When you put on a pair of shoes, you use them to move freely. A pair of running shoes can help you travel far distances, and even dress shoes can take you out for a night on the town.
When it comes to your vehicle, brake shoes serve a different purpose. Not all cars have brake shoes, but they are an essential element for some braking systems.
What are brake shoes?
Brake pads are one of the most common elements of a modern braking system. When brake pads are used, they are squeezed together by a caliper, pushing against a rotor disc, which is how they were named “disc brakes.” It’s the brake pads that create friction – energy – to control and stop a car.
But not all cars use disc brake systems. Some use drum brakes instead.
For a drum brake system, brake shoes are used to slow down a vehicle. Brake shoes are crescent-shaped with a rough material on one side. They sit inside a brake drum, and as the brake pedal adds pressure, they are forced outward, pushing against the brake drum to stop the vehicle.
With the popularity and ease of disc brakes, drum brakes are lessening and are usually found only on older cars. However, some vehicles do include drum brakes on the rear wheels of a vehicle in an attempt to lower the cost of manufacturing.
What are brake shoes made from?
Like brake pads, brake shoes are made from organic and metallic materials, tough enough to survive the friction required for the braking process. These materials are bonded together to keep them from shedding or breaking under intense heat and pressure. This material is packed into the brake shoe, and is created to fit precisely within the brake drum as well as the contact surface of the cylinder pistons.
If your vehicle uses brake shoes, they most likely sit only in the rear wheels. The drum brakes often incorporate the parking or emergency mechanism within the system as well.
What are the differences between brake shoes and brake pads?
Because a disc brake system in general, has more controlled stopping force when braking, they are almost always found on the front wheels of modern day vehicles. However, there are other differences between brake shoes and brake pads.
Braking action – one of the biggest differences between the two comes from the force they use to put braking in action. Brake shoes create force by pushing outward towards the drum. Brake pads squeeze together to connect with the rotor.
Stopping power – even though brake shoes are sized somewhat larger than most brake pads, they require more friction to bring the vehicle to a stop. That’s why disc brakes have increased in popularity, and you’ll find them used at the front of the vehicle, to allow the car to stop sooner with less force.
Lifespan – brake pads tend to wear faster because they are at the front of the vehicle, which absorbs more of the force of the braking process. Additionally, brake shoes are enclosed within the brake drum, giving them more protection from the elements, meaning they won’t rust, corrode, or wear down at the same rate as brake pads.
Service – brake shoes are enclosed within the brake drum, meaning they will stay cleaner longer, and require less maintenance overall. However, drum brakes still require servicing to ensure they are working at their best. In some ways, drum brakes are a more complex system, meaning they are more difficult to replace.
Whether you have disc brakes, drum brakes, or both, none are immune to wear. Typically, you’ll find that servicing brake pads to be a faster job. Brake shoes may also require adjustments over time to ensure they are properly connecting with the drum.
The key, no matter what type of braking system you use, is to have them checked regularly. Your braking system is one of the most important systems on your vehicle – ensure they are always working at their best.
What causes brake shoes to fail?
Brake shoes usually fail for one of two reasons:
- They fail from normal wear, caused by friction over time.
- They are contaminated. This is usually caused when an axel leaks oil into the drum container.
As the brake shoes wear down, they produce a few symptoms to alert you they are failing.
Noise – like every part of your vehicle, brake shoes will make noises as they reach their end of life. When a brake shoe is worn, it will produce a scraping noise as the shoe contacts the drum. If a brake shoe is dusty, it can change the way the materials connect with one another, producing a squeaking noise instead.
Lack of response – as the brake shoe wears down, it will have to move closer to the drum in order to accomplish the same action. You’ll push down harder on the brake pedal to come to a full resting stop. The longer this goes on, the more dangerous it can be, especially when you reach highway speeds and have to come to a quick stop.
Loose parking brake – because the drum brakes also house the emergency brake, when you notice a loose parking brake, it can be a sign of brakes failing. As the brake shoes become worn or dusty, they may not hold the weight of the vehicle without slipping. Even after you apply the emergency brake, you might notice it rolling. Of course, this could be just a problem with the parking brake. But this provides you with time to get your braking system inspected to ensure the system is working at its best.
What’s your next step?
Whether you use brake pads, brake shoes, or a combination of the two, it’s important to note that neither will last forever.
Have your braking system regularly inspected, especially as you’re nearing the manufacturer’s guidelines on the lifespan of your braking system. If you notice one of the warning signs, it’s another reason to have your braking system checked out.
We’ll help you keep your car on the road, and ensure you have a safe vehicle for you and your family to drive.
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