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Disc brakes are easily associated with most modern cars. This is because of their quick braking response and superior power, especially in wet environments. However, you’d be surprised that there are modern cars that still use drum brakes. Pick-up trucks still have drum brakes and there are good reasons for it.
The main reason why pickups have drum brakes, is due to the fact they are cost effective, require replacement less often, and because they just take less maintenance than their disc brake alternative. When pickups are required to have reliability to be a great workhorse vehicle, having rear drum brakes just makes sense.
What are drum brakes?
If you have ever glanced behind the wheels of a pickup truck, you probably have noticed an unfamiliar vehicle part.
It looks like it likely would be brakes, but it isn’t shiny like what you are used to. That would be a dum brake!
Drum brakes work with a completely internal component called the drum, where there are brake pad like components called shoes that will press outward towards the drum to slow down the vehicle.
Drum brakes are not only used in pickups but also in motorcycles, and lower end cars.
They aren’t quite as effective, but have plenty of upsides, which is why manufacturers still use them today.
The Cost Effectiveness of Drum Brakes
One of the reasons vehicle manufacturers would prefer the older counterpart of disc brakes is their low initial cost. There is a downside to this though. Long-term maintenance may take more out of your savings.
On the other hand, experts would argue that a well-maintain drum braking system can save you more money. It is also possible that the amount of workload may affect the repair and maintenance needs of your pickup’s brake system.
Using the older brakes on a pickup may help with the longevity of its braking system. This may not makes sense considering the fact that these brakes tend to fail under conditions where there is too much heat. For vehicles that don’t take too much load and don’t go very fast, this makes a lot of sense.
Since most pickups are used for normal transport use, their brakes would last longer than a car with a disc brake system that’s exposed to extreme driving conditions on a regular basis.
Since drum braking systems are enclosed, doing regular visual inspections on them is impossible. Hence, you should have your brakes opened and checked by a mechanic every once in a while.
This can save you a lot of headaches in the long run. You might want to consider cleaning your brakes regularly as it can help maintain performance.
Surprisingly, this is also one of the major reasons why pickups still have antennas as well!
Downsides to drum brakes
Alright, so there are plenty of good reasons why a manufacturer might use drum brakes rather than disc brakes. However why wouldn’t they just use them for all of their vehicles all around the vehicle? Lets see why.
Overheating of drum brakes is a big issue! Because they are completely internal, there isn’t anywhere for the hot air the friction causes to go, leaving an overheated brake. Overheating is not only bad for longevity of the part, but it also causes brake fade.
Drum brakes will actually heat up, and expand, meaning you have to push the brake further than normal under continued use of the brakes.
This heating issue, among other problems like their complex nature, means they can’t really be used effectively in modern cars that are heavier, faster, and need better stopping power than ever before.
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Disc and Drum Brake Combination
The majority of modern vehicles use a combination of disc and drum brakes. The disc brakes are installed in the front wheels while the drum brakes are installed in the rear wheels. Studies show that most of the braking happens at the front wheels and it’s the reason why the disc brakes are installed at the front.
Since the rear wheels of vehicles, including pickups, absorb less pressure when braking, it would be cost-effective for car manufacturers to use drum brakes.
Why Disc Brakes Were Made
These brakes were designed by racing engineers to improve safety and braking power in extreme environmental conditions. For vehicles that are used in ordinary environments, using disc brakes would not give any advantages. It is one of the reasons why pickups still use drum brakes.
Drum brakes all around
There are pickups that have drum brakes on all of their wheels. Since they usually don’t need to go fast, they usually don’t need a quick braking response and the braking power that they get from it usually gets the job done. Also, some experts argue that drum brakes have better performance when a vehicle is parked.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do brake drums and shoes last?
Due to the fact that drum brakes on vehicles tend to be on the rear of the vehicle, and aren’t used quite as much as disc brakes, you can go around 35,000 miles before getting them checked by your mechanic. However these can last up to over 200,000 miles.
How much does it cost to replace drum brakes?
Drum brakes are more expensive to replace, even though it is required a little less often. If you are in the need for replacement, you can plan on an average of a little less than $300.
Do rear brakes do anything?
Rear brakes are really there to assist the front brakes if needed. This can range from the need for extra stopping power, but can also be a good backup if the front brakes are not working. I actually have had my front brakes go out, and was glad my rear brakes were there to help me.
While drum brakes are considered to be inefficient and even unsafe by most drivers, they still have their place.
They can be very reliable for pickups that are primarily used for everyday transportation. Just like disc brakes, they can perform well and last longer when maintained properly.