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Did you know that there are two different types of brakes systems that your vehicle may have?

One is known as a disc brake system and the other is known as a drum brake system. In this article we will explain the different components to each system, what each part does and the best practices for keeping your brakes in working order.



A drum braking system is named so because all of the components are enclosed within a drum. It is a cylinder iron piece that attaches to the inside of the vehicle’s wheel. The drum covers the brakes set of shoes, that have been coated to create friction. When the brake pedal is pressed, these shoes are pushed against the inner surface of the brake drum, generating friction and slowing the car down.



Brake shoes carry the brake lining inside brake drum systems. They are a curved piece of metal, with a friction material fixed to one side. When the driver applies the brake, a wheel cylinder in the drum brake system forces the brake shoe outward, against the inside of the drum. This creates friction between the lining and drum, causing the car to brake.

Drum brakes and brake shoes are parts of an older type of braking system and have become less common on modern vehicles. However, some vehicle models will have drum brakes on the rear wheels since drum brakes are more affordable to manufacture. Brake shoes typically last much longer than brake pads. Usually they are positioned on the rear axle and undertake a much lower proportion of the braking work.



Disc Brake systems are made up of pads, rotors, discs and calipers. Instead of all of the components being housed inside of a drum, a disc brake uses a small rotor and caliper to stop the wheel movement. Within the caliper are two brake pads, one on each side of the rotor, that clamp together when the brake pedal is pressed. We learned in our brake line article how the brake fluid is delivered to the calipers through a hydraulic system. When you push the brake pedal, you create pressure that moves the brake fluid through the lines and activates the calipers.


The caliper applies pressure and activates brake pads. They’re arguably one of the most important components to the braking system. The caliper fits like a clamp on a wheel’s rotor to stop the wheel from turning when you step on the brakes. Inside each caliper is a pair of metal plates known as brake pads. When you push the brake pedal, brake fluid creates pressure on pistons in the brake caliper, forcing the pads against the brake rotor, this stops the rotor which stops the wheel and slows down your car.



Brake pads are the parts that contact your rotors and cause friction in order to stop your car. Because of how fast a vehicle’s wheels rotate and how much a typical car or truck weighs, brake pads undergo extreme stress every time you slow down or come to a stop.


To stop your car, the rotor must stop spinning. It stops spinning by friction created by the brake pad.

Your brake pads apply pressure to the rotor, which is directly connected to each wheel. This pressure creates the friction needed to slow or stop your vehicle. When the rotors slows, so do your wheels. Take your foot off the brake pedal and the whole process reverses. The brake pads release, fluid moves back up the hoses, and your wheels are on the move again.


While you can’t mix and match drum and disc brake systems on the same wheel – for example using brake pads with drum brakes or brake shoes with disc brakes – it is possible to have both disc and drum brakes on the same car. In fact, many older cars use a combination of the two, often smaller vehicles, will have disc brake systems fitted on the front axle and drum brake systems fitted on the rear axle. However almost all newer vehicles have only disc brakes as they have become much more cost effective recently.

Tips for taking care of your drum & disc brakes

Try not to let your car sit for long periods of time without being used as this can cause the drums and discs to rust. First Gear recommends getting your brakes inspected twice a year, including checking the brake fluid. It is recommended to get both sets of brakes done at the same time. This means replacing both right and left front or left and right rear brakes to maintain consistent stopping power. How often your brakes need to be replaced depends on the quality of the brakes and your driving style. Typically for front brakes it is every 50,000km. For rear brakes it is between every 80,000-100,000km.

 First Gear is here for all of your brake questions, inspections, maintenance and needs. Give us a call today!