning, it can cause malfunctioning of the brakes.

  • There's a higher wear and tear of the drum brake parts due to their higher exposure to heat and friction.

  • Unwanted materials can easily get trapped in the closed system, affecting the brakes' performance. This may also cause rusting. 

Advantages of Disc Brakes

The biggest advantage of the disc brake system is the open-air design. Thus, it does not tend to overheat, reducing instances of fading.

  1. Braking power is better in a disc brake. They are capable of effectively stopping a vehicle even at high speeds.

  2. Disc brakes have a lower chance of failure from overheating because of their open-air design.

  3. Disc brakes stay cleaner, and their components do not rust easily. 

Disadvantages of Disc Brakes

  1. Disc brakes are expensive to manufacture, increasing the price of a vehicle.

  2. The repair and maintenance costs are higher for disc brakes. Further, more skill is required to service them.

  3. The brake fluid needs to be changed more often. Not doing so would affect the performance of the brakes.

  4. Entry of air in the main cylinder can cause a failure of the brakes. Thus, these brakes need to be serviced regularly.

  5. An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is needed to prevent the locking of the wheels when sudden brakes are applied at high speeds. 

Drum Brakes vs Disc Brakes: Which is effective?

Despite their strengths and weaknesses, the answer to whether disc or drum brakes are better is more complex.

Disc brakes are more effective in point-to-point comparison. You'll find many high-level, mid-level, and non-performance-oriented vehicles with disc brakes on all four wheels.

In the current scenario, numerous vehicles are equipped with both brakes. Manufacturers offer disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the rear. This is because 60%-90% of a vehicle's stopping power is found on the front wheels.

This combination setup has proved to be more economical and adequate to meet the needs of vehicles, primarily cars. Further, the drum brake design has been dramatically improved since its introduction. The modern drum brake design is good in its place at the rear wheels.

So, you can get a combination of these or all disc brakes. Either of these options may work impeccably. 

Maintenance of vehicle brakes

Now that you've learned about the different kinds of brakes and their essential role in safety, the need to service and maintain them cannot be ignored.

You might also be tempted to upgrade the braking system of your vehicles. Any upgradation of the brakes can change your vehicle's risk. Ensure you follow the manufacturer's recommendation for your vehicle's braking system for optimum performance and safety.


Don't take your vehicle’s braking systems for granted - they play a pivotal role in keeping you safe. Know which kind of brakes you have and how they work. It is vital to service the brakes regularly. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some common questions about drum brakes vs disc brakes.


Which brakes are more suited to passenger cars?

Disc brakes and combination brakes are both suited to passenger cars. These have been seen to offer good performance even at high speeds. 

What is water fade?

Water fade occurs when water gets trapped between the brake lining and the drum or rotor, resulting in the reduction of the required friction and the performance of the brake gets impacted. 

Can I change the braking system in my car?

Yes, upgrading the drum brakes in your car to change them from drum brakes to disc brakes is possible. Please check with a specialist before changing your vehicle's braking system.

Why are drum brakes better for parking than disc brakes?

When the car is parked, the brakes eventually cool off. When disc brakes cool, they contract and lose contact with the disc, making them useless. However, components are added to disc brakes today to make them more effective for parking. 

Should I upgrade to disc brakes? Is it worth it?

Disc brakes have better stopping power and control than drum brakes. However, they can be almost three times the cost of a drum brake. Combination brakes are also quite effective. Additionally, ensure you adhere to the vehicle's specifications before upgrading the braking system for a safer drive.

Which is the ideal car insurance for cars?

Opt for Comprehensive Car Insurance Policy for optimum coverage. It covers damages to your vehicle, third-party liabilities and access to add-on covers to enhance the coverage.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on industry experience and several secondary sources on the internet; and is subject to changes. Please go through the applicable policy wordings for updated ACKO-centric content and before making any insurance-related decisions.


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