Drum Brakes vs Disc Brakes

Drum Brakes vs Disc Brakes

Last Updated August 4, 2019 | Drew Goodman
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When it comes time to give your Ford Mustang some TLC, it is likely your attention immediately shifts to the exterior or the performance-oriented systems, such as the exhaust or suspension.

The automotive industry has seen some great advancements since the first Mustang was unveiled in April 1964, and with each passing year, aftermarket retailers have more and more mods available.

While there have been some major breakthroughs in engine, exhaust, and suspension upgrades, braking technology has also come a long way since the 1960s. With the major automotive brands locked into an eternal arms race to build the fastest cars on the market, the need for dependable and long lasting brake parts grows more intense with each passing year.

The Mustang wheel brakes on most modern units look mighty different today than they did when Lee Iaccoca first introduced the pony car at the now-famous 1964 World’s Fair. Performance-oriented vehicles, such as the Ford Mustang, helped lead the charge for changes in braking technology in the 1970s and 80s, and the industry later shifted to include those exciting innovations on most current automobiles.

Wheel Brakes SEMA Mustang

The development of the anti-lock braking system (ABS) in certainly raised the bar. Introduced in the 1980s, ABS ensures that a vehicle maintains traction with the road’s surface while braking, while preventing the wheels from locking up. This provides much-needed stability while cornering.

When it comes to selecting brakes for a Ford Mustang, pony car owners must settle on a debate that affects both cost and performance among other important attributes: Drum brakes vs. disc brakes.

Drum brakes have been utilized on vehicles since the early 1900s, while disc brakes have become far more prominent in the past 40-50 years, particularly on the two front wheels. Due to their unique design and ability to dispel heat, disc brakes have soared in popularity since the Ford Mustang first debuted, and for many muscle car drivers, it is difficult to imagine life without them.

As more advanced as they are than drum brakes, however, disc brakes do not come without their share of drawbacks as well. Because the Mustang brakes are arguably the most important safety features on your entire build, it is best that you know all of the facts before you make any changes to the system.

So what are the differences between drum brakes and disc brakes? This article breaks down how each of the functions, the similarities and differences between disc brakes and drum brakes, and how technology has evolved throughout the pony car’s illustrious history.

Drum Brakes

We will begin with the oldest option of the two- drum brakes. Once the automotive industry moved on from the hand levers, drum brakes became standard on all four wheels. As the name implies, a drum brake setup features all of the braking components blinded together inside a round object that closely resembles, you guessed it, a drum.

The round, drum-like substances rotate alongside the axles and wheels and are the catalysts when you choose to slow down the vehicle or bring it to a complete stop. When the brakes are depressed, the brake shoes, which are located inside of the drum setup, are forced against the sides of the drums, which in turn, slows the wheels down.

Drum Brakes on a Mustang

The shoes’ close proximity to the drums is crucial for a smooth braking operation. Ideally, the shoes should remain as close to the drums’ outer surfaces as possible, without touching them. Over time, when the shoes wear down, it is common for them to drift away from drums, which will cause the pistons to demand more fluid to compensate for the greater distance travelled.

Though you cannot observe this activity in real-time, you will be well aware that is occurring if your pedal sinks closer to the floor of the vehicle when you apply the brakes. Thankfully, many drum brakes feature an automatic adjuster, which helps monitor the distance of the shoes from the drums.

Drum brakes are not nearly as common as they used to be, particularly on the front two wheels, but many automotive purists insist on restoring their classic pony cars with nothing but Concours Correct parts, and this includes the brakes. A new set of Mustang brake drums will not only complete the look of your freshly-rebuilt pony car but will also work correctly alongside your OE master cylinder and hoses.

No restoration project is complete without a revitalized braking system. With that in mind, the proper set of replacement Mustang brake drums can recapture your pony car’s vintage appearance and get it back on the road in no-time!

Disc Brakes

Drums were perfectly fine in the early-to-mid 1900s and at the genesis of the Ford Mustang, but racing enthusiasts were always craving more from their wheels brakes.

