Disc Brakes Versus Drum Brakes: Which Are Better?

More than 40 years ago, auto makers began replacing drum brakes on the front of most vehicles with disc brakes. The two systems are different, but most cars run with both. When customers visit our Shakopee, MN shop for brake repair, we’re often asked if one brake type is better than the other. The truth is found in the pros and cons of each.

They Do the Same Thing

Drum and disc brakes operate on the same principle. They turn the kinetic energy of wheel movement into thermal energy with friction. It starts when you press on the brake pedal.

Your action pushes hydraulic brake fluid into the system, and that results in brake shoes and pads applying friction to the mechanism. That friction slows down the car’s wheels or brings you to a complete stop.

They Do It Differently

Drum brakes work inside a round housing that rotates with your car’s wheels. When you apply the brakes, the drum system’s shoes are forced against its interior, and that pressure slows you down.

Disc brakes use a disc-shaped rotor that surrounds the wheel housing. It operates a caliper that controls brake pads on each side of the rotor. When you press the brakes, the caliper clamps the pads together, slowing down the car.

Drum Brake Pros and Cons

Drum brakes are standard on the rear of most vehicles. When you engage your car’s parking brake, you’re activating the rear drum brakes.


  • Low manufacturing price
  • Less expensive repairs
  • Easy to replace


  • Sensitive to overheating
  • Compromised by wet conditions
  • Less effective with heavy loads

Disc Brake Pros and Cons

Most newer vehicles have one of three front disc brake variations: fixed, floating, and sliding caliper.


  • Fewer overheating problems
  • Self-adjusting, self-centering systems
  • Affordable conversions from drum systems


  • Slightly more expensive repairs
  • Not configured as parking brakes

They Work Together

Don’t think of drum and disc brakes as competitors. The two make a solid combination on most vehicles. Together, both systems work to keep drivers safe and new car costs down.

Which Is Best for You?

The drum and disc brake combination is standard on most vehicles because it’s efficient and affordable. If you need work done on your car’s braking system, talk to our pros – we handle everything from conversions to brake repair. Our Shakopee, MN crew is always ready to help here at Kennedy Transmission.

Recent Posts
Skip to content