It’s a common question on automotive websites and message boards – “Disc brakes vs. drum brakes: What’s the difference? Which is better?” Because your vehicle’s braking system is its most important safety feature, the experts at Jiffy Lube® are happy to address this popular topic. The more drivers know about different kinds of brakes and their maintenance, the safer we’ll all be on the road.
DISC BRAKES VS. DRUM BRAKES: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Disc brakes consist of a metallic disc or rotor, caliper pistons and brake pads.
- As you press the brake pedal, it generates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder, which contains brake fluid.
- The pressurized fluid passes through the brake lines to the caliper pistons.
- The caliper pistons press the brake pads against the disc or rotor.
- The application of the brake pads against the disc or rotor generates friction, causing the vehicle to slow.
Disc brakes are now standard on the front wheels and are available on all four wheels of many models.
Drum brakes consist of a brake drum and brake shoes.
- As with disc brakes, when you press the brake pedal, it generates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder, which contains brake fluid.
- The pressurized fluid passes through the brake lines causing (and here is where drum differs from disc operation) a wheel cylinder to press the brake shoes against the inner surface of the brake drum, generating friction, causing the vehicle to slow.
Drum brakes are often on the rear wheel of new entry-level vehicles. Since most of the braking is handled by the front wheels, using drum brakes in the rear can help keep the price of a new car more affordable.
DISC BRAKES VS. DRUM BRAKES: WHICH IS BETTER?
- Generally, perform better in wet weather. The brake rotor repels water and the brake pads wipe water away.
- Are less likely to lock up during heavy braking.
- Resist brake fade since disc brakes manage heat better than drum brakes. This helps disc brakes maintain more consistent performance.
- Are more affordable to install and maintain. This makes drum brakes the cost- effective choice for rear wheels.
- Get hotter during braking. This makes them susceptible to brake fade.
- Are less effective in wet conditions. Their design allows for water to collect, which can have a negative impact on braking.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MUCH MORE TO THE STORY!
When we concentrate exclusively on disc brakes vs. drum brakes, we ignore that all new cars come with parking brakes and Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS).
The parking brake is designed to keep a car stationary when parked. It’s recommended you use the parking brake every time you park, but it’s especially important when you park your vehicle on any slope, hill, or incline.
Independent of your disc or drum brakes, the parking brake is connected to your rear wheels and must be activated separately. You should refer to your owner’s manual for instructions for your specific vehicle, but generally, the parking brake is engaged by:
- A lever between the driver and passenger
- Push button or handle near the steering column
- A third-floor pedal
Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) are an important safety feature found on most newer vehicles. The ABS monitors wheel speed and prevents brakes from locking during a skid or a sudden stop. Jiffy Lube® technicians understand ABS technology and are trained to service Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABSs).
Now that we’ve looked at different kinds of brakes and how they work, let’s talk about how to care for them.
Pay attention to your brakes and never put off brake inspections or needed repair. Please remember these three points when it comes to your brakes:
- Responsive, dependable brakes are critical to your safety, as well as the safety of your passengers and everyone you encounter on the road.
- Because you use your brakes every time you drive, your brake system sustains a great deal of wear and components will have to be repaired and replaced from time to time.
- Brakes send drivers many signals when they need attention. While it’s usually recommended that brakes be inspected every 12 months or 12,000 miles (check your owner’s manual for your specific vehicle’s service schedule), you shouldn’t wait until your next routine maintenance check to find out if something is wrong.
WHAT’S THAT SOUND YOU HEAR? IT COULD BE YOUR BRAKES LETTING YOU KNOW THERE’S A PROBLEM
- Do you screech to a stop? Noisy brakes are common (and annoying) and may be caused by something as easy to fix as replacing your brake pads and machining or replacing your rotors.
- New brake pads, but still screechy? Excessive braking can cause rotors to get glazed, which can harm brake performance.
- Heavy grinding sounds. That metal-on-metal grinding or growling is a sign that your brake pads have worn down.
DID YOU FEEL THAT? IF YOU SENSE SOMETHING DIFFERENT AS YOU BRAKE, IT COULD BE A WARNING SIGN
- Brake pedal vibration could be the result of excessive hard braking that may have resulted in warped rotors.
- Slow stopping response may indicate a leak in the hydraulic system or your brake linings are glazed.
- Sensitive brakes that have you jerking to a stop at the slightest touch of the pedal mean you could have contaminated brake linings or there is a problem with your power assist.
- If the pedal requires extra pressure to respond, it could be a problem with the hydraulic system or power assist. Don’t wait to have your brake system checked out.
- Pulling to one side while braking can be the result of unevenly worn or contaminated brake linings.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT! SOME SIGNS OF BRAKE TROUBLE ARE EASY TO SEE
- Is there a small puddle of fluid under your car that’s definitely not water? It could be brake fluid. Get your vehicle checked.
- Give your brake pads a visual once over. You can find them between the wheel’s spokes, pressed up against a brake rotor. If you notice the brake pad is thinner than the metal it’s attached to, it’s time to bring your vehicle to Jiffy Lube.
THERE'S A PROBLEM. NOW WHAT?
When something is as important as your brake system, you want to have confidence in your service provider. That’s why you should bring your car, truck, SUV or minivan to one of the many nationwide Jiffy Lube locations. Trained technicians will begin by asking you questions about your driving style, which will help them better diagnose any problem. What to expect then:
- The technician will perform a visual inspection of your vehicle’s brakes (wheels on).
- A more thorough brake inspection is conducted if a tire rotation is performed
- Brake service recommendations are presented to you based on this visual inspection.
- In some cases, a more complete inspection may be recommended.
- As needed, your brake system will be serviced by the trained technicians
- Your vehicle will be test driven before and after the brake service
When you pull away from your neighborhood Jiffy Lube, you can feel confident because technicians performed the brake inspection and any required work in accordance with your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
READ MORE ABOUT IT
How can a brake fluid exchange help your brake system work efficiently and safely? Find out here.
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Please note: Not all services are offered at all Jiffy Lube locations. Please call ahead or check jiffylube.com to ensure the service is available.