The functionality of the wheel brakes has not changed since the original Ford Model T rolled off of the assembly line for the first time, but over the years, the automotive industry developed higher quality wheel brake components, known as brake discs. Similar to the round rotor for drum brakes, a disc braking system entails a disc-shaped metal rotor that spins alongside the wheels. The innovative design of the disc brakes trades in the components inside the round drum for a slim rotor and small brake caliper.

Disc Brakes on a Mustang

The caliper contains two brake pads (one on each side of the rotor) that clamp together when the brake pedal is depressed, which causes the wheels to slow down. Think of a disc braking system as a compact disc spinning on a CD player. The caliper’s squeezing the brake pads on your car is akin to you pressing the CD against your fingers in order to slow it down or bring it to a complete stop.

In contrast to the enclosed brake drums, disc brakes are exposed to outside air, which allows them to quickly dispel heat. Beginning in the mid-1950s and over the next two decades, brake discs became a popular alternative to drums for active racers and performance drivers alike. In high-speed situations, it is common for the drivers to have to put the brake pedal to the floor more than usual, which can cause unwanted heat buildup, in addition to stress on the braking components.

The open-aired nature of the Mustang disc brakes allows racers to maintain high speeds during cornering while applying the necessary force when braking, without overheating the rotor and the surrounding parts. A new set of Mustang disc brakes can not only add curb appeal to the wheel area but could also help give you the competitive edge at your next race or autocross event!

Drum Brakes vs. Disc Brakes

Which system is better? Disc brakes or drum brakes?

Well, from a performance standpoint, there is no debate. Both drum and disc brakes utilize friction and heat to slow your Mustang down, but when it comes to the latter, brake discs dissipate heat quicker and much more efficiently. Its cooling capabilities, combined with the well-built structure allows the disc brakes to better handle extreme settings, such as hard stops, cornering, or the need to ride the brakes on a steep decline.

Drum brakes can handle any of those aforementioned driving situations but at a price. Stopping in unusual circumstances generates a fair amount of heat, which is not an issue for brake discs, but it can be detrimental to a drum braking system. The closed design of the brake drums can cause them to trap heat inside. If the brake pads overheat, they might not be able to generate the necessary friction when rubbed against the rotors.

BAER Wheel Brakes

If sufficient mutual friction is not created between the brake pads and rotors, you could experience the temporary or permanent failure of your braking system, which is also referred to as “brake fade.” Due to their superior structure and open-air environment, it takes disc brakes much longer to achieve brake fade, even in the most extreme driving circumstances.

Heat is the number one enemy of a car’s braking system, but water is not too far behind. Similar to heat, disc brakes can simply brush off contact with fluid, but drum brakes could potentially collect water during a heavy rainstorm or when encountering a puddle. If there is a water buildup on the inside surface where the shoes and drums are supposed to meet, your braking system could face a slew of problems.

In addition to their increased durability and overall performance benefits, disc brakes are much easier to inspect than drum brakes. When it comes time to diagnose the wheel brakes, you, or the mechanic that inspects your car, do not have to remove the wheels in order to observe a disc braking system.

In spite of all of the advancements in technology and all of the benefits in which disc brakes offer, there are some advantages to drum brakes. Though the inspection process is more complex, performing routine maintenance on a drum braking system is a breeze in comparison to brake discs. The all-in-one design of the drum brakes makes them easy to repair when needed, and replacing the shoes can be done in less than 10 minutes once you remove the drum from your vehicle.

Along with the quick-and-easy maintenance, drum brakes are far less expensive thank disc brakes. In an effort to save a few bucks during the restoration and/or repair jobs, it is not uncommon for Mustang owners to retain the drum brake setup on the rear two wheels.

