Brake pads and Brake shoes

We often take our brakes for granted – especially when they’re working as we expect and keeping us and other road users around us safe. So, it makes sense to know a bit more about them, starting with: what’s the difference between brake pads and brake shoes?

First of all, are brake pads and brake shoes the same? The short answer is no. While they both carry out a similar function, they operate in different types of braking systems and have different advantages (and disadvantages).

What are brake pads?

Found in disc brake systems, brake pads are a flat piece of steel with a thick friction material layer on one side. This friction material type varies, depending on vehicle type and size and brake caliper type.

The driver operates the disc brake system by pushing his foot down on the brake pedal. This pushes against the master cylinder, which is basically a piston surrounded by brake fluid. The fluid moves down the brake lines where it forces the caliper to squeeze a pair of brake pads against a brake disc. This, in turn, slows the wheel down. The energy released from stopping your car’s motion is converted into waste heat, which has to be dispersed. As the disc has a relatively quick cooling time, this type of brake offers a better stopping performance than drum brakes. The friction material layer becomes thinner over time, as a result of usage and eventually the brake pads need to be replaced.

What are brake shoes?

Brake shoes carry the brake lining inside brake drum systems. They are a curved piece of metal, with a friction material fixed to one side.

When the driver applies the brake, a wheel cylinder in the drum brake system forces the brake shoe outward, against the inside of the drum. This creates friction between the lining and drum, causing the car to brake. The kinetic energy is dissipated as heat. Brake shoes are often used for the rear axle, especially as most modern cars brake more sharply on their front wheels, so the temperatures the rear brakes need to handle aren’t so high. As well as being less expensive to manufacture, drum brake systems can be more effective as a parking brake than disc brakes.

How Do Brakes Work?

Your car brakes are not one component, they are actually a system comprised of discs, valves and cylinders which work together to transmit a force when you press your brake pedal. When you brake, the brake fluid is engaged and it works its way around the system until it squeezes the brake pad against the disc, producing friction which slows the wheels down. When a car slows down, most of the load is transferred to the front of the car, meaning that the front brakes do most of the work.

What are the differences between brake pads and brake shoes?

The main differences between brake pads and brake shoes are:

  • Positioning
    Brake pads and brake shoes are positioned differently in their braking system. Brake pads are placed inside a caliper which surrounds the brake disc and brake shoes are placed inside the brake drum.
  • Wear
    Brake shoes typically last much longer than brake pads.  Usually they are positioned on the rear axle and undertake a much lower proportion of the braking work.


Perhaps the best reason for choosing a brake shoe is that it provides more friction to the drum.

When you need a powerful brake, the shoe offers the best traction and force because of the material it’s made of. The brake pad uses also creates pressure to force the disk into the car, which also creates friction but not as much as the shoe.


The pad is also placed under immense strain during braking, which creates more wear and tear on these (almost as much as the car itself).

The brake shoe, on the other hand, is designed to handle increased friction and the material wears well. You can easily spot when it’s becoming worn, as stops become weaker and need more contact on the pedal. This makes it more reliable than the pad, which doesn’t have clear warning signs of wear.

Mixing & Matching

A big part of deciding between the two kinds of brakes is knowing what your car is capable of and what kind of drive it has. When using drum brakes, you need to have a rear or four wheel drive; if you have front wheel drive cars, then you’ll typically need to have brake pads rather than shoes. In addition, you cannot mix and match. If you have drum brakes then you can’t use brake pads, nor can you use brake shoes with disc brakes.

At V&F

…we offer Brake Repair & Antilock Braking System (ABS) Repair. Our expert mechanics use latest diagnostic equipment, and high quality CARQUEST auto parts, to make sure we get the job done right. Plus, our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.

Do I need brake pads or brake shoes?

While you can’t mix and match on the same wheel – for example using brake pads with drum brakes or brake shoes with disc brakes – it is possible to have both brake pads and shoes on the same car. In fact, many cars use a combination of the two, often smaller vehicles, with disc brake systems fitted on the front axle and drum brake systems fitted on the rear axle

Champion brakes

With so many options available, it’s important to choose quality components for your braking systems. That’s why you need a Champion.


The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.



There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “BRAKE PADS”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *