There are several key components that are fundamental to a modern vehicle’s braking system, which are all connected by brake hoses and brake pipes. These include:

  • Master cylinder
  • Servo
  • Brake callipers
  • Brake fluids
  • Brake cylinders
  • Disks
  • Drums
  • Pads
  • Shoes

Before we break down the individual types, how do car brakes work?

When you press down on the brake pedal, it creates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder. The brake fluid is then pressurised all the way to the pistons in each wheel hub, which are hydraulically activated, meaning that the friction material on your brake pads is forced onto rotating parts. It’s this movement that causes your vehicle to stop.

There are two types of brake system that are widely available, so it’s likely that your vehicle has one of them. These are drum brakes and disc brakes.

Below, we’ll look at what these are, the advantages and disadvantages of disc and drum brakes, and more.

how do drum brakes work?

In a drum brake, a cylindrical drum is used to stop the wheels. It’s usually found in heavier vehicles like buses and trucks, as well as some older motorbikes. This is partly because they can be scaled to any size easily.

Drum brakes tend to have a longer braking distance than disc and don’t perform as well when temperatures get high.

Generally, there’s more involved with drum brakes. The design is more complicated, for example, and it can be difficult to replace damaged pads. However, they’re generally much cheaper to install, replace, and repair than a disc brake; they also typically last longer. This is because drum brakes have been in use since almost as early as cars themselves.

how do disc brakes work?

Disc brakes, on the other hand, are the more modern solution to car braking, and have a lot of benefits. Perhaps most notably, they have a much shorter braking distance, making them safer for general road use.

Disc brakes are also better than drums at dissipating heat and working in wet conditions, including shedding water in heavy rain. They manage to do all of this while having a less complicated design.

It’s worth noting that disc brakes are self-cleaning; the pads wipe the rotor when they’re engaged, but drum brakes are prone to collecting dust.

Due to this style of brake system being more efficient, they’re much more common in standard-size cars. Some cars, however, will have disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes on the back.

ESC – electronic stability control

Electronic stability control (ESC) has been fitted to all cars since 2014. It uses computers within the car to assist the driver, helping them keep control of the vehicle in trickier situations. It can slow the vehicle and stop it from spinning out when you brake, reducing the intensity of crashes caused by loss of control. Putting the battle of drum vs disc brakes aside, your vehicle safety is greatly improved by features like ESC.

ABS – anti-lock braking system

Most modern cars are also kitted out with anti-lock braking systems (ABS) as part of the ESC. The purpose of them is to stop the wheels of your car from locking up when you have to brake harder than usual.

The ABS can sense when your car’s wheels are about to lock. It then rapidly and repeatedly adjusts the braking pressure so that it can get it just right, allowing the car to slow down instead of locking. This gives the driver more control over the vehicle, and minimises the risk of skidding.

find your preferred car with

Whichever style of brake you prefer, find the right vehicle for you at We have a huge range of used cars available all over the UK with different internal workings and specifications, so you can find the one that’s perfect for you.

Start browsing today, or get in touch to find out more.

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