Drum Brakes Up Front & Disc Brakes In the Rear

Due to various laws of physics, your Mustang’s weight will shift forward whenever you step on the brake pedal. As a result, the vehicle’s front brakes perform roughly 70 percent of the work required to slow down or stop the car. Because of their immense importance to the vehicle as a whole and that they are prone to wearing out much faster, many auto manufacturers began to incorporate disc brakes on the front two wheels in the early 1970s.

Front disc brakes soon became standard the vast majority of automobiles produced around the world, but high-performance vehicles took it a step further by adding brake discs on all four wheels. Scouring the racing circuit and other performance-oriented events from the 1980s onward, you would be hard-pressed to find a car that did not feature a full disc braking system.

Wheel Brake

Because that sort of driving puts strains on a braking system in which average motorists can’t begin to imagine, it is crucial for racers be able to deflect heat from the wheels at every turn. The exposure to the outside air in which disc brakes offer cools the rotor at a rapid rate and prevents overheating, brake fade, and other related issues.

The racing circuit proved just how valuable disc brakes can be, and towards the end of the 21st Century, more and more vehicles began to incorporate brake discs throughout the build. Despite of the rise in popularity of disc brakes, however, it is common for vehicles produced in this day and age to feature discs in the front and drums in the rear.

The main reason for incorporating disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in the rear is pure economics, but don’t let the modest price tag deter you. Modern-day brake drums are first-rate compared to those produced in the early 1960s and many of them provide even better stopping power than the early model disc brakes in the front. Additionally, because the front brakes do the lion’s share of the work, there is no real need for extra braking power in the back if you primarily stick to the streets.

A four-wheel disc brake setup is understandable for track cars and other high-speed machines, but for those drivers who are simply looking to get from point A to point B, the cost-cutting measures up front and at the body shop more than make-up for having drum brakes in the rear.

Find the Best Mustang Brake Parts at CJ’s

Now that you know the main differences between disc brakes and drum brakes, it is time to give your Ford Mustang’s braking system some attention!

Whether you are restoring your First Generation muscle car or if you are looking to add all of the modern bells and whistles to your late model ‘Stang, CJ Pony Parts would love to help! CJ’s carries a large selection of Mustang brake parts & accessories for pony car owners of all generations. Because we care about your safety on the roadway, the track, and everywhere in between, CJ’s only carries aftermarket Mustang brake parts from the most trusted names in the industry.

If you are looking to replace the brake drums on the front or rear of your Ford Mustang, CJ Pony Parts has you covered! CJ’s proudly offers a number of replacement Mustang brake drums for both First Generation and Fox Body owners. The drums available at CJ’s are designed from the original dimensions and specifications to match factory fit, form and function. The vintage look combined with the innovative and modern construction will have your braking system looking and performing great in no-time!

SEMA Mustang Brembo Brakes

If you have grown tired of your drum brakes and wish to make the switch to a disc braking system, CJ Pony Parts sells a number of conversion kits that can help you do just that. CJ’s carries Mustang disc brake conversion kits for both the front and the rear. These kits contain everything that you need to trade in those outdated drums from the factory and upgrade your braking system in one-fell-swoop.

The conversion kits center around one-piece rotors that are precision machined for smoother engagement which provides for a long-lasting rotor life even with heavy braking situations. Along with modernizing your wheel area and increasing your braking power, these kits provide superior clamping power which greatly decreases the stopping distance.

In addition to reproduction Mustang brake drums and disc brake conversion kits, CJ’s offers a number of brake accessories, including shoes, line locks, and wheel cylinders, as well as a plethora of hardware sets. Be sure to note your muscle car’s year as well as any special fitment instructions before you make your final purchase.

What are you waiting for? Head over to CJ’s for the best Mustang brake parts on the market today!

Drum Brakes vs Disc Brakes

Understanding the differences between drum brakes and disc brakes is important when it comes time to upgrade your Ford Mustang’s braking system. Drum brakes were prominent around the time of the Mustang’s debut, but disc brakes grew in the years that followed. This articles compares and contrasts Mustang disc and drum brakes and much more!

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