Have you ever wondered how a vehicle’s different types of brakes? Are you unsure of what types of brakes your vehicle has? We are here to help you learn all there is to know about the basics of passenger vehicle braking systems.

How Do Brakes Work?

The different types of brakes and brake systems are actually relatively simple. When you hit the brakes, the master cylinder sends pressurized brake fluid to a collection of lines and then to a caliper or wheel cylinder at each wheel. The braking system does this action all at once for each wheel. The caliper or cylinder then activates the friction action of the brake to slow the wheels down or stop them. Depending on which type of brake system you have, disc or drum brakes, the way that the friction process of stopping or slowing the vehicle can be a little different.

Little Things to Know About Your Types of Brakes

Brake systems in everyday vehicles work with friction. This is why you may have trouble stopping efficiently if your breaks are wet or may hear grinding noises or feel pulsing or squeaking when there is an interruption in the smooth friction operation.

Many brake systems have a noise indicator that is engaged when the brakes are worn down to a certain point. This is a standard feature and lets you know when it’s time to redo your brakes. Keep an ear out a high-pitched squeaking noise – that’s how you know it’s time to get the brakes checked or replaced by a professional.

What are the Different Types of Brakes?


Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are a feature on all modern vehicles. Most new vehicles use disc brakes for all four tires, but some vehicles only have discs on the front tires. Disc brakes are made up of a caliper seated upon a brake pad. The caliper and pads are mounted upon the round rotor. The brakes are engaged when the driver presses the brake pedal and fluid from the master cylinder applies pressure onto the brake calipers piston. The pressurized fluid pushes the piston in the calipers against the brake pads to grip the rotor, creating the friction necessary to stop your vehicle.

Disc brakes are typically easier to install and remove, they are more lightweight and perform better at high speeds than drum brakes. These brakes also perform better in wet conditions and have greater breaking power. This is true because disc brakes can squeeze water out, making them perform better in rainy conditions. In areas like Seattle, it’s so important to have a high-performance disc brake pad to make sure you are stopping on time and safely. Disc brakes are so powerful that they are even used on fighter jets.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes were the first type of advanced braking system used on everyday vehicles. They were a gold standard for several decades before disc brakes became the new standard due to their more efficient nature. Drum brakes are engaged when the driver presses on the brakes, causing fluid from the master cylinder to be applied to the wheel cylinder within the brake system. The cylinder then pushes the brake shoes outward against the rotating drum, creating the necessary friction.

The major downfall of drum brakes is that they can deteriorate quickly, especially for heavy loads and racing cars. The constant stopping of a race car can wear out a drum break very quickly and the same can be true for a vehicle hauling a lot of weight. Another pitfall is that drum brakes can slip and fade quite a lot if water get inside the drums, rendering them sometimes useless in very wet conditions.


If you have more questions about brakes or want to schedule an appointment for your vehicle’s brakes, give us a call at 253-473-5556 or visit out contact page today.