What Is the difference between brake pads and brake shoes?

Are brake pads and shoes the same thing?

Most modern cars these days have either disc brake systems (also known as rotors) or a drum brake system. Disc brakes and brake pads go together whilst brake drum systems use brake shoes to create stopping power. So, the short answer is no – brake pads and brake shoes are not the same thing.

Disc and drum brakes also work quite differently to achieve the same goal, which is to effectively slow down and stop your car. While they both use friction material, each type of braking system uses various components to execute this, which means they aren’t interchangeable either. 

If you’re unsure what type of brakes your car has, read on to find out more.

Natrad has a large range of quality Mintex and Nisshinbo brake parts for a wide variety of vehicle types. 

Brake pads and brake shoes

What are the different types of brakes? 

There are 2 types of brakes typically used in cars today. The first, is disc brakes which are commonly found in modern and high performance vehicles. The second are drum brakes typically found in older cars.

High performance vehicles or sports cars have a disc brake system that often comes with ventilation holes or slots for enhanced heat dissipation. Discs work together with brake pads, which are a part of the caliper assembly.

Secondly, there are drum brakes. These brakes are more outdated and typically can be found in smaller or older cars, or coupled with a pair of disc brakes. For example, a hatchback might have front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. Brake shoes are used instead of pads, which sit inside the drum and apply pressure during braking. 

While disc brakes are more common, plenty of cars still utilise a mixture of both kinds. 

Not sure which type(s) of brakes your car has? Next time you’re heading out for a drive, you can check your wheels. Some cars have complex rim designs which make it hard to see what’s behind, but usually you should be able to view some part of the braking system – whether it be the caliper assembly, disc, or drum. 

Disc brakes look like a flat cylindrical disc, hence the name. You may be able to see the caliper assembly attached on the outside (see below for reference).  

Drum brakes however, look more like a casing. Inside they hold brake shoes and various other smaller components that help create the friction needed to stop. See below for comparison:

Illustration of the difference between disk brakes and drum brakes.

How do braking systems work?

Your vehicle’s braking system makes use of friction and hydraulic pressure in order to stop your wheel spinning and halt your car. 

So, how does the system do it? Let’s look at disc brakes as an example. 

The overall braking system is made up of various parts aside from the brake disc itself. Parts include: 

  • Brake fluid 
  • Master cylinder 
  • Caliper assembly (multiple components) 
  • Piston 
  • Brake pads (2 per disc) 
  • And brake disc

Brake fluid circulates the system, so when you press the brake pedal – hydraulic pressure is applied. The sequence goes a bit like this: 

  1. Press brake pedal 
  2. Caliper assembly receives high pressure brake fluid from the master cylinder (hydraulic pressure) 
  3. Caliper pushes piston
  4. Piston presses against the brake pads 
  5. Brake pads are squeezed against the brake disc 

The friction from the brake pads pressing against the disc decelerates the motion and stops your wheel from spinning.

While brake pads press inwards on the brake disc, brake shoes work the opposite way. They sit on the inside of the brake drum (while attached to a backplate assembly).

When hydraulic pressure is applied, they press outwards against the drum to create friction and stop the car.  

Troubleshooting brake pads vs brake shoes

Have you heard squealing noises from your brakes recently? You might need new brake pads or shoes. As friction material wears over time, most brake pads and shoes have wear indicators which screech when low. If you’ve heard this sound, replacing brake pads or shoes will help. 

Friction material is made to wear so replacing pads and shoes is completely normal. However, it’s important to do so regularly according to your servicing schedule, or you risk getting into dangerous collisions with underperforming brakes. 

Think you might need new pads or shoes? Just nip into your nearest Natrad AutoCare where our qualified technicians can inspect, diagnose and replace any system parts. 

Our range of industry leading Nisshinbo and Mintex brakes are available from workshops across the country. Find your nearest store here.