Posted under Car Brakes

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, we’re happy to address this popular topic. The more drivers know about the different options of brakes and their maintenance, the safer we’ll all be on the road.

What’s the Difference Between Disc and Drum Brakes?

Disc brakes vs. drum brakes visual representation

Disc brakes consist of a metallic disc or rotor, calipers with pistons, and brake pads, while drum brakes consist of a brake drum, wheel cylinders with pistons, and brake shoes. Let’s take a closer look at how these components operate:

How Disc Brakes Work

  • Pressing the brake pedal 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. 
  • Applying 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.

How Drum Brakes Work

  • As with disc brakes, pressing the brake pedal generates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder, which contains brake fluid. 
  • The pressurized fluid passes through the brake lines, causing — and here’s where the drum differs from disc operation — wheel cylinder pistons press the brake shoes against the inner surface of the brake drum, generating friction and 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 Brakes Are Right for You?

When deciding between disc brakes and drum brakes, consider how each one performs on the road: 

Disc Brakes

  • Disc brakes generally perform better in wet weather. The brake rotor repels water, and the brake pads wipe the water away.
  • They’re less likely to lock up during heavy braking.
  • They resist brake fade since disc brakes manage heat better than drum brakes. This helps disc brakes maintain more consistent performance.

Drum Brakes

  • Drum brakes are typically more affordable to install and maintain. This makes drum brakes the cost-effective choice for rear wheels.
  • They get hotter during braking, making them susceptible to brake fade.
  • They’re generally less effective in wet conditions as their design allows water to collect, which can negatively impact braking.

What About Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Parking Brakes?

When we concentrate exclusively on disc brakes vs. drum brakes, we ignore that most new cars also come with Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and parking brakes. ABS is an important safety feature that monitors wheel speed and helps prevent brakes from locking during a skid or a sudden stop.

On the other hand, 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. Refer to your owner’s manual for instructions for your specific vehicle, but generally, the parking brake is engaged by:

  • A lever located between the driver seat and passenger seat; 
  • Pressing  the button or handle near the steering column; or,
  • Pressing a third floor pedal

Signs of a Brake Problem

Now that we’ve looked at different types  of brakes and how they work, let’s talk about some of the warning signs of a brake problem, which may include:

  • Screeching sound: Do you literally 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 or shoes and machining or replacing your rotors or drums.
  • Heavy grinding noises: That metal-on-metal grinding or growling is a sign that your brake pads or shoes may have worn down.
  • Brake pedal vibrations: This could result from excessive hard braking that may have resulted in warped rotors or drums.
  • Slow stopping response: This may indicate a leak in the hydraulic system, or your brake linings are glazed.
  • Sensitive brakes: If you’re jerking to a stop at the slightest touch of the pedal, you could have contaminated brake linings or a problem with your power assist.
  • Pulling to one side while braking: This could be the result of unevenly worn or contaminated brake linings.
  • Leaking: Is there a small puddle of fluid under your car that’s definitely not water? It could be brake fluid, so get your vehicle checked.

Bring Your Vehicle to Jiffy Lube for Brake Service

When something is as important as your brake system, you want confidence in your service provider. When you bring your vehicle to Jiffy Lube, trained technicians will begin by asking you questions about your driving style, which will help them better diagnose any problem. What else to expect?  

  • The technician will visually inspect your vehicle’s brakes (wheels on)
  • A more thorough brake inspection is conducted if a tire rotation is performed
  • The technician will present brake service recommendations to you based on this visual inspection
  • In some cases, a more complete inspection may be recommended
  • As needed and with your approval, a trained technician will service your brake system
  • A trained technician will test drive the vehicle before and after the brake service to ensure your brakes are functioning according to the manufacturer’s recommendation

When you pull away from your neighborhood Jiffy Lube, you can feel confident because technicians perform the brake inspection and any required work in accordance with your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.

NOTE: Not all services are offered at all Jiffy Lube service centers. Please call ahead or check to ensure the service is available at the Jiffy Lube location near you.